Sunday, July 30, 2006

WASPS!!!!

I went outside in the backyard to do some Bo staff practice.

Now, we've had a really dry summer around here, and even the grass has become straw beige instead of green from the lack of rain.

I was happilly training away with my staff. I felt a light thump on my right ankle, and I looked down to see what I had accidently tapped. To my horror there were a whole bunch of wasps by my feet. You see, I had been sweating from my training, and leaving a trail of moisture on the grass. The wasps scented the water, and had come to get some for their hive. There must have been a good dozen wasps flying and crawling near my moving bare feet.

I FROZE in position. Flashes of how I had trained in Basics for 45 minutes, and had just finished doing the Bo kata without looking down for the past 15 minutes passed through my head, and I realized just how wonderful it is that I have trained to keep my feet on the ground, and slide them sideways rather than pick them up, and thump them down. Oh gosh! I would have had plenty of wasp stings on the bottom of my feet had I stepped directly on top of them.

I decided to bow out, and allow the wasps to take over my backyard dojo. I backed away carefully, and in awe at how such small creatures can instill such fear in me.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Woot! 5 minute headstand achieved


Oh yes! Oh yes! I managed to attempt, and perform a 5 minute headstand (unaided) with my daughter timing me for a full 5 minutes. In fact, for certain amount of time, I brought my feet away from the support of the wall, and was holding the headstand free from any help. Not one ounce of fear.. not even an inkling. I have met my first goal.

I came down from that with joy, and elation. Boo YA! Wouldn't you know what I attempted right after that? Sure.. why not.. I tried to do a handstand.. with my husband to catch my feet of course.

Handstands feel different than headstands.. my back feels more "out of line", and curled out of shape. I wasn't able to achieve the Handstand. It's like my body refused to allow my hips to go above my head, and it felt like my nose was going to go crashing into the floor in front of me. I felt the weight of my body landing on my shoulders, elbows, and wrists, and it felt like my wrists couldn't bend enough to get the right angle. I'm going to have to watch my 7 year son achieve his handstands to see what he does with his arms to get the right support. He can pop into a handstand with no problems at all.

BUT.. Good news.. there was no fear in me. There was just an awareness that I have no clue of how to do a handstand.

By the way, I added pictures of my Water Bo staff in my posting:
http://supergroup7shodan.blogspot.com/2006/07/woodburning-my-bo-staff.html

Monday, July 24, 2006

How important can a kiai be?

I've been looking at how my performance during training is affected by my kiai. I've played with the sound coming out of me bringing it a little lower, or higher, holding it longer, or making it sharper, calling out sooner. I found that it changes the feel of my technique, and how my body moves. Therefore, if my kiai is weak and slow, I can almost guarantee that my technique is going to match it. It is like the body echoes the kiai.

It seems almost fateful that I came across an article written in FightingArts.com about Kiai by Sensei Christopher Caile. The whole article is fascinating, but the part that I enjoyed the most was this story that he shared about Sosai Masutatsu Oyama:

"The year was 1961. I was in Japan studying karate with Kancho Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushinkai karate. After practice one evening Oyama and I made our way along a dirt street on the outskirts of Tokyo. We were heading toward a Korean restaurant, a favorite of his where we often ate. It was getting dark and as we approached the restaurant in our path were several young men jostling and pushing each other. Suddenly the group seemed to lurch toward us. Oyama stopped and then uttered a short, powerful sound, something between a grunt and a soft shout. The youths froze. All action stopped, their bodies seemingly frozen, movement suspended as if energy had been sucked out of their limbs. It seemed like an eternity, but it must have been only a second when the youths regained a little composure and turned. They met the wall of Oyama's powerful look, thick eyebrows framing piercing eyes. Immediately they melted aside, then quickly disappeared down the street. No doubt Oyama's powerful presence also had an effect; he was, a powerful looking, tank like man with a thick neck and massive chest accentuated with shoulders so wide they seemed out of proportion. Not a word had been said. "What was that?" I asked dumbfounded. "Ahh, nothing," Oyama replied in broken English as he resumed walking toward the restaurant. This was my first introduction to the power of kiai. I had of course seen people kiai in class, we all did this during exercises, but nothing with the power and impact that Oyama had emitted. That night I returned home around 10 pm still thinking about the incident. I was living with a group of martial artists hosted in an old Meiji period house atop a hill in a suburb of Tokyo called Ichigiya. The house was run by Donn Draeger. Donn was home and I went upstairs to talk. I described Oyama's kiai to him and we began to talk about the subject. Donn, it turned out had a powerful kiai himself and soon we were trading kiais, Donn coaching me on keeping my air passage straight and using by lower abdomen. Our alternate "Yaaaahs" reverberated through the building prompting at least one "shut up" "
http://fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=158

I know that I've felt that weak-knee'd effect more than once when faced with the right kind of kiai coming from my opponent. The kiai doesn't have to be loud to get that effect either.... it just has to have the right level of sound or feeling (?) Now.. my goal is to develop that kind of tone to be able to more effectively use my kiai.

