Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Facing the comments, and criticisms of others

In the next few weeks, as part of the City program's pledge to keep improving their community classes, I will be handing out evaluation forms to the students of my dojo.

Yeah.. my reaction at the news of this was for my eyes to pretty much bulge out of my head in shock. Since when has a Sensei handed out evaluation forms to their students saying "How was my teaching?"

Geez! Holy cow! I can't picture it. Up until now, I've always experienced the "I'm your Sensei.. you are the student. You do not correct me. If I make a mistake, you say "osu" and do what I tell you to do until I realize that it was a mistake. Maybe it's NOT a mistake, maybe you just think that it's a mistake but I'm showing you a new way of doing something..." I've had Sensei purposely make a mistake, and tell us to do the wrong thing just to see if we would obey silently, or complain. Correcting Sensei might have meant a really good number of push ups to remember which one of us was the teacher, and which one of us was the student.

But.. these evaluation forms are part of my program. Four times a year my students will rate my teaching ability, and tell me of what they feel I should improve.

I am open to this idea. Sure.. as a new Sensei, I haven't fully developed into my role yet, so I'm open to listening to the student's thoughts, and opinions. I can't see how writing down their comments will change the authority that I have as their teacher, nor the experience and knowledge that I have to offer them. I realize that there may be things that I cannot change to meet the student's expectations. I cannot make learning how to hold a side stance any less uncomfortable. I cannot insert more games into the curriculum as in we are gathered in that location to learn karate, not to improve on tag, basketball, or dodgeball.

Well.. I will see what happens in the next two weeks.

I just have to say "Unusual.. very unusual."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Supporting my training through a healthy lifestyle

Two years ago, I started changing my diet to help support my body's efforts to heal itself. I started to eat based on a food combining philosophy. I did notice that many things about my health has improved since following this manner of eating.

I thought that I'd share this dietary information in case anyone is interested in it, and would like to learn more about it. The main concept is that starches and bases do not mix.

"The principles of food combining are dictated by digestive chemistry. Different foods are digested differently...

* Starchy foods require an alkaline digestive medium which is supplied initially in the mouth by the enzyme ptyalin;

* Protein foods require an acid medium for digestion- hydrochloric acid.

As any student of chemistry will assure you, acids and bases (alkalis) neutralize each other. If you eat a starch with a protein, digestion is impaired or completely arrested!" Food combining

It isn't as easy as it sounds to try to separate starches from proteins. If you think about it almost every meal in our society is a combination of the two. For example, hamburgers, pizza, tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, fish in batter, sandwiches. I honestly had to slowly acclimatize myself to keeping the two separate. There have been times when I craved a hamburger, and cheated on my food combining rules a little. The result was for my skin condition to flare up, and cause me quite alot of itchy distress. I quickly learned that my body does not like the combination of protein and carbohydrate.

My family is starting to get used to the different way that I eat... and I am getting to a point where I can comfortably choose a vegetarian dish in a restaurant with a smile on my face.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Effective teaching

When I was at a point in my life where I needed to write essays, I learned an important sequence of approaches that helped improve my writing skills. The main idea was " First, tell them what you are going to say, then say it, then tell them what you said". My fellow essay writers might recognize this sequence.

This formula also can be used in a teaching setting to help students become more aware of what the goals are for that class, to work towards the goals, and then to review their performance. I found myself using the same sequence each time that I taught my children in homeschool, and now that I teach Martial arts, I am using the same method to help my students to focus as they learn.

After we bow in, and are still in line up, I will announce what the goals of this class will be. During class, I will adjust, refocus, remind, and work the goals into the various exercises, patterns, and sparring. Then at the end of class I review what it was that we just did, and encourage the students to bring the information home to practice. In my eyes, bringing home the information, making it their own, practicing it during the week.. THIS is where the most advancement, and improvement will happen for each of my students. Karate is similar to any other art, such as learning a musical instrument, or even learning to paint a portrait, wherein it is the day to day practice that builds the skills, and not the 1 hour lessons.

However there are some things that we, as instructors, can do to help build skills in our students.

"Pike (1994) cites a study that concludes that "if people were exposed to an idea one time, at the end of 30 days they retained less than 10 percent. But if they were exposed to an idea six times, with interval reinforcement, at the end of 30 days they retained more than 90 percent. Interval reinforcement means that an idea was presented once and then reviewed perhaps ten minutes later, an hour later, a day later, three days later, a week later, two weeks later, three week later.""

There are SO many details, and intricacies that happen when one attempts to do something as simple as step forwards in front stance, and send a middle level punch. To have to focus on it all at once, and perfect it all at once is nigh impossible. We need to break things down to attainable goals. Review, remind, refocus, and recenter towards the accumulation of these goals each and every class.

Therefore, for example: A class could be structured to focus only on a few concepts such as keeping the front knee bent, and the punching hand in the proper target position. As the student focuses on improving this aspect of their movement, a teacher might notice that the rest of their performance lessens such as speed, or posture. Since the whole class is being dedicated towards achieving a bent front knee.. the goal is success in this direction. Only if the student is showing proficiency in keeping to the main goal, should they individually be encouraged towards adjusting something else. For them, the class might become focused on keeping the front knee bent, and keeping their hips level as they move, or increasing the speed of transition.

Our main goal as instructors is to help our student gain in understanding, confidence, and ability. Yes.. proper technique is also important but it takes a certain amount of physical experience, and muscle strength/ skill to be able to achieve the desired results. There should be a marked difference in how a white belt sends a punch, and how a black belt sends a punch due to the amount of experience, and knowledge. Expecting a beginner to achieve perfection is not realistic. It is like expecting someone to be able to drive a car perfectly as soon as they sit behind the wheel for the first time. Yes.. there are those talented individuals that are capable of doing such feats, but then.. they still lack experience, and that can only be earned through time.

Each succeeding class needs various exercises to help remind the student to keep to their original goals. In time, they will not need to focus on this movement to happen. The body will remember the proper position on it's own. One of the greatest obstacles towards proper stance/ technique/ posture is that weak muscles feel discomfort, even pain when attempting to meet the goal. The students are frequently tempted to lower the demand on their resources in order to keep training, without feeling the discomfort. For example, most modern day people have developed bad posture. We curl our shoulders in, and hump our backs when we sit on a chair, or in the car, or in front of the computer. Most of our day is spent crunched in on ourselves. Then.. when we attempt to do a physical action such as golfing, dance, or karate we realize that we need a straight back. It will actually hurt to have to hold a good healthy posture. Just like weight lifting, there has to be a slow accumulation of demand. Weight lifters start with low weights, high repetitions, and build up their ability to handle more stress. The same has to be expected of those who are starting in the art of Karate. They need to build up the various muscles in the trunk, legs, and arms to be able to train at the level that they desire.

