Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve.. completed

YES! In spite of hardly any room to move, and half a dozen people interrupting the area where I am training consistently, I have succeeded in my goal of doing 209 Chudan Tsuki ( middle punches), 209 Mae Geri ( Front kicks), and 29 Kata to bring in the New Year.

My Goals last year were:

Kihon: To work on my right fist so that it is more solid, and constant. To unite my body's effort when doing push ups so that I do not stress my shoulders.

Kata: To compete at a Tournament in Montreal this spring as a Kyokushin Adult in Kata competition.

Kumite: To work on keeping my guard hands up at in a better level when sparring so that they can be useful.


I'm quite happy to state that I have improved in my Kihon goals. My push ups are more controlled, and united. My fists could stand improvement, but I have managed to bring up the level of my efforts.

I was not able to achieve my goal to compete at a Tournament in Montreal, BUT I did travel to Montreal, and trained with 3 wonderful Sensei. I brought home some Bo kata to work upon.

In Kumite, I have been successful in keeping my hands more up, and forwards. I will continue to work on this aspect.

This year I have a different goal for all three areas of my training:

I want to focus on improving my inner mental condition.

In Kihon, I want to learn to see each technique as worthy of it's own existence, and focus on the quality of that movement alone rather than thinking of the past, or future.

In Kata, I want to learn to see beyond each movement, and live outside of the technique seeing applications, and meaning.

In Kumite, I want to learn to anticipate my opponent's attacks.

I wish you all a most wonderful, healthy, and joyful New Year! Good training to you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas, and 2 weeks of no classes

I received a wonderful Christmas gift from my husband. He chauffered me to the dojo where I used to train years and years ago under my first Sensei. I was able to visit with some Sempai, and fellow students that I used to train with, and meet some wonderful new friends. I was so proud of their achievements, some had gone forwards, and earned their black belt. Some had competed nationally, and won the Gold medal for Team kata. I barely recognized some of the students as they once were small teenagers, and now were adults. It was a wonderful day of sharing time, energy, and training together.

Yesterday was the final class of this year, and I face 2 weeks of no classes due to the Holidays. This is the aspect of Christmas that I like the least because my body does not understand "holiday". It needs a constant regime of stretching, and working out, or it causes me trouble. I will have to find moments of sandwiched time inbetween the extra parties, and celebrations, and lack of classes available to personally train in the small confined space of my living room as my children try to walk past me to go to the kitchen, or such. I'm going to try to pay a drop in fee, and visit a nearby health facility to work on the machines there to keep up my endurance, if possible. IF the gym is open, and available, I'll sneak in there to do kata.

My husband saw the sad look in my eyes at the thought of no classes for 14 days, and he offered to allow me to practice my self defense applications on him during his vacation days. I might just take him up on that offer ( more than once).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Seeing what I "don't see"

These past months I have been preparing, and preparing for my next rank level. To be honest, I consistently apply myself at striving for more no matter where I am in the rank ladder, but there seems to be an added "spice" when you know that you are facing a belt test in the future.

As I trained, I remembered a very poignant statement given to me by one of my dearest Internet Sensei friends. He told me "Do not only look at what your Sensei is doing, but pay attention to what he/she ISN'T doing." Now, when my friend had said this to me, I was lost in confusion as to what he was talking about, but now, I'm becoming aware of the little "give away" motions which I'm doing that are not existent in the movements of an accomplished Martial artist. For lack of words to explain this concept, there seems to be a very accurate release of energy in an experienced Sensei. They do not waste their time/body movement/emotion. Everything is used well, and there are no warnings. They almost look like they aren't doing anything when they move. There is a relaxed fluidity in the movement.

Here is a video of two amazing Martial Artists of Kyokushin Karate from the 3rd World Tournament 1983 which shows these relaxed, yet powerful sudden movements. Shihan Andy Hug Vs Shokei Akiyoshi Matsui.



I need to look, and learn what my Sensei is NOT doing.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Our society's need for gossip

I've just been thinking about psychology, and Martial Arts lately, and I noticed something really interesting.

People attack other people more with our words than with our fists. We do not need to look far for evidence of this. The recent negative election commercials that have been flaunted in our faces for weeks have revealed this tendency in a very loud way.

Everyday, people wage a war of words. We attack others when they are not around to defend themselves. At times, people will spread nasty gossip about others ruining lives, and careers. In fact, many comedians have made a lot of money with this type of comedy. We see people attack others with angry words to their faces, especially during rush hours. It sometimes seems like people will verbally attack others whether there is a response and reaction, or not. The victim's personal response isn't as important as the actual act of expressing the negative words.

If we, as Martial Artists, work towards using self-control in our physical aggressive tendencies, then it would only make sense that we would also look towards the same kind of verbal control.

“From the moment a child begins to speak, he is taught to respect the word; he is taught how to use the word and how not to use it. The word is all-powerful, because it can build a man up, but it can also tear him down. That’s how powerful it is. So a child is taught to use words tenderly and never against anyone; a child is told never to take anyone’s name or reputation in vain.”
Henry Old Coyote, Crow Tribe Author,excerpt from Respect for Life

But why do we attack others with our words? What are we protecting ourselves from? Or what benefit do we see coming from this activity? I can tell you why I would strike someone with my fists, or feet, but why would someone feel it necessary to attack another person verbally?

"Psychologist Frank McAndrew, a professor at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, who has published more than two dozen articles in scientific journals and is author of the book "Environmental Psychology," says "We can be moralistic about it and say only small people gossip, or people with nothing better to do. But I just think it's wired into us."

McAndrew believes that people used gossip in early civilizations to position themselves for higher status. He says “how successful you were at attracting mates and reproducing, depended, to a great extent, on your social skills and knowing what other people were up to.”"

I am starting to believe that a person feels an imagined power, and in more control of their environment when they verbally can express themselves in a negative manner. Similar to the fable of the fox and the grapes, the fox stated that the "grapes were sour anyway" when he wasn't able to reach, and eat them.

Is there a way to de-escalate, and curb this aggressive verbal behavior in others? Now.. that is an area in which I would like to research farther.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My time lately

BUSY..

BUSY...

BUSY..........

I'm stealing a few moments to write in my blog.. that's how busy I am. I have to squeeze in a practice here, and a moment to study there, and I realize just how much I miss having hours to train on my own at home.

I'm juggling all of the needs, and all of the wants that exist around me, and trying to meet every one of them at a level which allows me to keep them all in a manageable state. I've delegated more responsibility to my teenaged children, and my husband has had to take up the burdens also. Thanksgiving meal was done by his kindness, and he did a superb job!!!

I'm happy though. I embrace the challenges presented to me by my workplace, by my Martial Art, and by my choice to have a large family.

My coworkers are becoming used to seeing me perform kata in the entryway of our area. They seem to just look over, smile gently, and then return to work. I've learned that I must do the kata in the middle of my break to allow 3-4 minutes time for my breath to return to normal before I return to work. I'm considering eating my lunch during my first 15 minute break so that I can use the longer 30 minute lunch for training. Also.. I'm wondering how bothersome it would be to my employers if I take off my shoes and socks during my kata. The shoes hamper my ankles from bending properly in stance... hmmm.. how far can I push this?

Security is now comfortable, and used to my bringing a Bo staff in and out of the building on those days that I train in karate. The very first time that I brought in a Bo, I just walked up the stairs, down the hallway, and into our work area to place the staff gently against the floor/wall. I looked up and there stood a security staff member watching me, and asking "What is the stick for?" He had quickly followed me up the stairs, and down the hallway without my knowledge.. Wow.. he was very silent, I was startled to see him standing there looking at me with questions in his eyes. I explained that I use it for training after work, and that it will stay against the wall until I finish work. He was satisfied with my response, but I realized just how careful I must be to keep to my word, and be VERY prudent with my staff.

