Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas to all of you

I would like to wish a Merry Christmas to all of my regular readers (yeah, the four of you as I usually joke ;) ) and to anyone who might stumble upon this page today.

Here's hoping you're having a great time, I know we are around here. Was a nice Christmas dinner at my parents' last night after which we got to unwrap the presents. Watching the kids smile when they see presents they had either asked for (so were happy to see them) or were not expecting but were really happy to see is always a great source of joy for me.

Just so this post as a tiny bit of karate in it, let me say that I received the DVD of Jet Li's Fearless. I can't wait to watch it. :)

Have fun you all, be safe and don't drink and drive.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

kali on a knuckle = ouch

I was able to attend yesterday's class and as advertised by the instructor, we worked on some kali routines. I'm starting to like that weapon. Even though it's basically a wood stick, strikes are flowing a bit as if you're holding a sword, or at least a long bladed kind of weapon.

We did some basic strikes and blocks at first and finished the class with a drill of five moves that can start over as soon as the last strike is by simply reverting the roles, i.e. the attacker becomes the attackee. With somebody swinging a stick to your head, things can get a bit confusing so we were keeping it on the slow motion side but even then, I got wacked on my first knuckle of my right hand at one point. It's all blue/redish right now, and even though it is far from broken, it is very tender to the touch but I'll have plenty of time to let it rest.

That was my last class of 2006 since the dojo will be closing on Friday and will only reopen on January 6. As I said before, I kind of welcome the break as it will give me a chance to change my mind a bit, get out of the routine. Not that I don't like taking class, but when you're always running, either to be on time for my classes or for Andrew's classes, it'll be nice to not have to worry about anything for a couple of weeks. And that's not counting the fact that I also get off work on Friday at 4:15 and will not come back until January 8. Talk about having time to pull the plug on everything and really not worry about anything but rest... :)

I'll certainly post something in the break, if only to share some more video from the DVD of that Christmas show...


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A private review

I've talked about how I like my Monday evening class because it's the perfect size (about 9 to 12 student per class) with the prefect kind of students, i.e. mostly sutdent that are exactly my rank or a bit above. Well yesterday evening was even better than usual. Maybe due to the upcoming holiday season and also the fact that some student of our school might have gone South for a week (a trip to Disney World had been organized by the school's owners and people could buy tickets to go, sadly I couldn't afford four tickets), we were only three students in class yesterday. Yep, only three students, me, another brown belt who got his 3rd kyu with me a year ago, and a recent black belt graduate. This meant we had the instructor in a very private kind of class.

He took us through some kata work first. We did some work with some kata we don't often do, liek the Statue of the Crane. I was happy with how they all came out.

After kata work, we got to work on self defense techniques, nothing new, only reviewing what we already knew. Again, I thought my techniques came out okay with no major glitches. Yeah, a couple tiny missteps happened here or there, but otherwise, I knew them all and they were coming out fairly quick and efficiently.

We finished the class with some self defense against club attacks. One after the other, one student was put in between the other two who attacked him one after the other. Again, I thought it went fairly well. Had they told me the test was this coming saturday, I think I could have been ready, so I guess that with a couple weeks of headsup in January, I should be able to get to the test with confidence in what I can do.

I've talked about how inconvenient the closing of the Wednesday night special will be, but I just found a silver lining. By me having to drive Andrew to his Wednesday night class, this used to keep me from attending the other advanced adult class that is taking place at the dojo. Now, with moving Andrew's midweek class to Tuesday, albeit at the dojo, this leaves my Wednesday night free to take a real class instead of simply training on my own. Even better for this week, my curiosity was piqued when I learned that the person who would be giving class is the same instructor who's given us some traditional bo sparring class in the past and that this is probably the kind of class he might give this coming Wednesday. Hmmmm, maybe I'll try to squeeze in this one extra hour of class this week...


Monday, December 18, 2006

Quiet weekend before the long break

Not much happened this past weekend. I didn't practice my bo on Friday, simply decided to take a break to rest a nagging hurt in my left shoulder. It's not much, but I can feel a tingle when I lift it, so I thought it was better to take that Friday off, especially with the upcoming holiday break that will allow me to rest it. That and I'm going through a rough cold right now. Congestions, other muscle pains, a bit of back stiffness (that is thaks to God now gone only 2 days after it appeared). That Friday trip to the dojo still brought something nice. The DVD for the show is available and I received our copy of it on Friday. I will extract my (edited) performance of my kata at one point during the holiday break and will share it with you in a post here. The edit is kind of nice. At least you don't see me running after my bo anymore. :)

We both had a traditional class on Saturday morning. I worked a bit more on Cat 3, not only for myself, but helping out others complete it. I like helping out people, although I always try to stay within what I know. These are people at my belt level, so I try to simply show the movements, like trying to do the kata super slowly so they can follow, or repeating what I have been told to correct from my instructors. We finished the class working on advanced self defense techniques. Despite not having worked on them too much in the last few weeks, mostly because I concentrated my training time on my competition kata, I felt that they were still coming to me all right.

At the end of that class is when it came, out of the blue, well not really as I had been expecting talks about it. Our instructor closed the class by pointing at me and another brown belt, saying a 2nd kyu test should be coming after the Holiday break. As I said, I was sort of expecting to hear about it, just unsure when it'll be. I think I'd be read to test if asked to, but would be nice to hear about it in advance...

We had a semi-private bo class in the afternoon and it turned out to be a very technical one. Our instructor asked us if there were parts of our kata that we had problems with. Andrew was always non-commital but I could find many little spots so I kind of lead our instructor. His way of seeing things is that when one is bothering you, you have to find a similar but tougher move to work one, so that when you go back to the move bothering you, you find it much easier than before. A very interesting class, if not super intensive physically. By that I mean that I get a good workout if I do my kata over and over, as he's been having us do in the last few weeks, but maybe it was better that way. With the shortness of breath that came with my cold, I'm not sure I would have been able to go through many reps of my kata without falling over.

That's where the long break starts. I have class tonight, but the dojo closes on Friday night, after that evening's class, and will reopen on Saturday, January 6 for the yearly two weeks break of the holidays. I'm welcoming this break. The last month has been intense with the show and that last competition, and even though I would not have minded having class, taking a couple of Saturdays easy at home will be very nice.

I wanted to film myself doing my bo kata in super slow motion of Saturday afternoon, but I completely forgot about it and left my camera at home. I'll try to do that after the Holiday break.

I have class tonight and will probably skip again on the Friday evening practice so tonight will probably be my last hour of class for a little while. I intend to practice my kata in the basement and maybe pull out the free weights from the dust. Can't let myself get all out of shape with a possible test in January, can I?


Friday, December 15, 2006

So proud...

Yeah, he looked so proud as I saw him coming my way, wearing his green belt now with a taped brown stripe at both ends. But you know what, the title could have applied to his daddy too. I was and will always be really proud of my boys. They bring such joy into our lives, it just can't be described.

Anyway, my monday evening instructor was the main tester last night and when he got to the front desk to get the brown tape, he flashed me the thumbs up sign with a good sized smile. He simply added something along the lines of "it went real well, he knew his stuff". While he also said that he had a couple of instances of the fist wanting to stay in front, he said it wasn't that bad.

I feel that Andrew has begun to learn that hard work does pay off. I can see that in his talking and his behaviour. About his school report card, which was very good, to this belt test, he is beginning to realize that he can't simply coast on talent alone. That's good, I like that he's growing, but darn it, he's growing too fast. Oh well.

One other thing I think he has learned is that this fist thing will need to be worked on from now on, if simply so that it doesn't come back to haunt him as he starts getting to the more important belt tests. Not saying the previous belt tests were not important, but from my importance, when I got my brown belt (3rd kyu and the next belt he will test for), I really felt like I had stepped up a notch. Maybe it's got to do with the fact that in adult classes, brown belts are supposed to take the "advanced" classes, or the fact that our brown belt comes with a black stripe, signal that if you keep on working hard, maybe someday you can get to that black belt. One thing I know he realized yesterday is that a brown stripe to his green belt is the final link to said brown belt which is kinda close to the black belt.

Yesterday, he seemed more motivated than ever to keep on practicing. Reminded me of about a year ago, right after I got my brown belt, we had a little talk in which, for the first time, he mentionned something about the black belt. We got to talking about Matthew his little brother and if he thought he would like to do karate or not. I told Andrew that maybe he would, but that he was still a good two years from even getting signed up (will turn 4 in January 2008). I had asked Andrew if he thought he'd still be practicing karate by then and he replied, with a smile in his eyes, that yeah he would, because he wanted to get a black belt... Andrew was 8 at the time, and I'm pretty sure he can't see when he would test for a black belt, yet, he sees it in his future... That was another moment of pride for daddy. :)

All these talks of a future black belt are not to say that this is our only goal. I'm sure parents reading my blog here will relate to how hard it can be to motivate a kid to keep on practicing, especially when belt tests are getting few and far between. An adult can rationalize, or at least some adult can. ;) For a kid, it's harder. To see my boy's fire being rekindled like that, it just felt nice to him maturing and made me realize how much he's grown lately.