Training with weakened muscles is asking for an injury. The body starts to attempt to adjust the strain on the weak muscles by putting the stress onto other parts that are stronger. There goes proper technique, and now you see a higher chance of injury. Each student needs to train to the point where their muscles feel the need to strengthen, but not to the point where each muscle is over trained. Over training goes against progress.

There is a wonderful resource on the internet concerning creating a lesson plan, and implementing it. I will provide only a sample from this webpage, and encourage you to read it in more detail as it gives WONDERFUL directions towards effective teaching. I did edit some details out of this sample keeping to what would be prevelant to a dojo setting.. just to make it less bulky. All of the information on this website is great. Warning: It is directed towards setting up, and providing a lesson on "weather and meteorology" but the clear, well explained concepts of effective teaching can be pulled out, and quite useful to anyone.

5. "The Introduction"

The "Introduction" may be the most important part of a lesson. It sets the stage for the rest of the lesson and prepares the students for learning. Never underestimate the importance of a good introduction.

Let's examine some the things that might be included in a lesson introduction.

Attention Getter: * When a class starts the students are usually milling around, chatting with someone, or even nodding off. You need to get their attention and divert them from the frivolity of the moment. This may be as simple as a clap of the hand, a loud "Let's get started!", "ringing a cow bell", or turning on the overhead with an appropriate cartoon. The objective is to get them to focus their attention on you, so that you can start the lesson....

Topic: * Always start a new training session with a brief explanation of what the session will cover. This opening will help the student focus attention on the topic at hand.

Motivational Statement: * Students are frequently tuned to WII-FM when a class starts, the very personal What's In It For Me station. A motivational statement at the beginning of a lesson helps them tune into the lesson topic instead. It tells the student why the lesson is important to them, what benefit they will get from the lesson, and why they should pay attention during the lesson. Through motivational statements, a trainer sells the lesson to the students. Motivational statements can often be critical to the overall success of a lesson, particularly if students question their need to be there.

Link to Other Lessons: In the same way the lesson is related to a student's job, the lesson should be linked to other lessons.

Objectives and Overview: * Always state the lesson objectives at the start of a lesson. The lesson goal and objectives define what the lesson will focus on. When properly phrased, objectives clearly define the outcome of the training and let the student know what will be expected of him/her. Objectives are a natural bridge to the content of the lesson. An overview of the lesson topics can be used as the first tell 'em step, i.e., tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em. Here is an excellent opportunity to highlight the main points of the lesson.

Jargon, Acronyms, Technical Language: Every discipline has its set of jargon, acronyms, and technical terms. Some of these terms may need to be defined up front or an acronym list handed out at the start of a class. In any case, ensure that students know that they may interrupt you and ask for an explanation of unfamiliar terms as terms arise during class.

Finished Product: Depending upon the content of the lesson, it is sometimes useful to show students what they are working toward, be it finished product or an example of the lesson goal.

Lesson on teaching webpage

Every Martial artist is asked to help teach others at some point during their rank promotions. It is considered as part of our path to share our knowledge with the lower Kyu belts. Having the wisdom of being able to assess the need of the students placed in your care, providing an achievable goal for them to improve upon, and having the ability to explain/translate your knowledge into something that they can identify, and understand is the mental challenge that forces a higher belt to grow even more ability in their own skills, and art. It demands much patience, contemplation, and creativity on the part of the instructor. However, I feel that it is rare that we are taught how to teach as we progress up the belt rank ladder. In my personal experience, it's usually a moment when we are called out, and asked to go over there and help that person learn their kata. This is equivalent to a "sink or swim" situation, (in my eyes).

But how does one teach someone how to teach martial arts? I'm guessing that the idea is to watch one's Sensei during class to see what he/she does, and then to emulate them as best as you can when you are on your own.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My article has been moved

The article that I wrote for Shotomag "The Joy of Karate Training" by Mireille Clark has been moved to another website that contains LOTS and LOTS of Shotokan karate articles, and resources.

Click here if you want to check it out. There is plenty to surf through on this site:

The Shotokan Way

If you want to find my article just look for the clickable link halfway down the home page of The Shotokan Way that says "Material from Shotomag".

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interview Meme

This meme has been circulating the internet for a while now. Here are the rules if you'd like to play:

1. Leave me a comment saying "Interview Me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the questions and answers.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview readers in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Here are the questions Amber asked of me:

Before I answer the questions, I would like to warn you (if you don't know this by now) that I type out essays and novels when I respond to things. For the convenience of my readers, I will provide a condensed answer first, and then an expanded version for those brave souls that have time on their hands.

1. When and why did you begin your journey in the martial arts? (oh, a 2-parter!)

Condensed answer: When? Feb 2003 Why? I fell in love with Kata.

Expanded version: In the year of our Lord 2002, I was placed in a very difficult situation at home. My autistic son was struggling, and suffering in school. His behavior was worsening at home also. Something drastic had to be done. I had used every support and resource available in the school system, and it had brought us as far as we could go. In an act of desperation, I chose to homeschool my son in an attempt to help improve his academic skills. My other children asked if they could homeschool also. I was on my own. The school system did not offer me much in helping me to know which each grade of student needed to know. Filled with trepidation, and lack of experience, I embarked on the challenge of creating a syllabus for 6 grade levels. Grade 6 down to Nursery school. The internet became a valuable resource. I gathered up my finances, and started going from used book store to used book store looking for text books to help provide material. I joined various homeschooling groups. My main problem was that I wanted to provide some sort of Physical Education aspect to our schooling. However, I was quite overweight, out of shape, and totally negative about exercise. I had promised myself that once I was out of grade school I would not go near any sport or physical activity again. All of those negative, enforced embarrassments, and rejection that I had felt in Gym class had turned me so against any form of exercise. I had kept my promise to myself, and now faced the consequences of such inactivity. I weighed 190 pounds, and I could not climb one flight of stairs to go do laundry without having to hold the wall, feel dizzy, and breath hard. I didn't want my children to have such a negative view of sports, but I couldn't provide them with something that I lacked myself.

One day my daughter came up to me with a flyer from the local community center that talked about "free" karate classes available to the area. I inwardly groaned at the thought of my little girl learning how to fight, but she was adamant. I reluctantly agreed to escort my little 8 year old to and from the dojo. This was in September of 2002. Each week, I would force myself to face the 20 minute walk to the dojo, sit there with a novel in my hands, and pretend to ignore the class when in actuality I was watching the Sensei's every action, and statement with protective eyes. The Sensei impressed me with his patience, kindness, humility, strength, and knowledge.

My daughter was pulled to the side, and taught her testing kata. Heian Shodan. Suddenly, I placed down my book, and was entranced. The kata spoke to me. There was so much poetry, mathematics, patterns, and positive energy that just rolled up in that kata. I desired to be able to perform kata... yet I felt that there was no way that I could train like all of the other students.