Getting on, and off of buses still raises the eyebrows of those who see me, I just act normal, and smile as if I'm carrying a purse instead of a Martial Arts weapon... and all reactions calm down. I wonder if I would get away with this if I was a 6' 5'' well muscled young man instead of a 5' 4" grey haired woman.

There was one person who made my day.. She came up to me with her eyes sparkling, and said "Bo! I do Kung Fu.. LOVELY weapon to work with.. what Art do you train in?" That was a wonderful interchange of joy filled words between two Martial Artists who love what they do.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Our little choices affect the rest of the outcome

We may not think that it is important, but it is in the little daily choices that we affect the greater path of our life.

It is how we execute a stance, or a strike in the mundane basic training that makes or breaks a technique when we need to apply it.

So often we overlook the simple, and focus on the complicated.. but I have learned that it is through the simple that we will attain the more complex. This revelation explains to me the reason why the higher ranked Black Belts return their energy to a simple middle punch over and over again. The basic building blocks contain the answers to the larger picture.

It is important to realize, as Martial Artists, that the things that we learned as a lower belt need to become stronger, and not tossed aside being considered useless.

Skill builds up, and needs continuation from previous experience.

Friday, September 05, 2008

I really enjoyed the movie "Kung Fu Panda"

My whole family, and I ended off the summer holidays by going to watch the movie "Kung Fu Panda" together. Boy, that was something! We took up a whole aisle by ourselves.

The movie was fantastic. I loved how the interrelationships of the characters was so developed. I loved how Martial arts was both spoofed, and yet a gentle respect was maintained throughout the movie.

The main character, Po, is very charming, and lovable.. but I found myself adoring the old wise Sensei, Master OOgway. He stole my heart with his simple complexity.



It was a great animation that I will add to my collection of movies, and I'll be thrilled to share with my future grandchildren.

I am quite happy to hear that Dreamworks is working on a sequel to this movie. I can't wait to see more about the story of Po.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Working on my Chion Bo kata

After working on my Bo kata for over a year now, I have improved it to this level:



I'm quite satisfied with the progress, but I can still see many aspects that I would like to improve upon. I feel that this video is worthy of putting forth as a good sample of my efforts.

I can not dedicate as much time as I'd like to my weapons work as my main focus is my basics, and kata. Therefore, progress may be delayed when it comes to weapon handling.

In the next couple of days I'll be working at my job on a constant basis. Time will become even more precious. I'm actively looking for a place at my job site that has enough room, and privacy for kata practice during breaks. The washrooms are a "no go" here. It seems that the cleaning staff are taking care of the main washroom at the same time as my breaks, and the other washroom is too small for kata movement. Anyway, there are always ladies walking in and out of the washroom. It's such a busy place... sigh. I have tried to go outside to the parking lot but it's really busy there too with smokers coming in and out for their cigarette. I might just get to the desperation level where I practice my kata in the front lobby of the place directly facing the security staff. There's lots of room there... However, this is my last resort. I would like to find a secluded place if possible. My last workplace allowed me to go to the warehouse section. I haven't seen the whole facility yet, and I haven't discussed my options with my supervisors yet so I will not give up hope.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I have been hired..

If you notice a little bit of delay in postings on my weblog it is due to the fact that I have been hired as a permanent worker at a very lovely company. I'm going to be adjusting to the new schedule demands, and balancing my family, karate, and housework with them.

I'd like to share some funny little anecdotes from my interview which relates to Martial Arts:

I was asked to share some important things about myself with my 3 interviewers. The mention of 7 kids raised a couple of eyebrows. I saw a big response to the fact that I had homeschooled them for awhile. When I told them that I was a black belt in Karate, and that I was working towards my second Black belt. Wow! You should have been there! The room erupted in response. I couldn't speak anymore. I just blushed, and quietly waited as they spoke between the three of them spoke words of admiration, and positive support. Honestly, I felt like an Emmy winner at that point. My mind thought back to all of the pain, effort, and sweat that I had put into the past years of training, and I mentally agreed with the words that they were saying to me, but it was a shock to my system to be bathed in so much praise at once. It felt nice, but strange.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Admiration of talent, training, and dedication



I have stumbled across this video of the US Army Drill Team doing a demonstration, and I am honored to have witnessed such dedication, skill, and hours of training shown by their performance.

This, in my opinion, is a form of "kata" in a North American manner where each move has it's own reason for existing, and full concentration is necessary to achieve these amazing results.

I have yet to be lucky enough to witness a Martial Arts demonstration of Kobudo weapons done in such close range with such accuracy. Each one of those rifles has a chrome bayonets attached on the end of them. One mistake can cause some discomfort to either oneself, or others. I do hope that I catch something similar to this on Youtube in the future involving nunchuks, or Bo staff. I would be very amazed and thrilled to see a group performance of weapon mastery.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Relaxed training in the backyard

My daughter and I decided to enjoy some time training together in the backyard. My other daughter, the aspiring recording arts person, caught it on video. I edited her footage down to a few minutes for your entertainment.

We are kicking at a pillowcase filled with a heavy woolen crocheted afghan tied onto the kid's swing set with a white belt. Sure.. it's not the most refined equipment, but it was inexpensive, and handy.... and actually fun to kick at.

We were chased out of our dojo by the build up of mosquitoes as the evening descended.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Parents banned from being spectators

Just recently this year, in my province, parent spectators have been banned from watching their children compete in the sport of Lacrosse.

In British Columbia, the lacrosse league implemented a "Silent night" where parents were not allowed to clap, yell, or cheer during the competition.

In Los Angeles, coaches are held responsible for the behavior of the fans of their team in Youth Basketball.

In Soccer, "Several soccer coaches are dishing out lollipops to rowdy parents, with firm instructions to keep their mouths shut until the candy has dissolved. "

In Northern California, the city of Roseville will require parents of children in municipal sports leagues to attend lessons in sportsmanship.

There seems to be developing a general lower tolerance for unruly parents in the sporting areas.

Will this type of thing happen at Martial Arts Tournaments?

I have seen unruly parents at various Tournaments. Will we be seeing a similar ruling in Martial Arts as we have seen exhibited by the Lacrosse League? I'm talking about the rule of banning spectators from attending. I can't see that happening as the tournament would loose profit in this manner. Each competitor brings in a registration fee, and usually at least one, or two spectator fees.

I have seen "closed" belt rank tests where parents were not welcome to watch their child testing for the next rank. I don't understand the reasoning behind this from an onlooker's perspective. I have yet to see an unruly parent during a belt rank test. But then, I don't know what happens after the test. Perhaps the parent becomes upset that their child did not pass their test while another child succeeded.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Training and painting






Here are a few pictures capturing the many hours that I've spent in the past week on the activity of painting. I swear I will enjoy the result when I'm done, but the day to day hours of repetitive activity can wear out on a person. I've been putting in 5 to 6 hour days just scraping and painting on my own. In these pictures, two of my daughters came and helped me with the garage. I was astonished how much more difficult it is to paint stucco. It's like one has to fight for each 4 inches of painted space! I'm doing this alone so far because my husband's vacation doesn't start until next week. To be honest, I am trying to get as much as I can done before he goes on vacation so that his whole summer isn't spent working hard on the house.

I still train in karate. I take little breaks every 2 hours of painting to stretch out my legs, and do jumping kicks on a little makeshift "toy" that I made for myself out of doubled pillowcases filled with wool crocheted covers, and tied up with a karate belt to my kid's swingset. I'll try to capture what that looks like on video.. ha ha ha.. It must look strange, and unusual.

I've attended a couple of sessions of Yoga. I am amazed at how similar it is to Karate with the emphasis on proper breathing during movement, and on good posture. But then I realized "Doesn't almost every physical activity have this emphasis... like pilates, golf, dance, skiing?" Well.. perhaps it doesn't focus on proper breathing as much as karate, and yoga, but I bet you that deep diaphramatic breathing would help with those activities also.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's been awhile

Yes.. I haven't posted for almost a good month now. I'm so extra busy lately with a house filled with kids on summer vacation, and working towards improving my house/garage. I've been scraping down, and washing down the walls of my home to get ready for painting. So many hours, and hours of dedicated time to prepare for improving the look of my house!