It seems that most beginners to the arts seem reluctant to kiai, and there are many times that I've seen people leave out the kiai in their kata, or while they are training. I believe that they are missing a very important part of their training by not developing this aspect of their art. The health benefits of breathing in deeply to the bottom of our lungs, and then expelling the air are astronomical.

A) Screaming is the ultimate vocal work out. Muscle tone is lost as we age, kiai-ing helps condition, train, and strengthen the vocal cords (when done properly) Soft spoken people will lose more and more of their vocal range if they do not exercise their vocal cords.

B) Letting out a good scream is a great stress reliever. One cannot just up and scream in the middle of their workplace.. but to yell out loud in the dojo is not only acceptable.. it is encouraged.

C) Toxins that are trapped in the bottom of our lungs are expelled by the deep breathing, and accompanying kiai. When stressed we tend to breath more shallow, and short.. Kiai-ing as we train reminds our body to breath deeply.

D) The lymph fluid of our bodies are moved only by two actions; deep breathing using the diaphragm, and muscle contraction. A good kiai does both. Moving the lymph fluid helps clean our system of waste products.

With all of these positive benefits, I think that I will continue to work on my kiai to bring it into a higher level.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Woodburning my Bo Staff


I wanted to individualize, and customize my Bo Staff so that I could find it among the other student's staffs with ease. A friend of mine suggested that I do some woodburning and place symbols on it that reflect my path in martial arts. Thrilled to be able to use my arts and crafts skills in union with my martial art expression, I started on this project.

I created my Water staff in honor of the fact that I was a Blue belt in Kyokushin karate. I placed the Japanese Kanji of water ( Mizu) directly in the center of the Bo. I wanted to capture the idea that Water exists in all three aspects of the world. It is suspended in the air above us as humidity/clouds, it supports all life in it's normal self in rivers, lakes, oceans, and is also found down in the depths of the land. In this way it expressed how "Ki" or "Chi" is part of all things.

I wanted the aspect of the power of water to be seen in the surging of waves pounding away at the rocks of the edge of the land, but I didn't want the image to finish because the water never stays in one place. It is constantly moving. This would remind me of how I cannot stay satisfied with one effective technique but that I need to apply a combination of strikes/blocks that flow into each other smoothly, adapting to the moment with constant motion.



I also desired to express the mystery of the water cycle... looking at how Kyokushin is centered on circular movement instead of linear. Also, I looked at how water is not ever a single entity in itself but that it is formed of billions of little droplets falling from the sky to join together in union, and then to rejoin the humidity in the sky through evaporation. This reminded me that my training is important, and that only I can bring myself to meet my goals of improving as a karate-ka. It is through my effort, dedication, willingness to learn that I will excel. However, I am not totally alone.. my efforts are supported by the teachings, and guidance of my Sensei, and by the accompanying efforts of those karate-ka that I train with in the dojo. To achieve all of this on one Bo staff was quite difficult.. but I feel satisfied with my results. I placed Cumulus clouds surrounding the Bo at the 1/3 and 2/3 mark.. just past where my hands would hold the Bo. The clouds rain down towards the ends of the staff.. about 5 inches of wind whipped waves surge around the end of the staff with water droplets flying upwards towards the downwards falling rain.

At the very end of the staff I placed two kanji.. One of them (Mi) hopefully means "superior", and the other one ( Rei ) means"respect and courtesy". I have to add the thought that I'm hopeful that this is what is meant by those kanji. Since I do not speak, nor read Japanese.. I'm afraid that I might have written something as silly as "bowing monkeys".

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Today is what I have to work with....

I woke up this morning and realized something in a deeper way. It was similar to always knowing what the color "blue" looks like, but suddenly seeing the multilayers of blue in the sky, and sea on a beautiful summer day, and realizing how much more to "blue" there exists.

I understood even more fully that I only have today to work on my karate skills. There are days when you feel this "oh no.. today is karate class. I just don't feel like going" feeling. Those are very rare days for me, but they do happen. On those days, I have to rely on that inner backbone within me that unfailingly stands firm with the resolve that all good things need persistence to achieve. That kind of resolve does not come from "feelings", but from choices. There are many times when I don't feel like doing things in my day, but I do them because I value what results I will get from that effort. Today is the only day I have to work on what I want to improve in my life.. my health, my stability, my stamina, my skills.

Yesterday is gone. What I did then has brought me to this point, but I cannot go back and redo it.. I only have now. I can hope for the future, and what potential that I can achieve, but again I only have this moment to build up towards my goals. So, everything centers on the present moment. Each second that I breath I have a choice before me to reach for personal betterment, or to relax my decisions and accept where I am right now.

