Friday, January 26, 2007

Tekki Shodan

I'm struggling with one of the movements of Tekki Shodan ( Naihanchi). Movement number 9 exactly.

I've watched so many versions of this move that I'm even more confused than when I started. When I was first taught this kata, the movement was described to me as a downward back fist (Oroshi Uraken) to the target of the collarbone. If you look at this video that was made in the 70's by JKA, you can see that the specific movement that I'm talking about is landing just to the side of the chin, where the collarbone is. This is especially apparent in the second time that he does the same movement:

If you watch this world Champion doing the kata, you can see the placement of that move. He is definately doing it to the side of the neck, to the collarbone. ( By the way, I admire the skill of Sensei Luca Valdesi so much! I'm so grateful for his instructional kata videos on the internet. I sure do hope that they remain online for prosperity!)

I have seen the kata performed with that movement becoming an uppercut punch ( shita tsuki) instead of a downwards attack as how Sensei Luca showed.. but I know that this bunkai has not been taught in my dojo.

I have learned that the striking target of that movement is supposed to be the mouth/chin of our opponent. This means that the arm makes a far more pronounced angle when executing that movement. Here is a vintage video of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi ( the founder of Shotokan Karate) performing the Tekki Shodan kata. Notice that he targets the mouth on that move:

So? Where is the target for that move? Is it the mouth, or the collarbone? I know that I'm being pretty nitpicky on this, but I have learned through my brief experiences with Aikido, pressure points, and joint manipulation that a mere 1/4 inch, or centimeter of placement can change the result of a technique drastically. I have felt the painful difference that a few inches can make when striking. I ask myself these questions: Where would I want to train my body to strike when performing this kata? Which target would be most effective?

Sparring my daughter

I don't know if it's because I'm a woman, or because I'm a mom, or because I'm just "me", but I cannot get my heart around to accepting facing my child as an opponent, or seeing her defend herself.

Last night, my daughter was introduced to sparring for her first time. I couldn't believe how I felt inside me. I was proud of her, but it hurt to watch her. I wanted to run out of the room, or run into the fight, or run around in circles.

That's my baby up there dodging the kicks. That's my little girl who is shaking her hand because it landed improperly and she is hurting, but she's still fighting. I was in a nightmare. I thought that it was so difficult to get myself to face the inner turmoil within me and pull out the warrior within, but to have to watch my daughter spar.. oh gosh.. oh my gosh!

I requested that I be excluded from sparring last night, and my request was granted. So thankfully, I didn't have to face my girl personally. OH GOSH!

I can't hit my girl! Not like that! I would give my own life for her. Aargh! I've GOT to talk to Sensei about this! I have so much inner conflict at the thought of facing my daughter in sparring. Heaven help any of my dojo mates that cause my daughter any harm. I swear.. there would be nothing but "protect" conviction flying through my mind, soul, and body. I could feel that spiritual energy surging through me last night. I felt like an 8 foot brick wall wouldn't stop me if I felt that I needed to address an issue.

It never hurts to ask..

One of my younger daughters had been chosen by her school to participate in some free Theatre classes downtown for the next 2 months. All she needed was parental escort to and from the event. Therefore my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons have been reserved for this. I knew that I'd be spending a good 2 hours downtown. I'm not one to enjoy shopping, or sitting in a restaurant eating for 2 hours. What I really wanted to do was take advantage of that suddenly imposed "free" time to practice my karate.

So.. now I had a dilemma. I started phoning around at the various Y.M.C.A. and other athletic places available within walking distance of the theatre school. OUCH! Drop in fees were astronomical! I contacted a couple of Martial arts studios in the area, but they opened only in the evening.

Hmmmmm..... I stood there in the student lounge of the Theatre school with my Backpack in hand contemplating if it was possible to do kata in that enclosed space filled with chairs, tables, and couches. It was possible.. as long as I didn't kiai.