Also, There has been a wedding in my relatives that I needed to prepare for, and attend. I had to spend hours shopping for nice clothes, and making sure that we were ready for the event. We went to 12 different stores to find our matching dresses, etc.

Karate: To my surprise I haven't slacked in this regard, I've managed to find time to practice my Bo, my nunchucks, my kata, my basics, my conditioning, and work on the research for the essay that I need to write for my next belt rank test. Yes, my online computer time has suffered for all of this.. sacrifice has to happen somewhere.. also, I've had less time to play any video games.

Latest Karate musings:

Motivation: Where does it come from? What causes people to invest themselves into a good cause, or a positive life choice, or a healthy habit? How can we support others in their good choices so that they continue in that direction?

I believe that the key to longevity is that these people are willing to look at reality. They open themselves to the possibilities of an activity, and also to the challenges, and responsibilities, and they embrace the whole package.

Karate, for example, involves the whole person. ( At least, in my opinion.) It isn't just that one hour at the dojo a few times a week that will create the karate ka that is desired, but an ongoing investment into the Art. It isn't just the movements of the techniques that make them work, but also the commitment of the mind, and spirit into the action.

Can Karate training be a "past-time hobby" that is put aside, and picked back up after summer vacation? I guess so.. however, I would say that this would mean that the person is willing to begin their training again from the start. They would have to renew, rebuild, and remember what they had achieved months earlier. Personally, I shudder at this thought. It has taken me so much pain, and commitment to gather what little I have now that I do not desire to put it to the side. I know that I would be quite saddened to realize that I had forgotten, or lost what I had gained. No.. I want to build on what I have so I chose to continue training on my own during those moments when summer holidays makes training at the dojo more difficult. In fact, I'm going to expand, and study into my Art to even improve over the summer so that when classes resume, I'm even MORE ready to take on the challenge.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A new branch on my path



I have been given a set of foam nunchuks like the ones pictured above...


I have one word for this:

COOL!!!!!!!

I'm not sure how much I will enjoy learning to swing the nunchuks around my head like that.. I remember how the Bo and I had our special painful moments of learning how to work together. I feel like I'm still a baby at manipulating the Bo.. and here I have a set of nunchuks?? I must be one of those few people who watched people spin the nunchuks around, and be thinking "Oh thank goodness that's not me in that swirl of motion!"

But it doesn't hurt to try.. I cannot dedicate too much time to working with the nunchuks. I really have to apply myself to my Belt rank requirements, to my kata, to my conditioning, and to my Bo... but it doesn't hurt once in awhile to swing a nunchuk.. :-) especially if something like THIS should happen to me...



Ha ha ha.. and this COULD happen to me!!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wouldn't you know it! A blast from my past

Oh.. yes.. on a lark I decided to search up my name on the internet. I found the usual things, but then surprisingly to my joy, I found a list of competitors, and medal winners from a tournament that I had attended in 2004.

I'm listed in there as the silver medal winner of my rank division. My girls are listed there also as Gold, silver, and bronze winners.

This was my family's very first tournament. We had gone to others after this one. The medals from our experiences are many, and fill up the bottom of my dresser drawer. But, as I was taught by my first Sensei, it isn't the medals that I cherish, but the experiences, and lessons that I learned during the Tournament.

My little girls had challenged the Team Kata division. At the ages of 9,7, and 6, these little white belts went up and performed against the other Team kata of black belt level (Adults included). They didn't place at all, which I had expected would happen, but I couldn't help but admire their courage, determination, and willingness to try.

Sure.. all through their team kata performance, I could see one or two of my girls looking more at the judges, and crowds around them rather than focusing on their performance, but who could blame them? Everything was new to us at the time, and standing in that ring was quite daunting for any beginner.

Here are some pictures that were taken of the event:


Heian Yondan ( during competition)

The girls practicing before the event.

Wearing their medals


There is me at purple belt level.. Wow.. I didn't realize how much I would appreciate looking back at the past like this. I wish that I had taken pictures, and videos of my kata when I was a white belt. It's nice to look and see where I was, and how I have maintained, and improved over the years.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Training in Quebec

Osu to all who visit my blog,

I just spent 5 days in the beautiful Montreal, Quebec, Canada region, and I am thrilled to share some memories, and pictures with you.

Thursday night, I was thrilled to be informed that I would be training at Sensei Jean Frenette's Dojo in Boucherville. I had given up the hope that this would be possible as my family event schedule was rather tight for the time that I was in Quebec. Here is a picture of me standing in front of the dojo door. Yes I am wearing a white belt. This is through my own choice. I felt that I had no knowledge of Goju Ryu, and that I wanted to express my respect for this dojo by entering it as a white belt.:


















When I first arrived there, I was not too sure if there would even be a class as the door was locked, and I didn't know if I was even in the right place. Soon, the karate students arrived, and warmly welcomed me. It was a joy to spend a couple of hours sharing the dojo floor with them. I learned more about the history of Goju Ryu, and how it has influence my chosen style of Kyokushin. I was able to partake in many new experiences through the wonderful guidance of the sempai there. Sensei Frenette was so kind, attentive, and supportive. I almost wanted to pinch myself every few minutes to see if I was dreaming.























Friday contained my first disappointment: I had scheduled a wonderful night of training under Sensei Dominic Morin's Kanreikai Dojo. Through our correspondence, I developed quite an appreciation for the personality of Sensei Morin, and I was happily anticipating meeting him face to face. However, family events, and conflicting schedules made transport to the dojo near impossible. Instead, I was "stranded" in the Sorel-Tracy area. I could watch the ferry heading towards Joliette, and Sensei Morin's dojo, but I could not travel on it. Instead, I walked around, and took some lovely pictures.





















































Saturday was a great treat: I joined Mat in the Chito Ryu Dojo led by Sensei Eric Lefebvre. Sensei Eric called forth a special class held on an island in a park. I was surrounded by the beauty, and sound of waterfalls as I tried to focus on my karate. I have to admit that more than once I lost concentration as I turned, and stopped in awe at how lovely it was around me. The grass had the early morning rain still dripping from it, and it felt lovely, and cool on my feet. The sun broke through the clouds to warm my shoulders, and to bring the colors around me into even greater life. It was a fabulous morning experience, and I saw drank in the joy of our Art. Mat and I were able to practice our self defense sequences on each other, and our gi became striped brown, and green with the mud, and grass stains to match the colors of our belts. I met such a group of inspirational, and dedicated karate ka that day, and I am so grateful for that experience.






































Sunday was dedicated to family visits, as I have a large family. Monday night, I was given the great opportunity to train at the West Island Kyokushin Dojo under Sensei John Kalaidopoulos. I was too excited about training here because I forgot to bring my camera with my dogi when I left my brother's car so I do not have any pictures to offer. I entered the dojo with both timidity, and excitement. I had been looking forwards to this moment for months, yet I wondered how my performance would compare to others who train in my own Art. I feared that I would embarrass my Sensei, and yet, I knew that if I put forth my best, he would be proud of me. I could do no more than this... yet.. how does one quiet the little voices in the back of one's heart? I was told that I could train with each of the classes starting with the young children's class, up to the advanced adult. This was 4 hours of training, and although a piece of me wondered if I could maintain the effort, there was a solid foundation within my spirit that nothing would discourage me from attempting this challenge. Sensei John was so gracious, and hospitable to me. I felt like a lost child that has found a home. He provided for my every need, even giving me permission to rest if I felt faint, and dizzy. This gave me a breath of peace as I knew that I could just train as hard as my body would allow. I was thrilled to find that I kept up throughout the majority of the demand. There was only one moment, by the end of the third hour when I was doing another kicking kata, where I suddenly felt the room spin, and my balance disappeared. With a few minutes of rest, and a good amount of water, I was able to come back into the class, and continue. It was quite an educational experience for me as I was treated to various new movements, sequences, exercises, and even Bo training to expand my experience.