In all the good news about the test, I forgot to talk about one little inconvenient news we got on Wednesday evening. That was the last class of the Fall session at that location, a gym in a school very close to our house. Sadly, we also learned that it was the last class that will be held at that location, EVER. Turned out that while there used to be two hours of class, each of them attended by 12-14 kids, this Fall, it had dropped to only one hour with at the most 13 kids and sometimes only 9-10. Our karate school just couldn't justify having to pay the rental fee charged by the school board and they have decided to not offer satellite classes in that gymnasium in January. As I said, this is an inconvenient news. I had come to like the closeness of the place as it allowed Andrew to have one hour of class in the week maybe only 2 minutes away from home instead of the usual 10-15 minutes that it takes us to get to the dojo. Doesn't seem much but with homeworks and such weeknight free time sometimes come at a premium. Right now, Andrew was taking three hours a week, the other two being Fridays and Saturday mornings. His subscription 48 weeks, twice a week, but we usually take it easy during the Summer months, so we'd been putting time "in the bank" so the speak. We could simply keep on going twice a week (Friday and Saturday) or find another evening in the week. I took a quick look at the school's kid schedule for his belt level and I think I saw an opening at 7 on Tuesday which could fit quite well. Before 7 gives us plenty of time to do homeworks and lessons, and even giving my wife a bit more time to get home. I gotta say that the 6pm time for the Wednesday evening was cutting it close.

The other inconvenient thing about this news is that I lose my free hour of practice. As you've read in the past, I used that hour mainly to practice my bo and sometimes to practice my kata. That, combined with the fact that come January, Andrew will switch from the 7pm to the 8pm traditional class on Fridays (due to his new belt and some rearrangement of belts for a better split of size in classes) and there's not much room available in that time slot at the dojo as opposed to the 7pm slot, where I can usually find a little spot to practice in. Maybe I'll simply drop to only going to the regular Saturday afternoon class with a couple private classes for me every once in a while. I guess we'll see when we get there...


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Go get 'em kid!

There had been talks that Andrew was getting close to testing for his 4th kyu (a brown stripe on his green belt). Well it got confirmed yesterday. Go Andrew!

The way he learned about it was kind of dramatic though. A couple of weeks ago, I had a tiny talk with Dgina, the head of our school, simply asking her how she thought Andrew was doing. Since she gives kids class on Mondays and Tuesdays at the dojo exclusively, Andrew almost never has her for instructor, but while Stephane, his regular instructor, was in Spain for the World Championship, she was Andrew's replacement instructor for a couple of weeks. She had then told me that Andrew had not been placed on any of the November tests for one particular reason. Even though he knew all of his curriculum for his 4th kyu, he apparently had developed the bad habit of not always chambering his fists at the hip when striking, and he had also started not improved his stances enough (forward stance and horse stance in particular). The stances I knew about it and we've been reminding him about it in particular in his bo classes, but the chambering of his fists, I had no clue about it, since I don't really pay attention to his traditional classes (I'm usually taking a class myself, or I'm training at the same time). It wasn't really evident in his main kata, Circle of the Tiger, because he almsot always performs it with a competition mindset, so he usually pays attention to everything then.

Anyway, she had then told me that they had issued a challenge to him to get better by December 14, the date of the last test before the xmas break.

I realized last Wednesday that December 14 was coming fast, so after his private class, I made a deal with his Wednesday night instructor (Stephane) that if he planned to put him on the test, we would have Andrew take a private class on Wednesday the 13th, to get him ready for the test. He assured him that I didn't want to pressure him to put Andrew on the test but if they didn't he was ready, we simply wouldn't have him take a private class and we'd wait until whenever would have been the time in January to have that private class. He agreed with the idea and told me he would give me an answer by Saturday morning.

Came Saturday morning. Stephane came to see me during my class, telling me that he would put Andrew on the test, but would only tell him on Wednesday. That was fine by me. Yesterday during dinner prior to the class, I told Andrew that it was still possible that Stephane would give him his card for the test and that if so, it would probably be a good idea to stay for an extra half hour of private class. He went along with the idea and seemed to be thinking that the private class was a good idea, if a test was forthcoming.

Got to class, I trained on my things, they did their own things. End of class came, still no card. Stephane dismisses class and Andrew starts taking his belt off, turning back to me at the back of the room. He didn't really look disappointed or anything. Stephane turned to me and Andrew and I made a quick head nod, mouthing "he knows nothing yet". Stephane caught my nod immediately and turned to Andrew and told him "you stay with me for a half hour and if you show me you have improved enough, you'll get your card for tomorrow". I turned to Andrew presented him a high five while telling him to give it all he got, to go at it as if that were the test. I saw fire in his eyes.

I left the room as I usually do when he's taking a private class and I came back 30 minutes later. First I saw as I walked in the gym was my Andrew skipping with the little cardboard piece indicating he was on the test. He had that huge smile on his face, a $1000 smile that gave me goosebumps. Stephane told me he had improved his stances and his fist chambering significantly and he had all the needed curriculum to test.

Go Nanou, go get 'em!


PS: "Nanou" is how his little brother Matthew used to call him when he first started talking. Even though he's since corrected his way of saying his big brother's name, the Nanou way of saying it has affectively stuck for my wife and I. :)

Monday, December 11, 2006

finding peace

Nope, I'm not talking about peace in the world, simply peace with myself, peace with karate, and mostly, peace with competing...

Those who can read between the lines can already sense that yesterday's competition didn't go as well as I'd hoped it would. That both Andrew and I dropped our bo is the smallest of things I need to make peace with, the whole competition thing and how the show is sometimes run are more what made me cringe during that day.

First things first, we both dropped our bo, both at the exact same spot in the kata. Not on the throw per say, but just before, when we roll the bo over our right hand. As I said, this is not what bothered me about the day. As they say, shit happens. Both Andrew and I had made many, many successful roll over hand/throw routines that morning before the start of competition, but heh, we dropped it. Shit happens. Pick up your bo, finish your kata and vow to practice and get better for the next competition. Yeah, it's frustrating, but I can get over it. The other things surrounding the competition thing are a bit more irksome.

Let me make something clear, I'm not making excuses, I dropped the bo, nobody else made me drop it. Here's the day's story...

Let's start with how my bo category started. I got called first. Way they always do it is one of the judges will call the first name and the name of the competitor in preparation. So my name is called. I get to the corner of the ring, judges are looking ahead, looking at me actually. I take this as my cue and bow to make my entrance. I have to little entrance, where I walk to the middle of the ring, strike once forward, pivot to my right to face the judge while making a strike again. Both these strikes are accompanied by a kiai. Even though the kata has not started at that point, this entrance is pretty much part of my kata. Well, as I see them looking at me, I bowed, started walking to the middle of the ring, strike/kiai once, pivot and strike/kiai again only to realise that the judges have just decided to huddle up, just as I was about to walk to them, and their are talking among themselves. I can make up what they are talking about, it's about how they should score the different weapons from one to another. Hello, this could have been done before you sat down. This little entrance routine is all part of my "getting in the zone" routine and them throwing me a wrench like that just deflated me. I stood there for a good 2-3 minutes, waiting for a nod or something. When the nod finally came, I had come out of my "zone". Nope, it's definitely not why I dropped the bo, not even close to saying that, but it sure did irk me.

Anyway, I did my kata that one time, dropping the bo not once, but twice, but the second time was me being simply out of it due to the first drop. As you'll see in the video, I considered picking up my bo and not finishing the kata, but I did finish it. Also, if you pay close attention to my bo, amidst all the spinning, you can see that I made a tiny alteration to its look. I added a black tape mark in the exact center of it. That way, I can concentrate on that black spot whenever the bo is spining in the air and I always try to catch that black mark. If you remember, my old bo had a blue taping right in the middle and I would always try to catch it right in the middle of that blue taping mark. I gave that tip to Andrew about a week ago and he came to me before the competition on Sunday morning, telling me that my trick was indeed working. His bo is also very shiny, but has a red taping in the middle. He told me that now, he tries to concentrate on the red mark to catch it and he told me he is more confident with his throws now. Good for you boy, good for you. :)

So here'S my oopsie version of my kata:

What they usually do when there are more than three competitors is that they make the first three go and then give out scores to the first three. That's what they did yesterday. After the third one had done his kata, they huddled up again and one of the judges came to me, telling me that since it was an underbelt category, I was allowed a "do over" but that I would be penalized 0.5 point. With scores usually ranging within one tenth (0.1) of one another (sometimes 9.7 to 9.8, sometimes 9.8 to 9.88 like they ended up being yesterday) that penalty meant that if I elected to do my kata again, it would simply be for myself, i.e. no chance of getting anywhere near the top 4. There was no way I was gonna leave with that drop on my mind so I told him that if they allowed me, yes I would like to do it again. I did it again and this time it went much better. Not perfect but much better. Here's the video of this second time, and this time, all of me is in the frame of the camera. :)

Then came one of the moments where I say I need to find peace, mostly peace with what I do with the bo and why I do it. I do it because I have fun doing it. I know I've come a long way and I do something not many adult in the 30-39 category do, actually not one other adult did an open bo form. What irked me in that case was the scores I received. I know I shouldn't pay attention to scores and should simply be happy that I did my kata right the second time around, but I just can't help it. The three judges gave me scores of 9.84 all accross the board, before deduction. When all was said and done, without the deduction, that would have given me maybe 4th or 5th place. Thing is, I can't see how at least two if not three of the competitor who were ahead of me did end up there. I'm baffled. I know some parts of my kata are sloppy, at least in my eye, but some of the others were plain "unpowerful". I'm talking about traditional bo form without the humph. Sigh, again, this is where I need to tell myself that I do the bo that way because I like doing it that way, not because judges like to see it that way...

