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...