I am so grateful to all of the Sensei who provided me with such a good vacation, and great training. Osu

Friday, May 23, 2008

Supergroup7 is headed to Quebec!

In the first weeks of June, I'll be making my appearance in Quebec. Hopefully, within the busy activities of visiting friends, and family, I'll have time to train in karate at various dojo. I'm looking forwards to this short, but sweet vacation from the everyday.

When I get back, I'll be sure to post up some photos, and give you some stories about my trip.

Until then, Aloha, everybody!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Seienchin in the snow



Wow! Just WOW! Beautiful.. Awesome kata done in what looks like freshly fallen snow!!

That's Kyokushin training! OSU!

I haven't had to do a kata in snow, but I have trained in it. It's a totally different sensation entirely! I haven't seen the snow fly around me like puffs of cloud before.. Oh my goodness that looks so beautiful!

I'm grateful that Sensei Steve has allowed me to embed his video on my weblog.

Thank you so much, Sensei Steve!!!

There is sport, and then there is something else...

My latest posting on tournaments brought up some thoughts about different philosophies while training in Martial Arts. I am grateful to Steve for planting the seed of this discussion in one of his comments.

As one trains in a Martial art they will find themselves attracted to the various avenues that is provided by this time consuming activity.

Some center themselves in life and death applications that could save them in a violent encounter. Their own lives depend on how well that they know their Martial art. Usually we'd see these as soldiers, or police, but there are others who chose to focus their training in this direction. This kind of training could never be performed at a tournament as the main rule is that there are no rules, and that all actions are fair in the heat of battle. These people seek to turn themselves into effective weapons of quick decisive destruction as is a necessary skill in the demands of their lives. I would call this as "survival" oriented.

Others enjoy the thrill of competition. They train in order to become the most skilled at their Art. They improve themselves with the goal of winning the most medals, trophies, and acknowledgement for their abilities. Each new challenge motivates them to look for better ways of expressing their Art at a higher level. I would call this kind of philosophy as "sports" oriented.

Some train in Martial Arts because they have noticed that it helps their bodies to stay in shape. They've noticed that training in the Arts has had a positive effect on their flexibility, stamina, strength, and even their ability to think. They faithfully come to the dojo each class knowing that they are investing into their future. I would call this kind of philosophy as "health" oriented.

Then, there are people like me. I understand, and appreciate all of the philosophies that I've listed so far, but my focus is different than that.
How can I describe this in words???

I am "spirit" oriented. I look towards the development of my character into a more positive me. I use the tools that Karate training offers to help me learn patience, perseverence, humility, courage, wisdom, etc. Through my efforts to improve myself, I find that I gain the benefits of learning self defense skills, expressing my art at a higher level, and increasing my health. The benefits are not my focus, they are like a wonderful by-product. Karate is part of "me". My lifestyle, my spirituality, my daily work, my mothering, my interactions with others, etc. all of these things fuel my journey in the Way of Karate. Street effectiveness of a movement is not as important to me as the performance, and understanding of the movement. Winning medals is not as important to me as how the person wins. Health improvement is not beneficial ( in my eyes) if the person treats others with disdain, and disrespect. For me, Martial arts are centered on courtesy, and respect for oneself, and for our neighbour. I see that it is the lack of courtesy, and respect for others that has been the cause of every single confrontation, war, and negative event in the history of humanity.

Is one philosophy better than the others? Well.. obviously, I prefer the one that I am walking upon or I wouldn't be so involved into it, but that doesn't mean that there isn't goodness in the other paths. I know what I want from myself, and my training, and I seek my goals. This is what I'd desire for everyone else.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Kata concepts caught in animation



Beautiful! I love it! I love the symbolism! I love the movements! I love the animation! I love the music! I love the message! I love the impact of the whole scene!

Fantastic standing applause to all those who helped create:

Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 3: Ep 13: The Firebending Masters.

Spring is here!

Thank heavens for the warmer weather! I've been able to get outside and train with my Bo. In fact, I've gotten more training on my Bo in the past 2 weeks than I've managed to scrounge up in a winter month!

The only downside is sometimes the strong winds will blow grit and sand into my eyes as I turn in my pattern. So I've had to learn to compensate by closing my eyes whenever I turned into the wind. This is not a good habit to develop. I could just see myself performing my pattern in class in this way. Luckilly the wind isn't always from the same direction each day.

I love training outside. I'm so glad that spring is here.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Tournament support

I attended my daughter's tournament this weekend, and I witnessed things that I feel inclined to give my impression. Of course, I will not mention all of the wonderful, positive moments because I could fill the weblog with those. I appreciated all of the good things that I saw, and I want everyone to know that my daughter walked away from the experience with great memories. However, there are a few things that I would like to mention that I feel could be done with more focus on the positive. Please understand that my following thoughts come from the various tournament experiences that I've had in general, and not from this specific tournament that my daughter attended. Attending this tournament just brought forth some personal considerations in my mind:


A)Noise behavior: It astounds me that the crowd feels that roaring at the competitors helps them perform. Personally, I couldn't understand this need to scream "GO.. Hit HARDER! KILL them!" at the people sparring... so instead, I stood quietly, and witnessed the moment with a deep respect to the effort, and courage of both competitors. As I stayed there with that deep silent calm filling me inside and out, a picture flashed in my mind. I remembered the movie "The Karate Kid" when the character, Sensei Miyagi, was a still presence of power amongst the noise of the crowd watching Daniel-san fight. It felt so proper to do this, to be silent and to witness with every ounce of energy, and showing both fighters the same respect. When the encounter finished, I exploded in applause, and sound cheering both for their performance. I valued the skill shown by the ones who had trained for this moment, and I encouraged them to continue working on their efforts.

B) Parental/Instructor behavior: I witnessed positive support, and cruel pressure. I have to state that I disagree with threatening a child with punishment if they do not win a medal. I also have to state that there is no justifiable reason for treating a child badly before, during, or after the tournament.

C) Competitor behavior: I watched a negative scene where the winner crowed in triumph, high fived his fellow students, and showed no respect to his opponent. I can understand feeling the thrill of winning, but in my opinion, we are martial artists, not football, or soccer players. There is a different philosophy, and meaning to what we do. I turned to my daughter and spoke to her in severe warning. I said "If I EVER see you treat your opponent in such a manner, I guarantee that I will refuse to allow you to receive your medal, we will leave the tournament immediately regardless of where you rank, you will receive a lecture all of the way home, and probably will hear of my displeasure for the rest of the year. Karate centers on "Rei". Without courtesy, and respect then you are not doing Karate, and I would be greatly embarrassed by your actions."

D) Judge behavior: Perhaps it is my youth in Martial arts that is speaking, but I feel that being a judge in a tournament is a honor, and a responsibility. No matter the age, or skill of the person performing in the ring, it is his/her expression of her ability. A judge should give an honest, and unbiased assessment of the competitor. In my eyes, this is a moment of truth, and that needs to be respected. Points should not be given based on friendship, compassion, or other reasons. Reality is that such things do happen. I can only state that if or when I am asked to judge, I will live up to my values as best as I can. Perhaps, in the situations that I have witnessed in the present, it would be better that I avoid being a judge at a tournament.