My understanding has grown of Sosai Oyama's motto of "Following the Martial Arts way is like scaling a cliff - continue upwards without rest. It demands absolute and unfaltering devotion to the task at hand. " It makes even more sense now. If you are climbing a cliff, you cannot stop midway, and accept that position. Sure.. you've made it halfway up, and the view is wonderful, but you become locked there if you don't keep reaching up for more. In fact, you can even end up sliding backwards unknowingly, and ending up back where you started. The steps that you have taken in the past have only build up the foundation for futher progress.. you HAVE to keep going. That is what a beginner's mind is all about! When we start learning karate, we start reaching for what we do not know. As we learn, we have the temptation to sit on our gathered achievements, but we have to keep reaching for what we can find farther up. Many times we reach in places that our Sensei haven't considered in their path, and we end up creating our own expression of karate.

Today is precious! It might feel like just another day, but it is more precious than any jewels or gold. We need only to ask someone who has only a few days to live as to how precious today is for them. I chose to reach higher in my karate today, and get that much better a view of myself, and of my art from being elevated a few more inches on the cliff of training.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Feeling inadequate... (Transfered from older blog)

( Written on Wednesday, 09 November 2005)

It's part of the walk on the path of learning the way of martial arts. It is those moments when you feel the embarassment of not understanding, of missing the moment, of getting slammed by your opponent, of making a serious mistake. 

Each person handles these moments in a different way. I've seen people get upset and angry.  I've seen people get sorrowful. I've seen people laugh it off, and not take it seriously. We each handle those moments in our own individual ways based on our personality, and perceptions.

What I do in those moments when I feel inadequate: I feel a surge of inner negative self-image messages, and I have to fight an inner battle to allow myself  the right to continue permitting myself the time to learn, cope, and succeed.  These messages have no words, but are centered in feelings of "who" I am as a martial artist..  I feel lesser than what I should be which brings me to feelings of not being worthy of attempting what I am trying to learn.  The battle within my mind starts anew, and I remind myself that I am farther today than I was 3 years ago on this path which gives me hope that one day I will succeed in that which I struggling with at this moment. I place the balm of the idea that I can only do my best effort.  I ask myself "Am I putting forth my fullest effort here?" (The answer is always "yes".)  "Then I can do no more than that right now.. One day I will understand the concept that is being taught, I only need to keep on trying."


It feels very frustrating though.. especially when I can feel that all it would take is to move my body the way that I see Sensei doing it.  I can feel that I have the capability within me, but that I don't know how to apply it yet.  I can recognize what is happening, but I can't put it into motion in myself.  This is so similar to when I started learning to read.  I could recognize letters on the buildings as we drove past the buildings downtown.  "OH!  That is a "k"! and an "a"!"  I would stare at the word on the building trying to read what it said in those few seconds that I had as we drove past, and away from it.  Now, as an adult, I barely have to glance at the word to know that it says "Bank", but then, when I was a child, I never understood fully what the word meant.

The frustration within me is even worse since I have the inner pressure of the responsibility of being an example to those who are leaning on me for direction. During my short experiences in the dojo there have been moments when I have felt the eyes of other students relying on me to provide them with a cue as to what we are supposed to do in response to Sensei's commands.  I knew that if I did the right response.. the whole dojo would click into proper position, but if I make a mistake.. that mistake would be echoed throughout the dojo as all the other students would imitate my error, and emphasize it even louder.  At these moments I remember fondly the time when I was a white belt, and I felt like I was doing quite well in my karate.  In fact, I remember feeling stronger, faster, and more knowledgeable that the higher belts because Sensei didn't correct me as much as them.  Sensei would correct only this little thing, or that little thing on me while the higher belts had a LIST of "to be worked on" items.  Little did I know then how much was missing in my performance.. and thank goodness that I didn't have a clue, or I would have dropped the art of karate, and went to go learn needlepoint. 

I am willing to allow myself to look, and feel inadequate.  I accept that I make major mistakes, and feel the embarrasment of not living up to my own standards.  I admit that I do not know my karate as well as I would like because this is fertile ground towards growing.  A farmer's field is not automatically ready for planting seeds.  First the farmer has to remove weeds, large stones, roots, sticks, etc. before the seed can be planted.  If I do not admit to my mistakes, and look at them honestly, then how can I be aware of them, and fix them so that I can improve?  I have to be honest enough, and humble enough with myself to accept that doing mistakes is part of the path of martial arts.  I have to have the fortitude to do what it takes to remove the things within me that are contributing to the mistakes no matter how insurmountable the problem seems. Lastly, I have to have the patience with myself to give me time to learn.  It took me a good 12 years of constant effort to be able to communicate in my own language effectively.  I have only been training in the arts for a few months of my life.. I've got to give myself a chance.

