Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kyokushin Karate Hard or Soft?

This is Kancho Shokei Matsui performing the Sushiho kata of Kyokushin.

You can see the blend of hard/soft movements within the kata in his performance.

Kyokushin is Kyokushin.. It is hard to describe, it's not Shotokan, it's not Goju, it's Kyokushin.

I have noticed that the kata belt requirements as you rise up in belts seem to focus on building up one's ability to perform the Kanku kata.

We start with basic kata such as:

Kihon Sono Ichi, Ni, San
Shiho Tsuki Ichi, Ni, San
Taikyoku Sono Ichi, Ni, San
Taikyoku Sono Ichi, Ni, San Ura
Taikyoku Sono Ichi, Ni, San Tate
Pinan Sono Ichi, Ni, San, Shi, Go
Sokugi Taikyoku Sono Ichi, Ni, San, Yon
Juji Kata 45 degree, 90 degree

All of these kata help build up skills, turns, balance, body control, strength, and ability so that we can handle the more demanding kata:

Sanchin No Kata
Yanstu Kata
Tsuki No kata
Gekisai Dai, Gekisai Sho

But I can see all of them pointing towards learning the Kanku Kata. Each of the above kata contain parts, and pieces of the Kanku Kata. One of the main symbols of Kyokushin Karate is the Kanku sign:

That symbol derives from the opening move of the Kanku Kata seen below:

It does not appear that a Kyokushin Karate student becomes introduced to the softer kata of Sushiho, Seisan, etc until higher up in belt rank. The concepts contained in these kata are taught always, but the actual learning, and performance of these kata seems to be held until a student has achieved some experience under their belts.
( This is only my impression of what might be happening. Oh by the way, I was wrong when I told you how many kata that I've learned, I know 34 Kyokushin kata.)

It is true that to know one kata well is far better than to know 100 of them badly. However, I believe that the list of kata above are stepping stones towards learning one kata ( Kanku) very, very, very well. If I can learn the lessons that each of these other kata show me on their own, I can incorporate them into my efforts to learn the Main kata when I face it's challenges.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Answers for a friend..

My friend Lizzie asked me the following questions, so I'm answering as a post instead of a comment so that I'm not limited in the amount of characters that I can type:

1. Do you wear any special gear when you spar?

In Kyokushin, the most protection that we wear is shin pads, mouth guards, and groin protection.

2. Do you like sparing?

For me, it's not whether I like it or not, it's more that I feel that I need to spar to be able to understand the concepts of my Art. I embrace, look forwards to, and adore doing Kata, but sparring, I just consider it as a necessary part of learning.

3. Do you use focus mitts and free standing bags as part of your training?

Yes, at times, it depends on what Sensei wants us to focus upon.

4. What does your training consist of? In my old dojo, we would work on basics, kata, stances, transitions to different stances, and bunkai.

My training covers all that you worked upon, and more... too much to list actually. Here is a small sample of some of the additional information: Body conditioning, weapons, self defense knowledge, danger prevention, mental self-control, pressure points, joint locks, throws, break falls, etc. etc.

5. We had a set number of bunkai for every kata. Does your kata have set number?

Yes, and no. There is a certain amount of knowledge expected from us, but also, we are to work towards deeper understanding of each movement so the possibilities are endless.

6. Is this what your training consist of? Are there different things that you train in too?

Yes, Kyokushin focuses on something called the "Spirit of Osu". This concept is to bring ourselves to what we believe is our limit, and to push on beyond it. It is an inner willingness to keep going, and never give up. We also learn the concepts of the "Point and Circle" (the effectiveness of circular movement), Kuzushi ( Unbalancing your opponent), and "Happo Kawashi" ( Dodge and Parry in 8 directions)

7. What does your ground fighting consist of? I'm assuming that it will look like a MMA style of fight on the ground. That's how my old dojo taught me. With BJJ, there's isn't any striking involved.

I'm sorry, I just train. I haven't compared it with MMA or BJJ or any other style. All I know is that I'm on the ground, and there is someone on top of me trying to harm me, and I am learning how to stop them, and gain control of the situation. From what I am learning, I believe that my focus is to get off of the ground, and back onto my feet as soon as I can.

8. Do you work on any joint locks and chokes while on the ground or do you just work on striking?

I am learning various joint locks, holds, and chokes not only on the ground, but also standing up.

9. Do you work on different positions on the ground like mount, guard, side mount, and the back?

Yes.. I am learning all the different positions.

10. Do you practice any takedowns?

Yes, I am learning takedowns.

11. How come you chose Kyokushin over Shotokan? It sounds like that Kyokushin is a better style. I'm all for full contact. I disagree with a non contact style. One will develop more control if they are taught to hit a person. Plus, people need to learn how to react from getting hit. They'll either freeze and panic or get angry. Most people will panic if they get rocked. Probably, I'll freeze because I haven't been hit really hard while sparring. I've been hit in the face a couple times.