I went home feeling sad that I would never be able to perform a kata, and spoke out this feeling to a friend of mine. He was studying Tae Kwon Do at the time. My friend asked me what was stopping me from learning kata. I thought about the answer and I realized that it was "me". I was stopping me from pursuing this avenue. My friend stood up, and taught me the beginning Tae Kwon Do pattern. I think that he called it "Il Jong". ( Did I get that right Colin?) In the space of 15-20 minutes I had grasped the basic movements of the pattern, and I realized that I could do this, if I really wanted to.

At the next class wherein I escorted my daughter I approached the Sensei with the question "Is it possible to learn karate without learning how to fight?"

I heard him make a startled sound, saw him do a quick look in my direction, and his eyes widened a little, but he just respectfully asked me the reason why. I explained my attraction to kata. He told me to listen to my body, and to take it easy when I needed to, and allowed me to join the class.

Everything was difficult for me. I was so out of shape. I was 39 years old, and filled with a list of physical ailments. Thyroid problems, circulation problems, weight problems, skin problems, hip problems, you name it.. I had it. But I wanted to learn how to do kata. Don't ask me why I loved expressing myself in kata, it's hard to describe. Ask a painter why he paints, as a carpenter why she builds, as a skater why they skate.. and the answer could be the same as mine.. "It fulfills me."

2. You practice 2 different styles of martial arts. How do you keep them straight in your mind?

Condensed answer: With much effort.

Expanded answer: Oh my gosh.. cross training is INSANE! I have to dedicate close to 48 instructed hours per month, and just as many practice hours at home ( more if I can find it) just to keep the two arts separate in my mind, and body. So many times, I'll find that my Kyokushin "accent" will affect my Shotokan performance. I have to force my hand to chamber at my hip during Shotokan because it always wants to come up to armpit level. I'm a halfbreed. I'm too Shotokan to be fully Kyokushin, and I'm too Kyokushin to be fully Shotokan. I'm slowly succeeding in separating the two arts , but it's always a mental effort. I have to stand there, and focus really hard on imaging the feeling, the attitude, the philosophy of that particular art in my mind, spirit, and body before I move. It was easier at the lower belt levels, but now that I'm advancing in both arts into the higher kyu the little intricate details that are needed to make a technique work start to demand so much more from me. A front kick isn't just a front kick anymore. I have to know how to do it with Shotokan speed, and recoil.. and at the drop of a hat I have to be able to do a similar kick with full power in a thrusting manner for Kyokushin. Don't get me STARTED on the little intricacies of the various side kicks, and chambering! It's like being able to speak two languages like french, and english. Sometimes my french wants to intrude on my english, and sometimes I can think of the english word, but I'm at a loss to remember the french word. Yes.. sure.. all of the main ideas are the same. A punch is still just a punch, and a block that isn't well executed is just a flailing of the arms. There are basic natural laws in body movement, and every martial art has this central point to unite them. As I continue training, I've noticed that my two arts are supporting each other.. but I have to be willing to invest four times the amount of time, and energy to achieve this positive result.

3. How many of your children have shown an interest in martial arts?

Condensed answer: All of them.

At one point all seven of my children, my husband, and I would all go train in karate together. My family swamped the dojo with our presence. My oldest son went up to 8th kyu, and decided to pursue other avenues. My oldest daughter achieved 5th kyu, but stopped training when our Sensei stopped teaching karate. She just couldn't train under anyone else. My autistic son couldn't handle the loud noises of the dojo, he only trained for a few months. My three younger daughters are still training. The teenager is focused on her Kyokushin training, she is 8th kyu (Blue belt) in that dojo. My middle daughter is involved in Shotokan, and is facing her 5th kyu (Green belt) test soon. My youngest daughter is a 10th kyu (Orange belt) in Kyokushin. My youngest son popped in and out of training. It all depended on how he felt that week. I asked him to make a commitment in one way or another. Either he wants to train, or he doesn't. He chose to stay home at this point. My husband (1st kyu) comes to the dojo that I teach at to support me by being another lead belt there that I can ask to help.

4. Have you tried to foster interest in the martial arts with your children, or do you just wait and see if natural curiosity develops?

Condensed answer: It happened naturally.

Expanded version: My children chose to train in karate. I just support their efforts as best as I can. If they chose not to continue training, I would support that choice also. It is nice to be able to share my interest with my kids, but I don't demand them to be involved in it.

It's hard for the kids not to be curious, or interested in karate since their mom is so involved in it. I'm always training at home when I have a few spare minutes. My daughter came downstairs one day to see me passing my roundhouse kicks over the dining room table. I was working on keeping my knee, and heel up. She looked at me quizzically and asked "Mom? is this a new way of cleaning the table?"

The day that I found out that I had earned the rank of Shodan I came home to see my oldest son standing in the living room all apologetically. There was a huge 6 inch hole in the drywall of the room. "Uh.. Mom" he said sheepishly "I was just working on my side kick.. and I was just tapping the wall with my foot, and.. well.. I tapped too hard and my foot went through.. I'm sorry.."

I just stood there with the happy glow of self-satisfaction of the rank that I had just earned.. I looked at the gaping hole in the wall.. smiled.. and said "Oh.. that's o.k. son.. it's just a hole in the wall.. we can fix it."

To this day, my oldest son laughs and says to the other kids "If you ever wanted to get away with murder, you just had to do it on the day that Mom achieved her black belt..

Oy.. my kids will have the strangest stories to tell my grandchildren.

5. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? (I know, that was totally random. That's how my mind works.)

Condensed answer: Brown

Expanded version: Brown has always been my favorite color. I love the warm beiges, the deep sandy colors, the dark comforting earth brown. Chocolate, (my favorite treat) is that color. Brown is a color that supports the other colors. It doesn't stand out asking for attention. It quietly exists, and does what it needs to do. It's the branches of the trees that holds life for the leaves, and fruit. It is the soft cuddly fur of an animal that protects, and provides warmth. It's a basic central color.

Monday, May 21, 2007

And now for something different

I have become a fan of "Ask a Ninja". This is a podcast that is available on the internet. Created by Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine of Los Angeles, this entertaining, and witty selection of podcasts have brought me to laughter more than once. I must warn readers of my blog that there are some mild swear words contained during the episodes. They are not used with vulgarity, but enhance the level of delivery of the humour. Most of the humour is viewable by any age.

Since Ninja training is "martial arts".. I feel quite happy to share this with you.

Below is a sample of one of the episodes as to "Ninjas catching colds".

You can find more episodes here:
Ask a Ninja

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I had too much fun..

My body is causing me problems again. Nothing new..

It gave up on me. Just got all shaky, cold, dizzy, and weak. I was doing fine, kicking away, having fun, and BOOM.. like a curtain falls on a theater stage.. I was barely able to walk, or stand.

