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.


Sarah said...

You amaze me with your ability to make karate a part of everything you do. So many things I would never think of, but there you are. It can only improve your performance - and peace, to put your focus into that at all times.
To a lesser degree, I've also taken to adding karate to as much as I can at my own job. Standing at bedside for hours grows tedious, and I work to strengthen my breathing, to always be conscious of my gut core and to focus. I sit in stances, one after another, working on strengthening my stance - on keeping my hips tucked, my stomach tight and ever present, and my body relaxed and ready. When my patients are calmer, I practice blocks or basic strikes, or mimicry my kata - go through the movements in much shorter variations, not full out. I've run through kata a few times on breaks or lunch - but, like you, there are few places I can go where I wouldn't be disturbed or watched. But keeping THINKing about karate, even, keeps me from getting tired or losing focus, particularly in the early morning or late night.
But you really inspire me - in the way you really DO make karate a part of everything. You are amazing.

supergroup7 said...

Thanks alot Sarah. LOVELY picture that you have there! That one is so artistic, and beautiful... nice choice.

I'm glad that I have inspired you to work towards living Karate-Do, wherein the benefits of karate spill over into your daily life.

Karate is for anywhere, and everywhere, if you so chose to live in that manner. Having good posture will protect you from back pain, headaches, and injury. I have read that it will also help your digestive, and circulation system by limiting the amount of "squishing" that happens when we hunch our shoulders.. but I bet that you would know more about this than I.

I found that training on my stances while working has changed the constant stress on my knees from standing. Inner tension stances like Sanchin, Neko ashi dachi and outer tension ones such as Kiba dachi have helped me suffer less joint pain during the day. Sure, I go into regular standing position also, but there is something similar to a sigh of relief when I switch into other stances, hold them for a good while, and then come back.

I also found that going to a quiet secluded place, and doing a headstand on my break for about the count of 60 has helped relieve the soreness in my back, legs, and feet. I believe that it helps clear my legs of waste material by sending the lymph fluid up into my torso, and allows my legs to feel "new" again. I don't know for sure if it does this, but I do know that I feel 100 percent better after I go upside down for a little while. I'm glad that I've succeeded removing my fear of going upside down for a headstand. (* I'm still working on hand stands.. Still terrified.)

[Mat] said...

I do a lot of karate at the workplace, even if people don't realize it.

When going through corridors that cross, I look at the floor. People think it's because I'm shy, I know it's because I can have a better view and see them coming instead of bumping into them.

The coffee machine is my new makiwara.

I close doors with my feet.

I do kata during my overtime in the corridors.

I much prefer those hard floor to those tatamis everywhere that make my wobbling knee scream for balance. ugh.

be well, sensei

supergroup7 said...

Osu... those are great ideas, Mat.

Why does looking down help you get a better vision? I'd like to know more about that.

I was thinking about how I could take advantage of the break time by dedicating about 8 minutes of the mid day break towards stretching exercises. These would help me to relax my stressed out muscles, and protect me from further injury.. I think.