For about 3 years, I was cross-training in two styles at the same time. Shotokan and Kyokushin I found that within about one hour of training in Shotokan, my body would start to ache (Mostly the joints) but that I could train hard in Kyokushin for hours, and hours, and mostly I would be exhausted, but feel totally fine physically. I couldn't understand why this was happening because the stances/ kicks/ strikes in Kyokushin are similar, if not the exact same as in Shotokan. Then, after one grueling painful episode in Shotokan training, I realized that it was the sudden fast surging lunging forwards movements, and fast stops that was expected for a well executed technique that was putting pain into my joints. My knees, shoulders, and hips screamed out in pain during that Shotokan class, and I had to do something to be able to continue training. Kyokushin surges too.. but it's different... the movement flows with the body, and has a resolution.

12. Which kyu and belt are you in Kyokushin?

I am currently at 2nd Kyu in Kyokushin. Brown Belt.

13. How long have you been training in this art now?

In Kyokushin? or in Martial Arts? In Kyokushin, I have been training approximately 6 years. In Martial Arts, I have been training approximately 8 years.

14. What's your feelings about kata and how it applies in the real world. I know that you love kata. However, there are people out there say that kata is useless. My old Sensei taught me that kata taught how to move the body and do a certain techniques correctly. He said that kata teaches one to over emphasize techniques like pulling into chamber. Then when one has to use it, one can modify it shorten it because the memory is already there. However, one still needs to practice not over emphasizing the real techniques while doing the real thing.

I know that many people think that kata is useless, I disagree with them. Kata allows the mind to quieten, and be alert at the same time. Since it is a repetitive set of movements ( similar to a dance), kata allows the pathways of a certain movement to be imprinted into your nerves/mind/limbs. It is similar to how practicing scales can improve a musician's ability to flow with their instrument when improvising. I have experienced moments in sparring when my body would recognize a set of techniques, and implement it automatically without my having to "order" it to do so. Afterwards, I stood there wondering at how wonderfully well that worked, and realizing that if I had tried to "think" it out it wouldn't have worked at all. Kata, done well, is an awesome cardio work out. There have been studies done that show that an experienced Black belt performing a kata will increase their heart rate within the first three techniques, and by the end of one kata will have put in the same amount of effort as if they had been jogging up a steep incline carrying a backpack filled with weights. It all relies on knowing how to use one's body fully, efficiently, and effectively to gain the most out of one's kata. Kata allows your mind to explore the more dangerous, and detrimental applications of a movement such as tearing someone's eyes out. We cannot actually apply this on our training partners on a daily basis a) we would run out of partners willing to train with us b) we would leave a wake of blind people behind us.

15. What's your feelings about Bunkai and the application of kata? I know that Bunkai teaches one cool applications. However, I don't know if one can use that in real life.

Bunkai introduces concepts, and various applications. It is the first step towards understanding things like distance, timing, etc.

16. It's cool to practice it without resistance and moves in a set way, however what happens if your training partner resists or moves very differently? This is why I love BJJ. We spar all the time with full resistance. We need to learn how to apply the techniques and drills that we did on a non-resistant partner to a partner who's trying to submit too.

I have had my partner co-operate, and also resist. It's part of my training too.

17. How do you feel about MMA and UFC? I know that there is a lot of people who do MMA think that TMA is a bunch of crap.

I feel that each person can benefit from training in Martial Arts regardless of the style if they focus on building their character at the same time, and are willing to put in the physical effort needed to succeed, and excel in their chosen style. In my eyes, there is no mental, physical, or spiritual gain in using others for one's boosted ego. Mutual respect between people, and between Martial Art styles is not only necessary, but expected from people who train to learn to defend themselves. The more that we value the drops of sweat that fall from our heads as we train, the more we should respect seeing the same from others.

18. How did you feel when you started training in Kyokushin?

I was frightened. When I was a purple belt, my Shotokan Sensei was closing down one of the dojo that I was training at, and so my training schedule was being halved. I could not afford to pay to go to two dojo, and I knew about a Kyokushin dojo that taught for free. I approached my Shotokan Sensei and asked if I could have his permission to visit the Kyokushin dojo to train just so that I could keep my weight down through the extra exercise. His response was to open his eyes wide and mention that he has seen Kyokushin karate ka train in Japan, he explained the concept of Full Contact, and that maybe I might want to think twice about attending that dojo since I am mostly involved in Kata rather than sparring. ( To be honest, my Sensei was being kind and gentle to me. At that time, I was terrified of sparring. I would back away, cover my face, and squeak in fear each time my partner would surge at me with a strike in one step sparring.) I assured my Shotokan Sensei that I was only interested in conditioning exercises as I had already lost 30 pounds from the combination of diet and exercise, and from what I have seen, and read about this dojo that I trusted the Kyokushin Sensei.