I looked at all the reasons why it could have happened:

a) It's true.. I've been doing hard yard work for 3 days straight in addition to all of my housework.

b) I was not eating well Friday. A banana for breakfast, one slice of vegetarian pizza for lunch, and a bowl of vegetable soup for supper. Water to drink all day. That's no more than 400 - 500 calories. Don't scold me.. I just couldn't make myself eat. I knew that I needed more than that.. but there was this core within me that refused to eat. I had to force the bowl of soup into me through "will power" fighting "will power".

I did this kind of thing as a child. Eating was the one thing that I had control over, so I would stop eating. I'd decide not to eat, and from that moment on, I just wouldn't.

I have alot of issues within me from my past.. and fasting is one way that I find that I can cope with them.

I made my littlest child cry yesterday just by describing a few aspects of my childhood. I didn't mean to.. He had come up to me, snuggled close on the couch, and asked me "Mom? What was your childhood like?"

I answered "You really don't want to know, son. Let's play video games instead."

But he really did want to know.. so I started sharing a few things with him in a factual way. I had barely started when he sobbed, and said "Mom.. stop.. let's stop talking about your childhood." I agreed.

I spiritually needed to fast yesterday, and yet I knew that I had to eat to be able to train. Fasting doesn't allow you to train hard. It's like all of your energy is going inwards rather than outwards.

Kata. Kata was the only thing that I could do. I find that kata empowers me. My body starts to shiver with energy when I do kata. I feel breathless- yes, tired - yes, but still filled with power. I don't understand this.. I don't even feel a need to understand. I just know that it happens. When I'm exhausted, and barely able to stand, if I can find it within me to do a kata.. I feel energy surging into me.

When I do kata, it's like I am sleepwalking through the movements. I'm there, but not there. I move, but it's not me moving.. it is the song of the kata playing through time. Each kata has it's own character, rhythm, and expression. They sing different songs, and teach different lessons.

There are different "feels" to the kata. There is a mental "figuring out the bunkai" feel. There is the "breathing in and out of energy" feel. There is the "defending yourself from a real enemy" feel. There is so many expressions, and ways of doing kata that it is endless.

Did I mention that I love kata?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Memories of my first Sensei

Today my heart, and mind keep returning to memories of my first Sensei. What a wonderful person he is, and a joy to train under. These moments are so precious to me. Let me share them with you, and in so doing place them in my blog for me to read, and refresh my mind when I'm old, and my mind is crowded with memories.

a) Sensei's classes pulled every ounce of energy out of you. I can remember a time when all of the dojo students fell on the ground in exhaustion after an exercise. This happened frequently during normal training, but on this special day, the exhaustion was worse than ever. Perhaps it was the heat in the room that had made it extra bad. I fondly named that day as the "purgatory class".

Only my teen daughter and I were still standing. We looked at each other, and saw in our eyes that it was only sheer determination that was keeping us up on our feet.

I asked her in a breathless voice "Why aren't you down there with the others?"

"I do cross country running Mom.. remember? I've learned that it isn't good for you to be prone when your body is recovering from a hard workout. What about you? You look like you can drop any second.. why are you standing?" she answered.

"I'm afraid that if I go down, I won't be able to come back up.. It's better to stay up here, and fight for balance" I answered sheepishly.

We both giggled at our stubbornness, and yet felt pride in each other for our determination.

b) I remember a moment when Sensei had us in line, and he commanded us to get ready for moving basics. We responded quickly, and loudly with kiai.. totally ready for the count to start us moving.

Sensei said "Each time you.."

When we heard the sound "Each".. we responded instantly by surging forwards and doing the combination thinking that he had said the Japanese word for one. ( Ichi)

The look on his face was priceless.. such a mixture of shock, dismay, and pride at the same time.

c) Each class.. just before it would start.. I would come into class, and go sit on the floor in seiza before Sensei, who was sitting on a wooden bench watching the students warm up, to tell him something. It was usually little administrative things like this student needed to do this, or to report to him about something that he wanted done. After class, I would always run up to him, and thank him in my politest Japanese for the class that he taught. I had noticed that the young students were coming straight from school, not eating supper, and training on an empty stomach. As an effort to support the kids I created a little healthy snack, and drink for them to have an hour before class. I always kept a couple of cookies, or a muffin to give to Sensei after he had taught. I knew that he was coming straight from work, and after class he was going to another dojo to teach again. He wouldn't eat supper until near 10 pm. These moments were just a few seconds of interaction with each class, but for some reason it meant so much to me. In a way, it was how I showed my gratitude for all of the instruction that he was providing for me, and my family.

d) I was sent to another dojo to bring papers to the Sensei there. It happened that my Sensei was visiting that dojo at the same time that I arrived. The Host Sensei greeted me warmly and asked me how I was doing on my training.

I responded with a mischievious smile saying "My Sensei would know that answer better than I.."

The Host Sensei turned to my Sensei and said "Well? Does she train hard?"

My Sensei responded with a deep seriousness "She hardly trains.."

The Host Sensei's face registered total shock at that response, and he looked at me quickly to see my response.

I was wearing an ear to ear grin. I didn't expect any other answer than that one from my Sensei.. ha ha ha I KNEW that he was proud of me, he had never really said it to me in words, but I had seen it in his eyes, and had heard it in his voice. I know that I've brought much joy, and pride in his heart that I was his student.

e) Sensei caught me at a nearby restaurant at the buffet table. I was having lunch with a few of my family members, and I was focused on the salad bar choosing what I wanted to eat. Suddenly, I felt an arm come around my shoulders, and a man's voice saying "You don't want to eat that.." in my left ear. Time froze.. I saw my sister's white terrified look. I felt my body prepare to send an elbow strike into this man's center, and then my brain said "Wait.. WAIT! That voice.. I know that voice.." I stopped my attack, and turned.

"SENSEI!!!" I crowed in delight. I nearly dropped my plate. I instantly bowed to him, and "osu'd" "Sensei, I nearly struck you with my elbow.."

"I know" he said with a smile "I was ready.."

Of course he would be.. silly me.. It took alot of explaning to my sister as to who this strange man was who felt that he could grab my shoulders like that and get away with it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Masters speak from the Past

Sensei Itosu sent a letter to the education system of Okinawa asking them to include karate in the schools in the year 1908. This letter was called "10 Articles of Karate". As I read the concepts, and philosophy contained by the Teacher of the founder of Shotokan karate, I find my spirit rejoicing that my vision of Martial arts is echoed in the words that I'm reading.

I especially found the admonition to not train until your face is red quite funny. I should have read that section 4 years ago. I was always red like a tomato as soon as I'd begin moving when I started learning karate. It would have been much healthier for me to have lowered my effort, and worked more on technique than to risk a heart attack trying to keep up with others. My Sensei had told me "Listen to your body". I listened to my body, sort of.. I just told it to keep going in spite of all of it's complaints. Ah.. no wonder I suffered so much at the start of my training. Too bad that knowledge comes from experience.

