Saturday, December 31, 2011

My New Year's Goal 2012

Last year in 2011 my goal was:

Picture of Me at the tournament

"This year my goal is more personal, and direct. I have had a very strong desire for years now to go compete in a Kyokushin Tournament as a Kata competitor. This will be realized in 2011 in March. I have been training for this moment with much diligence, perseverance, and hope, and I look forwards to the event. All of my mental, and physical efforts, Kihon, Kata, and Kumite are directed towards improving my performance... and preparing for my upcoming Kyokushin Black Belt test."

I achieved the goal to compete at a Kyokushin Tournament in Kata performing Tsuki No Kata... (Picture of said moment above) It was a wonderful experience, and I feel happy that I achieved this after so many years of personal effort, and training. The moments of practicing my kata in the Mall on the tile flooring before it opens from 5:30 am to 6:30 am while the Mall walkers did their laps around me are etched in my memory, and in the soles of my feet.

I also have succeeded in achieving the rank of Shodan as mentioned previously in this blog:

I feel complete, and satisfied. I feel GOOD!

My Goals for 2012:

Onwards, and upwards.. never stop heating the water..

a) I want to focus on improving my Saiha Kata, and Seienchin Kata. One feels the up/down movement of the Saiha Kata very similar to the big waves of the sea, and I want to understand better the inner meaning behind this action.

Seienchin challenges me to find my leg's power under me, and to keep it regardless to the direction that I go... I KNOW that I will unlock great advances in learning how to switch my weight efficiently, and quickly if I could work towards improving this Kata.

b) To help cope with the increasing sensations of stiffness, and pain in my knees/elbows/ankles/wrists I have started taking Ginger supplements in my diet. ( Both capsules, and ginger tea made from raw sliced ginger in boiled water.) It is my goal to find other ways to support my body so that I can continue to train into my golden years. I'm hoping that by next New Year's I will see an improvement due to the aide of the Ginger.

c) Review: I would like to work towards rewriting my notes, and creating a more complete library of the information that I need to know, want to know, and even added on extras of Martial Arts information that just interests me. I'm sure that this will become an ongoing project.. but it's got to start somewhere.. so I chose here and now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Tribute to Sensei Angel Carrasco

What will be soon 8 years ago, Sensei Angel Carrasco accepted me as his student. Little did I know then what an awesome blessing this man's presence would be in my life, and how strong his effect would be on my Karate path.

I have always wanted to write a tribute to him on my weblog, but until now I felt that it would be wrong because I had not yet received a Black Belt in his eyes. However, it is now the correct time to sing the praises of my Sensei.

Sensei Angel came to my city, and founded a dojo in 1982. Without fail for near 30 years Sensei Angel has given his time, attention, energy, and knowledge to his community by teaching Karate classes for free to those who wanted to learn. He didn't only offer quality lessons on how to kick, and punch, but also intertwined in his lessons was wisdom of how to live a better, and healthier life through small changes in one's perceptions, and life habits. Through his guidance, and my willingness to look beyond my comfort zone, I have been able to incorporate these lessons, and improve my everyday situation. I have explored my strengths and worked towards healing my weaknesses all with his encouragement, and support.

His willingness to accept each student for who they are, and to give them the tools to meet their goals has made each class at Dojo Entheos a wonderful positive investment in our lives.

Sensei Angel was there for every step that we've taken, and his strength, and acknowledgement has helped us reach for things that we thought were impossible.

In my eyes, he is a Sensei's Sensei, a teacher of teachers, and is most deserving of the gratitude of his students. May there be another 30 years of his instruction helping to improve our world one person at a time ( or if God's willing perhaps even more...)

Thank you Sensei

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A new beginning

It may seem to be obvious, but the average day doesn't reveal it's potential for newness to us. We seem to be caught in the daily grind, and fail to realize how unique each challenge can be in our lives. It's the same with Karate classes.

I just recently was asked by a very young new student in Karate the question of why we learn the same thing all the time. Yes, it's true... very true... A white belt learns Chudan Tsuki on their first day, and 8 years later, a black belt will be focused on improving their Chudan Tsuki. In fact, Sensei Gichin Funakoshi was working on improving his Chudan Tsuki up until the very last day before he passed away. Why? Why so much time/effort to work on something simple and basic that can take just a few minutes to "learn"? I would suggest that it is because Karate is about seeking the potential of a movement. It is grasping onto the concept that everything is new, and unique, and can be used in a variety of ways.. or in other words to absorb every potential possibility that is offered to us. Sometimes it is only time, and the skill of experience that will reveal the hidden meaning behind some techniques. A punch isn't just a punch, but unless one trains long enough, and with awareness, then they can't get past the perception that it is just a punch... so then the question will pop in their heads "Why do we learn the same thing all the time?"

