Monday, December 17, 2007

Pictures from my test, and New Years goals

Well.. I want to show you some pictures from my belt test. This time I have a few, however, I also want to respect a promise that I made myself to keep dojo happenings in the dojo. So.. Here is how I have balanced the two desires:

I decided to crop the pictures so that only I am in the scene. These pictures revealed alot of different things to me. Since I wasn't "posing" for a picture, and I was just training, I now can see what good habits, and bad habits I have acquired through these candid shots. Here is a picture of me in fighting stance during a sparring match. I'm happy to see that my knees are bent, feet pointing in the direction that I want them, and my body is angled to my opponent. ( That was one of my 2007 goals! It looks like I achieved it.) My right guard hand is a little lower than I'd like it. So I've decided to make improving how I hold my guard hands as one of my 2008 karate goals. I love how my weight is on the balls of my feet in a natural way. NICE! NICE! I've tended to fight flat-footed almost seeking for security from the floor. It looks like I'm a little more relaxed now.

This is a picture of me doing my 50 push ups. From the condition of my body, I believe that it was taken near the last 10 push ups of that set. I am so glad for this picture because it reveals how bowed down, and curved my body is. This is so wrong for good dynamics. There is nothing supporting my shoulders here, not my neck, back, or stomach muscles. NO wonder those last dozen push ups felt like only my arms were working, and were the most difficult ones to achieve. I'm far more aware of what was happening. During the test, I could feel that something was wrong, but I couldn't figure out why things were not working as well as usual. This picture told me in just one glance. Here is another 2008 karate goal: Improve my body posture during push ups to continually keep a straight strong body line.

Here is a picture of me performing moving basics. I get a great view of how I'm forming my fist. Not bad, but it could be improved. It seems that I'm putting more pressure on the thumb, and pinkie finger, but ignoring the three mid fingers of the right hand. Hmmmm... That would explain why I've been having troubles when I strike with my right on the punching bag. I've always wondered why my right fist seemed weaker than my left when I punched. I thought that it was from a previous injury that I received on my largest right knuckle, but now that I look at how I form my fist, I can see that I must be "favoring" that hand still. It's time that I can command that fist to get stronger, since that knuckle has healed ages ago. AHA! Another karate goal for 2008!!

Kicking.. not bad.. not bad. I'm keeping my hands up! YES! I used to throw my hands down with almost each kick. My hips are doing better, also. OH! and to my joy.. I'm keeping my supporting leg's knee bent on my roundhouse kicks. YES!!! I am pretty happy with the progress of my kicks.

Now.. my goals for 2007 were:

Kihon: I want to be more alert to hear the various messages that my
body is telling me of "yes.. I can do more.." or "Hold on.. any more of this,
and I'm going to break down on you, " or "the technique would flow more
naturally THIS way."

Kata: Turning.. I want to focus on understanding the turns within the
kata,to understand my balance, placement of feet, turning of my head, and

Kumite: Ah... back to basics here as I struggle to keep my belt knot
pointing the right way, my feet pointing the right way, and my hands
pointing the right way.

I feel that I have met quite a few of my goals. I have become far more secure on my turns, and I have become more comfortable with my sparring stance. As to listening to my body, I listened, but then I ordered it to do more than it thought it could.. um.. well.. that really wasn't my goal, but it's what worked.

This year, 2008, my goals have become:

Kihon: To work on my right fist so that it is more solid, and constant. To unite my body's effort when doing push ups so that I do not stress my shoulders.

Kata: To compete at a Tournament in Montreal this spring as a Kyokushin Adult in Kata competition.

Kumite: To work on keeping my guard hands up at in a better level when sparring so that they can be useful.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ahoy, matie.. just call me Peg leg..

OUCH! OW! Left leg was slammed pretty good during my test on Friday night, and now, sleeping is near impossible as I turn onto my left all of the time, wake up in pain, and then try to go back to sleep. It's been 2 days. It's not a joint pain, but more like a "nerve" pain. I can walk without issue, o.k... yes.. I do limp when I walk, but ask my thigh muscle to do anything other than rest, and I groan.

I saw the kick coming, but I was in an awkward position to avoid, and I was too tired to shift, or lift anything. I tried to absorb the kick, but I felt my leg overwhelmed by the power of it. Sigh..

I'm limping everywhere, and in everything that I do. Motherly duties do not cease just because Mom is sore everywhere. I've gone grocery shopping.. very slowly. I've done the dishes. I've cleaned house. Sure.. my husband, and kids are giggling at the little whining tones that I let out each time that they offer to give me a hug.

It's too soon to inform anyone as to whether or not I passed the test, but I can say that I did my best, and that I survived quite well. I've come a LONG way, baby! I managed to train hard for 5 hours, and still be able to walk away in one piece.

I was very satisfied with my kata. I was able to perform it the way that I wanted to.. nice.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Testing day, and gratitude

Today I test for 3rd Kyu in Kyokushin. My heart is filled with gratitude for the gift of Karate in my life. I am testing for a Brown stripe.. Wow. Just WOW!


Let me do a reality check again.. yep.. it's going to be me up there testing for a BROWN stripe in Kyokushin karate. I'd better check again to see if this is real.

I am really grateful for all that I have achieved in the past 4 years. Oh man.. it's been such a daydream! To think that I laughed at the words of my friend Sensei Paul when he suggested that I'd successfully make it past yellow belt in Shotokan. Look what I'm facing today.. Wow!

Pass or fail my heart is happy that I have a dojo to train in, a good Sensei to train under, and the good health to attend classes.

People will not see me doing things such kicks as this. That is beyond the reach of my body, but not beyond my heart, and mind. My karate is my own, and no one elses. I will do my best with what I have, and I will walk away feeling proud of my effort regardless to the result.

I am so grateful that I can even attempt to meet the demands of this test. I will live up to the virtues, spirit, and goals within me. There is so much strength, and goodness around me, and within me that I can lean on to hold me up through the demands of such a difficult test. I appreciate that I can experience this in my life. Here is a joyful prayer of unity, and mutual joy for all those who are facing a belt rank test in this month.

"We will train our hearts, and bodies for a firm unshaken spirit.
We will pursue the true meaning of the Martial Way so that in time our senses may be alert.
With true vigor, we will seek to cultivate a spirit of self denial.
We will observe the rules of courtesy, respect our superiors, and refrain from violence.
We will follow our religious principles, and never forget the true virtue of humility.
We will look upwards to wisdom and strength, not seeking other desires.
All our lives, through the discipline of karate, we will seek to fulfill the true meaning of the Kyokushin Way."

Friday, December 07, 2007

Make sure that you return your rented videos on time

Make sure that you return your rented videos on time, or you'd better train harder in your chosen Martial arts because it looks like the Video Rental companies are getting tougher on late returns.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Memories: Training in a deep freeze

For some reason, my mind, spirit, and heart is revisiting some memories of training at my old Shotokan dojo. I guess it's because I came across a "Leisure Guide" when I was volunteering today, and I noticed that the dojo that I used to teach at is not listed anymore. .. sigh... I guess that the class was cancelled due to renovations of the facility. I wonder what my students are doing now.

I still remember training in a deep freeze in winter boots, and a parka. That was one of the strangest karate moments in my life:

When I had arrived at the main dojo one day, one of my fellow students opened the door to the room, and out blasted freezing cold air as if she had opened the door of a freezer. It seems that the main furnace to that room had broken down over the weekend, and that we were the first people to enter it in 2 days. All of the students stood in the hallway with a look of dismay on their faces as comments like "Wow! That's COLD in there! I'm not going in there! You can't train in that!!!"

I looked into the room, and thought to myself "Hmm.. this isn't that much bigger than my Kyokushin Sensei's garage, and I've trained in there in the cold fall evenings to the point where I was able to warm it up to a comfortable level. Let's see.. If I go jog around in this room, I should be able to warm it up a little."

I walked calmly into the cold, and set my mind, and heart into thinking about warmth as I started jogging around the dojo. I remembered how my Kyokushin Sensei had been teaching us how to mentally place ourselves to handle stressful environments. Sure, I could feel the cold wind passing by my face as I jogged, and the cold cement floor stinging my feet. I added some punching combinations to the jogging to get my arms moving, and then I had to giggle because I was reminding myself of all of those "Rocky" movies where he is training in a fridge. Then I focused, I ran and felt the cold air coming in my nose, and going out warm out of my mouth, and I thought "Wow!!! I'm a portable moving heater!"

