Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The importance of toes

I had never really considered how important my toes were to my karate until I recently had my toes injured.

Suddenly I became more aware of how my toes are greatly used to keep my balance as I move forwards, backwards, and sideways. I found myself tipping over like a drunken sailor as I tried to perform my kata just because the toes on my left foot weren't strong enough to do what they needed to do.

I have never thought that body parts that are so little, and so far away from the head would be so important.. but they are! If I can't move without falling over, then how good can I strike??

If toes are important to training.. then let's go even smaller.. what about toe nails.. surely they can't mean much. Yet.. as I think about it.. toenails are also very important. If they are too long they can easilly catch on the Gi material, and be torn. If they are dirty, it would be easy to scratch our fellow dojo mate, and give them an infection.

Wow.. even the smallest things can mean alot when you look at them closely.

I have succumbed to the virus...

For all of my valiant efforts, I have finally fallen to the virus that was spreading through my house for weeks. I guess that it was inevitable.. Bring out the violins, and play me a dirge because my head is swelling, my nose is running, and I really dislike moving around.

I stayed home from Karate class last night, and the night before that... SHAME.. shame on me. But.. I didn't entirely miss out on training. Yesterday, my daughter approached me and said "Mom.. my belt test is this Friday.. please.. please help me practice.. please..." (*Insert darling big begging eyes from a sweet girl*)

So.. Mommy pulled her sorry body up and put on one of those tough "This cold can't stop me.. I'm as stubborn as a mule" attitudes, and said "Sure, honey.. I'll help you."

Well.. Things went along not too badly until Mom was demonstrating, and kiai'd. Oh Gosh I have a loud kiai! My headache just rang with it. I didn't know that sound seems louder when you are the one producing it, and you aren't feeling well.

I had to put one finger up to tell my daughter to wait a second. I held my head with my hands, and said "Sweetie.. how about you practice what we went over one more time while I make myself some tea?" Then I made a mental note to myself "No more kiai's until the headache is gone."

After that session, I was ready to crash on the couch, but my 9 year old daughter had noticed that I was helping the 13 year old.

"Mommy? I will be testing too.. Can we go over what I need to know?"

AH... even with a slow sickly thinking ability, I was still able to come up with a great solution. I called the older child over and said "This is great practice for you.. help her with her requirements.. I'll watch.. oh by the way.. NO kiai's"

Friday, February 23, 2007

Heian Shodan ( Pinan sono ichi) without moving

Oh I had FUN last night! I tried doing the Heian Shodan kata without moving my feet, but just rotating on spot. So I'd face left, go into front stance/ downblock, and then, just rotate my hips until I was facing "forwards?" which would be right to do the next movement - punch. It had a feeling of fighting two opponents: one on my left side, and one facing me. In my mind I followed the embusen of the kata, but my feet stayed totally still. Sometimes I'd have to do two techniques in the same direction, and would have to rely on hip vibration to provide the power for that technique. It was fascinating!! I really recommend trying this for fun one day. It is quite a mental effort.

Sickness reigns

There's been a cold running through my house affecting my kids, and husband. So far, fingers crossed, I have avoided the touch of the sniffles. I've eaten extra oranges, and have been extra careful to avoid potential "cooties" from my poor sick ones. Oh sure, I give them their needed hugs, and hot chocolate.. but I quickly rush over to the washroom, and give my hands a good hot wash inbetween times. Good homemade soup has become the staple of our lunch hours to get as many minerals, and healthy food into my kids.

My daughter injured her right foot at karate class last week. It wasn't anything too serious, she just smacked feet with the kid next in line with her when doing kicking exercises, and got a good big tender purple bruise on her instep. I found this funny because I had done something similar the week before, but with my left foot. So now Mom, and daughter have matching mirrored feet.

I'm going to take a nice long nap this afternoon to boost my immune system with rest, but you can bet that I'm going to be at karate class tonight to boost my immune system with exercise. Ha ha ha! Those nasty little virus' have no hope!

