Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Karate training came in quite helpful

Let me tell you a true story of what happened to my family, and how my karate training helped.

My younger set of children were bored, it was a beautiful day, so Mom gave them the permission to take a little half hour walk to the local Mall to shop together. My 15 year old son, and 13 year old daughter escorted their 3 siblings ( 10 years, 9 years, and 7 years) to go window shop for the afternoon.

My husband went to pick up our 17 year old daughter from work, and on their way back home, they saw a huge black funnel cloud of a tornado in the northern sky of our city. He came running into the house asking "Where are the kids? are they still shopping?"

"Yes, why?" I responded to his intensity every motherly instinct now on alert. He told me about the funnel cloud, and asked me if I had any idea as to whether the kids were already on their way back home, or where they would be in the Mall. I had no clue. My husband turned on his heels, and threw these words over his shoulder as he rushed out the door "I'm going to find them.."

Meanwhile, my young set of children were thinking of coming home, but they had noticed the dark clouds and lighting. My 13 year old daughter's instincts told her that there was something wrong with the weather, that it wasn't just a normal storm. She hesitated to tell the others that they should head for home. She trusted her inner hunch, and phoned home.

The cordless phone rang as my husband was rushing to the car. I lifted the phone to my ear, heard my daughter's voice, and reacted by saying "Hang on!" to her. (*This is where my karate training kicks in.*)

I was out of our back door, jumped our back steps in one smooth movement, ran out the backyard, and sprinted down the backlane. I could see my husband's car was quickly heading away to turn.. I put forth the strongest KIAI that I had within me! The car stopped on a dime. My husband talked to my daughter, found out exactly where the kids were in the mall and went to pick them up, and bring them to safety. He told me that my kiai RANG in the car even though his windows were all closed, and he said "Wow! That was LOUD!!!"

Here is the news report about the tornado:


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Shotokan seminars, and Kyokushin belt rank tests don't mix well

I just want to inform you all that attending a 3 day seminar with a Master at the same time as taking the physically grueling Kyokushin belt rank tests is a really bad combination for one's body.

This week I have attended a total of 18 hours of demanding training in only 5 days. Sure.. I enjoyed myself, but near the end of this week, my body was really not doing well.. threatening to faint more than once, and cramping in the legs all of Saturday.

Now I'm so tired that I barely can type properly. Yes.. I know.. shame on me.. double shame. OH but I had fun!!! I broke boards for my belt test with a variety of strikes while someone held the boards. It was kind of disappointing how quickly that moment came, and went. Yes.. I passed my test, and I am now a Yellow belt (6th kyu) in my Kyokushin art. Picture will be posted soon.

The seminar was really exciting as I was able to train with people that I haven't seen for a whole year. Children that were so short at one time towered over my head.. What ARE they feeding kids these days?

I always enjoy training under Yaguchi Sensei. It never fails that I will learn something important about my foundation, and how to move my body more smoothly, and efficiently. His instructions are so gentle, warm, and constant. His demonstrations astoundingly inspiring. All he did was show us a downblock, and you could FEEL the power of that move vibrate through the room. Although there are hundreds of us students in the room, somehow we all feel a connection with him as he walks through the dojo guiding us.

It was an AWESOME week of training! However, I am paying the piper as I type.. my legs humm with exhaustion, and my body is warning me to rest on Sunday or it's going to run away from me.. Ha ha ha.

So... *evil glint in my eyes* I'll take it easy...... I'll only do some shin/arm conditioning tomorrow, my inversions, some weight lifting, and maybe a little Bo staff training.. in addition to all of the housework that I need to do...... HA HA HA.... that's resting???? HA HA HA Well.. in my schedule.. . yep.. that's resting.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A warning to future people wishing to comment on my kata

I just received this post from Anonymous on my Hangetsu kata video:

"That was awful. Sloppy. No power. Weak stance. ugh. You have a lot of work to do. "

I embrace correction. I will be the first to tell you that my karate is far from being what I aspire to become. I realize that I am only a hobbiest in the Martial arts, and not a full time artist. I can only dedicate a small portion of my time and energy towards this new lifestyle that I have interwoven with all of my other demands, and responsibilities. When I look at the reality of "who" I am, I can say honestly that I'm only a Mom who loves kata. Bruce Lee, and Jet Li have no competition here. Ha ha ha But you know what? I'm doing pretty darn good for a 42 year old who just started training 3 years ago, and I plan to be doing better than this when I reach my golden years.