But then, some more similar stuff happened, in traditional kata this time. In the category of fellow blogger Sébastien (30-39yo, beginner underbelt), I saw two competitors simply butcher their kata (one the pinan 1, the other the pinan 3) while trying to impress the judges too much. Yelling a kiai at every little strike while blocking without controlling anything and forgetting your stances is not how I'd say is the right way to practice. And I'm not talking about difference between styles, these competitors are people from my style simply learning at another school in the Quebec City area. Again, I need to forget what I saw, what other people are doing, take a step back and think about why I practice. Back to basics, tell myself not to go for the show, not only to impress the judges. I will get back to that, but for now, that showing bothered me a bit.

But then, prior to the start of competition, I had one discussion that now in retrospect bothers me a bit more even. A blue belt in our 30-39yo category, i.e. in the intermediate underbelt category, told me as I asked him what kata he was going to present, that he was going to present a shotokan kata that is supposedly a third dan black belt kata. Turns out one of his friend is a black belt in that style and has showed him the kata. To me, that guy is missing on the essence of learning martial arts. To me, there's a growing that happens through the kata. The first pinan kata we learn is there because it's a basic one, making your work on your pivots and stances and one simple strike. The second pinan has some different things in it, and so does the third pinan and so on, and so on. I never asked one of my instructors to teach me Cat 3 before I knew and has somehow mastered Cat 1 and Cat 2. Again, I shouldn't have let that bother me, but I did. It's *MY* karate and I do it for my own self. Another thing I need to find peace with, that one should be very difficult though. Kepp practicing the way you've always done is what I'm telling myself...

Meanwhile, Andrew's weapon form category happened and as I said, the poor kid dropped his bo, at the exact same spot where I did drop mine. Here's his kata on video:

First thing that struck me as kind of odd from him, other than anything that happened after the drop, is how fast he was going through his kata prior to the drop. He missed at least a couple of kiai that I know should have been there and probably would have given emphasis to some strikes. I wasn't there to watch it, so on video was the first I'd seen of him, but when I talked to him about it later on in the afternoon, he acknowledged that he he was going faster than he wanted to, but didn't know why. My wife took me apart and then told me that just a few minutes prior to him performing his kata, after I'd worked him up to be concentrated and ready to go, my dad, who was there to see him perform, got a bit too happy to see him and started playing with him, tickling him mostly. She said she could see Andrew losing focus right then and there. Sigh, what was wrong in the stars yesterday? Was every little thing meant to tick me off? I mean, Andrew's up to a level where he's started to realize what being nervous is. He's started realizing that things will come to you when you work hard and stay focused, yet my dad just killed that. Sigh... I cannot be there and control my dad, can I? Should I? My wife told me she told Andrew to stay put and focused prior to his traditional kata and she thought she caught my mother staring at my dad for a moment. Maybe he got the hint... I told Andrew I was still very, VERY proud of him and how far he's come since we first started practicing the bo. We will keep on practicing, no more pressure than before, because it's with that kind of mindset that we will grow.

One way I always know if he has improved or not is by watching my wife, his mother, as he warms up. Since I see him every week, I don't always realize to what point he's really improved his bo handling, but when my wife sees him warm up and her eyes open up wide, I know she's suddenly impressed. :)

The kind of cool thing for Andrew was that they were only two entered in the 9yo weapon form category, so even though he dropped his bo, they still gave him second place and a plaque. My wife did film the other kid and after watching his performance carefully, I'd say that Andrew is closing the gap. Where he used to be well behind the other 9yo bo handlers, he is now very, very close to behind among the very good ones. His kata isn't as flashy as some, but he has better, stronger stances now and his strikes are good with good hand placements. I told him that and that is he kept working on it and on controlling his nerves, he could very well end up beating one of the other kid one day.

Then came my traditional kata category. I present Cat 3. I only learned it about a couple weeks ago so that was more a challenge to myself than a challenge to come in the top 4. Eleven competitors were in that 30-39yo advanced underbelt category, an amazing turnout. I didn't come in the top 4, but I think I did well for a first time presenting that kata. Here's the video, I'll comment on it afterward:

I had a couple of "freeze frame" moments, one evident one right at the start of the kata when I go to my left, and I had a big misstep after my second back kick, but otherwise I'm fairly happy with it. Stuff still needs to be worked on, but I didn't expect to be perfect on that day, simply to make it through without one major blank.

But then again, the cherry on top of the sundae, and yeah, I know this is turning into the rant & vent fest of the year, but there was one more moment. During our traditional kata category, maybe 6 or 7 competitors into it, all three of our judges turned around and watched the bo performance of a black belt from the 18-29yo category happening in the ring behind them. I tell ya, it was as if time had stopped in our ring, so much so, that I thought all competitors had performed and they were simply calculating scores, until I saw a fellow competitor standing at the corner of the ring, on the ready, waiting for a nod to enter the ring. I find that unacceptable, disrespectful even. What's the message we should get out of that behaviour? That since we're not black belts, we're nobodies? Sure I'm pushing it and I sound like a whiner, but sheesh, you gotta do as you preach. You learn respect in karate, in martial arts in general actually, then why not show some to the people you commit to. And what could have I done in that situation? Not much, in my opinion at least, as the center judge in my ring was a very high ranked black belt. This is sad that it happened like that, but I wouldn't be as incensed about it if that were not the second time something like that had happened in my ring in two month's time. Yeah, in the competition back in October, again during my age category's traditional segment, all three judges turned to the ring right behind them, this time to watch a fight again in the 18-29yo black belt category. I'll refrain to comment any further, but that was again, just disrespectful. Maybe I'm just seeing too much into it, maybe I'm just being overly sensitive, you tell me. It just left a bad taste in my mouth to be treated like that, and it was the hushed sentiment of many of my fellow competitors standing close to me. Sigh... Again, make peace with it, forget it, practice, and persevere...

Andrew did a good rendition of his Circle of the Tiger, one that he told me he was proud of, that he felt he'd done well. Here's a video of him performing that kata:

I don't see any big flaws to it but sadly, his name was drawn first and in a category with 19-20 competitors, going first can sometimes be a kiss of death. I wasn't there to see the other and maybe my wife is a bit biased but she told me that to her untrained eyes, he could have placed in the top 4 had he come a bit later in the group. She also said that she felt there were many discrepancies in scores from one competitor to the next. Anyway, as I told Andrew, and as I'm telling myself, getting a trophy or a medal was not the only reason we entered that competition. That competition was more for us to find a new way to motivate ourselves to learn our stuff. He agreed with me that he has indeed grown in his practice of karate, same as I have. His kiai are more "attitude" now, like supergroup7 commented about the Christmas show video. Yeah, that was with his bo, but his whole karate demeanor has gone up a couple notches. If only for that, I think we can find peace with competition...

This was a very long post, if you are still reading, thank you very much. Feel free to comment on my bad fortune. :)

If you're not reading anymore, well you won't read this but I don't blame you one bit. :p


Saturday, December 09, 2006


Andrew had a private bo class last night and I got to appreciate how much he's grown. Space is kinda sparce for that class so I simply sit down in a corner and watch him and his instructor do their thing. I do learn a lot about stuff I could improve in my own kata, but mostly, I get to watch him do his kata over and over. He's improved a whole bunch in the last year. We started practicing the bo only a bit more than a year ago, in September 2005, and we entered our first competition in February 2006. Yesterday, I had a seat of choice to watch him and I remembered that first competition of his...

Crazy how he far he's come along, from that performance, where he gave it his best, to this show performance:

in about 10 months...

But then, I just came upon this little gem:

That's my boy, back in February 2004, as he was practicing his pinan 2 kata in our living room, in his pajamas, only maybe an hour before we left for the competition. His little brother Matthew was not even a month old back then. :)

That practice led to this performance in the competition a little later on in the day:

Andrew was a purple belt back then and while he didn't win anything in kata, he won one fight and came in second place out of three competitors in the 6 year olds intermediate underbelt category. Yeah, I was happy that he'd brought back a medal that day, mostly for him, so that he'd be encouraged to keep on trying, but I was even prouder of the fact that I felt he'd done his kata the best he could, without freezing at any time...

Here we are, almost three years to the day af those videos and we're getting ready to enter another one. I had a solid traditional class this morning. Cat 3 is the kata that I will present, but you knew that already. Was kinda funny today that some of the other people I regularly practice and learned the kata for the first time at the same time I did, were asking me to do it *with* me, to follow me. If anything, competing has given me some motivation to work on my forms, to try and learn them.

Andrew and I also had a semi private hour of class. Actually was the same as him and me both having separate half hour private classes, except we did turns of 15 minutes with our instructor. It's amazing how much one can learn when you have the undivided attention of one instructor. I again was amazed to see how much Andrew is improving. I'm proud of my boy, he's worked hard lately. No matter what his results are tomorrow, I know he's put in a lot of efforts.

Finally, some funny news regarding the Christmas show. just as we were getting to the dojo this morning, we met my Monday evening instructor. He told me that he was doing the editing on the show's DVD and that he had edited out my bo drop. At first, I thought he was joking, but he told me that it actually looked pretty good. He said I put myself back in almost the same spot after picking back up my bo and that it looks like I'm doing a move to the left, then go on to the right. Can't wait to see that. The DVD should be available on December 18 from what I heard...


