Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You know you had a good workout...

...when two days later you're sore as all heck simply sitting down and up from the TOILET SEAT :D

Seriously, that's how I felt yesterday. I didn't realize at the time but doing the squats and lunges again in the second hour on Saturday morning really asked that tiny bit more from my muscles that I needed to really work them out. I tell you, my buttocks were screaming everytime I sat down yesterday, especially on the toilet seat and my thighs yelled at me everytime I got up. :D

The good news is that the calf is fine. We even worked them out a bit in each hour of class. You should try this exercise at home too. Assume a good low horse stance first. Then, without your head, or your hips for that matter, going up or doing, lift your heels from the floor so you stand on your tiptoes. Do that a good 25 times, then rest your feet flat on the floor, assuming back the horse stance, and do 25 squats slowly from that position. That was one part of the Saturday morning workout...

Meanwhile, we got some good news in disguise yesterday night after Andrew's soccer game. His coach was unable to find a soccer field that was available for a practice on Wednesday so they won't practice this Wednesday. This means we'll both go to karate class, me at the dojo and Andrew at his usual Wednesday night class at his daytime school. I'll still do two hours on Saturday, as I am a couple of hours behind after missing some classes in the last month. This, coupled to the fact that his soccer coach scheduled the practice for Saturday afternoon does mean that Andrew will miss one practice as he has a football game on that day.

For those who care, they lost 3-4 yesterday but they played very well, especially Andrew. I know, every dad says that about his boy, but I really believe it. It's nice to see how he has matured as whole. I had seen it in his karate, especially in competitions, but I can see it clearly in his soccer playing. He was an 8yo kiddo playing with in the U9 category last year, one of only 3 on a team of 13. I'm not afraid to say it but at times, it made me nervous to see him out on the field, as he looked shaky in the middle of some kids who were clearly more advanced than he was. Also, he plays defense, actually likes playing defense, but when you're a defenseman, if you goof up, you put your keeper at risk. I'm happy to say that this season, it's all the opposite. When I see my Drew step on the field, I feel confident that our defensive zone is safe. He's not perfect and yes he will make mistakes and blunders, but he's more often than not a solid kiddo in the middle of the action whereas last season, he had a tendency to go into "spectator mode" once he had been passed by an opposing forward. This year, the second effort is there and he keeps running to get back to the action as soon as he can. I like that and I make sure to point it out to him once the game is over, so he knows his daddy is proud of him...

I was especially proud when I heard two dads talking to each other and one said to the other something along the lines of "wow, that #8 is pretty solid on defense, not much gets past him". You guessed it, Andrew wears #8. :)


Monday, May 29, 2006

Martial Views: on making mistakes

Making mistakes, in the broad scheme of things, are good as long as we learn from them, i.e. don't repeat them.

I could have simply commented on John's blog about this entry in his post titled "Experience Is The Best Teacher" but I decided to single it out here because it's one of the most basic things I apply to everything in my daily life.

Be it at work, in karate, in any sport I practice, in my dealings with my sons even, as long as one learns from a mistake, i.e. doesn't repeat it, it's fine by me. I know Matty is too young to understand, but I repeat it endlessly to Andrew, especially after one of his soccer games where I saw him being passed by an opposing forward. I explain to him why the other guy was able to beat him on the dribble and what he could do to prevent it, driving the point that making the mistake wasn't the worst that could happen, but that he should learn from it. I never demand perfection from him, poor kid, just that he does his best every time he steps on the field, or the mat if we're talking about karate, and that if makes a mistake, or if something wrong is brought to is attention, as in a kata when sometimes we don't realize we're doing something wrong, well that he works on correcting it.

I know I'm a very demanding person and I try to be better in my dealings with others, especially with my sons, but if there's one thing I have a hard time accepting, it's somebody making the same mistake(s) over and over. Sometimes it's a training partner lacking control with his/her (although it's more often a him than a her ;)) strikes, but other times it's a coworker lacking rigor in his/her work...

Finally at other times, it's one kid getting on his brother's nerves after you've told him numerous times to stop... Boys will be boys...


Sunday, May 28, 2006

good soreness

Well, I survived that first two hour class yesterday. GO ME!!! :)

I never thought I wouldn't be able to go through it, I mean, I've had belt tests before and they usually are tougher than two one hour class, but still, I had apprehensions. First, these classes were with THE Saturday morning instructor, the most intense of the two I have class with, but it was good, felt good to sweat it out. I did 13 popcorn jumps in the first hour and another 13 in the second hour. We had our usual good workout to start both hours, including lunges and squats aplenty, so much so that my buttocks and thighs are killing me today. Still, that was a good workout and even though I posted recently that I've been feeling in a slump lately, I had fun at the class.