Honestly, when a little grey=haired overweight mommy like me actually manages to get through the moves of Hangetsu without falling over, or forgetting any of them.. that's pretty awesome! Especially when I remember how it took me 6 months just to perform a knife hand strike properly, and even then, I wasn't doing it at the proper level. And did you SEE how fast that front snap kick was?? Holy Cow! It blurred in the camera.. it's BLURRED1 I can't even check on my technique because it's too fast a kick. Boo Ya! OSU! (*Does a happy dance*)

So.. if you wish to tell me that my kata sucks, That's fine. It's no surprise to me. However, in the future, you will have to make these comments with your identity available. I am warning all posters of comments that any "anonymous" comments will be deleted regardless of the content. So even if you praise my glorious hairstyle, If you do it anonymously, I will delete it.

I would rather that you support my efforts to train in martial arts, by offering an explanation as to how I can improve. Sure, tell me that my kata was awful.. What was awful about it? It was sloppy? Which part? All of it? How? What can I do to improve the sloppiness? Weak stance? Strange, it felt strong to me.. where is it weak? Where must I focus my energy to create a stronger stance? I have my feet turned inwards, and my knees in the right place, my butt is tucked in... it FEELS right. Help me to understand what it is that I can change to make that stance less weak. You took the time to comment on my kata, and I appreciate that.. please offer me a tidbit of knowledge as to improving it rather than trying to discourage me from continuing on my path ( discouraging me? Not possible! I've been through too much to be discouraged from climbing this Shotokan mountain.. get in the line up of people who have attempted to discourage me.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A full Hangetsu

Now.. for your viewing pleasure, or hopefully enjoyment, I present to you my awkward attempt at the kata Hangetsu:

I'm going to comment on it first.. because that is what I like doing.. heh heh:

Now you see me in my Shotokan dojo with my black belt on.

I found out that even if you place brand new batteries in that camera.. there is only so much video time that it can capture. I had to speed up my kata movements to be able to complete the whole kata within the time alloted. Sheesh... I like those opening movements to be more slow, and pronounced... But you saw that in the other thread I have on this blog called "Half a Hangetsu". So now you see my kata done more quickly.. It has a slightly different feel to it. Not as much as a building thunderstorm anymore.. but that's o.k. I still have that feeling in my mind.

Look for my black belt coming totally undone at the first front kick, down block, reverse punch, high block combination. Tee hee hee.. I'm glad that it didn't come floating down to my feet there, and trip me. I didn't notice the belt loosen as I was performing the kata. It wasn't until it was all done, that I looked down and saw no more knot.

I'm going to be the first to admit that I am not sure whether the stance on that second last movement of a low punch is supposed to be in Hangetsu, or front stance. It looks like I'm struggling for a front stance in the kata.

Oh man.. I pulled in my legs as much as I thought that I could on that Neko Ashi dachi (Cat stance) at the final movement.. but it looks like I could drive a truck through the opening there. MUCH work to be done, I see.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mommy's little girl

I was hearing the usual amount of screaming, and loud noises coming from the living room that happens whenever my husband starts playfighting with the kids.

My husband comes into the kitchen with a purposeful step, and says to me excitedly "Do you know what she just did???"

My little 10 year old daughter was trailing him with her smile as wide as her face.

My husband explained to me that he and his daughter were play fighting for the remote control to the T.V. He had it in his left hand and was playing "keep away" from her. He grasped her left wrist with his right hand, and held on as tight as possible because she was doing everything she could to get the remote. To his surprise, she did a perfect hand release motion, flipped herself free of his strong grasp, and jumped at the remote catching him in that stunned motionlessness. She ran off giggling at her success.

"Where did you learn THAT?" he burst out in shock. She explained that she had seen me practicing my break holds quite frequently, and when her Daddy had her pinned, she remembered what she had seen me do, and decided to try and see if it would work.

So there were my husband with a look of pride, and joy in his eyes at what his little girl achieved, and my daughter beaming with self confidence. I didn't know that my home practice would create such an effect. Wow!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Calling out for advice.. any opinion acceptable..

