Tuesday, October 31, 2006

that would be a very long kata...

We had a little talk with our instructor last night at the beginning of our class. He's trying to talk people into going on stage and do something for December 3rd but people always have good reasons not to it seems. I felt a little bit of pride when he looked at me and simply said "Steve, you're good to go, right?". Could only reply that I'd hope to :) As I said before, I'm not much of a showboat, but I feel some pride in being able to show something I can do that I know not many people can, at least not of my age, group who all started practicing kenpo from 3 to 5 years ago. Sure a 36 year old black belt who's been practicing with a bo since he was 7 or 8 (think Andrew in some 15 years) would make me look silly, but none of the "grownups" practice open bo regularly.

Seeing how few adults seemed eager to participate, he kind of pep talked them, telling them beginners and even intermediate adults would be looking toward us and he needed people, or else I'd have to do a 20 minute kata. :D

As for yesterday's class, our instructor told us to break in group and decide by ourselves what we wanted to work on. Some of us felt we had not worked on our KC in some time so we devoted some time to that. I'm getting the funny feeling that some of my peers are looking toward me to lead them in such exercises. Not so much teach them, as to simply have one calling the shots (KCs are simply known by numbers, from 1 to 20). For example, yesterday someone simply said "okay, Steve will call them". Err, okay, I don't mind. I guess I'm a dominant type, or at least self-confident enough that they feel like following me.

We then worked on some kata and again, somebody said "go Steve, we'll follow you". That kind of made me feel uneasy. My kata are far from perfect and I'd hate some of my peers (people from the exact same belt level) to be "corrupted" by my mistakes. Anyway, it went well.

Funny thing to end the class. As we were doing Cat 1, our instructor who was silently watching us, came close to me and point blank asked me if I had my bo with me. I never carry it unless I have a chance at using it and didn't have it yesterday. He told me it was a shame as he thought it would have been cool that I'd have showed them my kata. He told me to bring it next week and he would have me perform my kata. I'm kind of looking forward to it. :)


Monday, October 30, 2006


Saturday was the offical costumed day at the dojo. They had told the kids they were encouraged to come to their classes all geared up and all geared up, they did come. It was pretty funny seeing them all, made for a very festive day. Kid's instructors were also costumed. As you would expect, it turned out to be a less than traditional for them and because of it, they got them to experiment with weapons a bit, in a controlled environment I should say :) Kids who had their bo were put together so they could practice their stuff, but many of the other kids got their first taste of it. Same goes with the nunchakus, a weapon that Andrew has not played with very often. He told me afterward that he had fun with them. Speaking of Andrew, he went as a Star Wars Clone Trooper but I didn't have my camera with me. Will try to get a picture of him and Matthew tomorrow. After their class, each kid was give a little bag of candies, a bag of chips and a juice box.

They had passed the word along last year but not as much this year. Me being a parent of a karate kid and all, I was aware of Saturday being the big costumed day and I even thought about costuming myself, as I did last year. I decided not to, as I really never have any good idea for that kind of thing. It's sort of a good thing I didn't, as not one adult was costumed. I guess, even though I didn't realize it, they really didn't talk about it in our adult classes. Sometimes, the two worlds (mine and my son's) do mix up a bit to become only one. :)

Anyway, my traditional class was a bit of everything. It started with a very intense warmup that saw us go through 50 jumping jacks, 15 pop-corn jumps, and while there usually say a 15 seconds break before we do something else, our instructor told to go straight to 25 pushups and 25 situps, WHILE we were doing the pop-corn jumps. I was sweating like a pig. We then got two by two and did some more abs work. You know when somebody is lying on his/her, head between the ankles of his/her partner and he brings up his leg only to have said partner push them back down. ugh. 25 of them. My abs were killing me yesterday. Not omcplaining though, was very happy with the workout. :)

We then worked a bit more on Cat 1, fine tuning many little things like some stances, some strikes, even some glances, applying the concepts of the bunkai for the kata. That's always something I like doing. We then moved on to work on our twelve brown belt self defense techniques to end the class with a couple times doing Sushi No Kon Sho with the bo. I kind of lead them, as I can now do it pretty much without having to think too much. This is where having a chance to practice it on Wednesday nights pays off.

We had our bo class in the afternoon. I didn't have to talk to my instructor about the show, as word had already been leaked to him. I have not talked about music to him although I have a couple ideas... I have some ideas to change to opening sequence, nothing too big. He did teach a new sequence of strikes that involves a bit of turning around, not really spinning but more like doign a 360, then strike, then turning the other way then strikes. Very hard to explain in writing, I guess a video would help but I'm not ready to demonstrate anything about that sequence. I'll tell ya one thing, I had a beeping hard time mastering some of the hand moves on that one. So much so that Andrew had it down pat before I did. :)

Practice, practice, practice...


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Seeing your kids grow

Yesterday was our Wednesday night special. I only got to practice for about 40 minutes as my wife couldn't had to leave work a bit late. I kind of took it easy and again worked mostly on agility stuff with the bo, figuring if I can imprvoe my swift handling of it, my transitions will only get better and as a result, after a better transition, my strikes will also fit in better.