Add-on: Today, I can remember feeling this so strongly, but I have matured in my ability to handle mistakes, and inadequacies. I accept them as part of my learning. One cannot gain any skill without making mistakes at first. For example, coloring.. we all colored outside of the lines when we started learning how to color. Walking: We all had to build up on our skills, crawling, holding furniture, losing balance.. It's part of the fact that we are human.. and it's a beautiful aspect of learning, because we can rejoice in the little successes. Today I can do a downblock, 4 years ago, I couldn't.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

How much caffeine?

It was refreshing to just focus on doing my techniques instead of fighting with my painful cramping leg muscles. Good! Now I know that, for my body, I will need to bring down the level of caffeine in my diet to as close to nothing as possible.

According to research, children can handle up to 45 mg of caffeine without an effect on their system. ( This is the equivelant of 1 cup of cola, or a chocolate bar.) I'm going to attempt to keep the caffeine in my diet to below 10 mg per day. This might be quite easy because there are many caffeine free alternatives available.

Just to compare:

A cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine. Decaffeinated coffee has 4 mg.

A cup of hot cocoa has 4 mg. A chocolate bar has up to 30 mg.. it depends on the type of bar, and how many other things are added to it.

Chocolate milk has 8 mgs. Cola has about 40 mg.

Knowledge allows me to make choices that will support my health. I have found out this week that I prefer to drink Peppermint tea (which contains 0 mg) over coffee anyway.

One of the most surprising things that I have learned is that certain soda pop that I would THINK would have no caffeine has up to 44-55 mg in it.. for example, Mountain Dew, Sunkist Orange, A&W Creme Soda. What an eye-opener for me! I never thought that I'd find caffeine in those drinks!

To link this with karate, I believe that lowering the amount of caffeine in my diet will support my efforts as a student. My body will be less "stressed" out because it will be working at normal speed instead of hyper turbo-powered caffeine speed. Also, I will not have the need to go to the washroom as often during class so I'll be able to train more, getting the most of my time in the dojo. :-)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Caffeine and Karate

I learned a rather big lesson in my path of training in Martial arts.

I had been suffering from muscle cramps as I trained. As soon as I'd go into stance my leg muscles would cramp up painfully not giving me any power, or focus. I'd pull out of stance, and then lower back in trying to force my muscle to respond. There were times when the muscles would just give out entirely.

One day, my efforts at class was a real eye-opener as I struggled with my calf muscles all through class trying to keep Sanchin stance. Always one to look for solutions rather than focus on problems, I researched information about cramping during exercise on the internet.

The source of cramping of muscles is a mystery to the scientists. They found that certain things can cause the painful contractions: dehydration, muscle fatigue, hypothyroidism, depletion of magnesium/calcium, etc. As I read the list of things that contribute to cramps I was surprised to find Caffeine listed as something that contributes to this problem. Gee! Caffeine is in almost every pleasurable treat I can think of, colas, coffee, and chocolate cake. It's found in most soda pops. Caffeine is used by athletes for the fact that this drug will enhance their physical performance by strengthening muscle contractions, lessening the feeling of fatigue, and helping enhance mental focus. How many people do I know who need their morning cup of coffee to wake them up in the morning? To my greatest surprise I learned that "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) presently lists caffeine as a banned substance.  It is difficult to believe that a substance consumed by over 75% of Americans everyday, is placed in a category, which includes harmful drugs such as steroids and cocaine.  Urinary test above 12mg/liter (8 cups of coffee) is perceived by the IOC as a deliberate attempt by an athlete to gain an advantage on the competition." I read about the list of side effects of caffeine on my system with a sinking feeling. In addition to a whole bunch of other symptoms, I read something that affected my karate directly... " For athletes, caffeine has more disastrous effects that may affect performance.  These side effects include muscle tightness, muscle cramping, and dehydration." AAARGH! These are harsh words for someone whose main enjoyment after a day of stress is to sit down to a hot cup of coffee, or a cold glass of cola. Especially when I was facing a very stressful time in my life, I would turn to my calming cup of cola to give me a boost. I felt a sense of calmness, and release come over me when I drank those beverages. Sure.. of course I felt that.. I was addicted to the caffeine boost.

Reality, and humility set in. I had to chose.. Was I going to try to keep my addiction even though I know that caffeine was affecting my body so harshly that I couldn't perform my karate at my best? This is where I had to place the power of my will over the wants of my body. I chose health over addiction. HARD choice! The first day I suffered from that constant inner hunger of a body calling out for what it thinks it needs. The next days I felt the effects of detoxification, the shuddering, the heaviness, the headaches, the stomachaches, etc. etc. I was going through withdrawal, and I knew it. I recognized it. I became irritable with myself, and others, and I felt weak. I learned that it will take about a week to cleanse my body of the side effects of withdrawal, and even longer to remove the negative effects that caffeine has done to me. However, the exercise and training of karate helped immensely. I felt better after each class. I believe that is because exercises releases positive chemicals in your system. This summer I have had cramps in my legs at very infrequent moments. The slight "complaining" cramps are few, short, and not as harsh. I can recuperate from them quickly, and continue training right away.