Helpful feedback

I was cleaning up some of my old notes from college days, and I stumbled across a course that I took in "Communication". I was astonished at how applicable the information was to those moments in the dojo when I am requested for feedback on a person's technique, or for answers to people's questions. Also, there are moments when I ask for directions, and feedback on my efforts to improve. The following suggestions help bring the most out of a "feedback" moment. I decided to place this information here on my weblog so that I can keep it for the future.

Helpful Feedback:

1. It should be related to a specific behaviour or action. Feedback that is specific gives a person more information about the change he/she may have to make.

2. It should be relevent to the particular situation. The kind of situation a person is in directly influences his/her ability to receive, and utilize the feedback willingly.

3. It should be purposeful. The more deliberate corrective feedback the more effective communication becomes.

4. It should be well-timed. The earlier feedback can be given the more useful it becomes in correcting specific behaviours.

5. It should be descriptive and clear. Clear, descriptive feedback enables a more accurate understanding of the information being given.

6. It should be based on the assessed needs of both people involved. The need and readiness to become involved in the feedback process directly influences one's willingness to correct his/her behaviour.

7. When the feedback received is vague, clarification should be requested. Feedback that is unclear blocks learning and change.

8. It should be both positive and negative. People need to know what they are doing well, and what they can improve.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mom has been busy being mom...

I've had my hands full with field trips for the kids, theatre lessons for the kids, supporting my kids through life choices, an upcoming belt rank test, and coping with housework that still accumulates without cease.

Valentine's day was wonderful.. My husband abducted me away from everything.. even karate, and we spent the night together. I needed that. In fact, I needed more than just one evening, so I gave myself a few days break from everything. I brought the level of demand from me down to just resting, relaxing, and recuperating.

I've lost 12 pounds since Christmas.. I've been counting my calories successfully. It helps to have an online resource such as to help me. My goal is to lose another 20 pounds before this fall. At first I found that my body was struggling to perform at the same level with less calories, but within a couple of weeks my body adjusted, and all is good.

So now.. I enter a different level of my training wherein I allow myself to build up so that I can rely on that foundation later on. I never really equated "resting" with training before now, but I have found that it is just as important mentally, spiritually, and physically.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Kicking at air and missing...

Well.. I managed to do this to myself. I was practicing my roundhouse kicks in open air, and managed to slam my toes into an inanimate object. My two little toes instantly erupted in quite alot of pain. My smallest toe is nicely swollen.. it's not broken, but it sure doesn't like too much movement, or being encased in a shoe or boot. I needed to go shopping with my teen son today, so I was walking around with crutches. Honestly, my foot wasn't in horrible pain, and I was able to put weight on it, but I decided to use crutches to help rest the tendons and muscles of that foot.

I learned alot as I used crutches:

A) You need strong abdominal muscles to swing your body forwards in a controlled manner.

B) You need strong straight arms (similar to the push up position) and good posture to be able to move efficiently.

C) My husband told me that I moved very much like those Kung Fu artists on wires. Have you seen "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"? Like the scene where they were jumping from roof top to roof top.. that's how my body swung forwards smoothly like a pendulum.

D) I still went to class because there was really nothing wrong with my arms, and if I was careful to land on my heel I was still able to do stance. ( Call me addicted..)

E) Landing on your heel as you move forwards is easy.. landing on your heel moving backwards is challenging, but very possible with proper motivation.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Unbalanced muscle groups

I learned something new this week about sports and injuries: I learned that if you work one set of muscles really hard and improve them, but neglect to work the opposite side of the muscle group you will place extra stress on the tendon, and can develop or make yourself prone to injuries. For example, such as training your bicep muscles for punching, but neglecting your inner tricep muscles.. or training your abdomen through lots of sit ups, but neglecting your back muscles.

There has to be balance in training, in kata, in basics, in conditioning, in resting, in eating, etc.. Everything needs to be balanced. For every action there is a reaction. I think that the Yin/ Yang symbol would fit well in this post.