So.. I approached the head office of the school, and asked to speak with the "Principle". He was a kind gentleman who politely listened to my request. He instantly gave me permission to practice karate in the student lounge, and then he smiled, and offered me one of their classrooms.

I was led to one of their "private practice" rooms wherein actors go to work on their skills. It was fantastic! Honestly! It was huge, enough room for 12 karate ka to do kata, and the center space was clear due to the fact that all props were placed neatly along side the walls. The longest wall was mirrored. I was in heaven!! The ladies washroom, and water fountain was within 10 steps of the room.

I worked on 25 of my kata, and on all of my basics from white belt up to my belt testing rank. I was even able to take a 4 minute break sitting comfortably on a leather couch. I felt "pampered".

It never hurts to ask...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My martial arts path has been filled with painful boulders.

My good friend Mat left me with a comment that I feel deserves it's own posting:

Darn, Mireille!

What a list of injuries you just posted. ...

I'm sorry for saying those words I'm about to say and you might not like them.

- how about a pause??
- Shotokan karate is notorious for injuring its practicionners. ask chadie at thedojo.

My old Sensei didn't want to come back teaching (in shotokan) because of back injuries. He'd spend about 20 minutes before each class only streching to be able to stretch with us...
My current Sensei quit shotokan because of back injuries.

- How about a break where you only do forms "a la taichi"? With slow deliberate movements with only muscular contractions?

No matter what Sensei says, or my Sensei's sensei, for that matter, I train at home very slowly at first, no matter what amount of warm-up I do. Slow, slow, slow. When I get around Seisan, I'm ok for 80% speed.

I find that my motivation comes from the fact that my practice has evolved into something that's actually very good for my health. The various injuries I have had in the last year no longer feel stiff or sore and I feel in better shape (read more energy) since I adapted the karate to my body.

Sheesh, I don't know what to say... You do know that shotokan katas used to be done very slowly and softly, don't you? They were sped up during the last century. Particularily after the 2nd war. Shigeru Egami a student of funakoshi was amongst those who sped it up. Only to go back to softer and slower katas later on when he realized that efficiency didn't necesseraly pass through hard contractions/speed.

Funakoshi's words:
"In my training in the past we never did brutal things like those. In a real training you must be able to put a shoji door (wood frame with an extended paper sheet) on the ground and throw water on it. Train on the paper without ripping it and move without breaking the fine wood unions, train techniques with power. Do you understand why we must search for the technique?"

How many times did you read that in order to give good health, people sent their child to study karate?

I'm concerned about all these injuries. Please put your health forwards.

There are other ways to train.

And I know I'm preaching for my own village here, but how about reiki? It works for me...

Ask Charles E James from the isshindo club here :

Realizing that karate training was too hard for his body, he changed it, adding QiGong exercices (which I did too)

I could go on a very long time.

All I mean to say is :

Take care of yourself. Entering karate should help you get better health (which I know it did) and keep your health up. Not injure you.

I realize you probably know all this. Just take care.

10:00 AM

Here is my response:

Yes... It is true that I have quite a list of injuries as I train:

For those who are not aware:

a) I have a skin condition that flares up once in awhile. While it is inflamed it almost feels like I'm immersed in boiling oil, and every movement hurts. Therefore during karate there have been times when I tended to question whether blocking the oncoming punch will hurt more than just receiving it. There are moments when the skin will break and bleed spots onto my Gi. Therefore I have chosen to wear a T shirt, and white cotton Long Johns under my Gi Jacket and pants to protect my fellow karate students from stains when I train in Shotokan. During Kyokushin I wear my shin pads throughout class. Yes.. it is VERY hot to train with an extra layer of cotton upon me.

b) My heels have started to bother me when I'm jumping rope, or doing many kicks in a row. I believe that it is a form of tendonitis.

c) My shoulders definately have tendonitis as both of them are causing problems making it difficult for me to raise my hands above my shoulder level without sharp pains. I am actively working towards healing this at this moment.. I'll be putting ice on my shoulders after I finish typing everything out on the computer. Push ups are an impossibility for me right now.