It's amazing how caffeine has such a nasty effect on our system, and yet is such a main beverage in our society. Why do we do such things to ourselves? People are very confusing.

These are some of the websites wherein I found some information in case you are interested in doing some research yourself: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/caffeine-faq/ http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/caffeine_sports.htm http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003193.htm

Friday, July 14, 2006

Responsibility

I find that a deeper level of responsibility occurs as you get older, and more experienced in martial arts.

No longer does your training focus only on yourself.. Well to be honest, yes, you have to think of yourself first, but to do this you have to build up the dojo around you, also. What good does it do to find out that you managed to surpass everyone, but are standing all alone.

I was told by my first Sensei that his attic is full of medals, and trophies gathering dust. The memories, and experiences of those successes are treasured, but the glory has faded to be replaced by the newer champion of this year.

What is most valuable are those relationships that we create through our efforts. It's true that we do not attend a karate dojo to make friends. If we want to meet friends, there are many better places to get to talk to others, share the same interests, and get to know each other than when you are facing someone, and punching at them. However, something happens to a group of people when they train together.. a unity among those who have faced the same challenge and surmounted it. We learn to support, and help each other to achieve our goals. Not necessarilly classified as friendship, but definitely something more than just a passing acquaintance.

What is a karate dojo? Is it the place that it is held? I don't think so.. I've trained with my dojo in church basements, school gyms, even on a field in a city park. As long as we were willing to meet Sensei there, he was willing to teach. Is the dojo the students that train there? No.. I don't think it's that neither.. because the students attend, or do not attend, depending on their life demands. The faces that show up in class each week can change tremendously. I would have to guess that the dojo is the heart of the Sensei. He/she creates the opportunity, the expectations, and the place wherein karate will be done.

Going back to the thought that there is the amazing quality of unity expressed among the members of a dojo.. This unity MUST be from the efforts of the Sensei working towards that goal. He or she is relying on his/her Sempai to carry the same attitudes, and values. As I think about what a wondrous International world-encompassing spread of the Martial arts styles that have been created into existance by Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, Sosai Masutatsu Oyama, Sensei Chogun Miyagi, and others., I am entranced by how positive a person they must have been to be able to inspire so many different cultures of people to search for unity, improvement, and peace through their art.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thoughts about push ups

What a challenge this simple exercise can be if you are willing to allow it!

I started off kissing the floor, and feeling my arms shaking with the effort of trying to lift my body. I was unable to do one proper push up..even from my knees. Each class I found that I could do a few more.. until finally I was able to get a good 10 push ups in a row. Normal ones. I was quite satisfied with myself.. Ah.. but there are a variety of push ups to entertain us with.. Inclined push ups, on one's wrists, on the knuckles, clapping push ups, fingertip push ups.. and more.

It's hard to believe that something as simple as lifting yourself up off the ground can be SO difficult.

I've learned some amazing facts about push ups.. World records:

-Non stop: 10,507; Minoru Yoshida (JAP), Oct 1980
-Most in 1 hour: 3,877; Bijender Singh (IND), 20 Sept 1988
-Most in10 minutes (women): 426; Renata Hamplov√° (TCH),
-Rekord-Klub SAXONIA Record Festival in Schwedt, 2 Sept 1995 One-armed,
- On back of hands, one hour: 441; Bruce Swatton (GBR), 12. May 2003
- With hands on raw eggs: 112; Johann Schneider (AUT) (They have a video available on the site to see how he did it)
- Finger-tips, 5 hours: 8,200; Terry Cole (GBR), 11 May 1996 in Walthamstow

Taken from : http://www.recordholders.org/en/list/pushups.html

Wow! What people are capable of accomplishing with training, and perserverence. Here I am happy when I can do my limited amount of push ups... ah but then I aspire only to be the best that I can be.. and not to outdo anyone but myself. Sometimes, when I'm training at home, my little children will come up and ask to ride Mommy's back when I'm doing push ups. They almost stand in line as if they are waiting for a carnival ride. I start from the 6 year old, and work upwards to the 12 year old. I have to give them only 10 push ups elevator rides each.. and by the end of that.. I barely can move. But you should see the look of joy on their faces that they were able to sit on their mom like that.. ha ha ha..

