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

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.


Lizzie said...

Does your shin pads cover the top of your feet? What do you do for body conditioning? In my old dojo, we would condition the arms doing three types of blocking. Then, we would condition the legs by having our partner kick the inside and outside of our thighs. I hated conditioning our shins by hitting each other there. I would mostly do it lightly because it really hurt. Then, we would slap each other on our sides. That stings.

For self defense, do you practice defending from knives and guns? How do you train in mental self control? Do you use circular blocks? Is Kyokushin hard like Shotokan or more soft? Goju-Ryu is both hard and soft. BJJ is very soft because we focus on technique instead of using lots of energy. Kuzushi sounds a little like Aikido.

It sounds like that you are allowed to strike when on the ground. That's too bad that you're taught to get on your feet as fast as possible when on the ground. I can understand why though. You don't have much training on the ground compared to your training on your feet. Thus, you would like to be in your most dominant position. What types of chokes and joint locks have you learned so far? I really like the rear naked choke.

Wow, I didn't know that you were so close to your black belt in Kyokushin. How long did it take you to get your black belt in Shotokan? How many kata do you know in Kyokushin? Do you like competing tournaments?

supergroup7 said...

Wow...Wow... MORE questions! Ha ha ha.. I'll be happy to answer. I hope that I catch them all.

1. Does your shin pads cover the top of your feet?

Mine don't, I prefer not to cover the top of my feet as I wear my shin pads throughout all of my training. Most of the other students that I see wearing pads do have them covering their feet.

2. What do you do for body conditioning?

At home, I have a personal regime of Shin/arm conditioning where I strike my limbs with a metal rod as I watch t.v.

3. For self defense, do you practice defending from knives and guns?

Yes, that aspect is covered in our training.

4. How do you train in mental self control?

Every class offers you ample opportunities of looking at how you react to the things happening around you, and within you, and contemplating better, and more controlled ways of thinking/reacting.

5. Do you use circular blocks?

Yes, in many varied, and different ways.

6. Is Kyokushin hard like Shotokan or more soft?

:-) The only way that I can describe Kyokushin is to say I wouldn't want to be the person receiving what a Kyokushin Martial Artist is ready to dish out. If you are referring to "hard" as in taking the initiative, and striking hard.. Yes, Kyokushin is like that. If you are saying "soft" as in deflecting, unbalancing, and controlling your opponent, than I have to say Yes, Kyokushin is like that also. Kyokushin has both Shotokan, and Goju Ryu roots so it blends both concepts.

7.What types of chokes and joint locks have you learned so far?

Many, too many to list, and to be honest, I may not even know the proper names for them. I just know that when someone grabs me in this way, I do that, and the person ends up where they don't want to be, and in much pain.

8. How long did it take you to get your black belt in Shotokan?

Wow... I never did figure that out before.. thanks for the question. I achieved the Rank on Nov 26, 2005. I started training under Sensei Crockford Feb, 2003. Which equals to 33 months, or approx. 3 years.

9. How many kata do you know in Kyokushin?

29 of them so far.. but Kyokushin has more than 50 kata to learn so I have a lifetime of training ahead of me.

10. Do you like competing tournaments?

I would be thrilled to compete in a Kata tournament just to go up, and share my love of kata with others of the like mind. I am not able to compete in fighting tournaments as I am older than the allowed age.

Lizzie said...

Don't you want something covering the top of your foot when you spar? Twice, I got a hairline fracture on the top of my left foot from sparring. How long do you think it will take you to get your black belt in Kyokushin?

That's a really good description of mental self control every time I spar. I work on being relaxed and not getting excited all the time. My Sensei says that BJJ is like chess, one has to be thinking two to three moves ahead. However, in lots of situations I just try to figure what what I could do so I can keep fighting longer. I'm pretty much always on the defense because everyone is better than me at my dojo.

What's your favorite kata and why do you love it? 50 kata is a lot. In Goju-Ryu, we only have 12 kata to worry about. I think it's better to have a few kata where we can study, perfect our movements, and learn all the applications to them than trying to be a "jack of all trades" in all the kata.

In Kyokushin tournaments, they don't have karateka compete in kata? How come they have an age limit for sparring?

supergroup7 said...

