Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My first student to suffer..

Tonight, for the first time since I started teaching, one of my students suffered the experience of having to run to the washroom to throw up. I've seen this happen during karate training more than once, but this is the first time that I've been the one causing it.

I stood there accessing what I had asked the class to do, wondering "Was I asking too much? Gee.. I thought that I had really brought the demand down due to the heat."

Yes, it was hot in my dojo. The temperature outside was over 30 degrees celcius, and my dojo was not air conditioned. I was wondering if any of my students would show up to train in this heat. There were more than one exercise program that has been cancelled at my facility due to lack of attendence. To my joy, and pride, 99 percent of my students came to train, and they came EARLY! They were all there to greet me. One of my students was out camping.. lucky one.

When we first entered the room, it felt cooler than anywhere else, but that didn't last long. As soon as we did a few exercises, we all felt that we were training in a sauna.

One of my poor students lasted the first quarter of the class time, but suddenly had to rush out of the room. Luckily, I had an older male student to accompany him to the washroom, and provide support. I'm glad that the washrooms are just across the hallway from our room.

I hope that this heat wave passes soon. Up until now we've been having a really wonderful mild summer.

My facility is going to be doing some renovations in September. Let's hope that they consider installing air conditioning.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On vacation

2 weeks of no Kyokushin classes due to summer vacation. I've been missing the routine.

Sure.. I still had Shotokan to attend, but for some reason, it just wasn't enough for me. I guess I'm just a karate addict.

Yes.. I added training at home. It's different to train by oneself. I sped up the bunkai sequences into almost fighting speed, and did a half hour of training in 12 minutes. Talk about breathless at the end of it! My kicking exercises were done in smaller portions as I would do 20 kicks, put away some clean dishes, and then do another 20 kicks.

I found myself doing my sit ups, push ups, and other conditioning exercises as I watched t.v. with my husband.

Kata, and Bo training was in the backyard, and well... my grass didn't like that much.

I caught one of my Basic Kyokushin Kata on video for a friend from a forum. I can share it here for your entertainment. It's called "Kihon Sono Ichi", and according to the more experienced Kyokushin Karate-ka, this kata is mainly performed by Canadians. It is not found in the other Kyokushin dojo around the world.

This first video is being performed on the street in front of my house. Notice: I'm wearing Gator shoes. I was concerned about glass, and rocks. The feel of those shoes on my feet truly made kata more interesting as they shuffled around.

I'm doing the next kata more slowly, emphasizing the movements. I shifted over to the grass to avoid the cars that were driving down the street.

I just thought that I'd share this with you. Why waste a perfectly good set of videos?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Shotokan Secrets": What an awesome book to read

Summer time gives me the chance to read up a little on my favorite topic: Karate.

Shihan Colin was extremely generous, and offered me the chance to read "Shotokan Secrets" by Dr. Bruce D. Clayton. Thank you so much for your gift! I thoroughly enjoyed it

I could barely put the book down. Dr. Clayton makes history come alive in your hands as he describes the environment, lifetime, and events that Master Matsumura, and Master Itosu faced which brought forth the hard-style type of karate which would later evolve into Shotokan, Wado, Kyokushin, Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon D, etc.

This book looks at various aspects of training in karate through different lenses, and makes the concepts contained in Kata come together with flourish.

Containing images from past lithographs, and sketches, this book transports the reader into the mindset of the Masters, and opens up new outlooks for the modern practioner.

"Shotokan Secrets" Is a great addition to a Martial artist's library!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My backyard lawn is getting eaten up by my feet

It was a great day for training outside this morning. One enjoyable thing that I noticed was that each time I sent a kick there would be little bits of grass flying from my toes accenting each kick. Well.. that encouraged me to do my Kyokushin Kicking kata: Sakugi Taikyoku sono ichi, ni, san, yon. I learned pretty quickly that there is a dip in the level of my yard, and an incline in the other direction. Balancing on one leg, turning with balance and sending a side kick in a 90 degree direction became extra challenging as I faced the bumpy surface of the lawn, and the slanting of the yard. Roundhouses were fun to execute also as my support foot had to adjust for so many different variables as it pivoted. I found myself leaning too much this way or that way, and catching myself as I overcompensated. The kata wasn't as graceful, but it sure was challenging.

I pulled out my Bo staff, and worked in the open air enjoying the freedom of being able to swing it around freely. There were no interruptions, just me, the wind, the grass, and my Art.

Then Mother Nature saw fit to start the rain. I debated with myself with a smile thinking how nice it would be to train in the rain, but since it was time to make lunch, and I was just wearing a T shirt, I decided to go indoors.