Three simple punches in this video, but used in different spots for different effects.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Karate helps

I never realized before just how much I take those things that I've trained hard for in Karate for granted in daily life.

Just recently I've been asking myself questions like:

- Would I have been able to sprint for the bus like I just sprinted right now if it had happened 6 years ago? Would I have done it with the same smoothness, and be able to walk into the bus without huffing and puffing like a steam engine train? No... no I wouldn't have been able to run more than 10 feet without feeling overwhelmed, and I would have given up, walked, and waited for the next bus.

- Would I have been able to jump down from a flat truck bed to the ground with balance, and control like I just did? or would I even had the confidence that I could do it? No.. no.. I wouldn't have gotten up on that truck to begin with.

- Would I have even considered jogging 2 km as a possibility? Oh no.. never... not even a dream.

What has my Karate training done to me? When did it happen? All that I wanted was to be able to perform kata with some semblance of technique.. and now I am achieving things that I never thought that I ever could. How could performing hundreds of Chudan Tsuki/ Mae Geri/ Soto Uke create this?

I became interested if this type of "improvement" was scientifically research, and found some interesting results:

"The effect of 6 months of twice weekly karate training on flexibility, balance, and strength was evaluated in 14 boys who perform karate as beginners (age M = 10.3 ± 1.8) and a group of the same age who had never been involved in martial arts (n = 10; age M = 10.9 ± 1.4). All subjects were pretested and posttested on the following: flexibility of upper extremity (shoulder), hamstrings and quadriceps; strength, including handgrip strength and concentric flexion/extension of quadriceps; and balance, with eyes either open or closed. After 6 months, the tests were evaluated and compared by groups. The results showed the karate group made significant gains on quadriceps flexibility and balance with eyes closed. By improving flexibility, balance, and strength, karate improves three of the basic fitness components that are very important for preventing sport injuries in the growing years." website

"It's not just for fighting: new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that people in their 40's and 50's who regularly practice martial arts demonstrate astounding levels of physical fitness in comparison to people the same age who don't exercise at all. The study subjects who practiced martial arts had 12% less body fat, were able to do twice as many sit-ups, had enhanced flexibility and leg strength, demonstrated a stronger immune system and showed greatly improved balance.

Learn more:

I would believe that any exercise program would create physical benefits in those who participate in it. However, I think that there is something about Karate training that could encourage positive change in a person in more than one direction. I'd like to see if this was studied farther.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seienchin in the sand

I've always wanted to do kata at the beach in sand, and today I finally was able to do so.

What an experience! For anyone who hasn't tried this, I would honestly recommend it. It is quite a learning moment.

I moved into my first stance, and the whole ground shifted under me.. of course it would move like that... it's sand, but to make matters worse.. as I shifted weight, the ground shifted more.. and then just to make things more challenging.. as I settled into stance, and executed the strike with power... the sand shifted again. I ended up flailing my arms into whatever direction I could to keep my balance, losing all semblance of a kiba dachi, and sensing my feet digging down lower and lower into the sand about 6-8 inches until eventually settling into an uneasy place which was threatening to give in under me at any second.

Then, trying to move from that position to the next was insanely challenging as the sand sucked onto your legs, and resisted any movement now that you have achieved some sort of equilibrium from the position you have taken. Each kick would bring sand up, and it would fly in almost all directions.. up, forwards, sideways.. you name it. I found sand in my hair from my efforts.

One kata felt like the effort of 10 in a row from the drag, and pull of the sand. My legs were burning, and shaking after a dozen Kata. I had to really struggle to remember the movements of each kata because my mind was constantly distracted by the effort to stay standing up.

I learned to position my feet into the stance position, then to sink them into the sand to establish a connection, and THEN shift my weight onto that scaffolding. Only once I was firmly established could I send the technique. Kata became a three fold challenge. Call me crazy, but I LOVED it. By the third kata, I was getting the hang of it, and the kata were coming out more naturally with less stumbling, starting/stopping, and mistakes.

All this was happening on Dry sand. I stood there wondering how much more challenging it would be to execute a kata on the wet sand at the edge of the beach. I'm sure that it would pull, and shift even more at your feet and legs.. and then you would have the shift and pull of the waves of water to jar your mind, and body. I've just GOT to experience that one of these days!!!!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Being a high belt.. Part 2

There is such a strange tight-rope walking kind of feeling when you are one of the high ranked students of a dojo. At least, that is how I've been feeling since I achieved some experience, and responsibility in my walk.

At all times I need to keep my Sensei's expectations, and goals in mind, but at the same time I am responsible to find my own path. I am reminded that Karate training is both a community, and individual action. I have to think of what "I" want from my training, and pursue it, and yet at the same time I need to be aware of, and responsive to the various needs around me.