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Quality remains true

I've learned a very important lesson this week. Earlier this year, I was leaving my home dressed in my gi, and a gentleman just happen to be walking up my front walk to deliver some flyers. He smiled at my outfit, and asked casually "Which art?" After I answered, he said "Oh yes.. I did martial arts in my youth... oh but that was ages ago.. a good 30 years ago.. but I still remember how to do a side kick.." He went into a lovely horse stance, and delivered a beautiful true side kick. His body flowed with the kick.. and you could see that there was so much skill in him. We shared a few seconds of mutual appreciation of how powerful a side kick can be during sparring when unexpected. We then parted ways. I've never met the gentleman again, but I will always remember him.

I remember one day when I was training at the dojo, I looked more closely at one of the recent additions to our club. He was a Shodan from another country who had JUST joined us. He admitted to me that he has not trained for a good 20 years, and that these were his first classes since then. I had not been able to witness him doing kata before because I was training, and usually too busy with my own performance. However, these were the moments before class when students were warming up. The new Shodan was doing Heian Shodan (Pinan sono ichi).. and I watched him with admiring eyes. What quality! His body did the basics with smoothness, and familiarity. At the end of the kata, I admitted sheepishly to him that I was watching him closely not because I wanted to correct him, but more because I would like to imitate the quality of his movements. I was rewarded with a big smile, and he explained that when he was young and trained in karate, most of his training was basics. The basics training has stayed with him. Making a Gedan berai is as natural as picking up a pencil and writing his name. I learned from this experience.

Quality remains true.. When you train in basics, those mindless repetitious tsuki, geri, and uke.. you are building the important part of your art. In fact, Kihon becomes MORE important than all the other aspects of training.. it is what stays with you. Isn't it ironic though? Because most of the students that I've met really dislike the "boring" part of doing the Kihon Geiko, and Ido geiko. If they knew how important it was to creating a quality karate-ka out of them perhaps they would appreciate that aspect of training more. No.. I guess not.. my kids do not like vegtables no matter how much you explain to them how healthier it is to eat them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Never enough

It took me almost 3 years of training, but I've learned something important to my training. My Sensei will never be satisfied with my performance. If I can do 5 push ups, then he will ask for 10. If I succeed at 10, then he will ask for 20. If I reach the limit of my body, wherein it struggles to just survive, then he will ask for "one more". I realized that this is the job of a Sensei.. to pull the most out of the student, and to break the perceived limitations that chain us to only doing what makes us comfortable. A Sensei has to pull the student out of their comfort zone, and show that it is possible to achieve beyond expectations. Also, the Sensei has to be alert to signs of distress, and overtraining. It isn't good for one's health to overstress the system, and more harm and damage can happen to the person than strengthening.

What a difficult path to walk upon! What a responsibility!!
The student has to have full confidence that their Sensei has their best health, and interest in mind. The Sensei expects that the student is putting forth full effort in class. There has to be a bond of mutual trust, and respect for true learning, and improvement to take place. Is this kind of deep bond between Sensei, and student something that happens all the time? I'm guessing that it is as rare a treasure as one of those awesome marriages that last for 50 years through joys, challenges, and sorrows.

Perhaps that is why so many of the Martial arts films portray this kind of deep relationship between teacher /student? It is something that so many martial artists are attracted to, and desire to emulate.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Transfering some blog entries

A good amount of months ago, I used to frequent a website that offered the blogging service. It was a very enjoyable website, but as things go in this world, the website closed down and is inaccessible to me.

I've decided to include some of my more favorite entries from that blog onto this one. The following excerpt was written a year ago. Things haven't changed much in my home since that blog entry:

Training at home

Here I was! Searching for a couple of hours of time in my day to do a little of practice. I was thinking.. "O.K.. early morning! Before the kids get up.. I'll do some training in karate.."

However, my daughter woke up before me, and managed to have needs, and wants that I had to meet, and then the other kids got up. Breakfast, dishes, laundry, and housecleaning took over the time.

I looked at the clock and saw that it was 10 am.. "Good!" I thought "Maybe now I can get at least 1 hour of concentrated karate practice." I started clearing a space in my dining room for training, but my other daughter appeared with her school supply list, and a worried face.

"Mom.. I don't think that I have all that I need.." She said to me.

Well.. Mommy decided "I've got the rest of the day to do karate.. I'll help her with her school list."

Then Lunch had to be made, and my little son had problems outside with the neighbour's kid, and Mommy to the rescue. There was a spider in the upstairs bathroom that only Mommy could handle. The teenaged daughter stopped Mommy as she came down the stairs to talk to her about the upcoming weekend plans. We all know that when a teenager feels inclined to reveal important personal information.. you HAVE to stop, and listen. It's a rare occurance!

Oh dear.. it was supper time. I couldn't train.. had to make the meal, serve it, and clean up. I consoled myself thinking "Well.. I can train from 7 to 9 pm...The kids went up to their rooms to settle for bed". ,

At 7 pm I was happilly warming up.. I barely managed a few kicks, and a couple of punches, and in comes my husband.