Ten minutes went by, and I just kept running in a moderate pace around and around the dojo. I learned which parts of the room were warmer than others. I could already feel a difference in the air that was going into my lungs. It felt slightly less tinged with cold. Or maybe it was my imagination keeping me hopeful.. I'm not sure.

After awhile the room did warm up, and we were able to continue class in our normal gi attire. What a memory!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Alpha dogs, Sempai, and psychology

I wonder how much of our inner subconscious might be influenced by our animal selves without our knowing it. I once compared the sempai of a dojo to the lead dogs of a sled dog team during one of my blog postings, I'm surprised at how this comparison is seeming to become more and more valid as I experience training in Martial Arts.

A dojo class seems to flow by the effort, and example of the higher belts with the lower kyu ranks taking example from what is happening among the senior students.

In this posting I will attempt to study about the Alpha dog position, how it is established, and it's importance, and attempt to compare it with Sensei/Sempai positions in the dojo.

Using a website dedicated to learning how to control a pet dog, I have found these guidelines for establishing human "lead dog" position.

1. Never tolerate growling. This is a threat and it means your dog sees you as a subordinate meant to be dominated by him.

In the dojo, I have noticed that "growling", or territorial behaviour is not tolerated either. A Sensei will not accept defiance from his/her students. It will be addressed, and usually compliance will be demanded and expected to establish the student/teacher roles, or the student will be asked to leave the group. Allowing a student to defy, reject, or correct the commands of the leader, whether it is a lead belt or an instructor, creates confusion in the mind as to whom is in charge.

2.Do not let your dog walk through the door first.

It has been my experience that the Sensei, and higher belt's position is naturally respected when entering, or exiting the dojo. I have seen a whole group of karate students stand, and wait patiently for their Sensei to enter the room first, or to serve himself first at the buffet table. This was done without verbal communication between us. We just all pulled aside to show respect for the rank of that person. When Sensei enters the room ( in a traditional dojo) all students stop what they are doing, and greet him/her by bowing, and saying "Osu". This tradition might be extremely important in keeping the "animal" part of us aware of which person is leader.

3.Do not let your dog sleep in the same bed as you. This is a definite Alpha position.

O.K... This is a strange comparison, but I'm seeing it as not allowing yourself as a Sensei to become too friendly with your students during class to the point where the role of teacher/student becomes hazy. To be able to teach, the student has to see value in what you have to offer. You cannot do this by being their best buddy, especially when you need to challenge them and expand what they believe is their limitations. At this point, they need a coach, and a motivator, not a friend.

4. Socialize, socialize, socialize. I cannot stress enough the importance of introducing your dog to different places and people.

I have noticed that really effective Sensei bring a feeling of "what is he/she going to do next?" to the class. The students are always being challenged to learn, and improve in various ways even with the same techniques being studied. Tournaments, seminars, and other events have always been a high point for me as a student as I was able to see what other dojo students do, and how other Sensei teach, and I have found that I appreciate my own Sensei even more.

5. Do not baby your dog too much. He needs to learn to be a dog. Do not over-protect him. He needs to explore and learn to be independent. You do not want to raise a flighty, paranoid dog. When he acts afraid of something that he should not be afraid of, do not pick him up and ooh and ahh over him. Simply tell him it is okay, and show him the object, person, etc. Your confidence will make him a confident and dependable dog. If you feed his imaginary fears, he will become a snappy and untrustworthy dog. He may develop fear aggression.

If we apply this to karate, we can see the co-relation. It is important to respect the level of each person's training when correcting as a Sensei/ Sempai. The student has to explore, experience, and learn to be independent. It is important to guide them into a better expression of their karate, but also, the Sensei has to know when to allow the student to struggle with a concept. Also, Sempai are very important in this respect. They need to be sensitive to understanding the things that the Sensei has asked the lower kyu students to work upon, and to not place more expectations upon others. For example, perhaps the Sensei has asked the lower kyu students to work upon their stances, and to focus on the position of their feet. It would be more helpful for the Sempai to reinforce this expectation, than to change direction and to insist that the student's punch be more centered. A Sempai, like a lead dog of a sled dog team, has to be intuitive to the desires expressed by the Sensei, and to put forth effort running in that direction. They help remind the other students, by their own energy, and behaviour, that the Sensei wants the focus to be on good stances right now. There should only be one leader of that class, and then the higher belts support the direction of the commands being offered. How many times have I turned my head to look at the higher belts to see what was expected from me when I was learning as a white belt? Countless number of times. If the higher belts were confused as to the commands, then I knew that there was no hope that I'd be able to make anything up.

Also, a Sensei needs to feel out the emotional level of their students, and to work within that environment to create confidence to replace interior imagined fears of failure, rejection, and abandonment. Helping the student to realize that the thing that they are fearing is not as immovable, nor as impossible as they picture, the Sensei changes the student's perspective to bring them to a state where they see this as a challenge, and an opportunity rather than an impossibility.

Truly, I can see that our baser animal driven part of our brains does influence some of our behaviour, but that we are more than capable of accepting this, and even using it to our advantage. In fact, I believe that all of the traditional dojo etiquette has been designed to meet the needs of our animal selves, and to establish an environment wherein we can work together as a team with a leader.

(Quoted material comes from Written by
Dawn Littlefield
Littlefield Kennels

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Snap, crackle, pop go my hips

Side kicks are harsh on my pre damaged hips. I can feel them popping, crackling, and making the most sickening sounds as I attempt to lift my leg, and stretch it out. At first there is no pain, just the crunching noises within me that make my heart sink, and fill me with deep concern. Later, it hurts to put any demand on that leg such as standing in a stance that has all the weight pressure on that leg. Hips! Hips are the center of Martial arts, of all movement.. aargh. Yes, I've gained in flexibility to the side through stretching, and perseverence, but this seems to have become a curse as my hip joints seem to have trouble keeping up with the the increased height of the kick. I WANT a higher kick.. yet.. I want to protect my hips. Aargh!!!!

With my Kyokushin Sensei's help, I'm going to work upon adapting my side kicks, and improving my technique so that I can put the least amount of stress upon my hips to allow them to improve, and yet continue training.

Yes, I realize that going to a sports doctor would help. I tried that and was told that I'd need special therapy sessions. Physiotherapy costs something like $55 a session, and I'd have to go 2 to 3 times a week. Chiropractic help would probably do wonders, also, but it costs. My kids come first, there is no question on that.. so back to adapting my side kicks to put the least amount of stress on my hips.

I will keep training, and trying, and working with what I have regardless as to the limitations I carry.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Go Sensei Boaretto Campaign

Sensei Cesar Boaretto

Training on the hanging bag...

Working on his push ups..

Building up his kicks..

Posed with Champion Sempai Bruno Feitosa at Gran Prix Kyokushinkai after winning 3rd in 2006

Sensei Boaretto with some of his Martial arts companions.

Captured on t.v. doing an ax kick on his opponent..

Outdoor training in a waterfall..

I want to support Sensei Cesar Boaretto ( Brazil ) in his efforts to compete Internationally at the 2nd World Cup Kyokushin Tournament being held in Japan, Jan. 17-19th in 2008. With his permission, I'm posting some pictures from his online photo album.

In a country where soccer/football is the "in" sport, it can be quite daunting to raise support, and sponsors for international competition in Martial arts. I wish Sensei Boaretto great success in his goal. If any of you silent readers of my blog would wish to support Sensei Boaretto financially, or with supportive comments, you can feel free to contact him at

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hypocrisy: on being a hypocrite

The word "Hypocrisy" comes from the Greek word which means "play acting". In Greek theatre the actors would place masks over their face, and show forth a different behaviour than what was reality. In our society, hypocrisy is the manner of survival. We learn quickly that we must not reveal the truth. As an example of this, I can still remember the kind of very uncomfortable social situations that I had to face as a mother of an autistic child. One day my son, who was about 11 years old at the time, approached a teacher's aide in school asking her if she was expecting a baby. The very overweight woman was shocked at his statement, and said "No!". My son, totally unaware of the normal social signals that tell us what is acceptable to talk about, looked at her with concern and said "Well if you aren't pregnant, then you really need to go on a diet. You are far too fat for your own good." Oh my gosh! Yes, he spoke the truth, but there was an upheavel in the school that day. I was called into the office, and there we had to help my son realize that there are certain things that we do not tell people.