d) My right hip had received soft tissue damage about 10 year ago when I had fallen and taken all the impact on my right knee. I was 9 months pregnant at the time, so there was nothing that really could be done to help it when it happened. I have gained in flexibility through training in karate, but it still hurts to do certain side kicks. Also, quick repeditive kicks will make my hips feel "swollen" and painful. It will even lock them so that I cannot raise my leg. However, if I give my legs a few minutes to rest.. ( and drain or something) I can resume kicking without pain.

e) I sprained my right wrist a few years ago. It has not fully recuperated. I find that certain martial arts techniques will send sharp pains up my arm. I have adapted some of my knifehands to be able to continue training.

f) Cramping. I have suffered from cramping of my muscles throughout most of my training. It is mostly my legs such as calves, and thighs that act up. I'll do some quick stretching, and then resume my stance, and continue training.

g) I hurt my back recently. I was suffering from a skin flare up. As I was putting on my shoes I lost my balance, and ended up crashing into a hook into the wall which imbedded itself beside my spine. It's getting better now, but sit ups are quite painful when I lay my torso down on the ground.

h) Breathing. When I stress my lungs too much, I will start to have quite a difficult time breathing. I suffered from bronchitis as a child, and it is/was quite normal for me to taste blood in my mouth after running. I can happilly say that this side effect of physical effort is not presenting itself as frequently. My cardio-vascular abilities have improved 100 fold.

Yes, Mat. I am aware that the Shotokan style has developed a reputation for being difficult on the body. I can see how difficult it is to continue the sharp, strong, outbursts of power that this style needs as a body ages. There have been times when I have felt my joints complain at the power of my the sudden starts, and stops that I needed to do to achieve the exercise that was being asked of us. However, through experience, and study.. I have noticed that one can successfully learn to become fluid, and strong at the same time. I've learned to become water and ice as I did my kata. I've learned that I needed to treat my body as a 42 year old's and not try to force it to act like a 15 year olds.

- how about a pause??

Well Mat.. I really enjoy training in Karate. It has become more than just a hobby. It is a part of me. Even if I were to stay home, I'd still be doing a variety of Karate moves. I LOVE kata.. and it's FUN when it's done at full speed. I can value Tai Chi very much. I can see so much contained within it. There may be a time when I start walking down that path, but right now I enjoy what I have. The majority of my injuries come from a lifetime of bad eating, and inactivity. I didn't start exercising until I was 39 years old. I'm not surprised that my body is reacting by all of these little "issues". The physical problems have not stopped me, or discouraged me. In fact, I'd like to say that I have developed a humble, persistant, and courageous spirit by the limitations that these problems have caused within my training environment. I know that my continuing efforts to improve my eating habits, lower my weight, and enhance my physical stature will bring me better and better results in the future.

Internal conflict

A few years ago, I was having problems during training with how to handle my
sparring demeanor. I received some extremely wise advice from a fellow forum member that I do not wish to lose, so I will place it here on my

"One of the major concerns I have with your situation is in the training of seated
instinct so as not to cause internal conflict.

If you have mixed feelings about any exercise, this internal conflict can
affect the overall commitment and effectiveness of your technique.

When learning something new, such feelings are normal, but when bridging the
gap from well practiced technique to practical application, any internal
conflict can case hesitation, mess up the timing, and lead to detrimental

You need to be clear in your mind what you are doing. For instance, when
instructed to bounce more on the ball of your foot when kicking... your
anology was like a jumping kick... therefore ask her if she means like
a jumping kick. She may say yes, then it is clear in your mind you and
her are talking about the same thing. On the other hand, she may come back and
say, no, it is to lift your heel more because when you kick with shoes on,
in the streets on the pavement, you have to bounce more because the friction
on the ground with shoes does not allow you to slide like on a dojo floor.