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Practice makes perfect, or as close to as possible

I didn't work super hard last night, simply went through routine moves within my bo kata, trying to build the muscle memory that will avoid in the future the kind of mishap that happened last Sunday. If you watch closely, you can see my bo hitting my knee right smack on the kneecap. It didn't hurt or anything, but it was enough to make the bo fly from my hands. That move is fairly routine, a simply figure 8 that starts down to the right to a half turn stop to the left, pull back and thrust forward (with a kiai). Except I started my figure 8 too close to my right knee and never got past that part. Reps of doing that move over and over will help for the future, so that was mostly what I did with my bo, and throws, lots of throws, getting used to the shininess of it under the lightning of a gymnasium, since that's the kind of lightning that we'll be under on Sunday.

I also spent quite a bit of time working on Cat 3. It's not perfect, but I think it's very much presentable so I'm plowing ahead head first with that one.

As weird as this may sound, the best part of the night came after my hour of practice, when Andrew stayed in the room for a private class while I left and went to read just outside. I did watch, but I could hear him, or at least his kiai. Woah, Stephane really knows how to prime somebody to perform a competition kata, bo or open hand. I can't wait to see him perform Sunday...


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

time for some videos

I guess I won't make you all wait any longer, here are videos of our performances this past Sunday.

First off, here's Andrew performing his kata...

And here's me walking off the video frame first, then throwing my bo accross the room ;)

I think both videos do show how shiny our bos look under the spotlights but even then, it was much worse from up there...


The next day

Was kind of cool to go to class yesterday. Despite me dropping my bo during the show performance, many people had very positive comments regarding the kata. Some people were not present but knew I would be presenting my kata and thus wanted to know how it went, while some other were there and talked about it. I even got some very encouraging words from Dgina, co-owner of our school (with her husband, Jonathan, my Monday evening instructor), a fifth dan herself, who told me she really liked my performance. She said she thought I did put a lot of life into my kata and that she enjoyed watching it. She gives class mostly to kids, or to the other instructors at our school (being the highest ranked black belt at our school), so I have never had a class with her, but I hold her in high esteem. She was part of the testers in a couple of belt tests I have taken over the last few years and she is one strict young lady (actually a bit younger than I). She once asked me, back when I tested for my purple belt or something like that, if I had ever thought about competing, since she felt that I did put a lot of life and voice in my kata, especially through my kiais. I guess my kiais did impress her during that performance of Sunday. :)

Anyway, she even thanked me for taking the stage, as she acknowledged that not many adults had volunteered to do so. While it stressed me for a while, I actually enjoyed doing it. I probably wouldn't do it every week because it requires quite a bit of preparation and it involves a bit of stress as I just said, but for this one time, I think I'm coming out of this a better practitioner. I'm even happier that maybe my participating in this thing kind of encouraged Andrew in doing the same and may have helped him grow too...

I should hopefully have the videos of both our performances available to watch here at some point tonight.


Monday, December 04, 2006

A growing experience...

I guess that's what I had signed up for, at the very least. My regular readers (all four of you ;) ) were probably hoping for some outlandish celebration sounding like "oh yeah, we nailed it, we were the bomb, a-ma-zing!" While it was good, and many people have told me so, not all went super well (cue to my being overly critical).

Andrew's show started at 3pm. There were a couple of satellite schools going before his group and it was fun watching young kids doing their karate stuff on stage. I'm talking about mostly white, yellow and orange belts showing their knowledge to parents and brothers and sisters, very cool. Andrew's group's turn eventually came and they took their spots. They went through some stretching, some pushups and regular stuff they do in class. They then did a bit of sparring techniques and the group was split in two so that 4-5 kids at a time would do their latest kata. Andrew did the Statue of the Crane kata and I thought he did it well, one of his best rendition of it so far. Kudos to him for having worked on it hard.

They then went to three individual performances by kids in his group: one bo kata from a kid who's taking class with us, one open form with music from a girl and Andrew's bo kata. This was a pretty special setup as this was the only group that had individual performances. All of the other shows only featured group showing or special in-between individual performances from selected athletes, like Emilie Paquet or Elymaud Samson, both world champions in their own rights... Andrew's kata went well even though he almost dropped his bo twice. Sounds kind of weird to say it went well with two possible drops, but seeing him on stage is something I never thought I'd see, so that was huge. One of his near drop (the bo touch the floor but he awkardly caught it before it rolled away) happened in the new sequence we put in just a few weeks ago and the other happened during his throw but honestly, a shiny bo is the last thing you want to throw, spinning, while standing under some red and green spotlights. I got to experience that first hand later on... Anyway, I'm really, really proud of my boy. I'll have some videos for you later on this week.

As for me, since the show in which the adults were performing was starting only at 6, we got back home, ate a quick bite and I got back for 5:45 in order to practice a bit. My wife, son and parents all arrived a bit later. I was one of the last one to go on, but I didn't know beforehand, so I warmed up a few times during the show in order to be ready. To be honest with you, I wasn't super nervous while waiting to go on. Preoccupied is more what I would call my state of mind. Preoccupied about how I would be able to handle my new bo, especially its shinyness under the lights. Remember, I received that bo only back on Friday, and from the picture of it, I'm sure you can see that it is very shiny.

Anyway, my name got called up to take the stage and again, I wasn't super nervous. I saw that as no more than performing my kata in front of my fellow karateka friends on a Monday night. For that, I gotta thank my Monday instructor, Jonathan, for his initiative of letting me do just that, test drive my kata in front of my friends.

The kata in itself went well until about two third in, nope not during the throw, that part went well, but just after, in a "routine" figure 8 move, I hit my right knew with my bo and up it went flying to the ground. I picked it back up and finished my kata as if nothing had happened. As the title states, it was a growing experience, for both of us. I saw my son showing the first signs of nervousness, as if he was realizing that this was something special. I think it's a sign of growing up that he realizes that it was something big. I even have him on film, doing some "air bo" (à la "air guitar") when he was sitting in the background while some lower belts were performing their group thing. On my side of things, even with the drop, I realized after a month of practice, that performing in front of people is no different than doing it by yourself. You gotta do it first for yourself, then others are simply watching you, living it through you. This should help me immensely, first in future competitions, then when will come the time to test for my black belt. Controlling the nerves in any kind of showing is alwasy very important...

I will also have a video of my performance at some point, although you'll have to make do with my wife's weird performance at framing the kata at least until the video of the whole show is released by the school. She got so enthralled watching me that she forgot to follow me with the camera and at one point, sadly the part where I perform the newest sequence of my kata. Oops. :) I'm laughing about it now, but I wasn't too happy about it last night... As I said, they have filmed all four shows and they will be released for sale a little before the Christmas break as a fundraiser for the school. You can bet that this is one DVD I'm very much looking forward to owning and viewing... :)


Saturday, December 02, 2006

last bo class, or is it?

This morning was the big Christmas day where I work. Kids were kings for one day. They all got to sit on Santa's lap and each one of them received a present. While it was going on for the whole day, we decided that we would go this morning and miss our traditional class, which is one we can make up for during any other week, while we would go to the afternoon bo class, since that one we could not make up for a missed class later one. It was the last class of the 12 week session.

I didn't want us to stop having class until mid January so I arranged a little something. I will pay for private classes for both Andrew and I every Saturday until the new bo session will start again in January. I'm actually looking forward to these classes even more, even though it'll be a bit more pricey. A bit more pricey, but to have one teacher all alone for me and my son will be great. We should learn a lot and we won't lose as much of our rythm as what we lost last January when we took the long break...

Back to today's class, I was looking forward to that class because I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my new bo in hand. Once again there was a belt test going on in the room right next to ours, so space was kind of restricted. Add to that the fact that our instructor usually dedicate the last class of a session to agility drills and fun and game. After working on some strike drills, he told us he would give us 5 minutes to come up with a trick shot to show to everyone and we'd see if other people could do our trick shot.

I don't have a big imagination for trick shot. Show me something and I'll try repeating it, but I have a hard time coming up with something new. Anyway, it was kind of cool, even though it meant we were not gonna work on our kata during the class. For pretty much all the other kids, it wasn't a big deal, since they are not doing the show tomorrow, or if they are, it's as part of a group. But for us, we needed to get some reps in. We stayed half an hour late and I got to work on my kata by myself, then watch Andrew work on his kata too. I guess we're as ready as we can be given the time constraints.

Wish us luck. :)


Friday, December 01, 2006

Christmas in advance!


Let me introduce you to my new friend:

Got to the the dojo tonight and my instructor was giving a private class. When he saw me walk through the door, he asked me if I they'd given me my bo yet. Last I'd heard was last Monday and the prospects were bleak to say the least, so I told him that no, nobody had given me anything. He smiled a wide smile and told me to come see him after I'd gotten dressed.

I had to take care of our registration for the December 10 tournament first, so I went to the desk and that where the guy told me he had a bo for me indeed. Turns out our bo instructor's dad is making them now. That explained the smile on my instructor's face. :)

I got to practice with it tonight and let me tell, from the first throw I did with it, I knew I was in love. Well, not really in love, love, but you know what I mean. :) It's very, very nice. What you see on the picture is what you get. It's all silver, no real special taping or anything. It's a bit bigger in the middle and I like it like that. In fact, my instructor told me his dad had made one for me and he told him to make another one a bit thicker in the middle so it would not break on me. He told me it should last a long time. Let's hope he's right. One thing's for sure, I like it.