What does this have to do with karate, and self defense? Karate is centered on "hypocrisy" also. When one is injured, or in pain during a self defense moment, we are taught to hide the damage, and not let our opponent know because that will not only encourage them to continue fighting, but will actually make the situation worse for us. We have to continue in spite of how tired we are, and even convince ourselves that we can go farther than we think we can. We have to show confidence, and keep trying in spite of how badly we think we are doing.

Is "hypocrisy" needed in the interrelations happening amoung the various members of an organization? I believe so. I believe that being totally honest in a group of people will not make for smooth running of the organization. You just can't open up and say things like "So and So is a lousy person".. no matter how true that is. Your statements affect not only the person directly, but also that person's students, family, friends, etc. It affects all of the other people connected to the group as they start taking sides. It brings disharmony, and builds walls. It is best to remain silent, and calm, and to watch reality reveal itself. If that person is as bad a person as you think that they are, reality, time, and patience will make everything apparent.

However, I have come full circle on the issue of speaking out for the truth. I believe that there are moments when one has to choose to go against the pressures around you, and within you to remain silent. There are times when your personal values are being attacked by the actions, and words of the people around you. In these moments, you have to make a decision of how much you can withstand before you place your feet securely down, and make a stand for what you believe in.

I have come to that place in my Martial Arts path. I have decided that I will not tolerate any disparaging, or negative remarks about any aspect of my Sensei being said in my presence. I know that I have not tolerated such statements about my family, my husband, nor myself.. then why would I accept any negatively directed statements about someone as important to me as my Sensei? It will not matter how high the rank is of the person talking to me. When it comes to standing up for my values, the Dan rank of the other person has no importance. If that person has issues with my Sensei's behaviour, teaching, or experience, they will need to speak to someone else, or bring their concerns to Sensei's attention personally.

It is a very possible that such a stand can cause unpopularity as many people dislike having someone stand up and say "This is intolerable, and wrong." Prophets have the common fate of being killed, ridiculed, and ostracized. Oh well.. I accept that fate as part of being willing to live as close to the truth as I can in my life.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Confusing stances

Looking at karate techniques/stances, there are many times that the same terminology can be said for different stances especially with Martial Arts coming from the same country.

Let's look at Sanchin dachi:

In Shotokan, this stance does exist, but I have found that it was rarely included in training. It looks like this:

(Picture is from

The weight is 50/50. Notice that the back foot is pointing straight. The feet are close together. I have found that Fudo dachi (Rooted stance) is usually the preferred training stance for Shotokan.

In Fudo dachi, you are positioning your feet similar to a side stance ( kiba dachi)done at 45 degrees, however you turn your hips to face front. The feet are at the same distance as if you were doing a front stance.

There is another alternative stance that may be mistaken for Sanchin dachi. It's called Hangetsu dachi.

This stance is used very frequently in Shotokan training, and even has it's own kata. Notice how similar it looks to Sanchin. It's like a stretched out "giraffe" of a Sanchin dachi.. isn't it? The weight distribution on this one is similar to a front stance 70/30 but it uses the same inner tension of a Sanchin stance.

In Kyokushin, we use the Sanchin stance constantly in training especially for doing basics. It looks like this:

Again the weight is 50/50, but notice how the back foot is turned more inwards almost pointing towards the navel.

The Kyokushin Fudo dachi looks totally different:

I'm sure that Shotokanists would look at this stance and say "Wait a minute!!! That's just a Natural stance, or ready stance." All that I can respond is "If you ask a Kyokushin karate ka to stand in Fudo dachi.. this is what they will do." We stand in Fudo dachi quite frequently during our training in Kyokushin.

It is confusing to try to discuss karate movements, and bunkai with people from other arts, and dojo because of this terminology wall. I may think that I'm describing things clearly, but since the other person has a different understanding of what the stance/technique is supposed to do, or look like the message might get warped through the translation. I believe that the best thing is to get to know what your Instructor wants from you, and how he/she wants it delivered. The internet is a great resource for ideas, and inspiration, but the center line is that it can create more confusion than clarification.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Starting up another blog at Kyokushin4life..

The website Kyokushin4life has added the blog feature.

I decided to start up a small blog there that would focus on how Martial arts has infiltrated my daily life. I'll add small stories of how my training has helped me to handle little things, how my martial arts training has affected my kids/husband, or how martial art training has changed how I react to those moments when I normally would have done something different. Feel free to visit me over there, if you want to..

My very first posting is about origami, and how my daughter and I handled going to our very first session in paper folding.

This weblog, as my center, will continue to be focused mainly on Karate thoughts, information, and training.

My third weblog is focused on my preparations for Kata Tournament next year. It's mainly a training journal that lists which kata I've done that day, and how long I managed to train. However, I am updating it with videos of the kata that I am working upon to capture the progress of my efforts.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bamboo plants, and karate...

"He who would study Karate-Do must always strive to be inwardly humble and outwardly gentle. However, once he has decided to stand up for the cause of justice, then he must have the courage expressed in the saying, "Even if it must be ten million foes, I go!" Thus, he is like the green bamboo stalk: hollow (kara) inside, straight, and with knots, that is, unselfish, gentle, and moderate." - Gichin Funakoshi

( Quote inspired by Linden Huckle's blog The Karate Way )

Monday, October 29, 2007

Karate resources on the net

One of my favorite haunts on the net is The Martial Arts Curator forum found at:

This resource has a multi Martial art style view of kata applications, bunkai, and history. It looks at how many traditional kata have evolved in the various countries/ Martial arts styles, and works towards unravelling possible interpretations, and stimulating further research into each pattern of movement. It's amazing to see both the similarities, and differences contained within each style's version of the same kata. Filled with respectful interchange of thoughts, this forum shows forth that the future of Martial arts is linked with having an open mind, and a willingness to look beyond the walls that we have placed around us.

I believe that this Kata centered website is a rare find for the serious Taekwondo practioner, and provides them with something extra special to add to their knowledge.

I've been frequenting a Kyokushin website that is filled with interesting information, and resources.

On this site one can find various things of interest to full contact martial artists like articles, a photo/video gallery, international dojo listing of Kyokushin dojo, Kyokushin blogs, etc.

Full contact fighting has it's own challenges, and topics of discussion such as methods of helping bruises heal, for example. There is alot of information that can be helpful to any Martial artist such as which foods can help with hard training, or how much water should one consume per day.

One of the aspects that I love the most about this website is that the founder actively avoids any political martial arts issues showing a deep respect for all organizations, and various Arts.

If you are interested in Kyokushin Karate, or even just in karate related websites, I'd recommend this site.

Two of my favorite Shotokan related sites are:


I have already mentioned how wonderful a resource these two websites are for the serious karate ka regardless to what style is being practiced. Filled with information about training in the art of Karate, one can learn how to make affordable training equipement, or read interviews with inspiring people, or read about medical research being done in karate. I always find myself visiting these sites to read up on the latest information.

If only I could exhaust the amount of information available on the internet through my efforts to read everything that I can find, but this is impossible. Each day more is added, and I only have a few minutes per day to dedicate to study, training, and life. I remember my sensei telling me in a joking manner that "life happens inbetween training" For the longest time, I had no idea what he meant, but now that I hunger for more knowledge, skill, and ability, I think that I am beginning to understand.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Just loving the freedom

There is something to be said in support of cross training. I do not regret the years I spent trying to injest, understand, and survive training in two Martial Arts at one time. I sure did develop a broader perspective on how various movements could be utilized, and also, I gained a deep respect for the positives that are inherent in all of the various martial arts. I also realized that there is no way that I could learn all of the styles adequately, and that sooner or later I would have to narrow my path down to one art.

I'm finding that focusing on one direction has helped my efforts in training immensely. Oh.. there's nothing wrong with dabbling, and appreciating other Arts, but honestly, if one wants to GET somewhere with the energy that they are expending in their training, focusing in one direction is really good for the mind, body, and soul ( Don't forget finances!)