What a balancing act!!! Too much of one thing or the other creates problems. Yet, isn't that what everything in life is like? Too much food is not good, but neither is not enough. Too much sleep will strip you of wonderful life moments, but not enough will deplete your enjoyment.

I've been thinking about the "Higher belt helping out the Lower belt" posting that I placed previously on this blog. What if the whole idea in this situation is also "balance"? What if a higher belt supports the efforts of a lower belt with their experience? It's not that they are "teaching" the other, but more that they are propping up a weak point with their strength. For example, the lower belt was taught how to do a side kick by their Sensei, but struggles to raise their knee properly. A higher belt kindly suggests how it could be done more easily from their own built up knowledge from experiencing the same problem. This solution may, or may not work for the lower belt, but this interchange can create a shared understanding, and relationship.

I can still remember how strongly I was affected by just a quick, easy suggestion from one of my sempai many years ago about how I could stretch out my knees using a wall, and lessen their tension, and pain after training. That sempai had been there/done that, and had found something that works for them. I chose to implement their suggestion, and found instant relief. I am grateful for the personal investment, and sincere concern that this person showed to me. I will always carry that memory in my heart as I travel. I no longer train with this person, but I send prayers of gratitude in their direction each time I stretch out my knees.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Being a high ranked student

Since I've started Karate I've been asked to aide others to learn their rank requirements.

It's been the normal thing to enter the dojo, and instead of training for myself, I would be asked to go to the side during class to help others. I realize that this is almost a common part of Martial Arts training.

Yet, I am starting to wonder about the reason why this is happening, and the pro/cons of having higher belts "teaching" lower belts.

More than once I've seen bad habits, wrong attitudes, errors, lack of proper knowledge, and mis-information taught to the lower belt. I believe that this isn't done on purpose, it's just the fact that someone who is still learning a skill would have a more difficult time transferring knowledge than one who had attained some mastery over the skill. I think that I can safely say that, even with people who have mastered a skill, not all of them are good teachers. Just because you can get a goal in hockey doesn't mean that you can help someone else learn how to do so.

Karate classes are rather short in time. You get only 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours to work with and some of that is spent in warm up.

I understand that there is a sense of responsibility that a high belt needs to exhibit and that helping lower belts learn could fulfill this, but I've seen that taken to the extreme where the position of high rank created a negative effect in the higher belt's behavior and they treated lower belts as inferior beings. The lower belt ends up getting confused, insulted, and discouraged. The higher belt doesn't gain anything positive from the experience because of the manner in which they taught.

Yes.. I've heard the concept that you learn more about your information when you are asked to teach it, but in my opinion, you have to have a solid foundation to be able to learn more. I believe that if the teacher does not have a good grasp of what they are doing in the first place, there is no way that they can "learn" more, and improve, by teaching.

I think that there are others ways of showing a growth in responsibility in the dojo for higher belts, and I'm wondering if teaching/correcting others should remain in the domain of the Instructor... and or a few selected students who have shown through their training, and example that they are capable of guiding others properly, and without teaching confusion.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Achieved the rank of Shodan in Kyokushin

On Sunday, March 27th, in Montreal, Canada, under the eyes of Hanshi John Taylor (9th Dan of Australia), Shihan Roman Szyrajew ( Canada), Shihan Klauss Rex ( Spain), and Shihan Erick (Denmark) I successfully received the rank of Shodan in Kyokushin Karate.

Some impressions from this experience:

- How lucky, and grateful, I am to have this opportunity, and challenge! What a joy it was to meet, and train with so many wonderful Karate-ka. Each one of them were an inspiration to me. I'm very proud to belong to this Art, and to share my love for karate with such strong, and yet gentle people. The Shihans are so approachable, and supportive to everyone regardless of age, or skill. The most memorable moments for me were Shihan Taylor's explanations of Kata bunkai and how it involves protecting one's beer from being spilled. Shihan Rex sparring with a little 5 year old boy, and seeing how the boy actually thought that he was winning the bout. The sparkles of thrill, and joy in the boy's eyes, and the pride of the father next to me who said "What I would give to have a private lesson like that!" Shihan Roman bending down low on the main stage to listen to a child's quiet timid question during the Gold cup Tournament rules, and then his kind, and gentle answer that encouraged, and clarified.

- Somehow, through fate, or chance, I ended up directly in front of all of the fighters standing about 4 feet away from the Shihans when the Canadian, American, and Japanese anthems were played at the start of the Tournament. I was overwhelmed with that moment. I will never forget it. In a way, it symbolized everything that I had sacrificed, and everything that I have received to rebuild me.