I talked about the December 10 competition, well here's the confirmation:

The two yellows tickets are our registration proof with ring and category numbers. I didn't get to practice it tonight, but I'm still gearing to present Cat 3. One week left...

It's the kids Christmas party all day long for the kids of employess at my workplace tomorrow. It's like one long day where kids can come, meet Santa, visit the plant, have fun with clowns and such. It starts at 9 and ends at 4. I have decided that we will sacrifice one traditional class (actually we'll do it another week) and we'll go there early tomorrow morning. I really didn't want us to miss a bo class with show coming up this Sunday...


Thursday, November 30, 2006

working hard

Got to practice with the replacement bo yesterday. Dang, I miss my bo. This one is not bad, but really the balance isn't the same, the rolling over the hand is not the same either. I will log in another couple of hours (one Friday and one Saturday) and I can only hope it'll go well on Sunday. Not much more I can do right now but work hard...

I also worked on my Cat 3 kata and while I still have tiny hesitations here or there, I'm feeling better and better with it.

Andrew was absolutely psyched. Even though it was a traditional class to start the night for him, he was allowed to work on his bo kata, since he will present it at the show this Sunday. Even better, I had booked him a half hour private class right after his hour of traditional class. I left the room during that half hour so his instructor got to work with him really one on one. I've talked about a girl named Emilie Paquet in the past. Andrew's instructor is also Emilie's instructor and while she has worked hard to achieve her world championship, I'm sure he had something to do with it. I didn't see the private class, but gradually through the half hour, I could hear Andrew'S kiais coming on stronger and stronger. They decided together that he would present Circle of the Tiger as his traditional kata for the December 10 competition, but they also put it back together, adding intent and strength to it.

I had a good discussion with his instructor right after the half hour. He told me that the first time Andrew did his bo kata during the private class, he had no kiai in it, looked almost scared to strike cleanly. He went on to add that it's not always the level of difficulty of a kata that counts but also the intent you put behind every move and strike. He said he felt good with how Andrew had worked in that half hour. Judging by the kiai I could hear from just next door, I'd say he did work hard, and learned quite a bit...


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's all in the head

Yesterday's class was kinda special. I've told you how my usual Monday evening instructor is usually not as heavy on the cardio side as the Saturday morning one, well we had a surprise coming our way yesterday. A good old switcheroo. The Saturday morning instructor was in front of the class, replacing our usual Monday evening instructor. Not that I mind, don't worry. Both instructors have their own styles and I learn about ways to work the techniques differently with one or the other. Some people get mixed up when they face different point of views regarding techniques. I think that's because they try to do it too much by the book, thinking "oh this guy wants me to do it like this while the other wants me to do it like that". Heck, the result is the same with both ways, is what I'm thinking. Try to learn about both ways and find your own way in the middle. Maybe it'll be more similar to one, or the other, or a mix of the two.

Anyway, some people even try to avoid André, our Saturday morning instructor, because he is known to be pretty intense in his warmup/workout sessions. I actually like that with him. He worked us out pretty well yesterday and I'll tell you this, my arms were shaking, my legs were shaking, my abs were killing me, but I loved every minute of it. :)

After that warmup, some of us who'd just finished learning Cat 3 the previous Saturday put in a request to keep on working on it, just so we wouldn't forget what we just put into our memory drawer. I was able to do it on my own the first time we did it and was very happy with it. It had about no flow to it as I kept fighting with my brain, but at least I knew it from start to finish. After we did it with our instructor once, I then went to work on it with two other people who were kind of struggling. I told them to follow me as we'd do it slowly. We did and while I think I was able to steer them in the right direction, I also think that doing it slowing, dissecting every move, helped me learn it at the same time. A win-win situation.

At the end of the class, I was able to do about half of the kata with some sort of a good rythm to it. I'll work on it some more and I'm really thinking I might be able to have it ready to present for the December 10 competition. I, and some other bloggers, have said it before but there's something to be said about competition being a good motivator...

Speaking of competition, or show for that matter, I asked the guy in charge of getting bos for the school. When I asked him if he'd had news, he shrugged, shook his head, rolled his eyes and went "nooooo". I didn't want to push it and simply asked him if he thought we'd get one soon and he simply answered he would give the order to the guy today (Tuesday). Oh God, nothing's been done yet. I guess the one I've borrowed for now will have to do, at least for the show. MrX commented in a previous post that they have bos in stock at Hugo Sports in Montreal and that I could drive down there. I guess I simply wanna whine about it, but I don't feel like driving 2.5 hours one way, then 2.5 hours the other way, with the price that gas is these days, to get a bo, given that I have one who should do the trick. As I said as a reply to a comment from Mat, the damage is already done. It's more psychological than physical at this point. I need to get over it and tomorrow evening will be the first step I will take to get acquainted with a new (borrowed) bo.

Ironically, this has happened before. Right before my second competition ever in last March, I cracked my bo, one week before the competition. Just when they'd given it to me, a week before that, I had spotted a knot near the middle of it and told the guy that I fully expected it to not hold for long. True to what I thought, a week after that, it cracked. Thing was, there was only one week to go before the competition. We put in a call to have a replacement bo done, to their expense, since it was defective. They agreed to do it and told me they would have it at the competition site. When I showed up at their table, they told me they'd forgotten to bring it. They had left it at their shop. Good thing I had practiced with another bo all week long and I had brought it with me. Anyway, even if they'd given me a new bo, I was not even planning to use it. Well guess what. I won that competition.

It's all in the head...

Now if I could only convince myself...


Monday, November 27, 2006

Weekend recap

Friday night
Nothing very special happened that evening, other than seeing Andrew work real hard on his bo kata in a private half hour class. Our instructor has split our kata in three sections, in addition to the start, which we call the bow, or salute. The plan for the half hour was to have Andrew do all three sections in three different way three times, let me explain. First way is with strong strikes, fairly slowly. Second way is doing it as fast as he can. Third way is as in a competition, so fast AND strong. Instructor started him on his first section's three strong repetition. He added a twist though: he told Andrew that his stances had to be good or else he would not count the rep as one. After 4 reps, and having told Andrew at various times to better his stances and hand placements on his bo, he told him his total count of reps still had not started. I saw a tiny "huh???" go up in Andrew's face but he got back in place and nailed it once, then a second time, then a third one. There were still a few more repetitions to be made, so much so that with a couple minutes to go in the half hour, he was only doing his first strong rep of his second section, but his first section had seen a great improvement. Once the half hour was over, the table was set for our Saturday afternoon class as our instructor told him he should try and go through the whole 3x3x3 thing during the class...

Saturday morning
Before the end of the world happened, it had been a good class. We had an intense warmup that included us running from wall to wall of the room and doing either 15 pushups or 15 situps in between trips. Then the three of us who were at Monday's class, the one where we learned the beginning of Cat 3, wanted to maybe work on it, maybe even keep adding to it. Well I had practiced it a bit by myself and we were able to replicate it, then got a bit added on, then a bit more, only to realize that we now know it all! Sure, "know" is a big word, but at least I know the sequence of moves that need to be made so I can practice it. Next competition is on December 10, so almost two weeks away and I'm tempted to work real hard to be able to present it then...

Saturday afternoon
I did that class with a bo borrowed from my instructor, after starting with a real heavy one borrowed from the school bo rack. The one I borrowed from my instructor had a weird balance to it and it has started warping a bit. On top of it, it was a bit "slippery" because it was not varnished. I dropped it a few times simply because of that. Otherwise, it went well. Our instructor told me to watch for my hands having a tendency to get together in the middle when I do quick strikes. I was getting aware of that, but honestly, I was too concerned about handling that new bo to think about my hands too...

In that class, Andrew and I went through the 3x3x3 sequence. I had done it before and it usually, it's "3 times strong" + "3 times fast" + "3 times strong/fast" without a break in between. I was kind of policing Andrew on that one and at one point toward the end, he asked me "is it hot in here or what?" LOL! I knew he was getting a good workout this time. :) Me, I always sweat like a pig in these class because I almost never stop practicing. Him, he's used to do it a few times, then his mind wanders and there's some lost time, so this time, he did get a good workout...

Got class tonight. Hopefully they will have found a new bo for me...


Saturday, November 25, 2006


For those of you who've not seen my latest bo kata video, this is the very middle section of my bo and yes, it's "inoperable". :(

It happened so stupidly this morning. Three of us were practicing Sushi No Kon Sho, all three on a line. Me and a lady to my right were facing the right side of the room. I went to make a strike and the tip of my bo hit the tip of hers. Half an inch hitting three quarter of an inch. Apparently, that was just enough to snap it, right in the middle. As the title states, I was, and still am, devastated.

Practice long enough with a bo and it becomes an extention of you, it becomes part of you. And by long enough, I also mean often enough. I've been using that bo for three hours a week for the last ten weeks. I'm not good enough to simply say "oh I'll pick another one and will simply do my kata with that one". Maybe this can be done with other weapons, but bos are finicky instruments. Not all bos are created equal. Weight, length, even its grip and finish are all things that vary widely from one bo to another. Now, with a week to go until the show, two weeks before our next competition, I have to get used to another one. The bo is the only weapon I have extensively practiced with. Maybe it's just the same with other weapons, i.e. sai, kama, nunchakus, but I know it won't be easy for me.