Yes, I appreciate that I was able to achieve the rank of Shodan in Shotokan karate. I value the lessons that I've learned from that art. However, as time lengthens more and more away from training in Shotokan, I'm noticing how my joints are not complaining in pain anymore. I do not feel the screams and cries of my knees, and hips after training. It used to be that 1 1/2 hour of Shotokan training would make it so hard for me to move properly for the next 6 hours as my knees would swell up, or my shoulders would feel sharp pains. I can now train for over 5 hours in Kyokushin. I get tired.. very tired.. ready to lie down, and stare blankly at the ceiling exhausted, but my joints still feel fine after the session. Yes, I get bruises, and "ouchies", but they heal within a few days, and all is back to normal.

Are my stances of any less quality? Nope. I get down in them as usual. The big difference, I have found, is the lack of "surging/ stopping" in Kyokushin. In Shotokan, I would spend so much energy shifting forwards, and backwards as fast as possible. The pain happened in the sudden starts, and stops.. not in the speed. I had to send my body as fast as possible forwards, and use even more power to STOP the forward momentum, and use control. In Kyokushin, it feels like we go forwards, and through the target, so the momentum doesn't stop at the joints.. it continues. The pain only happens when you hit improperly, so you quickly learn where, and how to position your limb for the least amount of pain to happen.

I've heard of other people discussing how they have noticed a positive effect from choosing another art over Shotokan such as Goju Ryu, Tai chi, etc. I do know that the Shotokai Karate style ( which also comes directly from Sensei Gichin Funakoshi) insist that the harsh stopping/ starting was never part of Sensei Funakoshi's instructions. Their philosophy is to move smoothly at all times. They do not even Kiai with any of their techniques as they feel that all should flow softly. Looking at how my body has improved through the past months, I cannot help but wonder.. just wonder.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Should I continue? I can see no other alternative

So many things happening that make home training even more difficult to accomplish.

Things that I want to do are being put to the side:

- Weight lifting exercises for my shoulders
- working on my handstand
- working on my kicks
- working on my sparring combinations
- working on shadow sparring
- 3 series

Other things are being emphasized:

- Belt rank requirements
- self defense combinations
- kata
- Bunkai for kata
- Bo training
- conditioning exercises

There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day, nor enough energy in my system to meet all of the requirements being put forth.

I'm feeling an inner stress of dis-satisfaction at what is happening. Sure.. I'm meeting the needs of each moment, and I'm keeping my head afloat.. but wow! It feels simiar to that moment in the movie "The Karate Kid" when Daniel tiredly tells Miyagi Sensei that he finished the work. Miyagi Sensei turns, points out the whole yard and says "All of it?"

I do not have the potential, and freedom of youth to lean upon. I've noticed this fact lately.. I've seen people on the various Martial Arts forums saying things like "I've been training in the Arts for over 25 years now. I started when I was 8 years old." This kind of answer will not ever come from my mouth. I started Karate when I was 39 years old. In 25 years, I'll be near 70 years old. I want to still be training at that time, but I can give myself no guarantees. Now is the moment for me.. I'm only 5 years old in experience of karate, and I only have the present moment to train as much as I can.

There is so much to learn, and my body can progress only so fast without overtraining, and weakening. I cannot dedicate all of my energies towards my training, either. I have to balance the family needs, and life demands within my hopes of becoming the best karate ka that I can be. My teenager needs someone to talk to, my young son needs someone to help him with his reading, my daughter needs to go shopping for new clothes, I need to connect with my husband, I want to visit my aging mother.. and my training time is placed to the side so that I can be a Mother first.

But.. I want to compete in a Kyokushin kata competition now.. while I can.. while I have the strength, and meager skill to be able to share my love for kata, and perhaps inspire others to see the beauty contained within each movement. Not through my youth, nor my fantastic flexibility, nor my strength.. I do not see myself as having these things... but all through my spirit.. for that is what my kata offers.

I can see no other alternative than continuing to juggle the various needs, and demands so that there is balance in my life as I work towards my goal of training in karate to the fullness of my ability. I refuse to let go of any of these important things that I cherish.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I've been tagged

I got tagged by Mat.
I have to say 7 random things on me and then tag people.

1. I can recite the Greek alphabet. I learned how to do this when I was homeschooling my kids, and it's such a lovely, sing song type of thing that I haven't forgotten how to do it.

2. I love to eat Subway's Veggie Delight sandwiches. It's one of my favorite "eating out" moments.

3. I prefer wearing Gator shoes over all other shoes. I've even worn them outside in the middle of winter when there is no new snowfall on the ground.

4. I love to be helpful to others. There is just a surge of joy within me when I can do something that makes another's life just a little better.

5. I have no tolerance for rude, violent, taunting, or aggressive behaviour. Zero tolerance. This does not mean that I will attack the person, but more that I personally totally reject what that person is doing, and their attitudes. There is no hope in my home for my kids to argue, and fight. As soon as I hear negative tones, I call out "I'm not hearing a fight, am I?" and my kids all answer "No, Mom.." "Good, then settle the problem in a good way.." I'd suggest to them. Usually we will find a way to meet all of the various needs of the kids while still maintaining respect for each other... ( OR ELSE.. they face Mom's discontent.)

6. I love reading Fantasy books such as the Belgarion Series by Mr. David Eddings. What a fantastic author!! Each character in his book is so rich that they deserve their own novel! This is quite a big series, but each book that you take up is so hard to put down, and when you finish them all, you have that sad feeling of wanting more. .more.. more! I honestly hope that someone will make a fantastic movie of this series one day, and that I live long enough to see it.

7. I sang in a Radio Choir as a Descant in elementary school. It was quite a challenge for me as a young 8 year old to meet the demands of professional singing, but I enjoyed the sounds that we created when we sang together as one. I still have fond memories of those days ( Mixed in with the memories of long hours of training our voices with various singing exercises..)

I would like to tag Frotoe now.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Second day of camp

We started off the morning with a sunrise kata session. It was held by the two little lakes. It was awesome.. even with the rain falling upon us now and then. We'd get a shower of rain, and then it would stop, and then another little shower almost as if the clouds were hesitating interrupting our kata. I was doing Kyokushin kata most of the time because I didn't want to disturb all of the extra training that I've been doing towards my hopeful tournament next year.

After the kata session, we had pancakes by the fire made by the brown belts of the dojo. What a wonderful, joyful, and social moment!

Our first class that morning was by Sensei Charley Porter. One couldn't have asked for better! He brought forth the mathematical concepts of angles, and arcs. We did so many different exercises with our partners to learn about angles, arcs, and how to use them to our advantage when sparring. My partner and I were a great match. I learned so much from him, and I feel that I gave him a solid presence to work with. Magic happens when you can do an exercise with someone that you "click" with. For me, one of the most interesting concepts was when Sensei Charley started sharing about the concept of "It's all Shotokan. It's all Jujitsu." He encouraged us to look at how full training in Martial arts brings one to an understanding that at a high point in training all movements are contained in all of the arts. It was a very enjoyable class, and ended far too soon.

Sensei Miguel Araballo gave forth a class that introduced us to the idea of "tunnel vision", and paralyzation when placed in a stressed moment. He had us working towards recognizing body movement, and responding to it in slow motion. We realized how we tended to speed up when defending. We'd tighten, and move our feet all over the place. Why? Why did we feel so inclined to do so when the attacker was moving in slow motion? That was an eye opening moment. Then, Sensei Miguel brought out some homemade padding which transformed him into a mega monster villian who challenged the student to learn how it feels to be accosted, and to have a feeling of panic, get past the fear, and to defend themselves. I volunteered to be suited up in this body armour, and to be another attacker. It was really difficult to move in that armour because the helmet part weighed close to 40 pounds. I found myself having difficulty to see through the little space offered to me. I think it is because I was shorter than Sensei Miguel. Here are some pictures of me being outfitted:

For your enjoyment, I also have a video of my experiences as the Mega attacker. I can't help but chuckle at how difficult it was for me to get back up once the student had struck me hard enough to unbalance me. They only had 5 seconds to successfully knock me off of my feet.

The camp ended on a wonderful high note. Sensei Bill Thornton, the MYB Representative for the state of Missouri, came and demonstrated to us the solid understanding of directions of defense during an attack. He showed us the weakness of certain movements, and the strength of others. More importantly, he showed us how important just "getting out of the way" is above achieving a good block. After this moment, he talked to us at length about our interior attitudes in training. I feel that this lecture was of equal importance to all of the physical training that we had done in the past two days. Sensei Bill reminded us of what is important, what will continue to inspire us, and what challenges lie before us as we walk the path of Martial arts. His words tied together all of the experiences that we had of building friendships, and trust between each other.