One of my good internet friends is looking for thoughts, suggestions, and advice to help her in this situation:

I am struggling to re-motivate myself in karate after a long break. I am wondering what to do to re-enter my beloved world of martial arts. It's now several weeks since I motivated myself into turning up at a lesson - partly because the last thing I feel like doing after 14 hours with a 4 year old and a 1 year old is to go out and exert myself - but I'm sure that's not the main reason.
What can I do??

I am tempted to start afresh and try a local Taikwondo class (not sure that I can even spell it, let alone attempt to learn it)... this would be a complete change and would present me with new challenges etc.
You probably need to know more about why I feel I can't get back into karate after 5 years away (I stopped to have children) - difficult to answer - it's partly because I wear a black belt and yet have forgotten a lot of what I once knew - e.g. katas - and struggle to energise myself into re-learning them. The pace of a lesson is so slow when you don't wuite remember your moves. It's also because my former club is no more and I'm training with a new sensei and new karate-ka.... and it's not quite as physically challenging as it was in my old club - I need more to aim for.

Any views on taikwondo? (There's a 'good' local club that I could try out)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sunday best and Bo staff practice don't mix

Ah.. I was so HAPPY with myself. In my ongoing effort to be able to train with my Bo staff at home, I decided to wait until it was past dusk to work on it in my backyard. I figured that the coolness of the oncoming night would make all those pesky wasps absent. The worst that I'd have to worry about is a few mosquitos, and I can handle those.

My husband came out to sit on the back step and keep an eye on his wife.

I happilly pulled out my staff, and started my warm up. YES! No wasps.. I was correct about my prediction. I was able to go through most of my basics, kata, stances, etc. with no hassles at all.

However, I did misjudge my own clothing attire. I had not changed into my karate Gi, instead I was wearing a flowing long skirt, and shirt combination. It was Sunday, and I had dressed up that day for my religious service, and had not changed out of the outfit.

As I was doing one of those wonderful spinning defenses with my bo, the end of the staff snagged into the bottom of my skirt. The material of the skirt flowed up beautifully in an arc like a spanish flamenco dancer changing the normal spin of the bo staff which then gracefully, and powerfully "THUMPED" into the side of my head. I stood there seeing stars for a few seconds wondering how THAT happened... It took a couple more thumps in the head before I realized what was going on. This provided no end of entertainment for my husband who sat on the back step chuckling to himself.

So.. I learned a valuable karate life lesson: Sunday best, and Bo staff practice, don't mix.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Half a Hangetsu

And there you have it folks!

Let me give you some details about the video:

It is shot at the back of my Kyokushin dojo.. which would explain why I'm wearing my Kyokushin Gi, and Blue belt with yellow stripes instead of my Shotokan Black belt.

We had arrived early for my Kyokushin class, and I remembered that I had brought my camera. I asked my sweet husband to catch my Hangetsu for me so that I could place it on my weblog. My hubby doesn't do alot of video capturing so he's still learning about how to keep the filming smooth. It's an artform. This would explain why the camera is moving, and shifting alot as I perform.

It was a VERY windy day. This would explain the sudden insertion of the camera strap flying before the camera just before the video ends... Look for the blue flip!

I didn't know that my husband had already started videotaping as I stood there waiting patiently for him to tell me to start... ha ha ha.. so there is quite a long pause at the beginning showing me just standing there. I'm actually asking him "Is it ready?" and he is saying "I'm already doing it.." Ha ha ha.

The batteries ran out of energy. This would explain why the video stops right after the first kiai.. shucks! I was totally shocked. I had put in brand new batteries last Friday, and I had not used the camera. I assumed that the batteries would still have full energy. Why are they depleted??? A friend of mine told me that you have to remove the batteries from the camera when it is not in use or it willl suck the power regardless of it's on or off. AARGH! That knowledge doesn't come with the user's manual of the camera.. does it?

O.K. Now onto my comments of my kata:

This is the first time that I've seen myself doing this kata, and I'm not too disappointed. I like how my knees are bent properly, and you can see me switching my weight to center as it should be. Sure.. It looks like the stance is a little wider than a more experienced karate-ka, but that is one of the developing aspects of body knowledge. At least my feet are pointing in the right direction. It was pretty hard to slide my feet along the grass keeping contact because the grass was all bumpy, and distracting as compared to a smooth wooden floor. I'm swaying a little as I exchange weight.. ah! That needs correcting.