Discipline versus punishment

I've been thinking about the differences between discipline and punishment lately. Discipline seems to appear as something that is placed upon you, but I believe that the truth is that discipline comes from within you. It is from your understanding, mental strength, and inner conviction that you find the discipline to do what is being asked of you from the moment.

For example, let's look at a common moment in training when the class forgets to kiai with their technique or something similar to that. The Sensei commands 20 push ups for that mistake. I remember how I used to view this moment as I was a beginner in the arts. I used to feel sorrow that I had made a mistake, or anger at "GEEZ! How many times do we have to be told to kiai with our technique?? How could we have forgotten?", or I'd feel frustration that I was having to do push ups even though I wasn't the one who forgot to kiai. I saw the 20 push ups as "punishment" for doing something wrong.

Today I have developed a totally different view of the push ups. I see them as a benefit to me. It has been shown that push ups, and squats are two of the most beneficial exercises for the whole body when done properly. It helps with one's arms, legs, back, and stomach muscles. Now I have learned that I only need the discipline within me to perform these natural weight bearing exercises with the right attitude. It will help me become a healthier person. I will develop stronger proper posture which will help me as I age to maintain healthy organs, bones, and flexibility.

Lately I've been attempting to keep proper posture at all times during the day. I have learned that I have a nasty habit of hunching my shoulders forwards quite alot. I hunch when I wash dishes, when I iron clothes, when I'm cooking, when I'm on the computer, and when I'm watching t.v.. In fact the only times where I find myself in proper position for my body is when I'm doing karate, or when I'm walking to somewhere. Since I've been disciplining myself to attempt to keep proper posture I have found out that my muscles are quite weak. They are getting tired from holding the proper position. They aren't used to keeping my shoulders back, my back straight, and my hips tucked under for such an extended amount of time. I actually have to allow my shoulders to hunch forwards for short periods right now or else my muscles feel overstrained. Wow.. I sure have developed some bad habits in my lifetime.

Fascinating.. just normal everyday life has become an extended period of training for me now that I'm trying to "listen to my body" and support it.

Push ups are no longer punishment in my eyes.. they are an investment into achieving the goal that I am reaching for... In fact, I am grateful that I have opportunities during karate class to do push ups, and squats, and to increase my chances of living a healthier life outside of the dojo. No longer do I feel anger, frustration, or sorrow at the mistakes. When I think of it logically, I realize that "of course we are going to make mistakes.. that's part of being human! The push ups serve a dual purpose here.. they help us develop strength, and at the same time they help accent a certain expectation for the moment. As we are doing push ups we are thinking about how we should Kiai when we do a technique. The two things work together!! It makes sense." This, to me, is discipline.

This year's karate goals...

Gosh I'm slow! Usually I post these in late December or early January.. oh well better late than never.

Each year I make karate commitments. These aren't "resolutions", as in the
normal goals that many people do (watch their weight, stop smoking, and such), they are more like physical karate goals for the year. At the end of the year, I like to look back at what I had written as my goals, and to see if I had achieved some of them.

For the year 2006, this is what I wrote:

" Kihon: I want to find that central space within me as I do my basics.
Keeping my mind centered on my tanden, and attacking with my whole body, not just my arms, and legs.
Kata: I want to focus on keeping Zanchin throughout the kata in
spite of all the interruptions, and distractions.
Kumite: I want to keep a calm interior that is alert, and willing
to do what is necessary to react to what is coming in a flexible way, not
being locked into this or that combination. "

Looking at these statements, I realize that they are almost all interior
changes that I was looking to improve. Working on how I handle my
karate mentally. I feel that I have progressed some in this aspect this year.
Also, I've noticed that I have improved on a couple of other things as
I struggled to achieve the three goals that I had set for myself.

In the year 2007, my goals are going in a more physical direction.

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.

What are your karate goals for the New Year?

Whatever they may be, I hope for the best for you all. Good health,
joy, and happiness to you, and those you love.