I walked away from this camp a lot more complete, a lot more aware, and a lot more filthy with grass stains, and ground in dirt. Oh my GOSH! I've got to tell you how badly dirty my gi was!!!!! It took 3 washings with bleach to get my gi back to reasonable shape! It was raining off and on during our camp, and we trained in the rain ( no problem for me ) but doing throws onto the grass in the rain just enhances the grass, and mud stains. My kids were in shock when they saw my Gi's condition. They have never ever seen their Mom's white ironed gi look so NASTY before.

Back from the very first experience of teaching at a karate camp

My past 5 days have been astounding! I travelled down to Independence, Missouri to attend, and teach at the Hoyukan Dojo Shotokan in the park Fall karate camp invited by Sensei Charley Porter. ( For those interested in where to find Hoyukan Dojo it's located at 529 us 24 Highway just outside of Kansas City.)

My husband and I were lucky enough to arrive early, and be able to participate in an Aikido class being taught by Sensei Doug Coulas. He revealed to us some basic wrist manipulations with take downs, and then proceeded to show us the more complex possibilities which could happen. It wasn't long that my husband and I were making many different and interesting sounds as we learned which direction our bodies would go to avoid the pain.

Afterwards, Sensei Michell Barnhart included us in his Jujitsu class. ( Yes, Steve, I got some interesting experience in ground work, and the complex strategies of this Art.) To my joy, my Kyokushin Self Defense training has had many similar aspects to what I was doing so I smoothly was able to put my partner into a controlled side mount. Sensei Michell came up to me encouraging me to "finish it off". I was totally confused, my mind was blank as to what he wanted me to do. I centered on thinking.. "hmm.. I wonder which part of her he would like me to strike.. I guess I can elbow strike her jawline..." Although, my solution seemed a little bit out of what was being taught so I decided to ask Sensei for clarification. Good thing that I did so... I was supposed to get her into an arm bar. OOOOOOoooooHH!

The next day, my husband and I were allowed to visit Sensei Howard High's Kobudo class being held in Kansas City. It was great! I met this wonderful lady at the registration desk whose eyes lit up with happiness when she talked. She recognized me from reading this blog. COOL! It is such a joy to meet and greet people who have enjoyed the various things that you write. Meeting her was a real high point on my trip.

I watched the Sword fighting class and took a few pictures. With Sensei High's permission, I can post them here:

It was awesome to watch Sensei High demonstrating, and instructing various swordsmanship. He showed how the opponent can be disarmed by just a small movement. I was honored to be able to meet the person who had founded the Cyberdojo Forum that I had been reading, and posting to for so many years. His teaching style is relaxed, and intricate. He guides his students with a gentle, calm, constant, and reliable hand. His main message throughout that class was to control the eyes, and where they were looking. I was surprised how similar the main ideas were with swordfighting, and with karate kumite. It truly opened up Sensei Gichin Funakoshi's phrase of "Think of your opponent's hands and feet as swords". By watching swordplay, it's amazing how much is revealed.

After those great opportunities to train under, and watch such experienced Sensei, it was now my turn to teach. My first ever moment of teaching at a seminar/ karate camp type of event. I felt those anxious butterflies, and yet there was a solid core of confidence that I would do well because I was prepared, and I would do my best.. How can it go wrong?

I taught the very first class of the camp with so many higher belts watching me as I led the warm up. I knew that I was being assessed as to my teaching skills, and I also knew that I couldn't think about that. I had a job to do, and so I centered on sharing what I had with the students. I focused my lesson on thinking about how our bodies move, and making them do what we want them to do. I geared the warm up to include some confusing, and challenging moments similar to patting your head with one hand, and rubbing your stomach with the other. It awakened the mind into wondering "Why is it that I can do this in this way, but not when I do it in the other way?" By the end of the hour class, I had the students performing reverse blocks to defend themselves. It was challenging, and enjoyable. I walked away feeling very good with what had just happened.

Our next class with Sensei Brian McGuinness was eye opening. He took the information that I had learned from Sensei Doug into a higher level, and helped me to understand how various movements can be used in so many different ways. He took a move from a kata, and revealed three levels of defense that were possible: Nice, not so nice, and nasty. I enjoyed seeing how adding just a little tweak here or there can change the level of a self defense movement.

The last class of Saturday was taught by Master Mike Kaylor from Springfield, Missouri of the Midori Yama Budokai Association of Leavenworth, Kansas. Master Kaylor was amazing. He was both gentle, and hard at the same time. He introduced me to Low Horse stance. I have always heard about this, I have seen pictures of it, but until now I had not been able see it in action. This day, due to the great training that I get under my Kyokushin Sensei, I achieved a low horse stance, and held it for awhile. I was quite satisfied with myself. The exercise wasn't too good on my damaged right hip though, so I kept lifting up for a second, stretching the hip slightly, and then lowering back down. Master Kaylor's lesson focused on the traditional 4 wrist stretches, and their practical applications in Aikido moves. I loved how he united the two so that it was so much easier to remember and bring the information home.

The "lesson" time of the camp was over, and now was the time for fishing, campfires, hiking, and fun. My husband and I went hiking and we took some pictures.. LOOK!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Giving advice

The more that I train in Martial arts the more I question the idea that the higher belt is expected to give unsolicited advice, and correction to the lower belts.

This is a difficult position to place both the higher, and lower belt student. For example, the lower belt student could be struggling with the concepts that were placed before them by their Instructor such as keeping their arms in control during a kick. Then the higher belt comes along and brings attention to other aspects that may need correction. This shifts attention to a different aspect than the one that the Instructor had wanted to see improvement. Instead of benefiting the student, and enhancing understanding on the concept that he/she was working upon, now the student is dividing their energy to try to meet all of the expectations.

It would have been better if the higher belt just allowed the lower belt to work on themselves at the speed, and direction of the Sensei. Usually it will happen that when the mind focuses attention on the arms, then the other parts of the body may look a little awkward for awhile until everything smooths out. To have a higher belt reminding, and reprimanding about those other aspects makes it difficult to focus energy where it is supposed to be focused.

The higher belt also is putting forth energy in the wrong direction. They become more centered on the performance of others than on their own training. Instead of learning the main lesson of the day, they are worried about other things that are happening around them.

Yes, it is good to offer help, especially when the other student is struggling, and becoming frustrated with their efforts. Sometimes, all that it takes, is a little pointer in the right direction, and then the other person has an "aha!" moment. Also, it is good to point out some things that the lower student is doing that could cause injury to themselves. But I have found that it is best to remind myself that I am not the Sensei of this class, and it isn't up to me to teach my fellow students, in fact, it is my centered goal to work on my own skills.

When I was teaching as a Sensei I had a goal for each class. Let's say that I would want to work on the student's speed, and therefore I would overlook any technical mistakes that may happen as the student worked on improving reflexes. I would find it a little frustrating when a higher belt would correct a lower belt at that moment because everything would slow down. I'd have to state out loud "Please not worry about technique, or the placement of your feet, but work on your reaction speed." Also, I found that the noise, and actions of the higher belt/ lower belt was distracting to the flow of the class. There were times where, as a Sensei, I would be explaining something to the class, and I'd have to stop, and wait for the higher belt to finish correcting the other student before I could continue what I was saying. I appreciated the higher belt's concern for his/her fellow student, and of course, the higher belt would notice that he/she was being distracting, and stop what they were doing. However, the effect happened, the flow of the class was affected, and we had to regroup to continue.

As a student, when I would warm up with kata before class, I would find it distracting, and bothersome to have higher belts come up to me to correct my kata. All I wanted was to "do" the kata, enjoy the effort, and warm up my muscles before class. I was not focused on improving the kata, or perfecting it. I wanted to "sing" the kata. There are times when one just sings a song regardless to how good they can sing, and then there are times when one works on improving the singing. During these moments, I truly wanted to tell the higher belt to "keep their advice to themselves." It ended up that I just refused to do kata in front of any higher belts unless I felt inclined to being corrected. Sure, I appreciated that the higher belts wanted to help me. It was nice to see them investing their time, and energy towards helping me improve, but during those "singing" moments, I didn't want to stop, and dissect.