Hand techniques: Oh oh... my timing needs work. Foot and hand together.. I'm almost there. I'm chambering rather high for Shotokan.. it is supposed to be at belt level, but my Kyokushin "accent" is lifting it up to about mid chest. My target is good.. right smack dab center, and my blocks are not going out past my body line. YAY! I've been working on that for 2 years.

Do you see that little "squish" movement at the end of technique? I believe that I need to strengthen that, and HOLD it more so that it doesn't look so much like a "blip" but more like a concentrated "OMPH". Ha ha ha.

I hope that you enjoyed this. I'm going to attempt to video the whole thing at my shotokan dojo.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Karate lessons experienced in life

I arrived at the place where I volunteer in the early morning hours to see a young lady, looking like she was just old enough to be out of her teenaged years, bent over in pain, standing in the rain outside of the faciility. Her distraught face echoed fear, and panic.

I came up to her and asked if she was o.k. She responded that she was in labour. She had walked all the way from her home to the facility in labour.

My experience told me that the cold rain was tightening her muscles, and that she needed to be indoors not outside. I encouraged her to enter the building. She went and sat on the inner stairs of the entryway. As we spoke together I found out that she had been in labour since early afternoon the previous day. She had not slept all night. She was standing in the rain watching for a taxicab to come bring her to the hospital. Her mother and father were in the building.

I caught one of the workers of the building as they entered, and informed them of the situation. She went in, and looked for someone willing to drive this girl to the hospital.

As she spoke I would see her eyes tighten in pain, and she'd have short contractions that were about 3 minutes apart. Each contraction brought panic in her.. I could see that trapped animal look that one gets when they realize that they can't run away from what is happening. Each succeeding pain was worse and worse for her because she was anticipating them with fear.

I remembered something that my Sensei had taught me about breaking mental patterns. I broke into her spiral of panic and said suddenly "Hey? Where is your favorite place to be in the whole world?"

She gave me a look like "This lady is totally nuts!", but her body relaxed as the suggestion of thinking about a "safe" place filled her mind with calming images. I saw her breathing slow down, and deepen. I encouraged her to keep that deep calm breathing when the next pain hit. I could see that she had developed no skills to handle the challenge of childbirth. She moaned loudly, and tensed every muscle in her body, bending forwards into herself causing the pain to be even more severe. Her breathing switched to the paniced quick breaths again. Tears filled her eyes, and she turned to me helplessly saying "It HURTS.."

I said to her solemnly "Your brain is stronger than your body, it doesn't have to hurt, you need to relax.. think about things that make you relax. Use your brain to control this.."

Hope started to fill her eyes, but as soon as her contraction started tightening, panic filled her again. I placed my hand in front of her face, and tightened it into a fist saying "Do this.. and picture putting all the pain into your fist. Tighten.. tighten.. think only about that fist holding the pain.. now when the contraction stops, let the pain go.. relax your hand, and your body." She did as I instructed. Her face looked a little skeptical, but she had nothing else to cling to, so she tightened her fist. The contraction stopped, and she looked at me with confusion.

Another worker from the outreach came to us with the parents. He was going to drive them to the hospital. Relief flooded the face of the young woman... she went to the vehicle as fast as she could in her condition.

I walked away from her remembering something else that my Sensei had taught me. It isn't when you are in the middle of a self-defense situation that you can work on your self-defense skills. At that moment you only have what is in you... it was all the training BEFORE that would give you the tools to handle a confrontation successfully. This is what I saw happening to this young lady. She wasn't ready for the moment of childbirth.. she had no tools to help her cope with what was happening.. so when the challenge hit, all she had was panic, and fear. There were so many things that she could have done beforehand to prepare, to understand, to make her experience of childbirth less painful. It was far too late for her to learn these coping skills when I was standing there before her doing what I can to support, and calm her. I could only give her some hope, and some ideas, but she didn't have any confidence in them because she didn't have experience with them. So THAT's why we do so much repetition! That's why we work towards developing the right mindset, skills, and knowledge as we train.. it's so that we have them when we need them.. IF we need them.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A walk through the Hangetsu kata with a beginner.