The first hour included some work on kenpo combinations followed with work on the most advanced of my self-defense techniques. I was able to start work on my 3 missing techniques out of the last 12 and finish that work in the second hour.

That second hour was again mostly self-defense work. As I just said, I was able to learn and practice the last three brown belt self defense techniques and it felt good. I finished that hour with some kata work which was some more productive work. I was able to help and be helped by a fellow student. First, we worked out the ending of Cat 2 with her so she could get the steps right in her head and she was able to point out something in my start of the kata by simply asking me a question about one stance I was taking. It made me realize that I was doing it wrong! It's alwasy nice when you realize that you can improve something you are doing and it doesn't always have to be a big thing to do for it to make a difference...

As I said, I feel sore today, but it's a good soreness. Not only did I get a good two hour workout, but when I got back home, I mowed the lawn as if I'd been resting all morning. I was kind of worried I would have problems with my concentration in the second hour, but no, it went quite well. I felt that it was in fact, almost as good a workout for my brain as it was for my body. I had to force it to think while being more tired than usual, and I think that is a positive.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Crazy summer season has begun

I've not posted much lately and there's a good reason for that, I've not trained much lately. The crazy summer season officially started last weekend when Andrew played his first soccer tournament of the season and it will not stop, or at least slow down for the next 7 weeks.

Andrew is entering his second season as part of our city's development/competitive U9 soccer squad and as such, he plays a game per week, usually on Mondays, and he has practices on Wednesdays and also possibly on Saturday morning for many weeks this Summer. If you've followed my postings a little, the adult classes for my level are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Oops...

Also worth noting is that we have a second little one, whom I don't think I have introduced yet. Readers, please meet Matthew, aka "the terror" or simply Matty. :) He's now 28 months old and at the age where it's not always easy to bring him to practices and games, mostly because they usually end past his bedtime, at the time when he gets real cranky. This means one of us stays home with him and the other is off to one of Andrew's sport events.

Yeah, I said "one of" because Andrew's a multisport kiddo. Sure, as you now know, he's into karate, but that'll slow down a little during Summer. We'd been doing three times a week with him for a couple of months, instead of his usual two a week schedule in order to be able to do once a week once Summer settles in. This once a week should be on Friday evenings.

Then, you might ask, why doesn't he go to karate on Tuesdays or Thursdays, well that's because he's more than two-sports multisport, he's three-sports multisport, at least for this Summer. They are starting a football league for 3rd to 6th grade and when Andrew heard that some of his school buddies were signing up, he got all excited and asked us if he could do it. There's one rule in our house. You can do just about as many sport activities as you want, we will drive you to it, will attend your events, will cheer you on, as long as you commit to it and stick to it for the duration of the commitment. Andrew knows this rule and he agreed to it. Football season will go for 7 weeks, starting next week. Not a very long season, but still something to deal with. The nice thing about the football people is that they've set it up so that two of the four 3rd/4th grade teams practice on Monday/Wednesday and the other two on Tuesday/Thursday and they have allowed people to make requests regarding which nights they would want to have. Because of that, and the fact that some soccer teammates of Andrew will also be playing football, we were able to convince his soccer coach to do practices on Wednesdays as I said before.

And with this request, I was able to make it so that football and soccer will be going all week long without one interfering on the other, but oh the fun... Think about this kind of schedule, in which I'm simply the driver I must say ;):
Monday, soccer game
Tuesday, football practice
Wednesday, soccer practice
Thursday, football practice
Friday, karate

Not to forget the aforementionned soccer practices on Saturday morning and oh, I almost forgot, football games on Saturday afternoon and sometimes in the morning, our only conflict. I signed up with google calendar just so I have some sort of an idea what we will be doing on what night in the week...


So,what's the link with the blog? Well, this jam packed schedule is forcing me to rethink my whole karate schedule for the Summer. The way I see it, the only way I'll be able to get two hours of class per week will be by doubling up on Saturday morning, from 10 to 11 then 11:15 to 12:15. Even though the first hour is for intermediate level student, our instructor allows advanced student to tag along. I don't think this will be as effective as having two hours separately in the week, but this will have to do for now. Saturday mornings are not so bad, family-wis, since my wife will be able to drive Andrew to and from soccer/football practices/games, either bringing along Matty or asking her mother to come watch him, which she likes anyway but can't do during the week since she works the evening shift.