To add to the problem, there's usually a two weeks lead time to get a new bo through the school and even worse, up until a couple weeks ago, we were simply unable to get any. I asked the school manager to try and get me one, as soon as he can. He knows I'm doing the show and said he would do his best. I know the people who suplly them to us usually have some ready because they are present on site at the competitions with maybe 10 or 15 bos in their display. I just told him that the color didn't matter, as I know they usually look pretty good.

My wife, trying to cheer me up, said it could have been worse. She said I could have broken it the very day before the show, or the very morning of it, while warming up. I guess she has a point, but I'm still shaken up. This is testing my self confidence something fierce...

I will report later on what happened on the rest of the day...


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

a new Cat in my head

It's amazing how much one person can grow in one year. And I'm not even talking about Andrew. He amazes me, surprises me, makes me proud by getting better in little increments from week to week, but it's "normal" for him to grow, physically, mentally, spiritually. He's still young and has the world to explore... I'm talking about my own self. About 11 months ago, I received my brown belt, symbol of a 3rd kyu to the black belt in our belt system. On that December 22 night, we were told we should attend the weeknight advanced class from then on. Advanced as in "with brown belts but also black belts". Honestly, I was intimidated, like a kid facing the unknown. But seriously, what was there to be intimidated about? I had already been going to the advanced class on Saturday mornings, not because I really wanted to, but because it coincided with Andrew's hour of class, and I had survived it for a while now. My first few Mondays were indeed intimidating. New people, higher belts, even black ones, moving fluidly. Even had one class were I was partnered with one of Andrew's instructor.

Fast forward to this Fall, yesterday night in particular. Small class, only one black belt in attendance but still, eight or nine brown belts, me included. Since only two of the group knew Cat 3 from start to finish, our instructor told them to go work by themselves while we would try to learn it. Either something has clicked in me or I don't know, but the kata was sinking in so easily. We went fairly slowly, but I could repeat every move. I felt in my place in that class and again, could hear one or two say the usual "you go Steve, we'll follow you". It makes me smile. I won't go and say "okay, I'll do it and you follow" but if they want to follow while I do my own practicing, I'll be glad to let them watch.

We got to about 2/3 of the kata and I actually felt ready to learn it all in one go. Our instructor performed the end of the kata to show us where we're headed and from what I've seen, I'm pretty confident I could be able to learn it in just one more hour of class. Come to thing about it, we've been working on bits and pieces of that kata forever now. KC #11 to 16 are the main ingredients of it, with transitional moves. All these KC, I've known them for over a year now, just never knew when I'd get to use them. Quite glad the time has come...

The one drawback to us working on the kata until the last minute is that I didn't get to warm up with my bo at all and without warming up, I didn't really want to even present my kata to the group. Still, that was a very good class in which I felt I made a big step forward. Looking back one year in the past, yep, I'd say I've grown, although I know I still have a lot of room to grow...


Monday, November 20, 2006

Weekend report

Friday night practice
Andrew didn't have a private class this week. I still logged in an hour of relaxed bo practice. I think it was even more relaxed this week as the two kids, two brothers actually, who have their own private class in the same room where I practice started working on their show routine as well as their own individual bo kata done with music. These kids are just a joy to look at, and to watch them try to match the strikes with the "booms" and "bams" of the music just had me watch in awe. I didn't simply sit back and watch. The whole hour, I had my bo in my hand and worked on some sequences of my kata, but it was very enjoyable to sometimes take a few seconds of break and watch them.

Saturday morning
We started with a good warmup workout, as usual. I did not realize it during class, but it didn't include pop-corn jumps this week. It did however include the squat on the tiptoes/squat/lunges routine and I've been feeling it ever since I woke up yesterday.

We then went on to do a bit of kicking in the body shields. I like kicking in these, as you can let it go full strength. We went through front ball kick, round house kick, side kick, spinning back kick and a combination spinning back kick to one side/jumping-spinning back to the other side. I felt like I was doing okay, and the groin is holding all right. :) These drills got me sweating quite a bit too.

We then moved on to some jiu-jitsu work, mainly self defense controlled improv. Worked on some neat takedown methods. We were unanmimous after class in the dressing room, it was very interesting to practice that kind of stuff, even though it's not part of our school's curriculum.

Saturday afternoon bo class
Our regular bo instructor could not be there this week so he had asked somebody else to replace him. He had told me in advance, even asking me to help him in case the younger kids in the class got out of hand a bit. See, the kid that replaced him is a 14yo bo whiz kid. And by whiz kid, I mean just that. He passed his black belt in last and has been competing for quite a while. His style of bo handling is a bit more on the flashy side, with lots of rolling of the bo around his shoulders and neck and such. It's not the kind of moves that our instructor likes to do, and me neither for that matter, so it's not the kind of things we work on usually. We started class by working on some strikes and I was able to lead the class through our sequence of 20 strikes we'd put together the previous week. I was kind of proud of that. We then worked separately on our kata as he was watching people two by two perform their kata in front of him. When he called us, Andrew and I, to do our kata in front of him, I felt good, confident. I guess the amount of practice and the fact that I've done it in front of people for the last couple of weeks on Monday nights have both helped me be more relaxed when presenting it. Just a few weeks ago, simply presenting it in front of my regular instructor had me nervous to the point that I would goof up here and there. This time, no goof up, form went quite well. He gave me a few pointers of things to work on. Main one is my left elbow being too high. I asked him to do the strike that causes my elbow to be too high. For the record, I was not disputing the fact that my elbow is too high because I know it is. I simply wanted to see him do the strike and pay attention to how his arm moves. I think I saw something he does that I will try to replicate. To be continued...

After each of us in class doing our kata in front of him twice, we went on to practice some of his signature moves. They included lots of rolling the bo over the shoulders or around the neck. As I said, probably not the kind of strikes I'd feel comfortable incorporating into one of my kata. I have some non fighting moves in my kata, mainly when I spin or throw my bo, but I see rolling the bo around the should or the neck as being just too flashy. The thing I liked about this kid is, he acknowledged that this would be of no use in a fight. I mean, when one of a the 9 year olds in the class pointed out to him that he would not hurt anybody with that move, he just told him that this was part of competing with an open bo form, just like the spinning is.

Some like these moves, I don't really. I had a good time trying to do them though. That, even though I smacked myself in the head more than once trying to get the darn thing to roll over my left shoulder while passing it under my right arm and while doing a quarter turn.. (try picturing that... ;) )


Thursday, November 16, 2006


I'd kind of stopped doing my horse stance sessions lately. Thinking about yesterday's post and testing and such, I thought it would be a good idea to get them going again, so with about 20 mintues left in our lunch break, I set 2 minutes on my online timer and got into a good low stance. About 40 seconds into it, I hear footsteps. My cubicle is really in an open area. I mean, nobody really walks by it, unless they want to talk to me. Footsteps got closer, and closer. Was a coworker who wanted to ask me something. She looked at me with weird eyes until I told her simply "karate position, hard to hold for very long" and she saw the timer on my computer monitor...

I wasn't embarassed or anything, it just made for a funny little moment. :)


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On where I am now...

Mat just commented on a recent post, asking a question that I thought was worthy of answering in the open. There goes:

When's that 2nd kyu test coming? It's been a while for you in the 3rd kyu, no?

Do you have a minimum time before testing or is it more like: Sensei shows up nad tells you : Steve, you're up?


I passed my 3rd kyu on December 22, 2005 (some dates stay in your head like that ;) ) and yeah, it's been a little while. There's a one year minimum between the 3rd and 2nd kyu tests though so I'm still at least a month from having done my time.

No clue how it'll happen to be honest. Last year at this time, we already knew the date of our test but I don't know if we'll get as much heads up for this test or if somebody (I have two instructors) will come to me with only a week's notice (or less???). Really don't have a clue, and I'm not worrying about it. I'm learning new stuff everytime I go to the dojo, perfecting some already known stuff from week to week, and having fun while doing it, isn't it the most important? :)

After 2nd kyu, they told us there's usually another 6 months period before 1st kyu, which test is also known as the black belt pretest. That 1st kyu test is usually one month before the black belt test. Last I heard, they were testing black belts in June and December as the black belt tests are held in one location for all the schools in Les Studios Unis. No clue if I will be ready for June or not. It's not a race though. I know that someday I will be ready, whenever that'll be, it'll be.

Of the four (me included) that we were at my 3rd kyu test, one has stopped, or at least is currently taking a break, but the other three are still going on strong. I usually see and practice with the other two for their two hours in the week. Since our test, a bunch of other adults have passed their 3rd kyu. I'd say at least 6 or 8 of them with maybe 3 or 4 getting close to testing. There's been some sort of a boom in adult attendance in the last two years or so. Just last Sunday, there was a yellow belt test, the very first belt test in our style, that was going on during my bo class. I counted at least 15 to 18 adults lined up, ready to receive that yellow belt. That's mighty impressive.

Anyway, back to me, I now know all my 12 advanced self-defense techniques from the perspective of a right hand attacker. Knowing them is one thing, to have them come out just from instincts is quite another. We're getting there. One top of that, I will need to master them for the left side. I pretty much know the required traditional bo kata, Sushi no kon sho, although it obviously needs a bit more practice. There's one more kata that I need to learn, Cat 3, and my Saturday morning instructor has pretty much confirmed that he is reserving it for after the 2nd kyu test, so that I can concentrate on it for the last six months. Then will come work on improvising in self-defense situations.