This posting is especially for Mat, my buddy.

I've seen your video of Sei San kata. ( I will comment on it directly on your blog
http://matschitoryu.blogspot.com/ ) I'm hoping to get a video of myself doing Hangetsu for you to see me in action soon.

Yes, your Chito Ryu kata does have alot of familiarity with the Shotokan Hangetsu kata.

I've been introduced to Hangetsu, and have performed it off and on for about a year now. I still feel like I'm just a beginner when I perform it. However, for your interest, I will share what I am thinking of as I perform this kata, and what I believe are the main goals of the movements.

The movement, and development of the stance itself is most important in this kata for me at this point of my training. I'm attempting to keep a strong inner tension similar to a Sanchin stance, and to keep my weight at 50/50 distribution. This is quite a challenge as I move slowly, quickly, shift forwards, and do my techniques during the kata. I found myself tempted more than once to place more weight to the front, or back, but I had to control that desire, and stay centered.. almost the same as if I was sparring. I like to keep my weight centered when I spar. Now the fact that the kata HAS those moments (near the end) when you suddenly go into a backstance makes it very challenging for me. I can feel myself struggling against the weight shift there... and I have to think "It's o.k. now.. I CAN put my weight on the back leg."

The opening movements of the shotokan kata are done slowly. First we take in a quick breath.. very quick! ... and then let out a long, slow, controlled breath with the tightening of our torso as we perform the block/punch sequence. The whole time we are building that rooting feeling, and focus to end with a full powered tension at the end. These moments seem to feel like time stands still. I feel relaxed, and yet totally tight at the same time. Everything slow, and smooth.. almost peaceful.. and then the Kiai point where you do a sudden twirl to face the opposite direction with an explosion of low knife hand block, and upper ridge hand. It reminds me of a sudden thunderstorm lightning strike. You know the moment when everything is quiet, peaceful, flowing, and then CRASH! The sky lights up, and the wind picks up, and the rain sheets in.. it's like that for me. The quiet slow breathing is over.. now the kata demands shifting, speed, and using both hands up front.

The last double punch leads into a balancing act of arms, leg, and body as I turn into a backstance with my leg, and arm up in the air. Even though almost 80 percent of me is perched on my one leg, I still have to feel that rooted down feeling inside to keep control of everything that is moving. Like a weathervane turning in the wind. Again, time stops as I move one foot slowly, almost sneaking it up past my support foot, and then CRASH! another lighting strike of action happens. Front snap kick, down block, reverse punch, and upper block. FAST, and fast as I can.. so FAST that my arms complain about how much I'm asking of them. I can't focus on my arms because my legs are demanding the most attention.. I keep reminding myself "Hangetsu stance, NOT front stance.. Hangetsu". This weathervane turning happens two more times, and then I'm nearing the end of the kata. A crescent kick brings me to the final movement where I slowly pull back into cat stance, and lower my hands into a double palm block. My breath going out slowly, and I can't help but picture the receding thunderstorm grumbling into the distance of the horizon.

I really appreciate this kata for it's focus on the inner tension.

Working on HAND stands

I've been surfing the net for ideas as to what I can improve on my efforts to do a handstand.

I found this one site that describes the steps towards achieving a handstand:

(Sorry.. I don't know how to do the whole clickable word thing that I see all the other bloggers do so gracefully.)

From what I've read.. I'm missing the "hollow" position of gymnastics:
"To get a feel for turned under hips, practice the hollow position: "In a hollow a gymnasts hips are turned under, legs are tight chest rounded inward. Lie on your back on the floor with your arms by your ears. Lift your legs slightly off the ground. Lift your head slightly off the floor. Your lower back should maintain contact with the floor." "

I watched my friend successfully doing a handstand, and it looked like his back was curving. I asked him if it "felt" like his back was curved, and he answered "yes". Is this the "hollow" feeling that the gymnast is experiencing?

Handstands really require strong wrists.. sigh.. one of my "issues".. I have a pre-damaged right wrist. I've felt the pressure happening on my wrists when I go up in the handstand. It always feels like my wrists are going to give in, and I'm going to fall on my nose. I will need to learn how to fall properly so that I do not injure myself.

I'll keep researching, and figuring this out. Soon there will be a picture of me doing a handstand on this blog.. you wait and see.