- The test was beyond what I thought it would be. Perhaps it is due to my mistake. I had arrived at the seminar early to take notes during the children, and Intermediate classes. I was sitting at the back of the dojo with my papers and pen. Hanshi Taylor noticed me and invited me to join the children's class. I asked if it would be possible to just watch, and he invited me again with more emphasis. I placed down my papers, and lined up with the children at the lowest end near the orange belts as I didn't feel that I deserved to be up in front with the Black Belts. Hanshi pointed out the height difference between the children and I, and invited me to join the front line. The day then proceeded to be very challenging, and interesting as I participated in the children's class, and the Intermediate class in addition to the Black/Brown class before I faced my Shodan test. By the time the test began I was quite depleted of energy. I was too nervous to eat, so I only drank water during the day.

- I felt very badly to see all of the blood stains that I had left on the various (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Dan) black belts that I fought during my test. I know how difficult it is to remove those from the white gi. I swear that the majority of the Black belts in Montreal now have souvenirs of my test on them (for awhile until the laundry soap removes it.) The inside of my Gi sleeves, jacket, and pant legs were painted red from the blood that escapes from when my skin condition breaks open. I washed the gi right away in cold water, and it is back to normal now. It's amazing how my psoriasis is healing up so fast. It has only been 3 days since that test, and I can now move without that fiery sharp torment. For that I am very grateful!

I am Shodan now.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wow! I haven't posted for so long...

My apologies, I haven't posted for so long! Let me fill you in since the last:

I have been putting forth energy in so many directions:

- Helping my teenagers with their lives, choices, and schooling. So much is happening, and I wish that I could be everywhere all the time. I do what I can, and as much as I can.

- Searching for employment. This is a full time job in itself, seeking out opportunities, meeting with perspective employers, completing a variety of assessment tests. I've learned many things about myself. I have a typing speed of almost 72 wpm, for one thing. I knew that I typed quickly, but I never had a number to cite before. However, I chose to say that I type over 60 wpm. on my resume. I think that that is good enough.

- Keeping the housework at an acceptable level.. A household of 3 adults, and 6 teenagers creates much work in getting groceries, cooking, and cleaning. I balance my day around these demands, and attempt to stretch our budget by cooking soups, stews, stir fry, and baking.

- Building up my Martial Art knowledge.. I've been studying about sports injuries, and how to prevent/ help heal them. Also, I've been turning my eyes towards Sensei Chojun Miyagi, and learning more, and more about Goju Ryu Karate to help me understand my Kyokushin roots.

- Training on my Kata... I've been visiting the local shopping mall while the mallwalkers go around, and doing an hour of practice on my Kata in one of the central areas about 3 times a week near 7 am. The flooring there is hard on the soles of my feet as it is tiles, and grouting. Turns are especially difficult, and I found myself cringing, and not committing myself to the effort. I've stopped doing this activity recently so that I can prepare myself on basics at home for my future participation in a Tournament.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

New Year's Goals 2011

Last year my goals were:

"In 2010, my goals are towards integrating all of my training into my daily life.

I want to find balance between stress, and rest. I want to train hard, deplete myself, and then allow myself to recover, and strengthen.

I want to implement a daily conditioning routine that I can carry into my old age that blends with the challenges, and demands of my day.

I want to learn to eat properly to support the two goals listed above. This Christmas it took me only 2 weeks to gain 10 pounds. No real training, and triple the amount of rich foods have contributed to this, and I can only put the responsibility on myself for allowing this to happen. I know that I will lose this weight, but for that weight loss to be healthy I have to keep a balanced effort. I'm thinking of going back to keeping a journal of my eating so that I can even out the amount of calories that I take in, and make sure that I have enough fruits and vegetables. "

On the whole, I can proudly say that I have incorporated the above goals into my daily life. In fact, this year I did not gain any weight over the holiday season. I still enjoyed myself, and ate some treats to enjoy myself, but I controlled how much. I did have to force myself to rest more than once.

This year my goal is more personal, and direct. I have had a very strong desire for years now to go compete in a Kyokushin Tournament as a Kata competitor. This will be realized in 2011 in March. I have been training for this moment with much diligence, perseverence, and hope, and I look forwards to the event. All of my mental, and physical efforts, Kihon, Kata, and Kumite are directed towards improving my performance... and preparing for my upcoming Kyokushin Black Belt test.

What can I say about that incipient Kyokushin Shodan test? This whole blog exists because I wanted to keep a journal of my walk towards my Shotokan Black. The experiences that I went through in Shotokan has changed how I feel towards everything. I have learned many things that have made me look twice at what rank is, and what it reveals.

However, I have full confidence now that I will find solidity, and personal closure when I achieve the Black Belt rank in Kyokushin. Will it be at this year's test? I cannot say. I can tell you that I have put in every ounce of my determination, and energy towards becoming the best Karate-ka that I can be, and that I will put that effort out on the Dojo floor when I test.

My friends, I know that you all wish me well. As one of my Martial Arts friends would say "Don't wish me good luck on my upcoming test, wish me good skill." :-)