Add to that, I'm feeling as if in a slump. Karate's been pretty intense since last December, when I was getting ready to pass my 3rd kyu, and with both of us competing, it was pretty usual for me to train or have class up to 6 hours per week. To me, that was intense, even though I've learned that for some others (hi Mat ;)) it could be some casual training. Because of that slump, I almost don't feel like going on Saturday. Don't worry, I will go, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it once there, but I know I need to slow down during the week, which I will do...

Also, some weird muscular pain in my right calf was telling me to calm down a bit. More like a stiffness than anything else, but I wanted to see if it would go away by taking it easy on the horse stance. I think I must be compensating for a weak right knee in some way because after not doing the horse stance in a week, the stiffness is about all gone. I'll go back to the working on the stance shortly.

Still, learning martial arts remains a journey, not a short term destination...


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Visualizing, in your sleep even

Not long ago, following his rib injury, [Mat] was talking about using visualisation to train. I was reminded of his post yesterday when, as I was standing by the side of the mat right before my class, our instructor was talking to the three students in his semi-private class. He talked to them about visualizing yourself in situation of self-defense, how sometimes people will freeze when attacked in real life situation and how he would often create scenarios in his head. Like while driving, as he sees the car behind coming a bit close, what if he rear ends me and the driver comes out in a rage? What would I do? How would I defend myself if he strikes me or attempts to strike me? If you don't think about these things, even if only every once in a while, when the time will come (if it comes) to use your self-defense knowledge, you could very well freeze and not be able to use the stuff you know, that you probably know very well too. I found that discussion very interesting. Proof that you can learn even from simply listening from a distance. :)

We then went to a great class of mostly freestyle self-defense, after working minimally on a couple katas. Paired up two by two, we would attack each other without giving out the attack beforehand. Straight punch, hook punch, lapel grab to start with, followed with combination attacks ( i.e. left jab followed by right hook punch). At first, the defender was simply to block and strike back. We were then instructed to keep on the block/strike combination but also finish it with a wrist lock. First a shionage lock on a few attacks, then some ending with a sankyo lock, then some with a nikkyo to finally end with some kotegaeshi locks. These attacks followed by us trying to work in the locks were great. Not saying I was great at it, far from it, but it was great to see how it was possible to work the locks in and try to find ways to position myself to be able to do the locks more easily.

We then moved on to something we've hardly worked on so far: throws. A simple, very basic, over the hip throw. Started with the same kind of attacks, block/strike but now followed with us trying to gain position to make the throw. We didn't do the throw at first. All we were doing was simply lift our attack so his feet would merely leave the ground. The guy I was first paired with worked well with me. He's set to test for his black belt at the beginning of June and as thus, is much more advanced than I, but I felt some hesitations from him on some moves. Me, I had lots of hesitations ;) We were then instructed to switch up partners and I was teamed with another fellow student who will also be testing for his black belt in June. This guy has done a couple other styles before coming to our school, including some judo and it showed. He asked me if it was all right that he did the throws completely and I said it was okay. I mean, I've learned how to fall and when you know where you're going to land, you don't hurt yourself. He's also a very good "faller" if I can say that, in the sense that he rolls well with punches/locks/throws so I got to try the complete throw a couple of times. Didn't go too badly I would say :) Lotsa work to do, but still felt very good to be able to do it.

All that class of self-defense, alway thinking not to myself be hit by the first strike, then work something out to get the locks done, and finally the throws done, well it made my mind work overtime. Couple that with the start of a cold and my sinuses being blocked that forced me to take some Sudafed (tm) before going to bed. That stuff is non-drowsy and works like charm for me during the day but tends to give me a bit more agitated night of sleep. Not impossible to sleep, but I move a bit more in my sleep. My mind was still working overtime on moving in the dojo though and a few times in the night, I changed position in the bed and I swear I thought I was still avoiding a strike, or finding a way to work one of these locks in. My wife didn't complain that I turned one of her wrists in an awkward position while sleeping, so I have to believe I only did it on my side of the bed... ;)

PS: I'll get back maybe tomorrow with some links to videos of the locks we worked on. Interestingly enough, I'm finding plenty of aikido links with the locks mentionned in this post. Professor Cerio really took stuff from all over the place to create his style. Writing about it is forcing me to learn the origin, something I'd not done in the first three years of my practice of it. Thanks for reading me... :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

K.C. revisited

In my post about kenpo combinations last week (see
What's a K.C. to you?), supergroup7 asked a couple of good questions that I wanted to expand on a little, so I will do it in this new post. The timing is even better because this will tie-in with my class of yesterday...

