Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On the path to Nidan

These past months have been demanding as I prepared for my Nidan test.

I have put forth much effort towards being able to perform at my highest level all the while knowing that one cannot "cram" for this kind of test, and that it was the years and years of consistent training that has built up my solidity to the point where I could face this challenge.

I am built up by the support of my close family, Sensei, dojo mates, friends, supervisors at work,  and co-workers. I so appreciate their positive energy.

Going to work with a limp, and bruises from my efforts brought up the question from one of my friends of "Why does it have to be so difficult?" The only answer that I could provide at the time was "It wouldn't be a second level black belt test if I showed up and was asked to blow up a dozen balloons, would it?  The test has to pull out the best in me.. and well.. since I have accumulated skills and knowledge, the best will be very difficult."

I have watched many a belt rank test now, and realized that it is the consistency of training that shows, or doesn't show.  If a student puts forth an honest, and constant effort to practice over and over as they learn a skill.. their body just knows what to do, and how to do it. This goes for learning a piece of music, or kneading bread, or crocheting, or striking a pad with a spinning back kick.

Those students who think that they can show up to a test, and pull a rabbit out of their hat at the last moment are deceiving themselves.  An experienced eye can see the awkwardness of the moment.. the stiff "almost wishful" sudden effort of someone who is trying to make their body do the movement that it isn't familiar with.  They aren't fooling anyone but themselves, and if these people "pass" the test it is by the tolerance of the testing panel... but the truth is that they have not accumulated the necessary skills for that rank level and therefore will suffer even more the next time that they attempt to test for a higher rank.  If a child did not learn the skill of  how to multiply and divide numbers at elementary school, they will be sorely disappointed when they have to start working with fractions in Junior High, and nearly inundated with sorrow when they hit algebra in High school. Therefore, someone who could have done well in their efforts finds themselves flailing because of a lack of a foundation.  The question becomes "will they be willing to humble themselves, accept the truth that they need to work on simple things that they thought they knew, and improve their position so that they CAN achieve a higher rank with the necessary abilities?"

This isn't a shameful thing. It takes courage, inner strength, and a willingness to do what it takes to improve.. and that is something that I could and would respect in a person.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Invest In Yourself

At first one may think that he is speaking about careers, and business, but listen on, and you will find that the main message is to change the way that you think about what you are doing so that you can achieve success, and happiness.  This can apply to anything from relationships to Martial Arts training.

I can see how understanding the "why" that we do so many middle punches can improve the value of our efforts especially for those of us who have been training for many years. When your experience starts heading into decades of sweating on the dojo floor, and you might start to feel the dryness of the repetition, this is when his encouraging video helps you to regain focus.  However it can also help the beginner student who is confused by the training, and doesn't understand the emphasis on perfecting the movement, perhaps thinking "a punch is a punch, who cares what angle, speed, or target.." missing out on the multiple uses of a middle punch simply by negating it's importance.

The main idea is how much value you place on the activity, or investment.  It isn't the behavioral changes that are important.. that is short term.. it's the reason that you chose to change your behavior.

Honestly.. check out his 166 videos.. ( ... not all at once :-) )  I know that I'm going to do so.. and leave a comment.  It might just change your life.. and for the better.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Blog has slowed down greatly, but let me explain

When I started training in Karate everything was shocking, alien, and new.  From how one enters the room, to how one stands, to how one reacts, etc.  It really is a totally different culture with unique expectations, and experiences, and I wanted to document the progress of understanding Martial Arts  from white belt to black not only for myself but also for my various internet friends who have supported me throughout the years that I had met on various Martial Arts forums.  This was the reason that this blog existed.  Also, whenever a friend and I had questions about philosophy, technique, or patterns, I would post my answer on the blog.  I wanted to share those family moments that I had enjoyed when my husband, and children trained with me, and reveal the positive effects of Karate training.  I was a stay at home Mom with some personal time in my day to dedicate to reaching out to the virtual community.

However, now that I have been living as an established Black belt, and my ability to participate on Martial Arts forums has been restricted due to work, family, and training, I find that I'm having more and more difficulty contributing to the Blog.  It's not that I have learned "everything", and so there is no more progress.  It's the opposite.. I've learned that there is so much that I do not know; layers of information that cannot be put into words, but must be felt in action in order to understand.  It's the difference between knowing what a good chocolate cake should look, and taste like, and being able to bake one.  My knowledge is now part of the energy of my movement, and even videos or pictures cannot do that justice. 