Personally, although I am aware that it was only a movie, I want to imitate the honor, respect, and courage that I saw portrayed by the characters of the Karate Kid movie, Sensei Miyagi, and Daniel-san during the tournament scene. I feel that the Cobra Kai dojo portrayed in the movie reveal all of the attitudes, and behaviors that I would ashamed to see in myself, and in my children.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Shihan Hanshi John Taylor, and his newsletter


Shihan John Taylor is an Icon in the Kyokushin Karate Martial Arts World. Words can barely describe all of the progress, and evolution that he has created within Kyokushin Karate. Last year, he was promoted to 9th Dan under Kancho Matsuchima in recognition of all of his contributions to Kyokushin. He mentions this wonderful occasion in his frequently released newsletters called "Shin" where he describes the admirable attributes of Kancho Matsuchima. I will quote just a few words from his article:

"Kancho’s movement among the students and his attention to detail, as well as his humour, gave students a glimpse of the profound impact that Sosai Oyama has instilled within him. Kancho’s technical excellence and immense power confutes the fact that he undertook a serious neck operation several years ago. “I had felt pain in my back and sometimes I couldn’t walk normally.” Deterioration in the neck vertebrae had caused numbness in the hands and required immediate surgery. “From two months after the operation, I started to teach Karate. The training of Karate Kihon was good for rehabilitation.” If Kyokushin can be credited with the power to assist healing, one must also acknowledge the power of an individual to mentally overcome adversity. Kancho’s swift return to training portrays the measure of the man’s physical control and mental tenacity; is it no wonder that Sosai Oyama chose Kancho to appear in his now priceless 1970 Karate manual, “Advanced Karate.” For a man with such a revered history in Kyokushin, Kancho’s admiration for his Australian Branch Chiefs and the standard of their students is evident. “All Australian Branch Chiefs are Senior Masters from Sosai Oyama. Their teachings are the same as Japan.” In fact, it is Kancho’s lack of ego and support of his Branch Chiefs that inspires such confidence in him. Being the only Kyokushin 9th Dan in the World, Kancho Matsushima deemed it necessary to honour Hanshi John Taylor with the same rank last year, acknowledging his contribution to Kyokushin. With the assistance of Hanshi John Taylor, Kancho Matsushima has been responsible for the growth of Kyokushin in the last ten years, amassing 60 countries and 120 Branch Chiefs."

This "Shin" newsletter also contains various items of interest such as different exercises which can help with training goals. The April newsletter explains, in diagrams, and words, how to perform an inverse pull. The February issue shows how to do a Romanian Dead lift. March offers a variety of stability core exercises.

Shihan Taylor offers the reader experienced information, and guidance on important ideas such as Karate Breathing techniques, or which type of bath is better when suffering with sore muscles, a cold or a hot bath?

In every newsletter, there is a touch of humor to make the reader smile, and even break out into a laugh.

It also keeps our Australian Karate Ka aware of the latest happenings in their part of the world.

If you would like to download the April/2008 issue you can just click here.

If you would like to look through the earlier issues of this newsletter from Shihan's desk, follow this link:

http://www.akka.com.au/newsLetter.php

There is so much wonderful information to look through in this collection of thoughts, and guidance from the mind of Shihan Taylor! There is so much to read, and a great amount of the guidance crosses into the general range where any Martial Artist could take advantage of what is offered, and improve their training methods. The newsletters are short, easy to read, and very efficient in getting the message through. Perhaps this might be an indication of what facing Shihan Taylor in Kumite would feel like..

Friday, April 25, 2008

The mousetrap

I am hoping that I have found the author of the following prose so that I may give proper honor to the right person.

"The mouse and the trap
Sis Katibah

Friday, March 28, 2008

A MOUSE looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

It was a mousetrap. So, retreating to the farmyard, he proclaimed the warning: "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked. "Mr Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

He turned to the lamb who sympathized but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow who said, "Wow, Mr Mouse. Im sorry for you, but its no skin off my nose." The mouse turned back dejected.

That night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer's wife. She was rushed to the hospital and returned with a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever with chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient. But her sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the lamb. Still the farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came to her funeral that the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for every guest. The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

Mutmainnaa

Monday, April 21, 2008

My latest employment experience

Today I did some temp. work at:

http://www.retailmanagementsystems.com/

I was extremely impressed with the staff at this business. They were friendly, available, knowledgeable, and supportive.

As I learned about the product that they sell, I instantly thought about those Martial Artists that may frequent the internet and who sell Martial arts equipment. This program package with available hardware, software, support, etc. would be great for them. To make the package a great investment, one's business would have to bring in close to $300,000, but for them, I could see investing into this inventory control package as such a great move for their business. It helps them to keep track of the high sales, and reduce losses.

This company services world-wide.. it's amazing to me. One second a person is helping someone on the phone from one city, and the next minute there is a call coming from a totally different country.

I couldn't help but think how similar the business world is to the philosophy of Martial arts. The Art of War, Sun Tzu said, "If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." Well.. the first step is to know oneself. If you can get a good solid idea of what you have, what you don't have, what you need, and what you should get rid of, you can make your future more profitable no matter what direction you chose to go.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I've become a fan of Georges St. Pierre


What a wonderful Martial Artist! What an inspiration! I stumbled on an interview of him for his upcoming fight this Saturday, April 19th against Matt Serra. What caught my interest was the tattoo pictured on his left chest of what looked like the Kyokushin Kanji. Then I started reading interviews, and watching youtube videos of him.

I read an interview on Kyokushin4life:

"I started karate when I was 7 years old. My dad started teaching me, and afterward I went to a school and competed in full-contact tournaments.....I started learning jujutsu because when I was 12 or 13 years old, my karate teacher died. Before he died, he gave me my second-degree black belt. I stopped doing kyokushin and started doing muay Thai. I liked muay Thai, but then I saw the first Ultimate Fighting Championship with Ken Shamrock, and those guys inspired me to become a mixed-martial arts fighter. As soon as I saw the UFC, I wanted to train for it, but at that time jujutsu didn’t exist in Montreal. I decided to train in muay Thai, and later on I got my third-degree black belt in karate. When I was 16, I found a good place to do Brazilian jujutsu. When I was 18 or 19, I started wrestling and boxing."

Wow.. talk about cross-training! I so admire this man! I can understand just how difficult it must have been to have lost his Sensei at such a young age, and to be left searching for where he fits in, and to find his Way. My heart goes out to the pain that the young man suffered in his past.

From what I've seen in the various interviews online Mr. St. Pierre still carries the teachings of his Sensei, and honors the Dojo Kun in his interactions with others. The most recent interview that I've read says this:

St. Pierre is not your average athlete inside or outside the ring. While some star athletes exude arrogance, disdain or a major-league sense of entitlement, St. Pierre is polite, well-mannered and almost ego-free......When he dethroned Matt Hughes to win the 170-pound title at UFC 65 in November 2006 in Sacramento, he gave the championship belt to his mother as a thank you for a lifetime of support.

When a busy schedule and unexpected development distracted St. Pierre from a scheduled interview with a reporter recently, the apologetic fighter rushed over to collect the journalist, conducted the interview over a steak dinner - which he paid for - and then drove the reporter to his hotel.

"A heart of gold," says trainer Greg Jackson.

"What's not to like about Georges St. Pierre?" asked UFC president Dana White. "He's the epitome of everything you'd like in a sports figure or a tough guy. He's humble, he trains hard, he's a good-looking kid, he says all the right things."

An elegant five foot 10, St. Pierre looks like he just walked off the pages of GQ. Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Affliction (a sponsor) fill the closet.

In the cage, St. Pierre is a different man. Determined. Measured. Relentless.


In my eyes, THIS is the kind of Black Belt that I would want to become, it is also the kind of Black Belt that I have read mentioned by Sensei Gichin Funakoshi as being our aspiration. I have to paraphrase the quote until I can find it in the book again, but it says something like "His smile can charm the children, and his anger strikes terror."



I wish Mr. St. Pierre the best this upcoming weekend, and I thank him for becoming a great role model to the youth of today.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Weakness...

"One thing I often say to my young pupils they find confusing. "You must," I tell them, "become not strong but weak." Then they want to know what I mean, for one of the reasons they have chosen Karate-do is to become strong. It is hardly necessary, they tell me, to train in order to become weak. Then I reply that what I am saying is indeed difficult to understand. "I want you to find the answer within yourselves," I tell them. "And I promise you that the time will come when you truly understand what I mean." Sensei Gichin Funakoshi ( Karate-do: My Way of life)

As I had read these words of Sensei Gichin, I was as dumbfounded as his pupils at his statement. I walked around for years thinking "I must become weak? I don't get it." It is especially confusing to think this way as I struggle to be able to hold stance that much longer, or kick/punch with that much more power. I've found that I desire greatly to be stronger when I have to face opponents that tower a good foot above me, with longer reach, and hit me with such power. I think that I have had a glimpse into the wisdom of "becoming weak" these past days.