Still lots of work, but it's a long term journey, not a short term trip. As Mat often says, perservere... :)

That whole post was typed this afternoon, well before Andrew and I went to our joint class/practice hour. Since then, some things have changed, not so much for me but more for him. During his pre class speach, his instructor congratulated a few kids who had passed their purple belt while he was away and he also talked about others who were on the verge of being called up for a test. You guessed it, he had Andrew in mind. He kind of looked my way and asked me if Andrew had had his test card while he was away. It's a simple piece of paper that states the date/hour of the test and the level to be tested. When I told him that no, he had not, he went on say he expected to put him on an upcoming test. He will be up for a brown stripe on his green belt, or 4th kyu. That would kind of put him on course for possibly testing for his brown belt, or 3rd kyu, around middle of next Summer. That was just one of those little daddy pride moment. :)

My hour of practice went smoothly, not much new to report on that end. After watching Sébastien's pinan 1 video (provided to help readers know what the heck is that darn pinan kata that I always talk about, thanks Sébastien!), I got the urge to do it. I only did it once and that was my only non-bo action of the hour, but it felt good. Sorry, no video for you on that one. ;)


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

with new eyes

Another good class yesterday. After our regular warmup, we went straight to working on our kicks, mainly some crescent kicks and spinning crescent kicks but also some hook kicks and some high round house ones.

From how I started as an ugly duckling trying to not fall down, I improved a lot during the course of the class to end the class quite proud of myself. I was able to whip some pretty good one around the end of class. Again, people will have me believe I know what I'm doing, as some just came to me and ask me how I was doing this of that, or how I was positioning my feet from one kick to another in a sequence. We were doing the kicks as part of a self-defense sequence following a direct punch. While no direct contact occured, our instructor paired us with a partner and I was paired with a very flexible 17yo girl, whom from what I have seen, has practiced some in freestyle forms and open style nunchaku forms, you know the ones where they kick a bit everywhere. Well, I couldn't believe it. The instructor would show us a sequence of kicks to do and then tell us to go ahead and do them in team and she'd turn to me and say "you go first, you're good at getting it down right on the first try". SAY WHAT?!? Maybe I have an eye for learning these things. Yeah, sometimes they were not pretty at first, but I was usually able to nail them by the second of third try. She would then try to mimick what I did and would also nail it, obviously much younger and more energetic that yours truly here... :)

I didn't feel any competition, I was just proud of myself that toward the end of class, I was able to whip my kicks to about face high, with the speed that would have certainly knocked an opponent down cold pretty quick.

One little though. This morning, my 36 year old groin reminded me that it is easy to hurt. Not that I had a huge problem walking but these repeated kicks are sure making themselves felt today. :)

With a little more than 5 minutes left in class, our instructor told me I could get my bo and get warmed up, which I did. There was nobody in the adjoining room, so I just went there to practice. Only a couple of minutes into my warmup, as I was going through the kata, I felt eyes on me . The instructor was watching me intently. Watching me with new eyes, eyes who've not seen my kata very often, he came up with a couple of very good comments on stuff to improve, especially for the end move, where I come back up from being on my knee. I had not realized how much I was leaning forward at that point. I will have to try to work on that.

The kata in itself went very well. I still did it a bit slowed down (but faster than previous times in front of class) to help with control, but I didn't drop it and was more stable in my stances. I got a round of applause from other fellow students and good comments on it afterward and while it's not the only reason why I do it, it sure did feel good. :)


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Welcome to the Matrix

Friday's practice
Not much to report on that one. I worked on some sequences inside my bo kata without doing the kata as a whole. Watched Andrew's private bo class from 6:45 to 7:15 and again got many pointers and some little exercises I will be able to work with on my own. That time slot (usually 6:30 to 7) is available once every two weeks and I've arranged so that Andrew will take a private half-hour of bo class once every two weeks.

Saturday morning
A good class. Got another one of those little nagging cold that makes my sinus get so full it's not even funny. Didn't sleep well because of it so this morning took some sudafed to take care of it. Class went quite well despite the cold though. We did a drill our instructor likes to do every once in a while. Get a mat in place. One person takes place at one end, the rest makes a line at the other end of it. First person in line makes a forward roll on the mat and when he/she gets up, is attacked by the lone person at the other end of the mat. This kind of helps you work out of instincts more, since you don't really have time to think. We did the drill with our self defense against clubs, which seemed to make it even tougher, as it had been a little while we had last worked on them.

After doing all 15 of our club self defense techniques, we went on to work on the advanced self defense techniques. I'm relly beginning to feel more comfortable with these. That felt good.

Saturday afternoon
Bo class was a bit crowded as again, there was a belt test in the room right next to us. Because of it, we couldn't take both room and were kind of limited. We usually start our class with a sequence of 7 strikes that our instructor will call in order at first, then in disorder, usually going faster. Sounds like this:

Today, he got the idea that we would try putting together a sequence of 20 strikes, trying never to do the exact same strikes. Some of them would look similar, but have a tiny twist in them. Like we ended up having strike #8 be the same strike as #6, but instead of doing it in a static front stance, we did it going backward to a horse stance. #1 is always done from a natural stance going to a front stance. #2 to #7 are always done from that same front stance. Guess what, how easier would it be to see a video of these strikes? Here are strikes 1 through 7...

All of these strikes appear at one point or another of my bo kata. Now we did get to 20, and I even filmed myself trying to do them again once the class is over, but I sorta screwed it up and only realized once I got home. I was trying to count them again at home and was only able to get to a count of 18, not 20. Turns out I forgot #12 and #13, although I do know what these two strikes are. Anyway, google video is a bit obstinate right now, so the clip of these 18 strikes will be for another day.

Toward the end, the strikes are a bit more elaborate, sometimes including a spin and a strike. Here's one I took out of the group only because I think it's pretty cool (and was able to upload to google video). Our instructor calls it "the matrix spin" because Neo did a move very similar in Matrix Reloaded. I'm just a tiny bit not as flexible at the waist, and I'm also not using any cables :p

Seeing myself on video gives me a few pointers to stuff I need to work on. First of all, my hands are still too close to one another on most strikes. Second, my left elbow is pointing too high, it should be parallel to the ground. Anyway, hope you enjoyed these.

I also filmed my instructor showing off a sequence of strikes so I can try and memorize it to practice it this Wednesday. I had hopes I could get it in the kata before the show, but I have my doubts now. Will probably keep on making what I have better now before adding more stuff to it...

World Championship news
I've got some news from the WKA world championship that was taking place this last week. Emilie Paquet is now a World Champion in traditional hardstyle kata. I was told that she made a mistake in her bo kata where one of her hand kind of went of her bo on a strike, something that she never does. No need to tell you, that's the thing that's very costly at this high of a level of competition. Anyway she still managed to catch second place despite that faux pas. Elymaud Samson, another young girl from our school won in the junior (13-17yo) freestyle kata category, giving us two world champions. We also had two brothers, Mathieu and Sébastien Serré, who took a 2nd and a 3rd place, although I don't remember which one of the two got what. Hearty congratulations to all of these kids, very impressive stuff!


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Buns O' Steel

Since Andrew's instructor is away in Spain for the WKA Amateur World Championship, there was no class for him, thus no Wednesday night special for me. I was not going to let that go to waste though and I went to a regular class for me.

After our basic warmup, our instructor told us he had some sufferin' for us to do. Two by two, locking right hand together, one of the two was told to take position to do a right round house kick, but not kick it. The exercise was to simply extend the leg full length in the air, as if doing a round house kick in slow motion, keeping muscles contracted at all times, keep the extended position for a count of two, then pull back but not drop the foot to the floor. This can also be done while leaning against a wall instead of having a partner holding your hand. We did a series of 15 and at the 15th, our instructor told us to do 15 quick round house kicks. Dear God, I thought I was gonna cramp and stay jammed up after the 5th one, imagine going up to 15. Both people did the right leg and then the left leg. Strangely enough, I expected to be really sore today, but it's not that bad. I guess my buns were already halfway to steel... :D

We then went on to do the intermediate self-defense techniques in quick succession, i.e. without a partner. I had a few blanks that will need to be worked on but they don't worry me too much. The good thing was what followed. We were asked to go through our advanced self-defense techniques with a partner. I was quite surprised (and happy) at how well they came out for me, much improvement has been made on this in the last few weeks.

After going through these techniques, our instructor told me to find a corner, pick up my bo and work on my kata which I was only too happy to oblige. That gave me a solid 15 minutes to work on putting together the transitions in between strikes and spins and footwork.

Class was given by the same instructor as last Monday, the one who'd told me I could present my kata on every class until the show comes. Through to his word, with maybe 5 minutes left in the class, he got everybody to line up at the back of class and he asked people who would be presenting something at the show to come forward. A 17yo girl presented a nunchaku kata that I found was very impressive. Then I realized, she is younger than half my age!!! Man to have started practicing with the bo when I was 15, there's no telling where I'd be now. Anyway, I was next. I got into very relaxed and while there some kinks that will need to ironed out, like my bo flying sideways after I'd brushed the tip on my knee on a simple figure 8, I was very, very satisfied with how it went. As weird as this may sound, I felt I was going faster by slowing it down a notch. Not so much slowing down but kind of stopped forcing it. That made the whole thing much more fluid.