A translation of the Ten Articles of Karate
By Sensei Yasutsune (Anko) Itosu
October, the forty-first year of Meiji

Karate is not of Confucian or Buddhist origin. Shorin and Shorei schools were originally introduced from China into Okinawa. Each of the two styles has its strength, thus both should be retained.

1. You should not practice karate only for the purpose of developing your physical strength. What is essential is to serve your sovereign and your parents at the risk of your life in case of emergency. If you should involve in a fight with a robber or a rough neck by any chance, you should ward off a blow. You should not harm him.

2. By practicing karate one can develop a strong body and his fists and feet can be used as weapons. Thus if boys are trained in their youths, they will become men of special ability. Such men of martial arts can make contributions to the country as soldiers if need be. When he defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, Wellington said, "Today's victory is the outcome of lad's hard training on a training ground in England." A well put saying.

3. To master karate in a short time is extremely difficult. The proverb goes that practice makes perfect. If you practice for one or two hours every day, you will not only become physically strong but master the art of karate by the end of three or four years of training.

4. When you do makiwara-tsuki, keep these in mind: lower your shoulders, chest out, keep your feet and centralize your "ki" on the abdomen. Do the tsuki practice in this manner for one hundred or two hundred times.

5. When you assume a karate posture, bear these in mind: straighten your back, lower your shoulders, keep your feet, centralize your "ki" on the abdomen and harden the whole muscle of your body in such a way that the whole force is pulled toward the abdomen.

6. Learn various moves. But study when and how certain moves are applied and then practice the moves. There are many secrets handed down by word of mouth regarding stop moves and counter moves.

7. Study moves. Consider which move is good for building physical strength and which one is good for kumite.

8. You should practice karate in the following manor: glare, lower your shoulders, and harden muscles as though you were actually engaged in a fight. Practice in this way, then you will be able to move naturally in case of a hand-to-hand fight.

9. Do not put too much strain on yourself while you are practicing, otherwise you will get bloodshot and your face will turn red. These are signs of over-practice which will ruin your health in time.

10. Many karate masters enjoyed longevity in the past. Through karate one can build muscles, promote digestion, improve the circulation of blood. All of these contribute to the long of life. Therefore karate should be introduced into course work as the basis of physical education at the schools. Thus a lot of karate experts will be produced in the future.

Dandelions and on being a Sensei

Karate lessons can be learned from the strangest moments.

I was working on my knees in my backyard picking dandelion after dandelion out of the ground. As I worked I thought of my recent promotion as a Sensei. I wondered about Mat's statement saying that I had earned such a title ages ago. I shook my head trying to understand what he saw in me that I was having difficulty seeing.

I kept inching up on the lawn. Wearing off the skin on my palm as I put pressure on the tool to remove the weeds. My knees burned with the unaccustomed constant demand. I felt the rest of my body complaining about the push, pull.. push pull that was needed to get each weed out. I said to myself "Gee... I'm a stubborn one. No matter what it takes I'm going to achieve my goal of removing these weeds, aren't I?"

Again my thoughts returned to how this weeding was mirroring my path in karate. No matter how many times I felt the pains of training, I kept fighting to achieve understanding. My knees didn't stop me as I first started training in karate when they swelled up. Neither did any other problem that arose on my path.. I adjusted, and demanded, and continued. I felt the loss of so much. I felt the loss of my first Sensei. I felt the confusion of searching for a new dojo. I never accepted defeat, but continued with a sort of centered oneness that didn't allow for any other outcome in my life than for me to continue striving to learn my Art.

But then.. I can't see myself as such a valuable "Sensei".. I'm so young in the arts. I barely started wearing the shiny black off of my new belt. There are so many people out there far superior to me when it comes to knowledge, skill, and ability. What do I have to offer my students?

Then I stood up and looked back.. and saw what it was that I had to offer them.

My struggles, and efforts to remove the weeds had left a straight area of trampled grass in the lawn. It stood out of the rest of the grass through it's very existence. It was clear, and green, and special. It was made by my perseverance, my long suffering, and hope. It was my whole self being focused on the achievement on one goal. It showed others where to start on their own paths. I remembered that the translation of the word "Sensei" means "Born before".

I thought "Yes.. yes.. I can now accept the title of Sensei."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Three cheers and a hurray for me!

With a little help ( Thank you Black Belt Mama ) I was able to get one of those statcounters on my weblog. Through that experience, I learned how to get my name on my profile, and I added my favorite picture here and there.


My blog looks a little less plain now.. n'est-ce pas?

Now back to removing dandelions.. I'm 1/3 finished the back yard. I'm telling you, I want that weed hound now so bad it hurts. I mean really hurts. I've been in seiza for hours pulling out the weeds with a $5 tool from the local hardware store, and my butt muscles are becoming really toned, and extra sore.

Feeling Heian Yondan as a Bo Staff kata

Oh my gosh.. what a bright moment for me. I started visualizing Heian Yondan in my mind as I laid there at 4 am in the morning attempting to relax and fall back asleep. Sometimes my body does that to me.. it will wake itself up, and decide that it's time to wake up. I'll look at the clock and think "What? NO way! I've got a good 3 more hours due to me." Then my body and I argue about whether or not I'm tired. One of the things that works is if I go through my kata in my head through visualization. By the time I hit Tekki Shodan, I'm out, and in dreamland again. Not this time..

I was doing Heian Yondan in my head, and suddenly, I mentally placed a Bo staff in my hands. The kata FLOWED with the staff.. it felt so right in the visualization. I became all excited at the possibilities contained in that action. I remembered seeing Mat doing kata with his Sai, and then with empty hands.. and I said "Why not?.. Why not follow the movements of the kata, and place the Bo staff in my hands and see what comes out?"

Of course I searched for the hope that perhaps I could do ALL of my empty hand kata with a Bo staff in my hands.. ha ha ha Bassai Dai with a Bo staff????? Sacrilegious!

Guess who didn't go back to sleep... no matter how much she spent energy visualizing.

I gave up, got up, and started my day. One good thing is that I got a headstart on the housework.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The story about the bug..

During class in the month of May 2005 at my shotokan dojo, my Sensei noticed a tiny little black bug crawling on the floor.. the reason he pointed it out to us was how impressed he was at how quickly the little thing had managed to crawl from the outside door to the middle of the dojo.

Therefore Sensei chose not to kill the little thing but to allow it to cross the dojo, and get to the other side. (This little black bug becomes important to the story.. so just wait for it.)

We reached the end of class, and we students are standing in line waiting to be dismissed.