I finished doing my kata training in the backyard, for some reason I was looking down at the end, and suddenly I saw tons of bare muddy patches where grass used to be. To my dismay, my feet had chewed away at the grass. I could count at least eight 4 inch big patches of mud in a square foot. Sigh... This is similar to how dogs will wear away the grass beside the fence. I could see my neighbour pointing to the muddy patches and saying to my husband "yeah.. it looks like you've got black belt problems."

I will have to be gentle on my lawn otherwise it will all die away. I'll have to give the lawn a week or two to recuperate before I train on that patch again.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I don't have a Kyokushin blog.. so this is the place

"But green's the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be"
From Kermit the Frog's song "It's not easy being Green"

I received my belt rank promotion last night. I'm green.

You know what? When I started training in Kyokushin, I really never aspired to be anything other than just happy to be allowed to condition my body, and learn with the other students in that dojo. It was a delight, and a inner shock to see that 4th kyu Green belt being placed around my waist. This was one of the colors of all of the Sempai, this was the color of someone who had some idea of what to do during class.

I'm green. It's not just the color, and rank that fills me with joy, it's the recognition from my Sensei that I can be of service to him as one of his lead belts in his dojo. I received the impression that I had performed quite a worthy effort during my belt rank test, and that my Sensei was VERY satisfied with my progress.

My heart fills with trepidition that I'm only 3 ranks away from Shodan in Kyokushin. There is a wailing ( almost sorrow ) within me. I know what Shodan means now, and how it changes one's training, and focus. It changes how you are taught in the dojo. It almost seems that achieving Black is similar to someone shifting over on the driver's seat, and handing you the reins with the words "You know what to do, now go ahead, and drive.." One of the reasons that I LIKE being a Kyu rank is that I love the journey, and challenge of each level of learning. It also changes how others see you. So many times I've seen new white belts cringe at the thought that I am their partner in Shotokan. They see my Black belt as a fearful thing, and I can see their eyes shifting around looking at the other lower belts with longing. It takes awhile before new students start to understand that I can be a wonderful partner since I can adjust, and control my strikes, and I can help them achieve their goals. .

Such opposite feelings rage within me. I'm happy, and joyful to receive this promotion which allows me to be one of my Sensei's lead belts, and to be allowed to share in helping other students learn. Yet, I grieve how much closer I am to autonomy.

Yet, is that not another one of my goals? I could not stay a child all of my life, I had to grow up, become responsible, and embrace my independence.

I do have one consolation. As an adult, I have found a way to allow my inner child to express herself, and continue existing in a supportive, and positive way. Perhaps I will find a way to keep the kyu level experiences of discovery while at the same time maintaining my Black belt maturity. I haven't found that balance yet in Shotokan, but then it took awhile for me in life to learn to allow my inner child to exist how can I expect instant knowledge of how to balance Beginner with Master within me.

I am just a few moments away from becoming a double Black belt in two arts. How did that happen?

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Beyond tired..

Beyond thought..

But I feel so satisfied. Gee.. that sounds crazy.

I'm so sore that I woke up at 3 am from the pain, and the only way to get back to sleep was to go sit in a hot bath to relax my suffering body. Yep, I had just gone through a Kyokushin Belt Rank test.

I'm not done yet. I've still got Breaking boards to do. Therefore, I cannot tell you whether or not I passed this test.

Essentially, passing doesn't seem as important to me as the fact that I faced this challenge, and gave my utmost to each moment. Let me tell you.. they were LONG moments.. very long exhausting, roll your eyes to the back of your head, fall over wishing you were dead, moments.

At one point, my mind said "I want this to stop!", my body agreed totally, and I felt myself wilting, then somewhere in the depths of me my spirit said "I'm beyond this, I'm above this, I can handle this..." I felt myself focusing on my breathing, my whole mind centered on that little spot within the bottom of my body and feeling the air coming in, and down, and swirling at my center. The rest of me had this "Oh well.. we might as well do what we can to keep on because there really is no other choice right now." I found myself moving, blocking, and attacking with such a calmness that I had never felt before.

The only other time that I've felt this sort of feeling was this one time in my youth when I had done a little cross country running. I had ran into the Wall that is mentioned by many endurance runners. This Wall feels like you have no air, you have no energy, you feel like your heart is going to explode, but if you can keep going in spite of these awful feelings, you gain a second breath, and then you feel like you can run forever. I had managed to run past the wall, and surprise myself with the renewed ability. This only happened once, but I still remember that moment with a smile.

I'd like to say that I gained a second breath during my belt test, but it wasn't like that. It was more like I was still on my first breath, but I had figured out how to make it stretch a little farther.