"Honey.." He announced to me seriously "We have to talk about important issues about our mortgage.. How much longer will you be training?"

I gave up.. I answered "I'm almost done..". It was 7:15 pm. Sigh.... my two hours of training had become a short 15 minutes.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fighting gravity: benefits of Inversion

Day after day, our bodies are pulled downwards towards our feet as we stand, and sit. This has an effect our our spine, our joints, our circulation, our organs, etc. etc.

The amount of positives effects of inverting for a few minutes are many:

a) Blood is constantly circulating through us thanks to the pumping of our heart. However, the Lymph fluid ( which is the liquid that surrounds the tissue of our body) relies on the contraction of our muscles, and deep diaphragmic breathing to move. The lymph fluid of the legs tends to stay pooled down there due to gravity. The positive effect of going upside down on the lymph fluid is that it drains towards the lymph nodes that are more concentrated near the chest, and armpits. This helps clean, and clear the muscles of waste products which helps clear any soreness, or stiffness of the muscles. "A study conducted by physiotherapist L.J. Nosse found that, "EMG (electromyographic) activity, an indicator of muscle pain, declined over 35% within ten seconds of assuming the inverted position."

b) When you take on an upside down position, the core muscles of your torso have to adjust, and strengthen to handle the new work-load. This helps create better posture by building stronger rib, stomach, and back muscles. Oh yes.. I have felt this effect on my own body.

c) The gentle relaxed reverse loading of the ligaments, and connective tissues allow them to stretch, and strengthen. In fact, inverting brings on a sensation of relaxation to those muscle that normally take on the pressures of gravity, and asks other muscles to take over. There is a definate feeling of calmness, and relaxing that happens in the upside down placement.

d) Inverting helps your circulation. It is interesting to notice that problems such as varicose veins, or swelling feet, which are based on gravity, can be eased by inversion. The heart also adjusts to it's workload. Sensors tell the heart that there is plenty of blood available for the brain, so the heart lowers it's output.

e) Going upside down helps your lungs: "When standing or sitting upright, gravity pulls our fluids earthward, and blood "perfuses" or saturates the lower lungs more thoroughly. The lower lung tissue is thus more compressed than the upper lungs. As a result, the air we inhale moves naturally into the open alveoli of the upper lungs. Unless we take a good, deep breath, we do not raise the ratio of air to blood in the lower lungs. When we invert, blood perfuses the well-ventilated upper lobes of the lungs, thus ensuring more efficient oxygen-to-blood exchange and healthier lung tissue. "

f) Perimenopausal and Menopausal women can benefit from the extra stimulation that the various glands that regulate metabolism ( pituitary, penial, thyroid, and parathyroid ) get from inversion.

Inversion isn't for everyone. People with back problems, high blood pressure, and glaucoma should consult a doctor before attempting inversions.

Also, it is important to take good care of your neck, and spine as you invert. Listen to your body, and if it is telling you that what you are attempting is painful.. then stop, review where you are placing the pressure of the weight of your body, and your posture.

There is also no need to invert for extra long extended moments of time ( such as over 20 minutes..etc.).
Shorter periods of time can have just as many benefits. In fact, most of the yoga sites that I visited recommended between 3 and 5 minutes. They suggested that beginners to inversion just go up for a few breaths, and then return back down.

People are purchasing Inversion tables to help them achieve the upside down position:
http://www.greendoorwellness.com/inversion.html

There are also Inversion stand to help with headstands:
http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/spo/177668412.html

These are the two websites that I visited to find the benefits of inversion:

http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/214.cfm
http://www.energycenter.com/grav_f/benefits.html

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Things that I have learned from being upside down

Oh the things we learn from doing the same action over and over again.

A) Your shoulder, rib, neck, and hip muscles get sore in totally different places. You do not realize HOW sore they are until you go back upside down. Then you feel them!

B) My sinuses get all stuffed up. Singing starts to sound quite funny.. like as if I had a cold. My "m"''s and "n"'s turn into "b"'s.

C) I can see every speck of dust, and dirt on the floor since my sight level is only 4 inches above the ground. I hover there upside down thinking "Oh dear.. there are crumbs under that chair over there that I missed when I swept the floor.. I'll have to fix that later."

D) It is quite defenseless a position to be upside down, and your body KNOWS it! So when your children are chasing each other through the room as they playfight, and their feet come running in your direction, your whole body will jump with the feeling of "Arrgh! you've GOT to move out of the way.." But you can't because you are balanced on your head, and elbows. Then when you try to yell out to the kids "HEY! No! Stop it! Slow down!!" it comes out in a gargled "EH! DOH! Dop id! Sdow dowd!!!"

E) Your heart just melts as your 6 year old son comes up to you twists his head, and torso around as much as possible so that he can look at you, and yet struggle to remain standing, and then he says "Mommy.. would you like me to hold your legs up for you, or maybe I can help you in another way? I'm a good helper."

