Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wow... what a wonderful last class with my students.

We enjoyed ourselves. Inspired by Sensei Jean Frenette, I decided to bring in some music from the Japanese Anima cartoon "Naruto". There are some fight songs that last exactly 2 minutes. I had the students doing their basics to the rhythm of the fight song to give them a feel of what a sparring session could be like. First, I found that the students didn't feel the rhythm of the song.. the 1, 2, 3, 4 beat. We worked on that together, and then I had to adjust the basics to involve 4 movements forwards and 4 movements backwards. I found that the students, and I moved more in fighting stance than in strong set front stances.. but that was o.k. It introduced them to the idea that if they ever had to use their karate in a quick manner that they wouldn't be ending up in a perfect stance. I learned that direct stepping is far faster than C stepping. This was a revelation to me as I was always told that C stepping would bring me more quickly into range of my opponent.. but when I tried to C step to the music, my feet were too slow to keep up with the pace. I could see how C stepping is an important movement to cultivate when doing self defense, and looking to throw your opponent, or to spin around them, but if you want to close the gap really quickly direct stepping gets you there solidly, and efficiently.

My students were able to grasp doing the kata to music, and the more advanced students were able to work together as a unit to achieve almost a team kata moment as they did continual kata to the song. There was a feeling of unity of purpose, and movement. I had 5 students constantly checking each other for what each was doing, and adjusting to make the kata happen.

I learned that one truly needs to relax throughout the movement, and tense only at the end of it to achieve a good technique when attempting to match the flow of the music. If you try to throw the technique too tightly, you miss the beat.

It was so much fun to do the kata to various types of songs. There was a light hearted song, a sad slow song, a fighting song, and a lovely song. Each one gave a different feeling as you did kata. I could see the students respond to the fighting song with deeper stances, and more concentration on kime, yet with the light-hearted song there was more smoothness, control, and flow to the movements.

Every single student, including Sensei, came out of this class flushed, and covered in sweat, and yet one of the students remarked to the other in shock "NO Way! That wasn't an hour, was it? It felt like 10 minutes..."

At the end of class, I looked at each student almost to memorize their faces. I explained that musical kata is not part of most Martial arts styles, in fact, it can be considered an abomination of kata by some Martial artists. I went on to tell them that I feel that using music while training is a tool that can make a kata more aerobic an activity, or to help one to learn to relax, and enjoy their karate, but that it should not be the way that one trains in kata all of the time. Kata, I told them, is designed to teach our bodies how to move in a self defense situation, and needs to be done with that mental attitude. However, the challenge of trying to do a kata to music, as my students had experienced, made one quite aware of how easy it is to become lost, and make mistakes, and want to give up. There will be many moments in their lives when they will be faced with a challenge such as a really hard math problem, and they will want to just give up. One of the things that karate teaches is that they can succeed against such problems, they only need to continue trying, and working towards their goals. The first time that they did a front kick it felt awkward, was weak, and didn't look too good, but in time, after practice, and correction, and more practice they achieved a front kick that was effective. If they treat that math question with the same type of attitude, they will learn how to be victorious over it, and will progress. I finished my class telling my students the quote that a black belt is a white belt that never quit, and that each one of them has a bright future ahead of them, they only need to keep working towards the promises that they make to themselves each time that they say the Dojo Kun: that they seek perfection of character, will be faithful, will endeaver to excel, will respect others, and will refrain from violent behaviour.

My supervisor came to visit our class just to tell me how much she will miss my presence at this facility. She assured me that as soon as I am ready to teach Kyokushin karate she would request, and even expect, for me to come to her and open a Kyokushin dojo as a Sensei. She wants me to come back as soon as possible.

Next week, my students and I will gather together for one last time. I have chosen to have a farewell party that day. All of us are bringing treats to eat, and I have chosen little Martial arts clips from various fantastic actors such as Jet Li, Tony Jaa, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Lee to show the kids as we party together. I smiled and said to the kids "Yes.. these are movies that you normally wouldn't have access to because they are restricted. So if you tell your parents that Sensei let you watch "Enter the Dragon" at class.. holy cow.. Sensei would be in trouble.. but I'm not letting you watch the movie.. I'm just showing you a clip of the Martial arts that I've already previewed for content. So for our last class together, the parents are welcome to come watch movies, and eat treats with us. Hopefully that way I won't get into too much trouble."

Yes, I'm going to miss these students. Wherever they go, I will keep them in my heart, prayers, and memories. For a short while we trained in karate together, and learned more about ourselves, and about each other. I am grateful to have had this experience in my life.


Colin Wee said...

I learned that direct stepping is far faster than C stepping.

Direct stepping is far faster than C stepping especially when you're standing upright. Saying that, when you're standing upright, you don't get the massive acceleration you can get when you're in a deeper stance (in C steps). Think of the sprinter - and how their legs are lined up at the starting point.
Direct stepping in a deeper stance doesn't allow you to use your leg muscles to their maximum potential.

The Chon-ji Acid Test


supergroup7 said...

I can see that happening, Shihan Colin. I found that as I worked towards speeding up my movements to meet the beat of the song, my stance raised up, and then my body switched to direct stepping. However, when I'm doing kata in a deeper stance, I can feel how awkward fast direct stepping feels... it's like I'm falling forwards, and catching my momentum.

Colin Wee said...

That's because when you're in a deeper stance you can't engage a fast twitch movement like you can when you are more upright. Deeper stances require you to accelerate yourself forward - meaning you are slower at first and then you move really quick in the end. Doesn't work well with music I think.

C stepping in deeper stances allows you to pull the COG into the centreline and then fire off the leg muscles - keeping you balanced. With direct stepping, your COG is a bit a ways from the support leg, and you end up falling to one side and forward.

BTW - what's with the 'Shihan Colin'? Have I done something wrong? ;-)


[Mat] said...

"it's like I'm falling forwards, and catching my momentum"

Hey Sensei,

Precisely. It's generating momentum. Interesting!!

supergroup7 said...

Gee, Colin, I'm adding the Shihan title because I'm doing my best to be respectful to the aspect of your knowledge, and experience in a public place.

I have been thinking about the internet, and various interactions of communications, and how easy it is to show a lack of respect to others. Sometimes we do so without even realizing that we have insulted others.

If I walked up to you, as a friend in a restaurant, I believe that I'd just call you "Colin", but if you were interacting with me in a dojo, I would bow deeply to you, and call you "Shihan".

This cyberspace of my weblog is an extension of my inner dojo. It is a place where I discuss about Karate, and how training has revealed various things to me. Yet it remains a public place where many other people come to visit, and read.

I'm trying to balance the demands of respect. Since you were teaching me about direct stepping, and C stepping.. I thought that adding "Shihan" kind of fit the moment.

But talking about the title "Shihan" is more of a friend type of thing, so I thought I could just call you by your first name.

Man.. that sounds complicated...

supergroup7 said...

Oh Mat.. a whole new world of understanding clicked into my head as I felt the differences within me between direct stepping, and C stepping quickly. I actually could feel my muscles struggling to do the various movements, and adjusting to meet the demand. I never was at a strong enough level before now to have noticed such activity. I think that this is why one needs to have a certain amount of experience, and training in Martial arts before the techniques, and stances start to reveal their mysteries to you.

Colin Wee said...

Gee, Colin, I'm adding the Shihan title because I'm doing my best to be respectful to the aspect of your knowledge, and experience in a public place.

I know Mir. I was just kidding.