Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Seminar, and Resting

Alright.. I listened to my body. I cut out all home training except a few minutes of Bo staff here and there. I even stopped volunteering at the outreach center for a good 2 weeks. I brought all of my training down to just the karate classes. I started seeing progress on my upper body. Instead of weakness, and shaking, my arms were stronger, and sharper in their techniques. I decided to "smooth" out my home practice so that it supports the progress. It will be a day to day thing depending on how difficult the karate classes were the previous night. IF my muscles need to rest, and stretch, then I will do so. If class was calm, and easy the night before, then I will put some extra demand on my body the next day at home.

So guess what happens at Seminar? I was doing some one step kumite ( sparring) with one of the brown belts testing for Shodan. I had just finished my head punch, and he was countering. He made a mistake, and stepped forwards improperly surging onto my back foot with his full weight onto my toes. It is a good thing that I have been trained to grasp the floor with my toes. I could feel the force of his momentum threatening to pull my toes back, and break them, but my toes fought that, and stayed on the ground. My left big toe took all of the damage. Instead of a toenail I had a huge black/blue/purple spot, and a constant sharp knifelike pain which made each time I put my body into any stance a new experience of how much torment one can feel from their feet. It HURT! From that moment on I limped through each day... It's been 4 days now, and I'm still wincing when I see something heading towards my feet. I was told that it will be weeks before I can use that toe normally again. It's really wierd to have 9 normal colored toes, and one black toe.

This incident brings me to a question: When you are doing one step, you are not supposed to move after your initial attack. You are expected to stand still and allow your partner to counter, trusting that they will not damage you. Now, when I stood there waiting for my partner's counter, and I saw the direction he was heading and the momentum he was surging with, I had this deep inner gut feeling that I should shift my foot out of the path of his energy. I quelched that inner desire, and forced myself to stay still. The result? 2 weeks of limping on my left foot. At this moment in time, I'm thinking that it would have been better for me if I had listened to my inner voice, and had moved that foot out of the way. Which is the better path? Being able to control your body, and not "jump at every inner reaction", or to listen to your gut feeling and err on the path of safety?

You know the student that I was helping prepare for their Shodan test? She passed. I was so proud of her performance. She put forth so much focus, and energy. To tell the truth, ALL of my dojo mates put forth so much good spirit during the Seminar. I just wanted to stand up and cheer for how much I saw them putting forth their best. Congratulations to every one of the students, and especially those who tested for Shodan. You can be truly proud of yourself for doing your best.

Oh.. I have a nice picture to offer you from this seminar of my husband, and I "posing" as if I am giving him corrections on his kata. Notice the smiles? ha ha ha... I don't think that we were very convincing in our pose.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006


My body is teaching me that I can not force it to do more than it allows. My left arm, my hips, and my knees have been giving out on me this week. I'll be doing my push ups, or whatever, and suddenly that limb, or joint will lock, or give up totally letting gravity take my body to the ground.

To be honest, classes have been extra hard this past month.. In Shotokan we are preparing for the visit of our Master. Also, there has been demands on conditioning in Kyokushin.. things like 500 strikes, 500 blocks, and 500 kicks in a row interspersed with various exercises like push ups, sit ups, squats, etc. etc, and that is just the warm up.

This sudden total weakness of my body parts really bothers me. I've been able to push past the burning pain of my skin condition as I train, the sharp pain of the constant muscle cramping as I train, the dizziness, nauseau, and fainting spells through my determination, and will power, but I can't push past total "giving out" of the muscles. They won't go, and thinking strong thoughts won't MAKE them go. Suddenly there is no output in that arm/leg, and I collapse.

I tear up at the thought that I cannot work past this weakness. My body says "thus far, and no further.." and I cannot fight through that with will power. I have to adapt, slow down, even force myself to not train to allow those muscles, and joints to come back to what they were. And that drives me crazy.. because I had been gaining a little, and now I have to baby myself again.

I have stopped all extra home training ( except for Bo staff) for a whole week.. and I can't explain how much that bothers me. I'm not depressed, it is more of an anger, and frustration that boils within me. I spent most of my whole childhood laying in a bed coughing with bronchitis (an effect of my father's chain smoking) wishing that I could go out and play.

Now that I'm an adult, and I have the capacity to train, I'll be darned if I'll allow my body to dictate to me what it won't do.

I'm not stupid, though, I will not damage myself trying to force the joints to perform when obviously they are not doing well.. but I'm not going to throw in the towel and accept the limitations that is happening. I'll find a way to strengthen the muscles, and joints, whether by diet, exercise, or stretching. Sure.. sometimes when you are climbing a mountain, you might find yourself at a position where you cannot continue going upwards, and you have to backtrack a little to gain a better vantage point, and better handholds.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kata Query

I was performing the Bassai Dai kata, and suddenly it hit me that I need an answer to a certain movement.

This movement occurs in many kata: It is when you bring both feet together, stand up straight, and usually block WAY up high.. like two rising blocks in Bassai Dai, the augmented side head block in Jion, or when you place your fists on your hips in Heian Sandan.