Sensei is telling us about the upcoming schedule of classes. All of a sudden I see this black speck flying towards me quickly, and I feel a little thump on the base of my neck (This is where the little bug landed on me.. but I didn't realize that it was the bug at the time.) I suddenly feel something fall inside my T shirt, and it starts crawling down among my feminine attachments. My eyes went wide in shock.. gosh.. it felt like it was at least a inch big.. Sensei was still talking. I was at my wit's end. I raised my hand trying to get Sensei's attention.. but he wasn't looking in my direction. Finally, in desperation, I squeaked out "Sensei!".. but Sensei was focused on what he was saying, and didn't notice my attempt to disrupt.

AARGH! I felt the bug crawl lower! AAAAARGH!!!!!! I stood still trying to respect the line up. Finally, the lead Sempai said "Dismissed". It felt like an eternity. Before the line had a chance to move.. I bolted for my backpack which contained some clothes, and started sprinting out of the dojo.

Sensei said "Mireille? What's wrong!!?"

I yelled back "THERE's a BUG in my GI!!!!" my voice filled with that tinge of horror and I rushed to the ladies changeroom.

Sensei turned to my husband and said "What did she say?"

My husband looked totally flabbergasted, and said "It sounded like she said that there is a bug in her gi!"

Sensei said "That's what I THOUGHT I heard her say.."

Meanwhile.. I was in the women's changeroom.. frantically working at the ties of my gi jacket, and cursing the Japanese designers that created the outfit. I managed to get it off, and stood there stripping off my T shirt as fast as possible to see the little black beetle type bug land at my feet. It was no more than an eighth of an inch big.. just a tiny little thing.

I put back on my clothes, caught the bug in my hands, and went back into the dojo to show my fellow students what had flown into my gi.

I don't know if one could call that mental control or not.. HA HA HA.. But my husband said that he wouldn't have been as polite during line up, as soon as he would have felt a bug fall into his clothes, he would have reacted right then, and not wait until the class was dismissed.

I hope that this story gave you a little laugh,

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Oshogatsu Renga poem from Budo Blues weblog

At the beginning of this year, yonjuhachironin, from Budo Blues weblog, asked his visitors to submit little haiku poems that he would unite, and create a big poem. I offered my donation, and waited to see what he created. It was a wondrous poem filled with hope, and light. I fell in love with the beauty of this collective poem, and I would like to share it with you in it's edited form. I have yonjuhachironin's permission to post the poem here. Please enjoy:

Graceful emptiness
Shadows of barren branches
Sunrise on the snow

Flowers sleep beneath the cold
Dreams reach through the frozen dark

A year of promise
New horizons emerging
Looking ahead now

Predictions set like the moon
Peeking from behind the clouds

The past falls away
Lurching and dragging its corpse
The future leaps, waltzes in

The harmony of the spheres
Music for a dancing mind

Fleeting winds of time
Past’s gentle touch, then strength flows
Seeds hope in silence

Potent beads of effort rain
Joy and grief create new life

Time continues on
Seeking, learning, forgetting too
Advancing forward

Encourage brilliance to enter
Embrace it, live it, enjoy.

Beauty and calmness
Sunlight on cherry blossoms
Dawn’s possibility

Upcoming days filling with light,
progress, peace, and potential

Nighttime visions fade
Smiling children awaken
Morning has broken

If you would like to see the unedited version you can visit his weblog here:
Budo Blues

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Back to adding to my Blog

The weather is lovely, and the grass in my yard is long. I have far too many dandelions. Since I do not like using chemicals.. I shudder at how many hours it will take to physically pull those out.

I'm not really up to anything physical today. I think that I have some sort of flu thing bothering me. Just didn't feel hungry, in spite of the lovely supper my husband had prepared. I have a slight fever too. I don't even feel good enough to curl up and sleep. Now.. that's nasty.

Yep.. tomorrow is Mother's Day.. and I'm not up to celebrating.

I wasn't up to Karate training today either. I was sluggish in class this morning. It just felt like I was hauling a wooden wagon behind me as I moved in stance. Even Kata seemed to pull energy out of me. I trained anyway. Karate comes from within.. and my center chose to train.

Life is like that though.. sometimes you do things just to do them.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Warning: The contents of this post is religious in nature

I've been thinking about death, eternity, and heaven. One of my biggest concerns is "Will there be karate in heaven?" Yes.. I know.. sounds childish... yet it's one thing that I would LIKE to see happening up there.

I realize that Karate is the study of war, and since there is no conflict in heaven, there would be no war.. so therefore no need to study "how to fight".

I realize that Karate is geared to the perfection of character. Since people are supposed to achieve as close to perfection as possible in their afterlife, there would be no need for hard training. We will already have patience, perseverance, peace, humility, self control and goodness.

There is supposed to be no pain, no tears, and no suffering in heaven. There goes body conditioning... sigh..

But I LIKE karate.. gosh.. I love it. Sparring with someone who has the right attitude, focus, speed, skill, and who respects you as a fellow martial artist is a JOY. It's like dancing superbly. There is such GOODNESS in it.

Sure.. there are those moments when the person you are sparring with only views you as target practice.. but those aren't the heavenly moments that I'm talking about. It's when both sparring partners have a mutual respect for the spirit of the other, and there is both a challenge, and a support coming from both sides. It almost feels like you could spar forever.

The thought that comes to my mind is that Angels sing.. Angels sing continually. They don't have to, it's not like God is going to get upset if the Angels stopped singing. It's not like their singing "does" anything.. like keep the floodgates closed or something like that. They just sing because they want to, they enjoy it, it expresses them. Perhaps I can have a hope that since I have developed such a bond with expressing myself through karate, there is a good chance that in heaven I'll be able to continue with this expression even though there is no need for it.

Oh.. I'll probably sing too.. I like singing. I might chose to ride horses, dolphins, or Pteradactyls. I might check out what's going on in the other parts of the universe.. but I'm SURE that I would want to enjoy myself in kata.. and express myself in the joy of Martial arts. I'll see if I can bump into the Masters, and share my gratitude for the gift that they have given to us. It should take a couple of millenium to find them among the billions of people up there, especially since there are new people going up there everyday.... but hey, I have an eternity.. what's a few millenium? I'll just interrupt a couple of angels from their singing, and ask for directions to the nearest dojo.

BUT.. just in case there is no karate in heaven.. I'd better really enjoy, and treasure every moment that I have to train in karate down here on earth. This is my chance to share my joy, to help others develop, to learn as much as I can, and to build up my health. I believe that investing mentally, physically, and financially in my Art is called for by the fact that I only have today. I'm never guaranteed a tomorrow. Today I have a Sensei, a dojo, and others to train with.. I need to give it my fullest energy, and dedication so that I can be the BEST that I can be with what I have. Heaven can wait...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Looking for an opportunity to compete in Kyokushin Kata

I've become interested in competing in the Kata division for Kyokushin, but I'm not aware of any tournaments which include this aspect. It almost seems that most Kyokushin tournaments focus only on the sparring part of full contact fighting, and seem to put aside the Weapons, and empty hand kata.