Regarding these kenpo combinations (aka K.C.), she said:

In Shotokan, we do not have structured combinations like that.. but we do something similar. It's called Ippon Kumite. The attacker comes at us with one attack, he/she names the target, then the defender deflects, and counters. Now, the beginner students will only send one counter attack (like a punch to the middle), but the higher belts are expected to apply more and more techniques in combination, and to change our stance, even doing take downs, etc. Our combinations become more and more complicated as we advance in knowledge, and experience. You never know what Sensei is going to throw in your direction, or what your body is going to invent as you do your counters.

Are all of your KC done in the same stance?

First of all, yes, all of our KC are done from the same stance. Actually they are not static. We always start from a
forward stance (that we also call the half-moon stance but may not correspond to some other style's halfmoon stance, shotokan in particular I think) and they all involve a step forward, sometimes two steps with punches in between the two steps, or a kick that allows us to land forward. Here are segments of Andrew's Circle of the Tiger kata that will show you KC #17, #18, and #19.

KC #17 (block, kick, punch)
KC #18 (parry, grab leg and sweep, takedown and punch)
KC #19 (block, shuto to throat, grab ear to get head to knee, double shuto to collarbone)

While they were done without moving in that kata, when we learn them, it's always from the forward stance. KC#17 would be from forward stance to cat stance, then do the blocks, kick and punch.

What you describe sounds a lot like our self defense techniques or the freestyle self-defense we do at higher belts. You've probably seen the self-defense techniques named somewhere on the net, you know the ones with cool names like "checking the storm", "battering ram" or "sword of destruction". I'm not too sure if other styles name their techniques by americanized names like that or if that's typical of kempo/kenpo but the more I read, the more I think it's the latter. Anyway, we have 36 "choreografed" techniques that we have to learn. By choreografed, I mean that you know what the attack will be and you are expected to defend yourself in a certain way. There are techniques against straight punches, hook punches, lapel grabs, wrist grabs (with or without a punch). Sure, learning them all choreographed like that might not be very useful in a real case of need of self-defense, but doing so many of them, and learning to do them by instinct, you develop a physical memory, or at least it's the idea behind the whole thing.

What supergroup7 describe (unknown attack, freestyle self-defense) is what I'm getting at at my level. Stuff like you get attacked and then you mix and match some of the techniques learned with some extra, say the start of one technique, the ending of another with an extra wrist lock like sankyo or nikkyo to finish in control of the attacker.

We don't do much of that at the lower belt levels and I wished we'd done a bit more as I was coming up, but they seem to be recognizing that and we're doing more of it, with mixed classes, i.e. intermediate and advanced belts.

Yesterday wasn't even a "freestyle" self-defense class, but it was the kind of class that will sure help me get to be more natural with the techniques. Our instructor took us back to the most basic techniques, some of the first techniques that we learned, and he showed us how to stop doing them robotically, to add more feeling into them and with it, more speed. Some of the ways to do that were by using what Prof Cerio showed in that video I linked to the other day. Always follow a strike with another strike, keeping the movement continual. We also worked on the hips. The hips, the hips, the hips. I can have a hard time with my hips and by that I mean that I can sometimes get so concentrated on my hands and the strikes and blocks that I have to do, that I forget to put the strength of my hips into my punches. That turns me into a puppet with only the arms moving. :) Not very effective in front of an attacker bigger than me.

I felt good during that class though. I was able to work the hips and pull the moves faster without losing the effectiveness of the techniques. So much so that at one point our instructor was watching me exchange attacks with my training partner and he let out a semi-gasp, a woah. I asked him if he'd seen anything that I should work on, as I always like to hear stuff I need to work on and there's just so much of it, but he told me that, au contraire, I was doing better with every exchange, in other words, he liked what he was seeing. Didn't say it that way, but it fel that way to me and that was good enough. :)


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Saturday morning class

I'm sure many of you have gone to a karate class at least once thinking you would like to work on this or that particular thing on that day. Well this is what happened to me today. After working on my three pinan katas on Wednesday, and spending some time practicing self defense with the same girl I attacked in this post, I felt like working on them again today and my wish was granted: we did mostly kata work today.