1. Don't you want something covering the top of your foot when you spar?

No, not really. You see, I wear my shin pads throughout the whole training to limit the damage that the rough cotton cloth does to my skin condition. It isn't unusual for me to see blood stains on the inside of my Gi from my training as my skin breaks open in little spots. The pads protect my skin, and also my training partners. When I wear foot pads, I find that I cannot grab the floor as well as I would like.

2. How long do you think it will take you to get your black belt in Kyokushin?

To be honest, I really don't put much energy into wondering about the length of time. I think about where I am right now, and what I can do that I couldn't before, and how I will continue on working towards gaining more skills. To get a Black belt in Kyokushin, you have to be able to do quite a lot of things. I know that I will get it.. and for me that is good enough, the whole "when" part will take care of itself.

3. What's your favorite kata and why do you love it?

I love KATA.. ha ha ha... They all have their own feel, and lesson, and energy. I've always been attracted to Pinan Sono Ni ( Heian Nidan) and I really cannot tell you why it appeals to me so much. I've developed a love for Tsuki No kata. The power of that kata shakes the ground that you stand on.

4. In Kyokushin tournaments, they don't have karateka compete in kata?

Some Kyokushin tournaments have Kata included, others do not, I haven't been lucky enough to attend one that does.

5. How come they have an age limit for sparring?

To my knowledge, many Full Contact Tournaments have had an age limit. For some, it is 35 years, some 40, some 45. I don't specifically know WHY this is so.. It could be that older bodies sustain, and maintain injury longer than younger bodies.

Steve said...

Interesting Q&A. Thanks for sharing.

supergroup7 said...

Thanks Steve..

Lizzie said...

All of those kata just consisted on kicks, punches, blocks, and a few open hand strikes. They look really hard, not soft like Goju-Ryu. What's your most difficult kata and why? Why do you love kata so much?

That's thinks there's an age limit for sparring. I don't think it should matter how old you are. I know that old Sensei sparred in a tournament and he's around 50 years old. Those sparring tournaments should include kata for you. :)

Tell me about it. I hate blood. The last few days people have been getting blood on my gi. It's really annoying because I don't want it to stain my white gi.

supergroup7 said...

1. All of those kata just consisted on kicks, punches, blocks, and a few open hand strikes. They look really hard, not soft like Goju-Ryu.

Although this isn't a question, Lizzie, I just would like to explain: The kata that I have placed on my weblog - Kihon Sono Ichi, Pinan Sono Ichi, and Chion Bo kata are one kind of kata that Kyokushin train in. We also have Gekisai Dai, Gekisai Sho, Seisan, Sushiho, etc. kata from the Goju Ryu style, but of course they have a more Kyokushin feel to them when performed. Kyokushin is Kyokushin. It has roots in other Arts, but is it's own thing.

2. What's your most difficult kata and why?

At this point in time, it is Sokugi Taikyoku Sono San. It is a kicking kata created by the founder of Kyokushin, Sosai Masutatsu Oyama based on the basic kata. I am finding it difficult to meet the demands of switching balance to do the higher side kicks, roundhouse kicks, and spinning back kicks in this kata. It could be due to the limited flexibility of my hips.

Here is a video of the First of the Kicking kata: Sokugi Taikyoku Sono Ichi which has a low side kick to the knee, and rising kicks.

3. Why do you love kata so much?

In my defense, I'm not the only person to have fell in love with kata at first sight. I remember reading the autobiography of a Master who was taking courses at a University, and on his lunch break he saw a group of students in the grounds of the school doing kata under the eyes of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi. Instantly, he realized that he wanted to be able to do that, and he joined the Karate classes.

From my viewpoint, Kata is the encyclopedia of an Art. It points to the concepts, and knowledge that a style believes in. It contains the past, and the future within it. The performance of a kata expresses the heart and soul of the person. We can see how hard they have trained, how seriously they take their efforts, and how knowledgeable they are about what they are doing by how they perform the first 5 movements of a kata. A well performed kata engages the whole person, and you can almost sense the focus, and power flowing out of them. Some people have likened kata to being the "Dance of death" as in each movement done has so many violent possibilities. Some people have called kata a form of moving meditation where the mind becomes still, and for a moment time ceases to exist as each movement has it's own purpose, but they flow together as one.