I feel that kata is an important part of training. Kyokushin kata has such a powerful, graceful, and intricate presence. There are so many lessons that it teaches. It shows forth such a different philosophy than the other styles of karate in it's movements, and applications. A Kyokushin performance of kata, done with spirit, power, and balance is mesmerizing. It has a complex combination of little movements combined with large strong powered strikes. The weapons Kyokushin kata is so practical, and solid.

In my small way, I would like to compete in Kata as a Kyokushin participant to bring forth ( as best as I can) an interest, and desire to look more deeply into one's kata. Regardless of how I place as a participant during the tournament, I feel that my efforts, spirit and my love for kata that is performed as "Kata no chi" ( "Kata as my blood") might spark some interest, and curiousity in other Kyokushin karate ka.

So.. now I have to find opportunities.. and put aside money to be able to travel, and attend these tournaments.

Would any of you fine readers be aware of an opportunity to compete in Kyokushin kata in North America?

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Bubishi with comments by Sensei Victor Smith

With Sensei Smith's permission, I offer the following contemplations of the Okinawan's Bubishi.

"I'm going to take a little time to look at one section of the`Bubishi', Methods of Escape. My source will be the recent translation of Funakoshi Ginchin's `Karate Jutsu', translated by John Teramoto.

I chose this translation solely because it was Funakoshi who was first to share the Bubishi's existence to outsiders, and he included this material both in his original book and later in his Karate Do Koyan, but left it in the original Chinese. One wonders if the emergent JKA from Funakoshi Sensei's teachings ever paid attention to
what was shared?

The section is pertinent from the perspective escape from an attack is still as much as an issue today as it was in the past. Most obviously these comments are escape against unarmed attack.

Note: All kata referenced in my analysis are the Isshinryu versions

The section I'm looking at is the Methods of Escape

1. If you want to attack east, first strike west.

This section is an obvious reference to the use of diversion. If your enemy is looking to the east they may not be checking out the west, leaving them vulnerable.

I attended a seminar by a senior Judo-ka, long ago. He presented a technique his Japanese instructors waited 20 years to show him, but he didn't keep the same restriction. While grappling, he would use both hand to really pull the opponent downward to the right.

The opponent would automatically counter pull to the left, and then he fell backwards throwing them over his left shoulder. First East then West.

2. If you want to stamp forward, bring up the rear foot as much as possible.

I interpret this as inching forward on your opponent. Keep your front foot stable as your rear foot inches forward. That means you have to cover less distance when you stamp forward and can do so more quickly.

Kata leads us to standardize our technique, but when facing an opponent subtle shifts and deceptive openings to set up our response are useful, even if not formally seen in the kata.

Of course I may be assuming too much, such that the stamp is with the back foot, it may be the front foot. In that case sliding the rear foot forward actually places your center closer to the attacker allowing the front foot to reach in further.

What does stamp mean? Is it a cross stomp kick?. Stamp might be interpreted just as is says, a stamp to the instep of their foot. Trying to break it and paste them to the floor. That stamp may be accompanied with upper body technique done at the same time, and becomes a force multiplier among other uses.

Even more simply, the stamp might be nothing but a big owie, creating a distraction to escape (keeping with the section title.

3. If you want to rotate your body, intensify the soft power.

Keeping your body rigid inhibits your ability to rotate, slows you down and decreases the power that can be emitted from the technique.
A great example are the turning techniques in Naifanchi Kata. Keeping the torso soft allows quicker rotation. In fact the turning technique developed in Naifanchi is the same turning technique used with greater rotation in Chinto.

Rotation is much more subtle than the large turns. It also involves the smaller turns used in technique movement. An example are the rotations of the knee during knee release to move a technique into the optimal zone of entry to an attack Reinforcing that soft becomes hard.

Interesting choice of words, intensify the soft power? Sounds like a contradiction doesn't it.

4. If your hair is being pulled, use kyogeki (literally a large halbred. Kyogeki here might mean "Spear Hand". Another suggested reading is "Thumb Attacks".)

Several time's I've been shown how to press both hands on the hand grabbing your hair to neutralize their grab, but putting your hand into their throat works for me Thumb attacks seem too complex when your head is being jerked around, imo.

5. If you want to strike your opponent, destroy his tenchuu (Ch: tianzbu, this is central supporting pillar, ... here the meaning might be to attack the opponent's center line.)

Again sound advice on how to strike. I was shown no matter where you face an opponent find the centerline of their body and strike towards it. At times trunk rotation can spin off attacks to the bodies outsides, but the center line as a target remains true. You also have a great many targets of opportunity on the centerline.

6. When the opponent falls to the ground, pin his head face down and you will win.

A common approach in many arts is that an attack isn't countered until the opponent is immobilized on the ground. Face down, kneeling on their arm is a good way to conclude their attack. One of the Sutrisno Aikido concepts is as the individual is going down, utilizing a wrist lock to roll the opponent into that position no matter which way they originally fall.

7. When you fall to the ground, take advantage of your opponent's sense of superiority.

There are so many variations of the lower body combinations. The one I began with included kicking from the ground with front thrust kicks and side thrust kicks. If you've been downed, they have to reach down to get you, and if they didn't ride you down to remain in control, their inexperience can be used to counter them.

8. If grabbed from behind, attack to the rear with your elbow.

All chambering is a rear elbow strike. The double roundhouse strikes in the upper body combinations (from the Lewis lineage) are as much double rear elbow strikes as roundhouse strikes.

9. If grabbed from the front, attack his testicles.

Works for me.

10. If someone grabs your [head], attack his throat. (victor.smith. -
perhaps related to concept 4.)

Note there is a principle here. The throat is extremely unprotected.

11. If your opponent forces mud into your mouth [as a final insult after your defeat], attack his throat.

An opponent who is using defeat to punish is making a amateur mistake. If they were professional they would just finish you off. If they haven't their hubris might be used against them, and the action described might well leave their throat open for attack.

12. In close combat, use your elbows.

One wonders if the addition of elbow/forearm strikes in Wansu and SunNuSu were specifically added for this reason.

13. In distant combat, use a reverse stamping kick.

The reach of the leg being a deciding factor to use the kick. Note the use of stamping, as if the use of the kick is to immobilize the opponent. It really reminds me of the kick being used in the To'on Ryu Seisan Kata. A whole body leg stamp, very different from any other style.

14. If you want to damage the opponent to your right, lower your right arm.

I presume this is tactical thinking. If your opponent is on your right, lowering your right arm might be an invitation for them to attack a perceived weakness. In turn you create that weakness to counter that attack. More a tactical theory than a tactical lesson.

15. If you want to stamp forward, use the spear hand.

This is similar to the concept shown to me in our version of Wansu. In this case the spear hand would appear to be too short for a scoring stroke, but a following leg underneath the arm has a much longer reach if they go to attack against the spear hand.