It felt nice to do the three pinans and having pointers be given by our instructor on what to watch for as usual mistakes that people do. Some of them I sorta knew I wasn't guitly of, but some others, after reflecting on it, I was doing without even thinking about.

We then kept on going with Circle of the Tiger, then The Statue of the Crane and finally Cat 1 and Cat 2 that I did an extra time as our instructor had our higher belts do Cat 3 with instructions to people who don't have it, of whom I am, to keep on doing their latest kata.

Again, I was sweating like a pig today, which is nice, in a weird way :) It was our usual Saturday morning class, with popcorn and all as the warmup items. One nice thing I realize today though, as we went through a couple of drills of squats, some of them out of the horse stance position no less, is that my legs must have gotten stronger because I had no problem with his squat drills. He likes to have us jump in place and on his count, we jump forward, do a squat and jump back to jump in place on our tiptoes. He counts to 25 like that. Then we took the horse stance position, with him asking us to go "pretty low" only to ask us to go to perfect 90 degree stance on his count. He counted up to 12 and backward to zero from there and I was still doing them without quivering. That's gotta mean something. :)

We finished class working on self-defense techniques and I worked with a fellow brown belt lady on our last 12 requird techniques. I added a couple today and I now know 9 of the last 12.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Horse Stance progress...

I will report every once in a while about how my horse stance sessions are going and since it's been a little while since the last time I've talked about it, why not start now.

I had decided last week to do horse stance sessions for two days in a row, take Wednesday off, then do Thursday and Friday.

I reported about the Monday session in the "yep, I still hate that stance" post and did something special for Tuesday. I did a first session of 3:30 (with 45 seconds in perfect 90 degree stance) but after coming back from getting a coffee, I decided to try and go as long as I could in a perfect 90 degree stance. Well, I lasted 90 seconds.

I had decided to take Wednesday off of the stance and got back on the horse on Thursday. I tried something different on Thursday, going with only some perfect 90 degree stance. I wanted to see how long I could last and I got to 2 minutes when I fell apart and gave up. I wasn't too happy as I felt I could have done better. I tried a second session but could do only 75 seconds before giving up. I was getting frustrated with myself so I kicked myself in the butt and after only 3 mintues of rest, I went for a third session that lasted 80 seconds, so in all 4:35 of perfect 90 degree horse stance.

On Monday, I took another approach, the one of seeing how long I can stand, without setting a time limit, and without really going to the 90 degree stance, yet while keeping a very low stance. Well, I last 4 minutes but came out of it with the feeling that I could have done a bit more. That's what I find frustrating at times with the horse stance. It burns the legs as all hell when you're in it but then you walk it off and while you are still shaky, you have the feeling you could have done at least another minute or so... Oh well. I didn't go to get a coffee yesterday but still went for a 70 seconds session of perfect 90 degree stance that felt good.

Following my K.C. post in which I also talked about how I feel like I still have a lot to learn, I've decided to switch my vision. I won't try to kill myself each and every lunchtime but will try to keep on doing the stance as often as I can. So today I did only one session, a 90 degree one without a time limit, so as long as I could go, and I went for 2:15. That was a solid one.

It's a marathon not a sprint...


What's a K.C. to you?

K.C.? Kansas City? Nope.
Kelly Clarkson, Kurt Cobain? Nope. Nope.
K.C. and the Sunshine Band? Nope. Nope. Nope.

To me for a while, they were simply KC's. Numbered from 1 to 20, we practice them in class. They are more or less small sequences of moves (blocks, strikes, kicks) that once put together would form a kata. KC #1 is the only one needed to be able to do Pinan 1 while KC #2, #3, and #4 are needed to do Pinan 2.

Up until just a couple days ago, I had no idea how to translate the two letters. I'd only heard it said that way, KC, and since the school I go to is French, I wasn't even sure it was what was meant when we were asked to perform KC. That all started changing as I read some Kenpo history, especially the nicely put chronological line they have done over at Kempokan/Evolution Karate
. The connection then came by itself: K.C. = Kempo Combinations!

That's just what they are, combinations of moves that you can use either inside a kata, or as extra self defense techniques. There's mention of Kempo/Kenpo Combinations in quite a few other pages, like this article about the Combinations of Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu (of which some of our katas came), or in the section dedicated to Nick Cerio on this page
, where they mention some of the self-defense techniques by the name I know them (Buckling Branch, Menacing Twirl, and Bending Tree).