I still remember my first Kyokushin class like it was yesterday. I arrived early with my Shotokan purple belt, a yellow belt ( just in case the Sensei wanted me to wear that color instead), and a white belt in my gear bag. I didn't know what would be expected of me. I was frightened of even the idea of full contact, and mind was playing out various scary scenarios of how bad an idea of showing up for this class might be. BUT this was my only answer at the time for keeping up my exercise regime that had brought me so far in my goals to lose weight. I found that my fears were unfounded, and that I'm glad that I didn't let them control what experiences I had in my life. I do not regret joining this Kyokushin dojo, in fact, I thank God for this gift in my life everyday.

19. Can you elaborate more about the differences between Bunkai and Oyo?

Bunkai (分解?), literally meaning "analysis" or "disassembly", is a term used in Japanese martial arts referring to the application of fighting techniques extracted from the moves of a "form" (kata).

Bunkai is usually performed with a partner or a group of partners which execute predefined attacks, and the student performing the kata responds with defenses, counterattacks, or other actions, based on a part of the kata. This allows the student in the middle to understand what the movements in kata are meant to accomplish. It may also illustrate how to improve technique by adjusting distances, time moves properly, and adapt a technique depending on the size of an opponent. Some kata have another layer of application that is taught using an Oyo Bunkai.

(Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunkai)

Or in other words.. Bunkai is more patterned and set, and Oyo is more fluid/changing/adapting looking at various possibilities. Oyo can change for each individual depending on their size, strengths, and weaknesses.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Training 2009 addition

Does an hour of Dance Dance Revolution competition against my 10 year old son count as Karate training? OH my Gosh! that involves so much footwork, concentration, and much jumping. We both finished that competition tired, and sweaty. We both weren't too sure who won, but we got a great work out.

Oh.. here is the Kyokushin version of Heian Shodan/ Pyung Ahn Chodan / Pinan Sono Ichi done at my best effort for the amount of ability that I have achieved at this point in my training. I deeply wonder what Shihan Colin will think of my performance, as he has studied this kata in depth:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kata captured on video

Summer does provide me with the chance to capture my kata on video so that I can keep an eye on the progress of my efforts. So, with no further delay, I would like to share with you my latest Kihon Sono Ichi Kata.

If you would like to see the older video of the same kata, you can find it here:


It is from the year 2007.

Summer training 2009

Well.. that was my training for Sunday.

There was a tug of war between teams.. I'm in the front of the team on the left. We won. I couldn't believe how heavy that rope was just by itself, and then when we had to pull.. oh boy!

My son provided me with the service of shaving my face with a popsicle stick.

Then I sparred a variety of sized children on that inflatable joust game. The sticks themselves weighed 25 pounds, and one stood on a very unstable surface trying to swing them around. Each succeeding challenger made those sticks feel like they gained in weight incrementally. My son told me that the children were disappointed when I came down to have a drink of water. They all wanted to spar me again. One of the children had asked my son "Why is she so good at this?" Ha ha ha

I decided to go back up there, and face the kids again.

I think that I "fought" a good amount of time. I know that it came to the point where I had troubles bringing the stick around to deflect incoming hits.

It was quite an enjoyable picnic. It took me a day or two for my muscles to recuperate.. ha ha ha

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No time left for me

Summer holidays, and although I have more time at home due to karate classes being halted for vacation, I have less time for me to train as I have a house filled with needs/ desires/ and people.

I have had to "steal" time here and there for push ups, sit ups, kata, basics.. but it's a sporadic thing now and then.

Tuesday night I dedicated a good 2 hours to basics/ self defense / combinations/ conditioning. I needed to dodge the various people walking back and forth through the rooms, but I managed to accomplish my goals.

Last night, after 2 hours of yard work, I managed to get some weapons practice in with both Bo, and nunchuks

Today is dedicated to picnics, birthday parties, and movies. I managed to grab a good 40 minutes of training so far today( like I said, bits and pieces here and there)

I'll have to try to incorporate some training into the picnic games without looking too weird. Who knows.. there might be some time for kata after all is cleaned up, everyone has left, and I'm waiting for my husband to pick me up.

I know that I did do hundreds of squats at my daughter's Grade 6 farewell pizza/dance party as I picked up broken balloon pieces off of the dance floor. Also, blowing up the hundreds of balloons did exercise my lungs/ kiai.

Having a scheduled class helps standardize the work outs.. Although it is a nice change to have freedom, and fun, I can't wait until summer vacation ends, and we return to a rhythm of training.