I have also found the answer within myself that I have read in Sensei Gichin Funakoshi's Autobiography wherein he refers to all "karate" being the same.. that there is no difference in styles, or schools.  I used to be confused about that idea especially as I would watch someone fight in a tournament, and I could almost pin point that the manner in which they fought showed off a certain philosophy.  However, that is tournament fighting, and not "karate".  ( Wow.. I'm sure that I have opened a bag of snakes with that sentence!)  Let me explain...  Tournament fighting has rules, referees, time limits, space limits, etc.  There is a space there where one can use various techniques, and applications, but karate is survival where one faces a severe deciding moment in life and the result is never a trophy.  As Sensei Gichin Funakoshi said "When two tigers fight, one is certain to be maimed, and one to die."  When one is faced with this situation, all revolves around the thought that one wants to be the one to walk away from the confrontation alive.

I met a wonderful Kyokushin student just a month ago who came from Rwanda, and who had lived through the violence, and chaos of the Hutu/ Tutsi conflict in 1994. It was his experience of watching a Kyokushin Black Belt successfully defend the village from imminent death from a group of killers that spurred him into wanting to gain these skills in his life.  I also met another courageous woman over 40 years old facing the tough training of Kyokushin, and doing her best despite all of the complications, and demands that this new experience is challenging her to overcome.  Her main enemy is herself as she struggles to survive as a student in a situation that reminds her that she isn't 20 years old anymore, and that each exercise is only possible if she relies on her will power rather than her body.  For me, this is karate.. and style or school doesn't matter.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Slow but sure

This year has been one of challenges.  However, it is in finding the strength to seek answers to problems that one develops and grows.  Perhaps that is why nature gives us more challenges as we age, it could be to help us to grow.

I've been limited as to my "off class" training time, and yet, now more than ever I have felt that my training needed to be boosted.  There is only so much that I can grasp mentally, I know that my body needs to feel the movements, and strengthen with confidence in order to apply the movements, but that comes with practice.

Balance with the various demands of everyday living needs to be there also because it does me no good to improve on my Karate, and watch my home life, or work life disintegrate... or to have an immaculate home, but find myself out of shape and unable to enjoy it.

I have found that there is no easy answer.  I have to flow with the demands of the day. Today I will meet the obvious needs of the house and family, and attempt to include some training at the end of the day ( if the weather is kind enough to stay sunny).

But isn't that what Karate is about?  We have to balance expansion, and contraction. We give, and take, sometimes putting force out, and sometimes deflecting and letting the force go.  I think that the key is consistency.  We keep all of the elements in mind as we chose which path we will take at this moment. As long as we keep working towards our goals, slowly but surely we will achieve them.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How could I forget? 2013 tradition completed

In January, at the very first class of my dojo, my students and I completed my New Year's tradition:

We did:

213 middle punches
213 front kicks
13 Kihon Sono Ichi

This was a wonderful moment for me.  I don't know how they felt about it,  but I was happy to share this experience with them.  The whole class was dedicated towards this effort, and there was something unifying by having each student count out a set of 10.

Maybe something positive happens in the human psyche when a group works on a repetitive task as a unit, such as rowing a boat, or hauling a log, or moving together in synchronicity.  I know that I appreciate good team kata performances where each member precisely hits the same mark/technique as the other.  To realize and understand the complexity involved to achieve this feat brings even more admiration.

I love watching this following video of Russian Women performing Seienchin to music.  Although, I found that having to keep to the beat of the music tending to change the "feel" of the technique presented so that it had more of a dance look to it, I did see that they were also capable of showing the fullness of the movements.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Year.. New opportunities... New Goals

Last Year's Goals were as follows:

a) I want to focus on improving my Saiha Kata, and Seienchin Kata.

b) To help cope with the increasing sensations of stiffness, and pain in my knees/elbows/ankles/wrists I have started taking Ginger supplements in my diet. It is my goal to find other ways to support my body so that I can continue to train into my golden years. I'm hoping that by next New Year's I will see an improvement due to the aide of the Ginger.

c) Review: I would like to work towards rewriting my notes, and creating a more complete library of the information that I need to know, want to know, and even added on extras of Martial Arts information that just interests me. 


Well, I did work on my Saiha, and Seienchin Kata for the year, and improved my knowledge of them.  Applications of the various movements started to make sense, and I feel far more confident in hitting the "spot"on each movement.

I found that increasing my consumption of Ginger did not improve my situation.  However, through the guidance of my Sensei, I did remove MSG, and Glucose-Fructose ( High Fructose Corn Syrup) additives from my diet.  I noticed that I started losing weight ( 12 pounds) without any other diet change, and much of my stiffness has cleared up.

I did not have the time to work on my library of information. That is a big chore, and it involves too much dedication to dig through everything right now.  Family, work, and training is foremost.