F) Shoes on your feet, as you try to get into an upside down position, will make it more difficult to kick off and balance. They add extra weight on the end, and make everything more challenging. I learned to take off my shoes.

G) Always be sure that your shirt is tucked into your pants before you go upside down.. Nothing feels more vulnerable for a woman than feeling your shirt slowing lower, covering your face, and exposing your bra to the world as you hold the upside down position.

H) More than 2 minutes of upside downess will create quite a feeling of dizziness when you come back upright.

I) Make sure that your bladder is empty when you go upside down. What a strange, wierd, and almost awful feeling to have a full bladder come bumping down into yourself when you invert. EEEWWWW! I nearly fell over in surprise when it happened to me the first time.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Being Faithful, or buying a belt..

I believe that there is a responsibiity to the Sensei who shared his/her effort, and investment towards your
knowledge, and improvement in skill. In a way, they are giving to you what was given to them, and they
hope that you will share with others so that the art of karate can expand, and enhance. I tend to view that
statement in the Shotokan Dojo Kun of "Being faithful" as encompassing this concept (In addition to others).

Learning in our history was based on the Mentor/ apprentice method. A hopeful student would find a knowledgeable person in the art that they wished to learn ( whether it was baking, blacksmithing, medicine, poetry, music, etc.) They developed a relationship with their teacher, and "inherited" their knowledge. I think that ever since our society has replaced the "apprentice" method of teaching with the modern
Public school system "factory" business we have developed a "buyer" attitude towards learning. This attitude consists of "we pay a certain amount in cash for the course, we attend class to get a checkmark beside our name for the amount of time agreed to, we meet the expected criteria, we pass our exam, and "TADAA" we graduate. This totally different way of looking at learning skills has created a Mega-business in our society. Some people's lives are dedicated to attending Universities/Colleges towards increasing that business.

I have noticed that many people in the modern dojo approach martial arts with the Business/ factory learning mindset.. they automatically assume that they pay the money for class, show up to the scheduled classes, and at the end of "x" amount of years they will be a Black belt. Isn't that the first question that many a white belt asks? "How many years before I get a black belt?" Oy.. it's hard not to roll my eyes at that question. How do I explain that the skills required will take much time, repetition, effort, sweat, courage, dedication, and humility? I almost want to tell them that they can have a black belt right now.. just go to the local martial arts store, and buy one.. they cost around $10.

How can I describe to them the "path" that you have to walk to "get a black belt" especially when I witness so many dojo that allow people to buy their belt instead of earn it? I'm just grateful that I have had the amazing gift of stumbling into a Kyokushin Sensei who taught me what being a black belt consists of by his example, and teachings. He awakened my mind, and heart to the awesome depth of karate, and made me desire to become a true karate-ka. It is through his guidance, wisdom, and consistency that I REALIZED what was expected of me in my efforts.

Many people do not understand that becoming a black belt isn't that easy.. I've seen SO many people astonished that improving in skill, and knowledge means facing your inadequacies with humility, and to stop pampering yourself, but to challenge yourself to go that one extra step. I've seen so many people verbally parroting their intent to apply themselves, but when the actual effort is demanded upon them, they chose to let the ball go.

The kind of mental, and physical conditioning contained within karate training challenges the student mentally, spiritually, and physically, and I find that this kind of training will bring out the faithful students who will continue the art of karate into the future. In my opinion, it isn't the 2-3 year factory black belts that will enhance, and perpetuate karate to the future generations. I would like to predict that these people will quickly get bored, and start shopping for a new art to "learn" and get a black belt in in order to keep the thrill, and excitement of the "newness" of learning, and also having the prestige of having more than one black belt. I've heard that sort of comment too often: "when I get my black belt in this art, I'm going to go get one in aikido.." They present the idea that "getting a black belt" is the end of learning, and that they have learned all that is possible in this art, so now it's fine to switch to another. This is a fallacy.. totally untrue. Receiving the Shodan black belt means that you are ready to START learning your art. In my opinion, it's o.k. if people want to learn different arts, but what bothers me is the fact that they do it just because they think that they have achieved mastery with the art they are in because they think they know it all... SHUDDER. These people walk away from the dojo representing the art to others who aren't aware that there is SO much more to the art. There is a total lack of relationship, acknowledgement, and gratitude being given towards the Sensei/ Sifu/ Sabonim who invested him/herself towards your achievement. To think! These Instructors have dedicated over 20 years to training in their art, and they would admit that they are STILL learning new things, how can a fresh Shodan have "mastered" the art in 2 years?

I chose to be faithful to the Sensei who have shared their knowledge with me by practicing what I was taught, sharing it with others, and to be willing to continue keeping a "beginner's mind" in my art. I didn't buy my black belt, I nurtured it into existance.