Why do I tell you about these combinations today? Well, that's what our whole hour of class yesterday was about, minus the usual warmup/elevate heartrate/sweating part, of course. ;)

We went through all 20 of them, in order at first. Some, even when you know they are coming, can be more challenging than others. Sometimes they include a block, a kick and a couple of punches, although sometimes they include simply a block and a punch. After doing them in order, we did something we had not done in a little while. The instructor told us to think about KC #1 through #9 only and that he would call out a number. We had to put the digits in order with the correct combinations. Think about it, 521 is KC#5, KC#2, KC#1, adding up to a sequence that could be part of a kata, although it isn't and as thus, was never "rehearsed" that way. Made for a nice challenge of the mind.

He then went on to call the KC #11 to #20 in random order. That too was challenging. I tell ya, I think we could hear all the little hamsters running wildly to make the brain gears churn faster and faster.

We finished class with again KC's but this time with an attacker. Think bunkai, this was very close to bunkai. Different types of attacks against which we used a few different KC to often first block then strike. Was very good and quite enlightening to me. The whole class actually made me realize one thing: I've still got a lot to learn, a lot to incorporate in the way I move, the way I strike, the way I stand in my stances. Blocks are not coming all that naturally. I mean, I'm don't think I look completely foolish out there, but there is so much work to be done.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the end of the class. We have four adult students who are getting ready to test for their black belt, on June 10 I think, and at the end of class, our instructor has taken the habit of having everybody stand to the back wall and have whoever of these four who are attending the class perform one of their katas. Sometimes, it's Cat three, the one kata I don't know before the black belt, but other times, like last night, he asks for a lower kata. Yesterday, he asks them to do Statue of the Crane and wow a lot of subtleties I saw in their movements that I know I'm probably not doing right. Yeah, they're student, just like me, but I fell that I learned by watching them.

Regarding these KC, or Kenpo Combinations, maybe other styles have them, maybe they're called something else. I invite my readers, all 5 of you ;) to let me know.

PS: my wife's favorite translation is the KC and the Sunshine Band one. :) Whenever I come back from class end tell her we worked on our KC's, she will invariably reply with that name. :)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Karate Thoughts Blog: In A Crowded Elevator

As I was reading the post called "In A Crowded Elevator" on the fine blog that is Mr Charles C. Goodin's Karate Thoughts, I was reminded of how I could use what I've learned so far in Kenpo.

Strikes, counterstrikes, blocks, parries. "A block is a strike and a strike is a block" as Professor Cerio used to say. Always trying to set up a strike following one strike. Then I came upon this little video clip that shows Professor Cerio demonstrating what is being thaught to us as the Kenpo Hands.

Our instructors show us this stuff, this is what we learn, but still, it's very nice to see it from the professor of all our professors. Professor Cerio Passed away in 1998.

PS: I highly recommend people to read the Karate Thoughts blog. Thanks to Mat for pointing it out to me (and well to others) on a comment on another blog.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

want some butter on that popcorn?

Had class this morning and it felt good. With the competition last Saturday, the whole dojo was closed because most if not all our instructors were either competing or officiating at the Open.

My Saturday morning instructor, for some reason we don't call our instructors sensei, is a 57 year old gentleman who's been doing martial arts forever it seems. And I say that with a lot of respect. He's a fourth dan black belt in great shape for a man his age. There's a reason why he's in great shape, and it could only be found in the kind of workout he gives us. Seriously, his classes are renowned for being very demanding on the cardio-vascular side. Some people avoid them because of that reputation, me, I kind of enjoy them because of that...

One of his favorite warmup kind of exercises is what he calls "popcorn jumps" and the way he says it, simply "popcorn" followed by the number he wants us to do, well it makes us groan everytime. Maybe you know them by another name, but here's what one popcorn jump entails. First from a standing position, do a frog leap, so butt needs to touch the heels. Then drop to the floor and do a pushup, then back up to frog leap again to start popcorn number 2. This looks like nothing, but 15 of those and well, my little heart gets to beat way, way fast. For a couple of months now, since he saw some people kind of doing their pushups only halfway, i.e. not bending their arms to touch the floor, he's decided to change them jumps. Now he asks us to completely drop down, lay face down on the floor, put our arms in a cross, then do the push up. Niiiice... :)

But you know what, I never, ever miss a class with him. When I was able to attend his Thursday night class, I was going to that one too. Thing is, not only is he hard on you, he's also very generous of his knowledge and that is just great. Also, I think he is partly the reason why I've lost the weight I have lost since last September, so I'm not about to stop. :) This morning, when the call came, "popcorn, 15!", I groaned, then went to do them. I was kinda proud of myself, since usually, I get to maybe 13 when everybody's been done with their 15 for a little while, but this morning, I was able to do all 15, all in time with the others. :)

Maybe this is a little thing that BlackBeltMama will want to introduce in her adapted workout ;)


Thursday, May 04, 2006

so I attacked her...