Therefore, I've become less generous on advice now when I train with lower belts. I assess the moment, the goal of the Instructor, the atmosphere, and the look on the face of the person across from me. I ask myself "Does this person look like they would appreciate some help at this moment, or are they intending to figure this out on their own?" If I have any doubt, I will ask the person "Would you like me to give you some help here?" To my joy, I have had more than one white belt say truthfully, and even with a touch of gratitude, to me, "No.. no.. I would like to slow this down, and figure it out by myself right now." It was wonderful to see their honesty, and to be able to respect it. Later on, when that person was ready, they would approach me and say something like "O.K.. I got that part of it, but how do you do this?"

I believe that many higher belts have a "sempai" syndrome where they feel like that have to be a teacher. I do not believe that we have this role in the dojo. The Sensei is the teacher, not us. I would like to believe that we are more like facilitators. We give the lower belt students a good example of what to do, and how to do it. We offer ourselves as supports through encouragement, and even suggestions when needed. We train hard so that we can improve our knowledge, skills, and abilities. However, we need to remind ourselves that each student is paying the Sensei to teach them because they want to learn from him/her. We are the side dishes, not the main course.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A tribute to my First Internet Sensei

It's been about 5 years since I met Sensei Paul on a forum that does not exist anymore. I was a beginner at Shotokan karate, barely placed a color around my waist, and I had joined a karate forum that I had hoped wasn't too active. At the time, I was homeschooling my kids, and I wanted to try to keep up with the postings. Sensei Paul was the first person to greet me. He was funny, intelligent, obviously knowledgable, and such a warm, welcoming person that I enjoyed each one of our interchanges.

One day I asked him directly to tell me what rank he had achieved in Martial Arts. I remember his response to this day "Which Art? I have a closet filled with titles.. pick one." He wasn't joking. Sensei Paul had been taking Martial Arts since he was a young boy, and has lived a life filled with various experiences. He started off learning Judo in the basement of his Sensei on a dirt floor that they would spray with water to keep the dust down achieving a high rank in that Art. In fact, he admits to me that to list all of his titles of Martial Arts would take forever, so he tells me to "just call him Paul and to think of him as a student of the Arts."

Today he teaches Tai chi. I would like to believe that my youthful exhuberance had some effect on his decision to enter this Martial Art. Through our communications, I kept hearing Sensei Paul expressing how much he desired to rekindle the same kind of energy, and joy that he kept hearing from me. I challenged him to do so, and he responded by exploring more deeply the art of Tai Chi, and achieving the rank of recognized Instructor. I was given the honor of becoming the very first honorary student of his Tai chi club. I am SO proud of my Internet Sensei: His openness to seeing the beauty of all Martial Arts, his willingness to share his knowledge with others, his humility at being able to interact with a lowly white belt beginner with the same amount of respect as if he was speaking with a Shihan, and his perseverence in spite of any obstacles that come his way. If I could have people say to me "You are JUST like Sensei Paul Danelutti..", I would be extremely happy with myself.

He taught special self defense classes to veterans, physically challenged people, mentally challenged people, children, etc. His love for Martial arts, and his joy of sharing the benefits of training have fueled him into a lifetime of affecting those around him, and helping them to believe in themselves, and their ability to surmount difficult challenges. He had the exact same effect on me through just his words sent in my direction as I struggled through my training. He held my hand when I needed support, he virtually slapped my face when I needed a wake up call, he believed in me when I had doubts, he challenged me when I felt overwhelmed. He has been with me through every class offering suggestions, encouragement, and most importantly his presence.. not physically.. no.. he lives in Florida, and I live in Canada. We have never seen each other. No.. Sensei Paul's presence, and words are centered in my heart. His comment to me of teaching with knowledge, and not derision has directed my every effort to help others as I offer people correction in the dojo.

Thank you, Sensei Paul, for sharing my path up the Shotokan mountain, and beyond. Yes, you were right. There is a Black Belt in me, I found it, and I brought it out. I didn't believe you when you said it so many years ago, but I believe you now. There were so many things that you warned me about, and forecasted that became true, and I'm so glad that I had your wisdom, and experience to guide me when things seemed to be helter skelter.

ONE day, it is my desire, to stand upon your doorstep and ask you to teach me. We will both have to be patient because I am still a mother of many children, whose first priority is to create a good future for them. BUT.. Usually, when I desire something as much as this, usually I get what I want. Do not be surprised when I show up, wearing my Gi, ready to shake your hand, give you a HUGE hug, and then have the experience of you helping me up as I "trip".

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Note to self, watch what you say in front of your kids.

Non Karate moment, but learned an important lesson about communication:

I caught my son talking to his friends about what cats eat.

"Cats eat other cats" says my son with confidence.

"No Way!" says one of the little girls "They eat cat food."

"Yeah.. and they eat other cats. My MOM says so!!" argues my son "She told me that if we brought a kitten into our home, our cat would eat it for breakfast."

My eyes widened, and I almost broke out into a fit of laughter right there. I meant it metaphorically! Ha ha ha.. So now my son believes that cats are feline cannibals. I must help him realize that cats normally eat mice, birds, cat food, not other cats... at least not usually.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Training my mind ( warning contains some religious aspect)

Today I rested from all of the extra training that I've been doing this week to allow my body to recuperate. I decided to do some reading. I picked up "Spirit of a Sensei: A study of Japanese Martial Arts." written by Andrew Bowerbank.

The most enjoyable part of the book is the first section which looks at a personal in depth discussion on the effects of training in karate, and how well one remembers what they have learned from their past training. Mr. Bowerbank mentions..

"When trying to recall content much later on - for example, in an exam - many students will recall their teacher's passion first, then "follow" this feeling into that part of their memory where they can also recall the required material more precisely." (Pg 22-23)

As I read this sentence, I was hit with the truthfulness of it. Most of my strongest educational memories are attached to the person who taught that aspect of knowledge to me, and the manner in which I was taught. I have the loudest memories from those teachers that had a passion for what they taught. I could almost taste the enthusiasm, and joy that they felt as they shared the knowledge that they had within them. I felt an echo of interest, and curiousity as to why this was so important to them. As I learned more and more, I found myself embracing the joy of experiencing that previously unknown world as becoming my own.

Yes... I want my own fire, desire, and spirit for karate to infect, inspire, and bring others to the same realization of how much good Martial Arts can be for one's progress. I have seen similar concepts in many other parts of life. Almost every expression of a human being's inner creativity, and spirituality. i.e. Dance, paintings, song, sports, etc. It is the person that truly rejoices in what they are doing, and learning that attracts the eye, the mind, and the heart of others.

I've also seen it in my religion. I remember a wonderful quote that said "Faith is caught, not taught." I have always put forth my own joy, spirit, and desire for spirituality in my life as a seed to attract, inspire, and encourage others in their own path. There was so much more to sharing knowledge for me when I taught Sunday school. There was an opening up of "who" I was, and allowing the students to witness the deep vulnerable inner spirit within me.

This kind of revelation is to place oneself in danger of ridicule, and even rejection. Not everyone is attracted to a deep passion, and energy, there are some who are repulsed by such a display of dedication. Yet that is the chance that the teacher takes when putting forth in public their passion for what they have found to be of value to them.

"Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing." Albert Schweitzer

Such is why the attitude, and demeanor of the Sensei, and Sempai of a karate club is so important to the development of the lower kyu belts. Enthusiasm, and positive energy is catchy, and lifts the whole class into a level of training with full spirit which helps cement the knowledge into memory. I still have wonderful treasures of memories of moments in the dojo when the whole class worked as one to achieve the challenges placed before us by our Sensei. I remember the sparkle of appreciation, and pride that I saw in the eyes of my teacher as he watched his students surmount, and gain victory over the obstacles placed before us. It was a challenge that we shared together, and found a link of satisfaction among us at our success. We almost fed each other energy as we continued, and continued. Then at the end of class, after line up, I remember hardly being able to stand up from seiza, and watching some of my fellow students just roll over to lie on the ground facing the ceiling in exhaustion... but we all had smiles on our faces. We appreciated what we had achieved, and saw the value in it. This is where I can see Sosai Oyama's motto "All selfish desires should be roasted in the tempering fires of hard training." coming into fruition. By working together, sweating together, relying on each other with each person straining at their fullest, we learn to appreciate the goodness of each other. We share our inner spirit, joy, and dedication in a safe place where it can be encouraged, and even built up. Why did we push ourselves so hard? What motivated us to dig deeper within us to find the energy to meet the challenge? It was the passion, energy, and positive spirit of our Sensei calling out for us to meet his expectations. As a unit our class rose to the call, responded, and gave forth the best that we could. We were a team.. all being led by the guidance, and words of our instructor.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Planning ahead

As I have mentioned before, I want to compete in Tournament as a Kyokushin Adult Kata compeditor.