There is only "so" strong that I can achieve, no matter how hard I train, I can only get a certain amount of strength. I cannot rely on strength in my karate because there will be a time when I have to face someone stronger than me. (In my case, this happens far more frequently than I'd wish.) I've got to realize this weakness, and capitalize on it. This is where my mind takes over, and I start to rely on timing, experience, knowledge, strategy, distance, and well-chosen movements. I have to learn to read my opponent like an open book, and to react without thinking. I have to become "weak"... or at least, I hope that I have gotten a glimpse of what Sensei Gichin Funakoshi is saying.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

April Fools day Martial art Karate Gi







It was April fools day, and my daughters and I wanted to pull something together that would prank the dojo without causing too much disturbance. I found an old gi that I never wear anymore, and handed the girls a package of markers, and told them to decorate the outfit. This was quite a shock, and joy to my children. In fact, when they told my son that he was allowed, and even encouraged, to color on my karate gi he instantly thought that they were pranking him with an April Fools joke. He refused to come and see at first, but then his curiosity overcame him, and he came downstairs to join in the fun.

Here are pictures of their hard work.

Please notice the fine details:

a) On the left side of the Gi Jacket you will find the words "Ohio, Watashi wa Mireille Desu" which means "Good morning, my name is Mireille." written in Hiragana by my daughter who is studying Japanese. She also decorated the right sleeve of the jacket with half of the Japanese alphabet.

b) At the top of the right side of the Gi jacket are little orange kitty prints.



c) The left sleeve arm shows that I've been "Zapped" by my daughter. This is an elementary school game played among the children.

d) I have a Maple leaf on my left shoulder.

e) The Power Puff Girls cartoon decorate the front of my pant legs. My children were chanting the Power Puff theme as they were coloring: "Using their ultra super powers, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup have dedicated their lives to fighting crime and the forces of evil!"




f) My son wrote "This is my mom." on the bottom of each pant leg just in case anyone became confused.( I guess)

g) There is a clown fish,a Rainbow, and the Avatar cartoon character decorating the back of my pant legs.

h) There is a little girl licking a lollipop on the left side of my gi jacket, and April Fools spread over the back.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Finding the origins of the Yantsu kata



Yantsu kata being performed by Sempai Cliff Van Tilburg from Sutani Dojo Belgium


Ever since I've made it a point to know where each kata originates, and the background behind it, I've been frustrated by the lack of revelation available on some of the kata. In many cases, I've been having to work with speculations, assumptions, and the memories of various higher level Sensei. Take the kata, Yantsu (Translated as "Safe Three", "To maintain purity", or "8th light"), for example, in all of the various places that I've researched, I have yet to find a conclusive "creator" of this kata.

There are some facts that are put forwards:

a) Some people have mentioned that they have only seen this kata in the Kyokushin syllabus. There are some kata that seem to be only found in Kyokushin like Tsuki No Kata, Garyu, Sakugi Taikyoku Sono Ichi/Ni/San/Yon.

Although, I have noticed an Isshin ryu website with the Yantsu Kata being demonstrated picture by picture for Shodan level, most of the Isshin ryu kata list that I've seen have only 8 traditional kata which do not include Yantsu. Since Isshin ryu comes from a Goju ryu/Shorin ryu background, their list does not include Yantsu either.

I've also stumbled across a website which teaches Kami-Do Karate that announces that Yantsu is a Tomarit-te kata. I've got to shake my head with confusion on the concept of Yantsu being Tomari-te. I looked up on the history of that style, and found this paragraph:

"Hokama passed on katas that he said be taught by the Oyadomaris: Naifanchi I & II, Passai, Wanshu, Wankan, Rohai, and Kusanku Dai & Sho, but, according Kojo Kafu the Naifanchi II and the two Kusanku came from Itosu. Another tradition, the purest, counts the katas Naifanchi, Passai, Chinto, Jitte, Jiin, Jion, Chintei, Wanshu, Rohai and Wandun as the original Tomarite. It is also said that the katas Chinpe, Chinsu, Juma, and Uenibu are of the lineage of Tomari, however, they were probably introduced in the 20th from Taiwan. There is also a kata known as Ananku or Ananko that was probably an old kata of Tomari restored by Chotoku Kyan around 1895. The Chinto passed on by Kyan is now known as Tomari-no-Chinto, however, the original Tomari Chinto was very similar to the Itosu’s. Wanduan is also considered a Tomari kata, together the version of Seisan passed on by Oshiro. Most of these kata belongs to the Fujian Monk Fist and Crane Fist systems." History of Tomari-te

Yantsu isn't even mentioned as a possibility of being Tomari-te by Sensei Camara in his article ( unless I didn't read it right).

Now, Sosai Masutatsu Oyama DID create the kata Garyu (Reclining Dragon)



Perhaps Sosai created Yantsu also? But if he did, why is it not well known that he has done so? You'd expect a definite statement of "the founder of Kyokushin created this kata that is visible mainly in the Kyokushin syllabus."

I looked at the Seido Karate Kata (founded by Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura) kata and found Yantsu listed there. Yet, the Garyu Kata is not on the list, neither are the Sokugi Taikyoku kata known to be created by Sosai Masutatsu Oyama in the 1980's. What could this point to?

It's a wild guess, but I'm thinking that maybe it was Kaicho Nakamura that created Yantsu, and Tsuki No kata... just because of the confusion, and silence concerning their origin. Please do not think for one second that this is a fact. I have nothing to base this assumption on.. it's just a wild reach in the dark.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Conditioning the knuckles

I've been conditioning my shins, forearms, and knuckles since the first time that I was introduced to the concept. It made sense to me to work on conditioning those areas that I will be striking with so that they are used to impact.

I knew that the beginning stages of conditioning is sharply painful, but I equated it with the same type of discomfort that I had to suffer through when I wanted to learn how to play guitar. It took months of painful stubborn application of pressure to my delicate fingertips onto the metal strings of the instrument before I noticed that it just didn't hurt anymore.

I started conditioning my knuckles just by standing near a wall, and leaning some of my weight onto them. I'd do this everyday as I cooked meals for my family. There are moments when something is boiling, or frying when you need to be near the stove, but you have "nothing" to do. So I'd just go stand and put weight onto my knuckles for awhile. Just this light pressure caused me to whine, and shake my hands afterwards.

Soon I was able to hold my weight onto my knuckles in the push up position on the carpeted floor. For some reason, I found cement floors, wooden floors, and tiled floors too "hard". I kept asking myself if this was just something in my mind as the carpet was not very thick at all where I was successfully holding a "knuckle" push up.

So now, I'm trying to crawl across the floor on my "knuckles" and knees. I've noticed that the shifting weight, and position of my arms/wrists causes new sensations of discomfort as I move forwards, especially since I struggle on keeping all of my weight on the first two knuckles.

I really wish that I had a canvas bag filled with sand, a punching bag, or a makiwari board to work with.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's "who" you are that counts...

I was reading this article on the net about Managing: The Art of the absurd

I truly wish that I had read this article before I was placed into the position of Sensei of a dojo, I believe that the concepts contained in this article would have improved my ability to lead others, and teach immensely. I suggest looking over the article before continuing into the rest of my posting as I will be commenting on how I feel about some of the concepts.