Today, I'm exhausted. VERY satisfied with myself, and my effort, but I'm feeling the results of it... ALOT!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

No wonder journals are good for you!

"Brain Scans Reveal Why Meditation Works

Melinda Wenner
Special to LiveScience Sat Jun 30, 1:35 PM ET

If you name your emotions, you can tame them, according to new research that suggests why meditation works.

Brain scans show that putting negative emotions into words calms the brain's emotion center. That could explain meditation’s purported emotional benefits, because people who meditate often label their negative emotions in an effort to “let them go.”

Psychologists have long believed that people who talk about their feelings have more control over them, but they don't know why it works.

UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman and his colleagues hooked 30 people up to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines, which scan the brain to reveal which parts are active and inactive at any given moment.

They asked the subjects to look at pictures of male or female faces making emotional expressions. Below some of the photos was a choice of words describing the emotion—such as “angry” or “fearful”—or two possible names for the people in the pictures, one male name and one female name.

When presented with these choices, the subjects were asked to pick the most appropriate emotion or gender-appropriate name to fit the face they saw.

When the participants chose labels for the negative emotions, activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex region—an area associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences—became more active, whereas activity in the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotional processing, was calmed.

By contrast, when the subjects picked appropriate names for the faces, the brain scans revealed none of these changes—indicating that only emotional labeling makes a difference.

“In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses,” Lieberman said of his study, which is detailed in the current issue of Psychological Science.

In a second experiment, 27 of the same subjects completed questionnaires to determine how “mindful” they are.

Meditation and other “mindfulness” techniques are designed to help people pay more attention to their present emotions, thoughts and sensations without reacting strongly to them. Meditators often acknowledge and name their negative emotions in order to “let them go.”

When the team compared brain scans from subjects who had more mindful dispositions to those from subjects who were less mindful, they found a stark difference—the mindful subjects experienced greater activation in the right ventrolateral prefrontral cortex and a greater calming effect in the amygdala after labeling their emotions.

“These findings may help explain the beneficial health effects of mindfulness meditation, and suggest, for the first time, an underlying reason why mindfulness meditation programs improve mood and health,” said David Creswell, a UCLA psychologist who led the second part of the study, which will be detailed in Psychosomatic Medicine."

These results might explain why I feel better after I have written down my thoughts. I've done that type of thing since I was a child; journaling my emotions, and thoughts. I've always found myself to become more grounded and less emotional after I had typed out, and looked at all of my responses to the various things that were bothering me. Perhaps by taking the feelings within me, assessing them, labeling them, and all of the other mental activities that are required to write things down I was able to use my right ventrolateral prefrontral cortex more than my emotional center.

NOW..... Is this transferable to moments in sparring? There is no way that I could pull out a paper and pencil during a sparring moment to document my feelings and name them, but perhaps just a mental shift of thinking from "feeling" an emotion such as fear, anger, frustration, etc. to naming it might help control those feelings, and turn on the calm logical center within me. Can I train my mind to state to itself "I am afraid of the oncoming attack, but I can handle it."? Gee... that takes quite a while to form a phrase like that in your mind. Sparring moments, actions, and decisions happen in milliseconds. Maybe I can bring the naming of emotions down to a sudden thought of the word "Fear", "Anger", etc.

I can't see that small action changing what happens in my mind because there is no solution to the problem. Gee.. it could even worsen things, couldn't it? For example, if I'm afraid of snakes, and I stand in front of a snake, and say to myself "Yep, I'm scared." By focusing on my fear over the fact that this little gardner snake is moving before me, would I not edge myself into a panic? I would think that I would need to start analyzing the fear, and talking logic into myself as to how I can handle it all.

I'm thinking that the goal of a Martial Artist is to attain a mental disposition of calm, and logic before the sparring session, and then to maintain it throughout. I think that we train to be able to treat fear, anger, or pain as a non-issue during a fight. Before, and after a fight.. that is a different story. The better we can understand ourselves, our emotions, and how to handle them, the better a Martial artist we can be. As I consider this part of training even more deeply, I think that our goal, when we are fighting, is to knock our opponent's mental solidity off, and to instill fear, etc. in them in order to make it more difficult for them to cope with the fight.

So then what do we have when we are sparring with another Martial artist? We have two people ( or more) attempting to break through the mental training of the other person and to create unbalance meanwhile the other person struggles to do the same to you. Like two people pulling at a tug of war, the result is that both will become stronger. However, I'm thinking that care must be taken to realize the level of training of the person in front of you when working together in a dojo. The mental environment of a person is really based on past experiences, and is a very variable place of advancement. I would not ask a 5 year old child to attempt to lift 200 pounds, neither would I ask a timid partner to handle extreme agressiveness.