When she asks you to change targets, you can be more clear in your mind
what is the better technique for hitting that target. When going to the
ribs, one might use a 3/4 turned punch instead of a horizontal punch. Adjust your
technique to the target you are intending to hit. Then I ask, which is
more important, the target or that you actually hit the target? In other
words, don't punch to miss her. Whatever target she gives you, strike to hit
it with commitment. If she wants you to punch her shoulder, then hit it!!!
In other words, don't think you are missing the target by aiming somewhere
else... instead, make it clear in your mind of what the new target is
and hit it. Don't train yourself to miss what you are aiming at.

Avoid developing internal conflicts. Make sense? "

I responded with:

[i]"Wado.. I'm trying to understand that whole aspect of Internal conflict that
you have revealed to me. Although you explained it so clearly, I am having
difficulties capturing the concept. How do I shift from the natural hesitation that happens when given something new, to a confident "I
know this" commitment when each new partner that I get has different
strength, speed, mannerisms that I have to adjust to?" [/i]

I'd say that's a very complex question you ask.

There are many ways to have and many reasons for inner conflicts. The end
result is that inner conflicts affect your performance and can cause
hesitation and distraction.

When learning something new, one inner conflict is basically training
your body to move differently than what you are used to. That, like many
things, can be overcome with knowledge, experience, and practice (it just takes

A different type of internal conflict, on the other hand, can be caused
when philosophical views clash with what you are told to do. This is the
type of internal conflict I feel you are having and it can affect your
performance. You simply do not feel deep down that what you are doing is of benefit
to you, in fact, it seems you believe that striking off target is wrong
and only do it out of duty.

Such conflicts do not just affect your performance during exercises,
but even can cause questioning and stress afterwards... affecting how well
you sleep, how well you can focus on other things in life, etc.

How does one remove inner conflicts? Sometimes an adjustment of
attitude works, sometimes just knowing more information as to why works,
sometimes seeing the "light at the end of the tunnel" helps, and sometimes
necessity (situation) brings out emotions or something that can be used as a
driving force to do things you normally would not want to do given a choice.

In your case, SG7, as long as you KNOW that the target is not the one
you want to hit, then I suggest you question of what value the whole
exercise of striking to a different target has.

Obviously this is not realistic fighting, it is only a drill. A drill
can have realism but it is primarily for working on a set of skills. As the
attacker your skills are to develop commitment, timing, movement, speed,
power, and accuracy. You can do this striking to ANY target as long as
you strike to it with realism (visualize that it is a real fight, keep your
guard up, move in a realistic manner).

Wado quotes me:

[i]"I really appreciate the " You need to be clear in your mind what you are
doing. advice. Wow.. I didn't see the value of being on the ball of
your foot, and bouncing until you brought a different view to it for me. I
gather that the more experience I have in the arts, the more different ways
I will gain in seeing the possibilities, and I will gain also in clarity of
understanding." [/i]

I will tell you a secret, which may not really be a secret, but many if
not all "masters" make things up on the spot. So what you learn is a
combination of the old, the new, and stuff made up on the spot.

When one questions respectfully, it is only to get a better idea of why
something was done the way it was, the principles and reasons behind
something. The actual details of a technique, such as on the ball of
the foot or not, can and will change often, depending on the underlying
reasons. Nothing is really written in stone.

Sensei might tell you one thing one day, and a week later tell you to
do something that seems to contradict what was said before.

I guess what I am saying could be summarized as keep your guard up and
take all training seriously. Try to add realism to what you are doing, even
if it is no-contact or full contact, half-speed, full speed, etc. Apply
realistic intent, commitment, energy, movement, and timing.

In no contact, ACCEPT that you can be hit and knocked out, even though
for safety all strikes are controlled.

If you are the attacker in a two-person drill, do not always attack
using the same timing, same target, or same way. If you are supposed to
strike the solar plexus and the other is supposed to block, then maybe 75% of the
time aim to hit the mark, but at other times aim for 4 inches lower or
higher. Attack full speed, and at other times start full speed and finish at
75% speed, and other times start 75% speed and then finish full speed. See
if the defender can make the adjustments.