1. In management, as in parenthood, it's not so much what we do as what we are that counts.

This idea suddenly rang a "bell" within my mind as I had always pondered about parenting/teaching, and it's effects on children. Always I have seen how a person's positive strength of character was more important than anything else. I know that one of the most important things that allowed me to even consider training in Martial arts was how strong a character I saw in the behaviour, words, and actions of my first Sensei. "Seek perfection of character" exhorts the first line of the Shotokan Dojo Kun. At first, at least to me, it seemed absurd that a physical activity that focuses on learning the most efficient ways of harming another person's body would center on improving one's inner character. But.. now I have understood how important Character is towards self defense. Someone with a character that needs to build itself up by demeaning, insulting, and stepping on other people will only bring violence upon itself. A Sensei needs to work towards becoming someone that one would want to imitate in character. "Who" the Sensei is would be more important than anything as it would effect how things happen in the dojo.

2. Remember what we might call the "reciprocity rule" of human behavior: over time, people come to share, reciprocally, similar attitudes toward each other.

Wow.. I haven't noticed the link between one's thoughts about a person, and the effect in relationships before reading this section of that article, but it's been proven true in my life experiences. As I look back at what I've learned in the almost past half century, I have seen how my impression of others affected how I treated them, and therefore, how they have treated me back. I know that I have placed my own standards, and expectations as first in my mind as to what is "right", and what is the "wrong" thing to do. I assumed that everyone agreed with me that certain values were important to cultivate. To my shock, I always learned that other people had different values. I wonder, is having personal values a negative thing? It cannot be so, because I have found that my personal values have been the strength that has supported me through the difficult moments of my life. I believe that negative effects happen when I insist that others have to have the same values as myself. I know that this attitude has brought frustration to me, and also in others. I believe that I can absorb, embrace, and live up to those values that I deem worthy as a Karate student/teacher. If others choose to go in the same direction as me, then great, we can travel that path together. If others choose their own path, then I can wish them well, and continue going where I want to go without feeling challenged, or judged.

3. If, in life, paradox is the rule and not the exception, then the popular view of management as a matter of gaining and exercising control is badly in need of correction.

I LIKE this statement! For me, it states that leadership isn't something that can be imposed onto others effectively. Leadership happens when a group of people recognize, and accept that a certain person has the qualities desired for that position. I remember my Internet Sensei Paul telling me this wise advice when I was just an 8th kyu yellow belt. " Do not seek to gain higher placement in the rank line by stepping on others. Instead, train hard, and improve yourself, and one day, you will see, all of the other students will move over, and make room for you to take your place as leader." I actually saw this happen when I went to a Karate camp. I had led the younger beginners class as the lead belt in the line up due to the fact that I was the highest kyu ranked individual present that morning. Then, when the next class filed into place, I thought to myself "Ooo.. I should make room for those higher ranked than I.." I moved over to the middle of the gym floor. To my shock, all of the incoming students lined up to my left so that I became the lead belt of the second class. Sensei Paul's words rang in my head, and I felt a surge of humility fill every inch of me.

I would like to comment on the other statements contained in this Psychology article, and speak about how it echoes in my Martial arts path, but time for me is limited at this moment, and this is all that I can offer today. Perhaps later on I will return to this article, and continue my thoughts.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Is it March already?

Oh I've been so busy! Work, family, work, karate, work, family, karate... etc.

I've learned some important things from the past weeks.

a) If I chose to do kata on my break, I only need to do it with no speed/power, and smooth out the movements. When people approach me to ask what I was doing, I just smile, and say that it's something "like" Tai chi, but faster. I still get to work on the pattern's timing, and movements without looking like a Martial artist. I even add some stretches in between the kata to make it look like I'm just an old sore lady clearing out the kinks from the demands of work. People just smile, and nod at me as they walk by.

b) I NEED to rest. I come home, look at the condition of the house, and then retreat to the bedroom, and lay down for half an hour. I find that I need to shut down, release stress, and regroup before I tackle meals, and housework. Those breaks at work just don't help me mentally, nor physically. Truly, there is just enough time to eat something, drink some water, go to the washroom, and do a couple of relaxed kata.

c) Karate has become more important as I find that I'm burning off the stress of the day when I go train. I come home feeling better, and I can almost call it "rested". Except for one day in these past three months, when I felt totally exhausted as I entered the dojo. It was a very demanding day at work where I had to wash down the whole seat of each row of each section of the stadium. The back, and bottom of the seat involved much bending over, and squatting. OH man.. that was a hard day at work. I felt it in every muscle of my body. Then, when I went to karate, I ended up feeling like I was moving through molasses. I understood what was happening to me physically, and I decided to lower my expectations on my performance. I gave 100% of what I had, but to be honest, I only had 20% energy left. I was reduced to the "point of no return" tiredness. Ladies, you know what I mean.. I'm talking about that moment when your eyes fill up with tears for no reason, and you don't know if you are going to start crying, or giggling.

d) I still train on my own. I just went through all the belt rank requirements from white belt up to my level in Kyokushin. I managed to put in some bo staff training, and to work on my latest Kyokushin kata thanks to the generosity of my daughter's TaeKwondo Master who allows me to train on my Kyokushin in the other half of the gym where he teaches, or to do my Kyokushin basics at the same time that his students are doing their Taekwondo basics.

Some people might get the mistaken impression that I'm training in TaeKwondo because I won the "Student with best manners" award in this club. I have to tell you that I am not studying the Art of TaeKwonDo, I have no knowledge of their "Poomse" (patterns), I do not participate in the sparring, I do not seek any rank advancement there either. I don't belong to that club as a student. I am a current Kyokushin Karate student with Shotokan karate background. So, Please do not ask me about Taekwondo information. I have some wise experienced TaeKwonDo Martial art friends that I can direct you to if you would like to know more about your Art.

e) I love to do Origami! I have been learning about origami since last Fall, and each month I am learning how to do more complex patterns. I'll collect my hard work in paperfolding, and take a picture of it. I'll add the picture to this posting as soon as I can.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Karate in the workplace

My weekdays have been spent working as a temporary worker here and there, helter, skelter. My family needs the money so I have stepped up to the plate and embraced the demand.

Temporary workers seems to be at the bottom of the work ladder.. oh even farther than the bottom. Since we pop into the facility, and then pop out again there is no "bonding" happening. We sit by ourselves, work by ourselves, come and leave by ourselves.

I found myself longing for the chance to train in karate. My heart and soul pining for a good kata, or even standing still and doing 300 punches. Instead, I did monotonous work of placing a piece of tape individually onto a over 16,000 separate pieces of paper, or spending 2 hours sweeping a concrete floor.

I kept reminding myself of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi's precept: "Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo."

So, I started looking for moments to train as I worked ( just as I used to do when I was a stay at home housemaker). Suddenly, I found little ways of incorporating karate into my day.

When placed in a seated position to do repeditive work, I would focus on having proper posture, and deepening my breathing into my hara. I worked on smoothing out my movements so that I no extra wasted movements. As soon as I had the pattern of that sequence imbedded into my body, I would free my mind, and start to review the various requirements of the belt rank levels striving to remember each rank only by strikes, only by blocks, only by kata, etc. I would work towards remembering the various history, and Japanese terms of the various movements. I would be so centered on meditation that people would leave to go on break, and I wouldn't notice. Someone would have to come up to me, and "wake" me up. I found myself always saying "so soon?" in surprise.

When asked to pick up many 10 kilogram ( 20 pound) box of jean pants, open them, remove the pants from their packaging, and then replace them into a different box. I realized that here was a perfect training possibility. I would work towards using proper balance, and posture as I lifted the weight. I'd attempt to hold the box at different distances from my body with my arms close, with my arms extended, with my arms lower, with my arms higher, etc. I'd isolate a certain set of muscles of the arm/shoulder. In this manner I was exercising many of the different arm muscles. I considered it a form of weight lifting. In opening the jean packaging, I worked towards speeding up my hikite hand. I'd grab the packaging with my right hand, and rip towards me into the chambered position. The next package I worked with my left to balance the exercise.

When it was time to package the clothing, I found that each bag that I did required that I put a little piece of plastic into the garbage which was underneath my station. I decided to do a kiba dachi type of squat each time I put a that piece into the refuse. This allowed me to get close enough to the receptacle so that the plastic wouldn't fall onto the floor. By the end of the work day, my legs were sore from all of the squatting work.