My goal is to attend a Tournament in Montreal next spring. Now is the time to train, and prepare for that competition. However as a Mom with many kids my time is precious and limited. Also, my body only allows me to train THIS much before it starts to overwork, and shut down. I have to be very careful as to how much I do, and when I do it. Considering that I am continuing my Kyokushin classes 3 times a week, and I'm visiting the Tae Kwon Do classes with my daughter also, I realize that I have to be gentle, and wise with my tournament training at home.

I have set up a blog to keep track of my efforts, organize them as best as possible, and to post my progress. Feel free to visit there whenever you want.

Kata training Blog

Friday, September 14, 2007

Looking at sugar a little more closely

Wow.. that experience that I just went through was something else. I've been looking back at it with introspection. As Sosai Masutatsu Oyama stated "Introspection begets wisdom. Therefore, see contemplation of your actions as opportunities to improve."

My body was sending me huge warning signs as I ate the first dessert that I had had enough calories being put into my system. I was getting loud "That's enough" signs. Yet, through encouragement from others, my resolve broke down and I went for a second, even MORE sugar filled dessert. It didn't take many words of support to convince me to go for more since I mentally wanted to have that treat. Physically, my body was almost screaming.. "No more!" I didn't listen, and I truly paid the price.

Now is where I wonder.. How did my body know that I was eating too many calories? It takes hours for the food to digest, and for the blood sugar level to rise in my system. What signals were telling my body to already start reacting negatively to the oncoming food?

I have read information that states that a person's body will react before that person takes a drink, or smokes a cigarette. Scientists have found that people need only to think about doing such things, and the body already starts chemically preparing for the onslaught. Does our body have a similar system for food intake?
Is there a pre-digestion system that looks at what we already have in our system, and sends symptoms of "FULL". I do know that our body has a system of familiarity. You can only eat so many items of one type before your body sends loud "full" symptoms, but if you switch to another type of food, then your body will feel hungry again.

Through my searches on the internet, I have found this wonderful resource which gives suggestions towards a more balanced, and healthy way to eat food. Here are the first four suggestions:

1.Know what being hungry feels like. This takes some practice. Know that being hungry is a feeling of needing food, any food, in the pit of your stomach. It is not your mind thinking about what it wishes you could eat.

2.When you're eating a meal, stop when you're satisfied, not when you're full. Don't you hate when you feel as if your stomach is so gorged it's going to explode? This is a sign that you have made a mistake in how you just ate.

3.Eat only when you're actually hungry. U.S culture seems to think that people get hungry at about 9 AM, 12 noon, and again at 6 PM. While this may be a generally good schedule for eating, remember that (usually) you don't have to eat at meal time if you're not hungry yet. Also, if you are hungry between meals, go ahead and have a healthy snack.

4.Realize that in general, your portion sizes are probably too big. Accepted portion sizes have practically doubled in the past 50 years. Remember that your stomach is about the size of your fist. Don't expect to stuff 10 times that amount of food into it without negative consequences.

This website is FILLED with wonderful practical tips that I know I will implement in my daily eating. I am aware that the healthier my body becomes, the louder will my body be when it recognizes something happening that is not good for it. Therefore, in the past, when my system was groggy, and less perceptive, eating a large amount of junk food didn't seem to affect me much. I could sit down and eat almost an entire large pizza in one sitting, downing a large pepsi, and then eat a large ice cream blizzard, and I'd just feel a mild complaint. My body was too sluggish to really react. But now.. it looks like all of my efforts to improve my circulation, digestion, and abilities are working. I abused my eating for one thing, and WHAM!! My body slams me with an extreme reaction of response. Hmm.. I guess that this is a good thing.. *wince*

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Taking the bus, and feeling the sugar

Taking the bus:

My husband is not driving me to and from the dojo anymore as he is working in the evenings, so I take the bus. This usually isn't a problem, but this week I wanted to bring the big kicking bag with me. What made matters worse is that I was attempting to carry on my backpack heavy with karate things, AND the bulky kicking bag onto a bus that was packed with Rush Hour travellers.

It was quite a juggling act to not thump one person's head with the bag, and to avoid slamming the legs of another person with the backpack. Suddenly a kind gentleman saw my predicament, and offered to keep the kicking bag under his legs for the majority of the trip. I sighed with gratitude. WHAT a ride that was!! What an experience that I do not wish to repeat.

Here is another experience that I do not wish to repeat. I went out with my mother, and sisters for lunch to celebrate my upcoming birthday. As some of you are aware, I have been changing my diet to reflect healthier eating. However, due to the "buffet" environment, and the fact that I wanted to relax, and enjoy myself. Not only did I get myself one dessert after the meal a chocolate mousse.. I went for another WORSE one.. a triple decked sundae. I walked out of that restaurant totally overfilled with sugar. My stomach felt like a lump in the center of me. Then, about four hours later during karate class.. I felt horrible. My joints felt stiff, and unbendable. I had a headache at the back of my head. I had no energy.. none.. it took immense concentration just to force my body to get into a stance. I was sluggish, and uncomfortable to the point of wanting to give up. I felt like a moving cadaver. I even groaned like a zombie with almost every movement.

I had to admit that the ONLY change this day was that I had eaten too much sugar. I'm not used to eating a ton of sugar like this anymore. Now, I had dumped SO much sugar into my system that I was suffering from it. I swear that I felt so awful it put the "fear" of eating sugar again into me. I'm not kidding.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Here we go to Taekwondo

My daughter comes home with a newsletter from her school stating that Taekwondo classes start this week, and that people interested can come visit, and train for free for that class. Her eyes filled with hope, and that "PLEASE" look, as she asked me if I would take her to this introductory session. "All of my friends are going to this.. I want to go be with them."

Now.. I wasn't against her doing another art as long as she commited herself to this. I was all for her learning more about another Martial art, and seeing the differences. She had achieved 8th kyu in Shotokan, and 8th kyu in Kyokushin. Why not look into Taekwondo? The only concern that I had was finances. Can we afford Martial arts classes again? Ever since I had stopped paying for Shotokan training, our family budget had started having room to breath again. I wasn't eager to start paying for membership fees, testing fees, class fees, tournaments, seminars, etc. etc. again.

With a breath of resignation, I gathered up my Gi, and a white belt, and accompanied my girl to this Taekwondo class to support her interest in another art. It was true that all of my daughter's friends were there, as soon as we entered the gym, she was surrounded by at least 6 other kids her age who were cheering the fact that she had been allowed to come. I saw my girl just glow with joy at being in this environment.. her own school, with her friends.. to do Martial arts.

The Instructor was a very kind, and knowledgeable gentleman who offered a well structured class that appealed to the student. It gave enough challenge, but at the same time allowed the practioner to regroup inbetween sets of exercises.
It was in a similar vein to every other Martial arts class that I've taken, warm up, basics, conditioning exercises, patterns. I had approached the Instructor before class started to mention that I'd like to partake in the class to support my daughter's interest. I didn't wish to sit at the back of the gym and watch when I could be up and training. I warned him that I was already training in a different Martial art, and that I was not seeking to advance in TaeKwondo. He gave me a warm welcome, and invited me to work out with his club doing my own Art on the side.

Well.. after the class, the payments were explained, and I was pleasantly surprised by the affordability of these lessons. This Instructor was obviously doing a type of outreach club for those children who could not afford to learn Martial arts in a commercial dojang. He had made it possible for my family to consider budgeting in Taekwondo lessons for our daughter. Since I was walking my daughter to, and from her lessons on Monday, the Instructor encouraged me to continue "working out" with his club instead of sitting on the bench and watching the class, and to do my Kyokushin kata when they focus on patterns, and sparring. What a SWEETHEART of an Instructor!!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I should have listened to my kids...