16. If you want to kick high, first bring your rear leg up as much as possible.

I think this might be interpreted in the sense where the knee points the foot follows. So to kick higher the higher you first raise your knee, the higher the foot will go.

17. If your hand is twisted, bend your elbow.

This is advice how to counter a grab. Grab's work when they are applied in a very specific angle of attack. Often bending the elbow will remove that line of attack, allowing further counters.

18. If someone grabs your sleeve, use gekisho (literally, tip of

I would suggest a counter fingertip strike to the throat against an
arm grab.

19. If someone grabs your hem, use your knee to escape.
20. If he tries to stomp you, just use a strike.
21. If you want to kick him, by all means use your knee.
22. If he is short, do not use your legs.
23. If he is tall, then slip inside.
24. If grabbed from below, attack him from above.
25. If grabbed from above, lower your body immediately and attack
from below.
26. If he pulls your hair, raise both arms as if removing armor (and
seize him by his pressure points).
27. If he is choking you, attack with shuto (spear hand).

28. If someone approaches with shoulders swaying, be prepared to block his kick.

I see this as interpreting the swagger as a sign an attack is coming. Professionals work not to give out signs, so there is less chance of counter.

29. Your hands and feet (stance) must never fail to be aligned in the proper direction.

I find this most interesting. This is the crux of the alignment theory we follow, to increase the power of our techniques, to give no sign of weakness for the opponent to support. This doesn't just apply to the hands and the stance, it covers the entire range of motion potential. Even the eyes looking in the wrong direction affect a
correct technique.

I don't find this a surprise. My own understanding arose from my tai chi studies and then was applied to my Isshinryu. But the secret is just doing Isshinryu 100% correctly every time.

Each imperfection decreases from your power. Kata then becomes the most important tool to help craft our shape in response. But it still is just a tool and other tools are required, that and never ending work.

So some sound tactical theories, IMO, from the Bubishi.

Does this suggest additions, corrections, new directions of thinking.

I believe one summary you might make of these escape techniques is that they are ways to deal with a less trained attacker. They work with using the attackers focus against them. Lead their mind in one direction and then counter in another.

respectfully submitted,
victor smith
bushi no te isshinryu

Friday, May 04, 2007

O.K.. It's time!

I've been teaching for over 4 months now, my students are heading into their second belt rank test, everything is calm, I've gotten my Sensei's permission to tell my internet friends about my promotion.

I have been promoted to Sensei of a karate dojo. I have taken over an existing club for a Sensei who had to leave for work related reasons.

I still have to stay quiet about my promotion where I train as it hasn't been officially announced yet. *chuckle* I think that it's funny that people in Australia, England, United states, and Montreal know about this, but the people that I face everyday in class are still not aware.. ha ha ha.

Some of my internet friends already know of this promotion as it has been mentioned on other Martial arts forums. I've been delaying the addition of a thread on my weblog for quite awhile... but I feel that the time is right.

So.. now that I'm a Sensei.. I expect better behaviour from the visitors of my weblogs or I will be forced to apply some virtual discipline!! That especially pertains to you Mat!! *cracks the whip* ( Do Sensei's use whips?? or should I smack my Bo staff on the wall or something like that? Maybe I should just make you go to the end of the internet and back 20 times..)

Oh.. I feel the aches, and burdens of being a Sensei already wearing down on my shoulders.. boo hoo hoo.. I think that it's time to consider retiring. (wink wink)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Admiring my own wisdom

Being humble means accepting those good things about us with the same calmness as seeing our limitations. Today I decided to look over the answers that I had provided for the Combat Panel about a year and a half ago.

I was struck with how wise these words were:

"It will be easy to put aside all of your previous effort, and let the fires of motivation die out within you. What I have noticed is that every white belt who enters the dojo has the dream of being a black belt sparkling in their eyes. They don't actually believe that this goal is achievable for them, but they have a hope that it may be a possiblity. The truth is that it isn't just a vain empty hope, for each of them Black belt can be a reality. Each one of these white belts CAN become a Black belt if they find that solid core of determination within them to continue putting forth a full effort to do the best that they can in spite of obstacles. So many beginners start with high hopes, but for varying reasons, they will drop these hopes as the pressures of training start to form them into what they are hoping to become. In my opinion, the main difference between a white belt and a black belt is all the days of sweat, energy, and effort that has accumulated a certain amount of knowledge, ability, and skill. It isn't magic. It's all of those thousands of repetitious punches, kicks, kata, and exercises. It is in the constant mundane repetition, and practice of basic movements that you will find the key to the most awesome martial artists."

Karate is for everyone, and anyone. Dare to follow a dream, and achieve your goals!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Id, the Ego, and the SuperEgo

Looking into Psychology again.

There is a theory proposed by Sigmund Freud about how a person's mind works. The "Id" is the subconscious, the "Ego" is the concious, and the "SuperEgo" is the "partly conscious" or in other words the "Master control". In his theory, our Id is the more primitive bodily side of us. The Ego is the rider, and the Id is the horse. The Ego is pretty much controlled by the SuperEgo which is our value system. The Ego is sandwiched, and balanced between the Id (which is controlled by pleasure and pain), and the SuperEgo (which demands higher behaviour).

Lately I've been looking at my Karate training, and keeping Freud's "structural theory" in mind, I've noticed something very interesting. I believe that one of the Goals of Karate stated in the Dojo Kun "To Seek Perfection of Character" is to build up the influence of the SuperEgo, and Ego over the Id.

I look at the whole concept in this manner. I equate the Id to the "body", the "Ego" to the mind, and the "SuperEgo" to the inner spirit.

When we are in hard training, our Body will complain to us.. putting it's messages into words, you'd be hearing "I'm tired, I have no energy, I don't want to do anymore, it hurts, let's stop.. I'm thirsty.. I can't do anymore.. let's stop now.."

Our mind assesses the whole situation "Well.. yes.. I have been training hard for awhile now... but I'm not really tired. Pain? Well.. it's supposed to happen, that is part of the training, as long as it's not joint pain, the muscles are actually getting stronger though this. Energy? come on.. I had plenty to eat today. Stop? Why should we? I paid good money for this class, and I just started.. but then.. maybe I'm overtraining.. maybe I should lower the amount of output for awhile and see what happens. Water sure sounds good at this point, I know that I'm not really thirsty, but it would be great to go get a drink of water."

Then the Spirit will announce "I CHOOSE to train! Tired, hurt, thirsty, it doesn't matter. I am NOT going to quit and go home. Body! Cope with it.. and join me in my goal. Afterwards you will be rested, and get water. Mind.. FOCUS on our goals!!! We are going to finish this..."

Then everything seems to unite into ONE Being. The mind, body, and spirit unite into that KIAI.. everything becomes still, and suspended in time and space and at that point there is no more chatter between the three parts. They all go in the same direction with the same intent. You feel almost a glow of power coming from your center as you perform.

Have any of you felt this sort of thing as you trained?