Of course beginners will not usually make the adjustments so attacking
to one target and with one speed might be appropriate, but at higher belt
levels, I say, almost anything goes.

I hope I clarified it some from my humble experience.

- Take care,

[i]OH YES! and I appreciate your words. I'm going to keep them in my
karate journal to remind me of what I need to focus on as I walk the
path. Thank you, Wado. [/i]

My promise is now kept, Wado.. Thank you. I hope that those who read
my weblog get as much out of your words as I did, and still do.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

No to Gojushiho sho

Don't get me wrong: I love kata. I live for kata. I just do not wish to learn Gojushiho Sho right at this moment.

I'm mentally digging in my heels and saying "Enough!".

I have the movements of close to 20 Shotokan kata in my brain, and I'm only 4 years old in Martial arts. I do not want to learn another one no matter how wonderful it is. I want to understand some of the ones that I have amassed within me. I want to know why I put my hands in this direction, and why my hips turn over there, and what it does to my opponent. I do not want to just dance to the rhythm of another song. Sure.. I can understand that many of us start off mimicing movement, and later on we develop a deeper understanding of what we are doing. I'm not even up to the point of wanting to mimic movement.

I've got the rest of my life to learn the movements of the last 6 kata left in Shotokan. Why rush it? I can understand having pressure if I wanted to represent my dojo at a competition, or if I was aspiring to open a dojo of my own.. but I'm just a little old Mom who likes to do karate when I'm not washing dishes, doing laundry, or making meals.

There was a time when I hungered for the ability to do a higher kata.. but now, I feel overfilled. I have that "after a turkey feast" distended, bloated feeling within me as I face learning another kata. I can feel my spirit saying "No.. NO.. No to Gojushiho Sho." Let me work on the 15 mandatory kata for my rank of Shodan.. let me focus on the various things that I can learn from there...let me build up my basics so that I can grasp what the higher kata are saying.

But what do I do? When I show up in class.. there is this expectation that I'm supposed to want to learn more kata. How do I tell my Sensei that I'm not interested in learning this new kata? "Gee.. thanks for the opportunity to learn more, Sensei, but I just want to sit here in the lower levels a little longer?" That just doesn't sound right.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Another great KIAI moment!

This morning.. early in the morning.. my oldest daughter had made her lunch for work, and then proceeded to leave the house without it. I had said my goodbyes, and had turned to go do something in the kitchen when I noticed the lunch sitting there on the table. Scooping it up I ran outside into the snow in my pajamas to see that my daughter was not to be seen. So? I KIAI'd her name into the air around me. Out in the distance I hear my daughter mutely respond with a quiet confused "Mom?" I kiai'd the words "Your LUNCH!" almost as if I was attacking the dampening effect of the snow around me. Within minutes I saw my daughter running back and gratefully retreiving her food for the day.

I walked back into my home to find one of my other daughters standing in the Dining room.. wide-eyed, and awake.. her hair disheveled.. and her face filled with confusion.

"Mom? It's early in the morning.. why did you call me? I don't need a lunch for school today?" she asked.

I chuckled and explained it all to her with a big hug.

Not too much later, my youngest son, almost drooping with sleepiness said:

"Mom.. your yell had me awake right away.. and my knees were shaking... I thought that we were all in trouble or something. Then my sister came back to tell me that you just wanted to hug her."

WAH ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Talk about an effective Kiai! 3 kids responded for the price of one yell.

Ha ha ha ha ha

Monday, January 08, 2007

I'm having some "issues" with my computer

Talk about getting on my nerves.. My usual computer isn't working well with this Blog anymore. I've tried more than one browser on it, struggling through all the annoyances of tweaking this, and fixing that until finally I gave up and decided to blog on the family computer. Sure.. this is even more of a hassle - family wize. The family computer has a host of teenagers that have to share it, so I have limited chances of using it. However, I can blog more easilly on it as it talks well with the google server. Ah well.. one day "we'll be eating off of the fat of the land.." as my husband fondly likes to say quite often when faced with difficulties.