New Years Goals for 2013

a)  This year I have been working one of history's classic Kata:  Naihanchi ( Naifanchi) or also known as Tekki.  It is my goal to improve my performance of this Kata, and learn from it's lessons.  Sensei Gichin Funakoshi has said that he spent 10 years working on it, I'm willing to put forth my little efforts.
"So important was the Naifuanchi kata to old-style karate that Kentsu Yabu, the martial arts instructor at the Okinawa Prefectural Teacher's School, often told his students "Kata wa Naifuanchi ni hajimari, Naifuanchi ni owaru" (Kata begins and ends with Naifuanchi) (Gima et al, 1986)." website

b)  I have been neglecting the internet Martial Arts forums due to all of my various life challenges from work, home, and hobby.  So, I thought that I would return and visit various places now and then to reconnect. I may only have a few minutes to offer.. but I will make a strong attempt to add this into my life because I find that it helps me expand my knowledge, and thinking as I train.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Women's Self Defense - Blogging Carnival

Why “Women’s” Self defense?

I want to focus on the concept that women may need a different kind of self defense mental training than men.  We cannot escape the fact that women usually have less physical strength as men, and considerations should be taken when thinking of the best counter to an opponent who is taller, stronger, and faster than you, but this could also apply to a shorter, less strong male. Place a well trained fighting woman against an out- of- shape man, and I think that I could safely place my bet on the lady. 

What mental issues would a “Women’s” self defense want to address?

I suggest that the key is looking at how women think, and react.  “  Historically males and females have been under different selection pressures which are reflected by biochemical and behavioural differences between the sexes," said Dr Joohyung Lee, from the Prince Henry's Institute in Melbourne. "The aggressive fight-or-flight reaction is more dominant in men, while women predominantly adopt a less aggressive tend-and-befriend response.  Dr Lee and co-author Professor Vincent Harley, propose that the Y-chromosome gene SRY reveals a genetic underpinning for this difference due to its role in controlling a group of neurotransmitters known as catecholamines.....The authors propose that SRY may prime organs in the male body to respond to stress through increased release of catecholamine and blood flow to organs, as well as promoting aggression and increased movement which drive fight-or-flight in males. In females oestrogen and the activation of internal opiates, which the body uses to control pain, may prevent aggressive responses." ( You can read more of this article here:)

What is this “Tend and befriend” response?  From what I’ve read it seems to be a inner desire to seek out supportive relationships.  In the dojo I’ve seen more than one woman react to a self defense exercise of being attacked by looking around at the people around her to see how they are reacting. Sometimes she might start smiling, or even laughing.  This is a normal animal behavior to show submission, or to show forth a non-threatening posture, and to ask for acceptance from the aggressor in the Primate world. To learn more about non-verbal submission click here.  It may be a subconscious non-verbal reaction of our primitive brain to attempt to befriend ( if possible ).

This does not mean that women cannot be as aggressive, or even more aggressive than men.  It will depend on the stimulus, and reason that the woman chooses to show aggression.  Also, a woman will tend to show the aggression in a less open and physical manner.  It has been shown that women lean towards fighting with their words, or in subtle hidden ways, more than openly with their fists... unless it is towards someone who is in a close relationship with them.  “Virtually all sociological data shows women initiate domestic violence as often as men, that women use weapons more than men, and that 38% of injured victims are men.”  When it comes to child abuse, nearly 58% of perpetrators were women, and out of that number 80% were the parents of the children.  Website

However, being aggressive, or taking the initiative to attack may cause some gender conflict in the female psyche unless viewed from a perspective that not only allows it, but encourages it.

I would suggest that a women be guided towards thinking of protecting her friends/family in a self defense situation rather than focusing on protecting herself as a source of inner strength.  This could take into advantage the natural desire of the “Tend and Befriend”.  Thoughts like “My friends/family NEED me, I am protecting those that I care for, I have to survive this moment”  may put her mind into a different status.  It allows her to tap into her emotional side. One doesn’t want to lose themselves into the emotions as a clear mind is necessary to act quickly and effectively, but finding a core “reason” within oneself for why we are choosing to do to them what they meant to do to us is extremely helpful.  We don’t want to become distracted by this inner motivation. I would offer that in our everyday average complacent society that most people ( I’d like to include men in this as they are not immune to distraction) are not living in the mental alertness necessary for self-defense. How many people walk down the street, or even drive a car occupied with their cell phones, etc, and do not pay attention to their environment?   Distracted driving has contributed to 80% of collisions.  Guess what?  Women are more likely to engage in distracted behavior then men.  They will fix their makeup, brush their hair, change songs on the MP3 players, take pictures, eat, adjust their GPS devices, text, even change clothes as they drive.  There seems to be an illusion of “safety” that gives these women the idea that everything will be o.k.   It would be best not to allow the emotions and thoughts to get between you and your goal of survival.  Instead find your core reason, and use it as an inner source of power, and don’t let distractions get in the way of self-defense.