Yeah, that sentence said out loud without any sort of context makes me sound like a crazy psychopath in a back alley in the bad part of town, but I'm not, you all know that by now :)

Yesterday was Andrew's usual midweek class. That class is what our kenpo school calls a "satelite" class in the sense that it doesn't happen at the dojo but at his regular school (as in daytime school). This is nice during the week since even though it's given by his regular instructor, it's only 2 1/2 minutes from our home instead of the usual 15 minutes.

I've been tagging along with Andrew for the last couple of months, "borrowing" a corner of the big gymnasium to practice with my bo. We even were going 30 minutes early so Andrew could practice his bo kata too, and I guess he liked that half hour since yesterday, as I asked him we were going, he picked up both bos even though we were leaving only 5 minutes prior to the start of his regular class. I had decided that he'd only go to his regular class since our competition season is over. He gave me a sad, pouty face that told me he really wanted to practice with his bo. In a weird way, it made me smile inside. Never had I seen him so enthusiastic about karate before and it was to see...

So back to me and attacking her. Well, I started with my bo but as I said, our competition season is over and our next competition is only next October. I decided to go anyway since I find that handling the bo is relaxing to me. Even when I'm not really pushing myself, simply to spin it, do some strikes, throw it from hand to hand, it relaxes me... Anyway, their class started with about 30 minutes of some back to basics, including the stretching and such. The end of that first half hour coincided with me deciding to move from the bo to working on my self defense techniques, by myself in a corner. That's when Andrew's instructor turned to me and asked me if I could go and attack her. "Her" is a black belt girl, maybe 14, no more than 15. From memory, she must have passed it last Fall or maybe Summer since I remember seeing her as a brown belt last Spring. As I said in a reply to one of Mat's comments, our kenpo style is really rooted in self defense. We have 36 self-defense techniques that we need to know by name, first from the view of a right-handed attacker, then from a left-handed one. Anyway, their class only has kids in it, the second highest belt is a 10yo brown belt. The instructor's thinking was that she could use some being "roughed up", meaning having an attacker that, while being in control, could give her some opposition. For example, working on defending against a lapel grab isn't the same when said lapel grab is done by a 10yo kid than when it's done by a 195 lbs 35yo adult.

So I attacked her... I was more than glad to provide said presence even though it felt weird being 35 and "attacking" a girl about 20 years younger than I. I made sure to always be in control and not so much "rough her up" but be firm in my attacks and holds. She did know her techniques quite well, in fact most of them, she mastered much better than I, and some of them that I didn't even know, or had only seen done a couple of times. Anyway, it was nice to be of help to a younger one, even though she is of higher grade than me. I even gave her some pointer as to how she could work more with her whole body instead of only her arms. When the instructor came to us at the end of the class and asked her what she thought about it her answer was that it was cool but also that she'd worked harder than usual, to which the instructor replied that she indeed looked like she had to work harder. :)

That is one thing I like, being able to help any which way I can. Even if it's only by being the dummy that gets hit by my instructor in our Saturday morning class, or helping somebody who has some questions regarding a kata that I do well, as happened last Monday. I like it because it work both ways. At some point, I'll be the one needing help, and I won't be afraid to ask...

As for my son, remember I said he was disappointed that he wouldn't be practicing his bo yesterday? But wow, is he motivated to learn now! The minute the class ended, he ran to me and insisted to show me what little new part of his latest kata he'd learned last night. It's called "Statue of the Crane" and while it's an interesting kata, it's also kind of intricate since it's got a couple of pauses with jumps ending in a crane position, as its name would imply. Anyway, I was impressed with how well he remembered it. He's about two third through it and seeing him do it made daddy proud. :)


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I am a Martial Artist, a poem

I am a martial artist.
I see through different eyes.
I see a bigger picture
when others see gray skies.

Though many can't conceive it,

I stand. . .facing the wind.
My bravery, not from fighting,
but from my strength within.