Once the class was over, I was able to find a whole empty room and got to practice for another 15 minutes, full speed. I tell ya, I was sweating like a pig. I set myself at the end of the 15 minutes and did the kata one last time, nailing it from start to finish. I wish I'd had my camera filming me then, I had the feeling I had just done something beautiful. I knew it wasn't perfect, but it felt good. I left for home with a smile on my face. :)


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

this will need some (more) work...

Had class last night. As I said in yesterday's post, my instructor asked me to bring my bo so I could show my kata to the others in the class. I got to do that as the very end of the class.

I was very nervous going into it and kind of cold, meaning I had not warmed up with my bo all that much. Sure we'd gone through one hour of class, but I just picked up my bo, warmed up a bit with a few spins and throws and took my spot in front of everyone. Other thing, In order to kind of get used to a new setting, I did my kata facing backward. The thinking was that anyways, on the stage, it would be a new setting anyway, so might as well get used to some different angles right now.

It didn't go super well.

Most people commended me for being able to do it, but I knew deep down that I could have done so much better. The new sequence went fairly well, but I froze right after it, where I should have kept on going where the already existing stuff in my kata should have been. I guess I was so concentrated on the new sequence that I just blanked when I came out of it. I'll work on integrating the two together. I also missed my roll over hand/throw sequence. Again more practicing is required. Finally, I've worked so much on my spins that I think some of my fast strikes have suffered a bit. I'll have to reestablish some balance there.

Supergroup7 and Mat both have made the comment that I tend to look to the floor when doing that kata and that was pointed out to me again yesterday. Something I'll have to be aware from now on.

Coming out of class yesterday, if the show had been this coming weekend, I think I'd have been tempted to pull out. Ironically, this Sunday is the next competition for our group of schools, competition that we decided to skip in order to concentrate on the new sequence in the kata. Good move on our part I think...

The kind of cool thing was that our instructor told me I could do it in front of people every week until the show comes, so I could get used to the pressure of it. Hopefully the nervousness will go away as I do it week in, week out...


Monday, November 06, 2006

Weekend report

Friday evening
Andrew had a traditional class from 7 to 8 and a private bo class from 8:30 to 9. I learned something though. As tough as Andrew is when it's time for us to get him into bed, 8:30 to 9 is a very late hour for him to take a class, especially after going through one hour of traditional karate. One week every two, there's a half hour that is open from 6:30 to 7 and this coming Friday is the first one. I've already arranged to get that half hour and from now on, he will only take private classes when that slot is available.

From 7 to 8, I practiced in what little space I could find which fine by me. There are plenty of things I can work on even if I don't swing my bo around, plenty of agility work that'll help me "soften" my wrists for when I need to spin the bo faster. I can also do strikes, mainly because strikes can be done with your stance well established in one spot.

From 8 to 8:30, we went to the basement of our school to relax and that's when I saw it in his eyes. Poor kiddo looked tired. We watched a DVD in the salon they have their, usually to keep kids quiet in between classes but at 8pm on a Friday, we had the room for ourselves, then when I told him it was time for his class, he just came with me and went through the class. With one advanced kids class (brown belts mostly) and one tricking class (where they practice all kinds of jumps) room was sparse so I simply sat down in a corner and watched his private class. I sure came out of it with a lot of little pointers of stuff I need to work on myself. That was also good because while Andrew usually puts his heart into supervised practice, he will very often forget advices or tricks, being the 9yo that he is. Since I was listening to his instructor and I'm usually very good at working on stuff that's been pointed out to me, I serve as a walking reminder whenever we're in our regular bo class and Andrew gets in a funk and stops working right. I try not to do it too often though, wouldn't want to annoy him too much, just a little. ;)

Funny thing happened when we walked down to the salon in the basement. Two fellow adult students were practicing. Remember how I talked about people taking me as an example? Well, happened again. They were working on their most advanced self-defense techniques and had a few questions. They figured I knew the answers, just like that. Lucky for me, I knew the answers. All these occurences will start having me really believe in myself you know... :)

Saturday morning
Traditional class was good, as always. I was paired with a 64yo gentleman, brown belt like me. Funny link between us two, he was also part of the first bo class I ever took, a year ago. I think there had never been one adult taking one of these open bo classes and there we were, two of us. He is in incredible shape, I tell ya. Our instructor, after pairing us, told us we'd work on our brown belt self-defense techniques. Since he just started back karate after a nine month hiatus, he was to work on them from a the perspective of a right handed attacker while I was told to work the left side of things. Huh, really? Seriously, it went pretty well, much better than I expected. I guess I'm getting to be more comfortable as a whole as time goes by.

Saturday afternoon
Bo class went very well. Our instructor had us do this drill where you do you kata three times strong, three times fast and three times like in a competition (strong and fast). You can only rest in between series. I was sweating like a pig after my first series so you can imagine the beating I gave myself. I got to perform my kata for him after doing the whole drill and he only had good words. The new sequence went well and he said my spinning and stances have improved, even though I dropped my bo while performing my throw. These things happen. I'll simply keep working on it as I know it was only a fluke. I had not dopped it in my throw in the previous maybe 10 times.

Got class tonight. Last week my instructor asked me to bring my bo so I could show my kata to my fellow students. Hopefully it will go well...


Friday, November 03, 2006

Footwork, like dancing?

This is a bit late for a report, as real life got in the way a bit.

Here's an insight to what was going through my head on Wednesday night, as I was working on that new bo move we just added to our kata:

-left knee down, stand up, turn counter clockwise
-left, right, left, strike
-NOOOO!!! you have to end with the right foot forward, not the left
-start over
-left knee down, stand up, turn counter clockwise
-left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, ugly strike
-come on, a good strong strike! start over
-left knee down, stand up, turn counter clockwise
-left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, drop the bo while spinning overhead
-okay, forget about standing up, only do the spinning overhead, that last time you dropped it hurt a bit
-spin overhead slowly but didn't drop it
-spin overhead a bit faster, woah, dropped again
-spin overhead slowly but didn't drop it
-spin overhead a bit faster, yeah, didn't drop it, what comes after that???
-spin overhead slowly, didn't drop it, strike!
-spin overhead a bit faster, oh yeah, no drop, and boom, strike!
-spin overhead normal speed (faster was still a bit slow) and strike
-okay, feel like doing the standing up part again now...
-left knee down, stand up, turn counter clockwise
-left, right, left, while spinning overhead normal speed, strike
-NOOOOOO! right foot down, not the left one, sigh...

And repeat for 50 minutes out of the hour. :)

I tell ya, I had almost as much trouble mastering the right footwork so that my stance doesn't looke foolish, as I had learning to time the strike... The good news is that at the end, I was able to do the routine correctly about once every five. May not sound like much, but from not being able to do the spin overhead thing AT ALL, to being able to do the three turns/four strikes routine correctly at least every once in a while, that's a huge step for me. I will still need some work if I want it to look good for the December 3 show, but I have some hope I will be able to. :)

As I said, I worked on that sequence for most of the hour, with little breaks here and there. My bo almost never left my hands which is a bit of a departure from the last few weeks. Maybe I was beginning to feel too comfortable with my kata, as I never felt like working a full hour on it, usually doing some traditional karate work in between bits of open bo work.

I wanted to reply in the open to something that Supergroup7 said in a recent comment about the "BOOOO!" post. She said:
"I would encourage you to refrain from competing mentally, or physically with your son. ( If that is a possibility. He is not your age, so he will achieve different things. ) Enjoy your karate, and remind yourself that you are doing far better today than you did a year ago."

I that post, even though I commented that he got the move much faster than I did, I wasn't so much a competition comment, more like a proud father comment. Very often, I'm still amazed at what he can do, how far *he* has come along since the first competition he's done. I do enjoy my karate and I do it to always better myself, really not to be better than him, or anyone else for that matter.

Another one of those little daddy pride moments came Wednesday night. Their instructor briefed them on how their show would go on December 3. He told them that they will go on stage at the same time as two other schools, but that they would be split in two groups, beginners and advanced. They will basically go through 10 minutes of the stuff they usually do in one of their class, including some stretching, some warmup stuff, some self-defense stuff and finally some kata. He then added that he has reserved some time for three students to present their own kata. I had not realized until he mentionned it, but that meant Andrew will be presenting his bo kata in front of the whole audience. I went "woah!" in my head as I apprehended the announce. Their instructor said it would be one kid from another school presenting a bo kata, a girl from a the second school presenting an open form, and finally Andrew would present his bo kata. I feared he would pout and get all nervous but no, my boy pumped his fists in the air in a "Oh yeah baby" kind of way. To see him react that way, see that he was not afraid to go on stage just made me insanely proud. How my boy has grown in the last couple of years, simply amazing... Following the class, I wanted to make sure I had interpreted his reaction right and that he understood he would be doing his kata on stage by himself (not to scare him but simply to avoid a last minute "I don't wanna do it" kinda crisis). When I asked him if he was looking forward to show his bo kata to everybody, he replied confidently "oh yeah". I added that mom and dad and grandma and grandpa will all be very proud and impressed to see him do it, to which he added "Thomas too will be impressed". Thomas is his best friend... :)

We have a private bo class tonight. Technically, Andrew has a private half hour of bo class but I always stay to listen in and sometimes practice on my own. I always make sure that he gets 95% of the time with the instructor, but I always come out of these classes with a few little tidbits of knowledge for myself.