As I was performing this move, I realized how all of my central vital points became open for attack. I also realized how vulnerable my feet were so close together. There is no stability to the Heisoku stance at all. I asked myself "Where in any self defense moment would I WANT to put my feet together, stand up, and lift my arms above my head exposing all of my vital points?"

And yet, you can see this type of position happen very often in Bassai Dai (Penetrating the fortress). at least 5 times. Why? Bassai Dai is a very strong kata that uses the hips.. why would we put our feet together, and stand up? That actually locks the feet, and hips in place.... sure.. we lift up our knee and continue into another movement.. but why stand up out of our lower stable stance, to get into a very 'tippy" high stance.

A few guesses that I had was that

a) we were trying to use the pull of gravity on our body to our advantage as we struck in the next movement.
b) we are trying to sucker in our opponent with the appearance of vulnerability.
c) we are looking for the right downward angle to achieve a vital attack.

However, all of the above guesses could be met by standing in Heiko Dachi ( Parallel stance), or from Shizentai ( Natural stance) where the feet are more stable, than in Heisoku Dachi ( closed together stance). At least in these stances, your hips are more free to do other movements if you need to.

Where in heaven's name is there any advantage to pulling your feet together, and standing straight up?

*Shakes head*

Well, just because I don't understand it yet, doesn't mean that I should throw it away. There's got to be a good reason since it is included in so many kata.

Hey, my dear Bo manipulating friends, Do you do a similar stance with your weapons? and does it help defend you or strenghten your attacks in some way?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

In honor of Remembrance Day... Thank you Sifu

If you like my poem pass it on.
In the distance one can see the glimpse of freedom slipping away
Through terror, killing and fear everyday.

But in the hearts of those that scale freedom's wall,
they will never let those evils overtake us all.

They stand on posts, they guard the night,
and yes some give the ultimate sacrifice.

Their nights are short, their days are long
and they long to hear a child's song.

They long to touch their loved ones far away, but they know in their hearts, it's duty that day.

So, as you pass one of these guardians of peace of mind, remember their duty was and still is to protect those rights you have at this time.

As it has been stated before and by so many, Freedom isn't Free, and those that serve preserve it do it with Honor and Dignity.

Tim White
First Sergeant IGR

Monday, November 06, 2006

What can I say? I've been busy

When you add the fact that I've had visitors from out of town to the usual high demands of family, and karate, my life has been extra busy. Computer leisure time goes to the bottom of the "to do" list. Therefore, I've neglected so many internet things.. and I'm behind on my emails, forums.. you name it. Including my little blog.

So.. let me tell you what I'm working on in my karate:

It seems that my efforts to relax, and spar with less rigidity has teeter tootered into TOO much relaxation, and I've lost alot of technique. It is quite a tight line to walk when you need to be relaxed, and yet have just enough tension, and technique to make things work correctly.

I think that my kiai has become the key to how to clue my body into that necessary sudden tenseness that you need to strike, or defend, but to stay loose inbetween the action. Expansion, and contraction is such an important part of sparring.. but it is the inbetween moments of calmness that are the hardest to achieve for me. I found that the calmness is so important to being able to sustain an equilibrium to the effort. Too much tension all the time just burns me out.

I've been working on my kiai, and experimenting. I've been kiai-ing at different parts of my strike; at the end, during the middle, even before I send it. Just to see the effect on my body.. and you know what? It DOES make a huge difference as to when you kiai. The body moves differently.. it's like there is a different focus, or philosophy behind the movement. If I wait until Kime is happening to kiai there is a sense of solidity, and finality.. similar to "THERE! Now that's done.. let's go do something else.." If I Kiai as soon as my fist leaves it's chambered position.. there is an excitement in the movement like "Yes! Send it NOW!". Then my breath breaths out with the strike and there is a feeling of continuation...... of flowing into the next moment.

I've noticed that sharp short breaths will change how you move compared to a long constant puffing of air ( like if you were swimming underwater)

I found this awesome article on breathing, and sparring on a Tae Kwon Do website:

I'm amazed at how many different ways we can breathe improperly, and actually inhibit our efforts to perform. I LOVE the description of "stillness" that is provided in this article:

"For martial artists, one of the most important principles of Yin and Yang is the relationship between stillness and motion. Stillness is the natural state before movement begins, and yet it is also the basis of all movement. A technique that begins from perfect stillness enables you to execute the movement in a coordinated and efficient manner that allows your body and mind to unite in a balanced harmony and helps you to release unnecessary tension and to relax more completely. From a  state of stillness, any movement is done with complete awareness and true intent. Your actions become the embodiment of quality and perfection. Once you have a feeling for perfect stillness you will be able to call on it whenever needed. In a pattern training,  you may only be still for a split second between moves, but if it is perfect stillness, then the transition between the moves becomes flawless.  "

Yes.. that is what I desire in my sparring, and my kata. I want to find that calmness or "stillness" inbetween the active phases of movement. Another ideal for me to shoot for... :-)