"Mom?" my 12 year old daughter said to me with deep concern "It's pretty hot outside, maybe you shouldn't wear your raincoat to karate class."

"But.. I have to leave now to catch my bus, and what else can I wear over my Gi that will hide it?? I'll be fine.." I responded.

"No.. Mom.." echoed my 8 year old son "It's hot out.."

"I've gotta go!.. sorry.. I'll be o.k." I said.

DUH! I should have listened to my kids. I was HOT! SO HOT!!! I had the usual equipment on me for training: shin pads, protection, t shirt, Gi pants, and jacket, and belt on, and then over that I had this big bulky raincoat, and sweat pants over the Gi pants. I was carrying my backpack that felt as heavy as a 5 year old child.

I stood waiting by the bus feeling like I was in standing in a sauna. The raincoat had NO ventilation, and it was a dark navy blue color. People walked past me in shorts, and a t shirt giving me strange looks at how dressed up I was.

I stood there pretending that I was exactly where I wanted to be, and how I wanted to be. Oh Gosh, it felt good to strip away the raincoat, and sweat pants when I arrived at the dojo. I sat in the grass in the shade waiting for people to arrive, and cooled down as much as possible before class started.

That wasn't too keen of me, to put myself through so much heat exhaustion BEFORE class started. My gi was drenched in sweat already, and I hadn't thrown a single punch.

OH... I went to the gym with my husband on Monday. We paid the $10 visitors fee, and I had access to all of the various cool equipment. I tried out the special resistance training machines that use air to cause tension. COOL! Yet.. I kept looking longingly at the basketball court and thinking.. Wow.. such a nice open area for kata. Finally, I couldn't resist anymore. I left my husband working on the various cool expensive machines, and I took off my shoes. I entered the empty basketball court and joyfully proceeded to do kata after kata nonstop. I lost count of how many I did. It didn't matter.. I was having fun. A WHOLE basketball court size of empty smooth flooring space to do kata!! All to myself! No wasps. No neighbours calling encouragement. No people driving by and yelling obscenities. No sticks, rocks, grass, or bumps in the ground. No tables, chairs, or walls to interrupt movement. No children asking me if they can do this, or eat that. No one correcting me as I performed. No one calling out a count, but just me and my kata. I was in heaven! An hour and a half later, I noticed my husband leaving the exercise machines, and I went up to him smiling, all breathless, and with drops of sweat dripping off of each one of my hair strands. I couldn't believe that it was time to go already. Those exercise equipment were interesting. It was nice to see all of the technology at work. It took my heart rate, provided a nice wind, showed me how many calories that I had burned, how fast I was moving, what muscles were working.. but all of this just couldn't compete in my heart with a nice large private open floor space.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The internet is right, it took a year.

About a year ago, I had one of my toenails damaged to the point where it fell off:
Injury, nail pops open, nail pops off

The information that I received on the internet was that it would take close to 18 months for a new nail to grow in. I can attest that finally I have a nail on my toe that looks almost normal, and it has been nearly a year of time. So, although one cannot believe everything that one reads, or learns, one should be open to possibilities and potential knowledge available on the web.

Sure.. I've seen, and read some rather unbelievable statements that I have to shake my head and wonder if it's real. For example, in Japan, is it true that a drinking product is sold called Pocari Sweat where they have factories of an animal called a Pocari housed in a warm environment with collector tubes attached to their sweat glands to capture the sweat, and then they sell this like bottled water?

Check it out.

You MUST be kidding me! Who in their right mind would want to drink the sweat of an animal that looks like a grey half cat/ half rat? Who would pay for such bottled stuff? Who would accept that kind of animal abuse.. IF this this happening? But there it is on the net, over and over, labeled bottles of pocari sweat available for purchase at only $2.60 a bottle. Someone is buying it, otherwise the product couldn't exist.

Not everyone is a nice person on this earth. I like to believe in the goodness of others, and people like to believe that they are always the good guys, but I have learned through experience that there are many who have developed different outlooks, and goals for themselves. Perhaps it is their pride that overruns their good judgement, or perhaps it is internal faulty values that guides their thoughts, but these people make their own lives miserable by the negative emotions, choices, and thoughts that swirl in them.

For example, my daughter and I were riding the bus home. The bus driver had to stop a little sharply for one of the stops. We passengers was unbalanced some by the momentum. My daughter and I calmly brought our balance back into play, adjusted, and waited patiently. However, the fact that this happened totally unsettled one of the lady passengers who then erupted in a cascade of anger, and swear words towards the driver for the next 5 minutes until she stepped off of the bus. She attacked his skill as a driver, and his personal character. I heard the driver defending himself against her charges, and then I realized something important. There was really no need for him to defend himself. The anger, and negativeness of the woman was coming from a spot within her, not from the fact that the driver had to stop the bus more sharply than usual. None of the other passengers were reacting negatively, we all had calmly readjusted our balance to compensate. None of us had the slightest inclination to even complain. This one woman was speaking as if we were "with" her in her opinions, and anger... but we weren't. In fact, what I saw in the eyes of the other passengers was a non-emotive response of "Leave the busdriver alone, get it over with so we can continue in our travels"

That woman got off of the bus, and walked away still angry and cursing. I could see her carrying her anger with her all the way down the street. I turned to my daughter and said "She is hurting herself. This negative anger is causing all sorts of damaging chemicals, and stress hormones to be released into her body which will cause tons of chain reactions. The longer that she carries this anger within her, the more damage she will do to herself. Learn to react to a moment, learn what motivates your response, look at how you are judging others behaviours, and learn to calm yourself down, and see the bigger picture so that you can let go of the little things, and live a happier life." I remember a very good, wise, priest friend of mine saying to me "Standing at the end of a dock crying, and feeling sorry for the whales predicament will not change anything. All that you will get is a headache, and a sore stomach. The whales will be no better off. Choosing not to embrace, or accept the attitudes, and behaviours that has placed the whales in the situation that they are in can change your life and theirs."

I have seen this Pocari sweat product, realized where it's source comes from, and personally decided that I would not support such a thing. I have seen the negative reaction of that woman discharged at someone who was just doing his job, and I have decided that I do not want that in my life.

There are alot of judgements that people like to place on each other which should be shrugged off. Ideas like "fat people shouldn't bother exercising". Honestly, who in this society of overweight children, and adults needs to consider improving their lifestyle the most?? There is no shame in starting off in exercise as a fat person, and working towards a healthier lifestyle by training, and eating more healthy. However, this effort takes humility, because when you start training as a fat person, there are many people with negative judgemental attitudes that will attempt to discourage you from your goal. They will wag their tongues, and give you disgusted "looks" to shame you back into hiding in your home, eating chocolate ice cream, and watching t.v.. Again I quote my wise priest friend "Choosing not to embrace, nor accept the attitudes, and behaviours that have placed the whales in that position can change your life, and theirs."

Since Christmas, my husband has lost 40 pounds, and I have lost 30 pounds. Does that make me a better person? No. Does it change my value, nor the effort that I have placed towards my karate training? No. Does it enhance my knowledge of karate? No. All of these things were there regardless of my physical side. The changes of losing weight means that my clothes are now baggy on me, and I have to get another wardrobe. Also, I have gained some greater physical health benefits. Less chance of diabetes, heart problems, sleep problems, etc. If I had allowed the negative attitudes of other people dictate whether or not I trained in martial arts, I would have chosen a different path. I would have continued avoiding all exercise, and eating tons of unhealthy food. Today, I would probably weigh in over 230 lbs by now, and have such an unhealthy lifestyle that I would have difficulty walking from my kitchen to my dining room. I am SO grateful for the gift that my first Sensei gave to me when I approached him and asked to join his dojo. The honest respect, acceptance, and dignity that he gave to me which allowed me to see myself as something other than a fat, useless, out of shape, sickly, ugly, and unwanted person opened the potential for so much progress in my life. He saw the predicament of the whale, and chose to embrace a different perspective. When others saw futility, he saw potential. It only took the hope of a promise in his eyes that perhaps I might be able to achieve something to fuel the same hopes within me.

Sure.. we human beings can affect each other negatively, or positively, but I believe that in the end, it is our own personal choice whether we stand and cry for the whales, or choose to change ourselves.