I am a martial artist.

I'll walk the extra mile.
Not because I have too,
but because it's worth my while.

I know that I am different,

when I stand on a crowded street.
I know the fullness of winning,
I've tasted the cup of defeat.

I am a martial artist.

They say I walk with ease.
Though trained for bodily harm,
my intentions are for peace.

The world may come and go,

but a different path I'll choose.
A path I will not stray from,
no matter, win or lose.

I didn't write this, Karen Eden did. I found it a few months ago while browsing the online catalog at centuryfitness.com. They have a bunch of items featuring this poem. I have a copy of it in front of me on my desk and often read parts of it in between tasks here at work. I'm always very high on spiritual stuff and such, but I especially like reading it while doing my lunchtime horse stance session. One day I'll have it memorized and will repeat it to myself during the horse stance :)

Many of you probably already knew it, but for those who didn't, I just wanted to share.


Monday, May 01, 2006

a different kind of sparring, sorta...

Our regular instructor wasn't there tonight so we were in for some change. Sometimes being instructed by somebody different isn't all bad. He first took us through a warmup that included a nice sequence of 200 punches in the horse stance, in groups of 50, that was quite the nice start :p We then went to do all of our blocking forms. These are smallish katas that include only blocks. The 1st blocking form is usually the first form you learn in our style, followed with the 2nd and the 3rd blocking form. There are are 4th and a 5th blocking form but they are reserved for black belts and they include some strikes with the blocks. We then went to do some of our basic forms and then were left to work on our most recent kata on our own for 10 minutes. I reworked my Cat Two and was even happy that my new found fluidity with it, developped over the last week, was helpful to a fellow student who knew I had presented it at the Open and simply asked me to do it so she could watch my timing with it. She is suffering from the same thing I had trouble with only last week as she'S concentrating so much on the movements and strikes that she's doing the form so slowly. I repeated to her a couple of pointers that had been given to me and that helped me a lot figuring out what I was supposed to be doing at some key point at the start of the form. I like trying to understand what is going on when I do a kata. Sometimes I wish we'd do more bunkai.

Anyway, the real interesting part came next. Our instructor told us to go get a bo from the rack. I thought we'd work on the first traditional bo kata that we have to learn, called "sushi no kon sho", but nope, he told us we'd learn a couple of blocking forms. That was quite cool with me, since we don't often practice with the bo in our regular classes. All the bo I've learned is during the competition class I usually take once a week, but it's of the open (or creative) type and I'll be the first to admit that it doesn't always have the real feel of self defense. Sometimes it's got more flash than purpose (although I also like it that way ;) ). Anyway, we did the forms, something like 8 blocks (up, down, left, right, to a 45 degree up strike from left, same from right, 45 degree from left but to the knee, same to the right). Then came the shocker, to me at least. Our instructor told us to go two by two and try it. WOAH! We started slow and picked up a tiny bit of speed as we went, but not much. Still, hearing the wood of the bos smack in the dojo had a very powerful effect on me, I LOVED IT! Seriously, it was great. We then went on to work on a couple of self defense techniques, again using the bo. And again, it was just great. Sparring might be a strong word for what we did, but still, we were not simply using the bo in a form, striking a virtual opponent, we were swinging the thing against a real fleshed out human.

I don't know what it'll take for me to have more of a chance to practice this type of thing, but you can be sure that I'll start researching it more and more and I'll keep my eyes and ears well open in case a class of that type opens up at one point...


yep, I still hate that stance

I didn't do my daily horse stance session on Friday, nor did I do any over the weekend, but I usually don't do any in the weekends. Boy was it rough today. Set the timer to 3:30, felt not too bad for the first two minutes then hit a wall. I really wanted to end it with a full 60 seconds of perfect 90 degree stance and well I did it but was shaking pretty badly with 10 seconds to go. These daily horse stance sessions are really turning into little battles of willpower with my own self. I held it but as the bell rang, I couldn't pull myself up! I usually get up, take hold of my desk and shake the burning in my things but today, I dropped a knee to the ground, I just couldn't go up. I eventually was able to go up but it was a rough first 2 or 3 minutes walking afterwards. Oh well, it'll come with time...

Went to get my coffee downstairs and got back to my desk. I debated for a little while about doing the second 60 seconds of only 90 degree stance and decided to put 30 seconds on. Well, when it rang, I kept going and hit "start over" on the timer and went another 30 for the full 60. Take that you horse stance! :)