Sweeping/mopping allows me to work on my hip rotation, and power. I tend to start the movement of the broom/mop with my hip, and then follow through with the rest of my body. I work towards a circular path. (if possible) If I have to use them in a direct linear way, then I will work towards a front stance position, and keeping my weight balanced. I found that sliding my feet in fighting stance as I worked helped me strengthen my knees, and kumite position. I even experimented with adding some backstance, crossed stance, and side stance as mopping to see if I could effectively continue with the power, and speed regardless to which stance I was using. 6 hours of sweeping/mopping allows for much experimentation, and exploration. I did work on smoothing out how I switch hand positions, working on my Bo manipulation through switching from left hand up to right hand up on the mop in mid movement.

Sure, I still try to do at least one kata during my breaks, but it's difficult to do without people catching a glimpse of it. I don't want to disturb the other people in that workplace, especially since they do not know me. The women's washrooms aren't all large enough for a good kata ( except something more compact like Tekki Shodan). I tried to do Yangtsu, but it didn't fit well in a small area. Sanchin Kata makes too much breathing noise when done well, and I find that the sudden powerful turns frighten people who just happen to be walking into the washroom. With the other kata, I can pretend that I am just stretching out my legs, or my back when someone just appears at the doorway. There is one of my workplaces that I received permission from the supervisor to do kata in an open area, if ever I work there again I have that all set up already, but I haven't had this opportunity at the other workplaces.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Bamboo plant survived!




I was worried about how my Bamboo plant would handle being in such cold temperatures for days since my furnace had broken down.

It did extremely well. See?

What does this have to do with karate, you may ask? I will answer.

This beautiful plant was given to me by my former karate students. It had been thriving in my home, and bringing beauty, good memories, and joy to me everyday.

Here is an interesting, almost prophetic, thing that happened concerning this plant. On the morning that I received the registered letter I was working in a freezing kitchen, and at the same time, I was distracted by the furnace repairman. Suddenly there was a loud crash coming in the area of the Bamboo plant. It seems that one of the pots/pans hanging from the shelf above the plant had been knocked off of it's hook, and it had fallen straight down cutting off the leaves of the third bamboo stalk. Thankfully the plant was fine. It was just missing it's third set of leaves on the shortest stalk. ( You can see that in the picture.)

I felt a pang of dismay because in Japanese tradition, I knew that 3 meant "fullness", and "happiness". Here I was with what would constitute the equivalent of 2 1/2. I would have to wait until the 3rd stalk regrows it's leaves to bring it back to it's balance.

Then, I opened the registered letter, and suddenly the symbolizm of the bamboo plant's misfortune echoed in my mind. I could see that I had been cut off from the old, and now the challenge was to grow into the new. However, it's not like the old will disappear. It is a big part of what I have become, and who I will be. I have learned what I want, how I think, and what I value in Martial arts, and I can see these values in the simple bamboo plant. Bamboo are immensely strong, and yet flexible. They thrive on as little as water for their home. They can be useful in SO many ways: you can make musical instruments, cloths, food, weapons, tools, buildings, etc. etc. out of them. From my latest experience, it also looks like Bamboo can take a beating, be thrown into a freezer for days, and still be strong, and grow. I want to be like my bamboo stalks.

That plant has now become such a potent symbol to me of all of my experiences in Martial arts, and if ever I need to choose an image to represent me I would chose a stylized image of 3 bamboo stalks with two filled with leaves, and one barren but ready to grow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The karate lessons found in a cold house

Two days of no heat from my furnace.. ah.. it truly brings out the creative side of my karate training. As Sensei Gichin Funakoshi states "Always be ready to release your mind."

Well.. I had to do this to figure out how to keep my family warm in the intense cold weather that we have been experiencing until a new furnace could be installed.

It was no easy task as we live in a large home. Space heaters barely take the chill out of the air. I looked at all possibilities, and said to myself "One candle in the dark.. is worth much.." I used a plethora of emergency heat sources, lit votive candles, the oven, the dryer, I boiled soup for meals, and baked cookies. We walked around in parkas, and drank hot chocolate. Every little thing that could contribute some heat to the house was used.

I had the children place their mattresses on the floor of the family room, and the group of them, including me, sleeped there together with a space heater warming up just that space. It was fine until one child stole my cover, and the other child, dreaming that she was defending herself, started punching my back.

It was so cold in the house that the cat was scratching that the family room door to be let in, then she'd want to be let out, then let in again, then let out. AArgh..

Yet, the children are thrilled, and all of them are walking around saying "Mom.. this is going to be one of those memories where we all sit together in the future saying "Do you remember when the furnace broke down?"

And that is where the karate lesson struck me the most, I needed to release my mind of the assumptions, and concerns that were plaguing me, and see this moment from a different perspective. I had to see the issues from it's true vantage point to understand it, know it, embrace it, and be victorious over it. It's just like when I'm sparring. I cannot stand there thinking "If my opponent sends a front kick, I will do this, then I'm going to do that.." because I'll be so focused on him sending a front kick that I'll miss the other action. I have to release my mind, and see the potentials, and react to the moment. Now I understand a little deeper the lesson of how a karate ka needs to learn how to 'dance' with their opponent. It is by releasing the mind, and responding to what is happening.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Techical details of my belt rank in Shotokan

I was informed by my former Shotokan Instructor through a registered letter that my Shodan status has been revoked.

My Shodan was revoked for the following reasons:

a) The dojo that I was teaching at has been dissolved by circumstances of which I am unaware. I do not know the details as I have not interacted with anyone since last August when I announced my resignation.

b) When I left, I knew that there was going to be renovations of the facility so the Shotokan dojo had no location to train in until Spring of 2008. I offered my students a list of a selection of various choices of temporary training places telling them about other Shotokan dojo in walking distance that they could train at, or even other martial art clubs that were also available that they may be interested in training at.

I accept this decision of revoking my Shodan rank in this specific organization as I am no longer actively participating, nor training within that influence.

So be alerted that I do not have Shodan black belt status there.

However, I state that my Shodan status is still intact as I have received a Shodan Rank Certificate from Sensei Paul Danelutti (6th Dan Rokudan in Shotokan) last August 17th, 2007. Sensei Paul Danelutti has been intimately involved in my formation, and training since I started learning karate as a white belt under Sensei Walter Crockford. Therefore I am a valid Shodan in his organization.

In addition to this, Sifu Tim White (8th Dan)of Molum Combat Arts Association has honored, and officially recognized my rank of Shodan since my training before him in Dallas, Texas, U.S. in 2006. According to Sifu White standards, and instructions, I can promote myself as:

Mireille Clark
Shodan, MLCAA

I might have to add an addition to this as Shihan Colin Wee has recognized my Shodan on my own merit. I am an Associate Black Belt Member of HRGB ( Hikaru Ryu Gendai Budo) Dojo.

Also, Sensei Charley Porter (4th Dan Shotokan) Independence, Missouri/ Kansas City would like it known that he validates my Shodan Black belt. I have trained with him on more than one occasion. The Fall Karate camp of 2007 was my recent event.

Addendum:

"Mireille, as I know of you through Hanshi Tim White and Shihan Wee I would like to offer the support of the Makumasuta Ryu Dojo, and the Academy of Combative Arts in the United Kingdom & Crete to ratify and support your Yudansha rank of Shodan in Shotokan Karate in the UK.

This done under my authority as Shihan of the Makumasuta Ryu, Chief Instructor of the ACMA, UK Director of MLCAA, member in good standing of the Senior Instructors Guild, IAOMAS Instructor & examiner and soon to be Chairman of the International Association of Combative Martial Arts. I would also point out that whilst the initial investiture of a Shodan comes from a higher rank, the true authority of the grade comes from the person holding the rank.

You need no one's authority or permission to be that which you already are."