I think I did my whole kata only once from start to finish and it was at a reduced speed, trying to really do it with perfect movemements. I did work on making many repetitions of some particular sections though.

Best part of the night came with only 6 or 8 minutes to go in the class when their instructor got them to line up as they were at the beginning of class, got them through meditation earlier than usual in order to talk to them a bit about the upcoming show.

As I told you, Andrew just didn't want to do it the last time they did such a show a couple years. Even though he was two years younger at 7 back then, his attitude didn't seem to have changed last Tuesday when I told him about the show. After I'd told him I would be part of it, I asked him if he wanted to too, but he had shook his head vehemently. I then talked to him about maybe doing a synchronized kata. Every reasons were good for him to turn it down, but not as vigorously. He said he thought I would spin too fast. I told him he will get better with his new lighter bo and that I could adjust my spin to his spin, saying that a synchro was a teamwork. I thought I had piqued his curiosity.

Then came yesterday. Their instructor made a heck of a sales pitch. To the whole group of 12, he told that they HAD TO participate in that show. He made the tough face and told them he thought it was a requisite and that their parents would be happy to see what they are really practicing behind closed doors. He said that they would only present stuff they can do, stuff they work on in class. He added that he was not expecting them to do anything crazy like the stuff that Emilie does in competition and in her demo shows, or *ahem* even stuff that Andrew can do with his bo. I suddenly felt great pride in my boy, seeing him being singled out positively like that, as an exemple of someone being able to do something special that is not expected from others. I guess he must have felt the pride. After class, even before we got out of the room, I asked him if he would do the show with his group and he nodded a confident yes. To me that meant he would do it with kids, while I would present mine with the adults, however a few minutes later in the dressing room, I heard him tell a friend about how he would probably do a synchronized kata with his dad, I told him that this time he would do the show with his friend. Their instructor had told them he already had a very good idea of what they would present and I reminded him that he should trust him. I expected him to pout and maybe start saying he wouldn't do it then, but no, he nodded again when I told him that we would keep on working on a possible synchronized kata to present someday. Even better, in that dressing room, he reminded me of what his instructor had just said, that they were welcome to invite not only their brothers and sisters and parents, but also grandparents and even friends. As he put the emphasis on "friends". I asked him if he had a friend in mind and he immediately mentionned is best friend of the moment. After a bit of prodding, he said he wanted to show him what he was doing in his karate class. Talk about growing in confidence overnight. :)

As of now, we don't what his instructor has in mind, but I trust him to try and use Andrew well in their part of the show. Shouldn't be that big too, as each school only has 10 minutes on stage...


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Apparently, the show will go on...

Nope, the title isn't a reference to my nagging little cold, which luckily is still only a nagging little cold. It's got more to do with the fact that it looks like I've enrolled into doing a demo presentation of my bo kata for Christmas show our school is putting together. Dear God, what have I done???

They did that kind of show two years ago. Basically it's one big day with four separate representations for four distinct groups of students affiliated to our school. I say affiliated because we have some satellite schools where classes are given by instructors from our school, but in out of town school gymnasiums, like the Wednesday night class that Andrew usually attends. Two of these representations are for kids attending those satellite schools, another is for lower belt kids attending classes at the dojo and the final one is for higher belt kids, adults, and boxing students. Each representation runs about 90 minutes and is simply for kids to show their parents what they are working on in their karate classes. Sometimes it'S by putting together little skits, some other times, they simply show off their kicking/punchinh/self defense skills. For us adults, it's simply to have fun, show each other what we can do with all of us gathering afterward to eat some pizza (kids eat pizza after their representations too, don't worry).

Advanced adults are a bit more looked upon to show adult beginners what they could be doing in kenpo in a couple years from now, if they stick to it. That being said, and knowing that I'm THE ONLY underbelt (i.e. non black belt level, or even more, non instructor) doing any kind of open bo work, well, I almost expected it when our instructor talked about the shows at the start of class yesterday and said something along the lines of "hey Steve, how about a demo of some open bo stuff?". Again, knowing how I'm THE ONLY underbelt adult doing any kind of open bo work (repeating for emphasis on "THE ONLY" ;) ), I understand the appeal for our instructor, who's also half-owner of the school with his wife, to have me show my mad skillz. How could I have said no???

Wanna hear a funnier bit still? At the end of class, after he had passed along a little flyer talking about the shows, he got back to me, kind of trying to make sure I'd go along, only to add "and your kata, has it got music on it?". SAY WHAT?!?!? Err, no. I got enough problem holding on to the dang thing, I can't try to synchronize myself with some boom-boom music at the same time. That's when the "oh my God what have I done?" part really hit me. Believe it or not, I'm a fairly shy person with a profound fear of being laughed at. Showing videos of my kata in here is kind of a therapy for me. I know people from my regular traditional classes will probably like watching one of theirs doing an open bo demo, but if I can't really fit the thing to music, I'd rather do it without any. This'll have to be talked about with my bo instructor. Even more, we will have to get started on these changes to the kata, since these shows are on December 3rd and our next scheduled competition is the very next Sunday, December 10.

Two years ago, Andrew didn't want to participate in the show, despite many of his friends taking part in it. He's also very shy as far as being in public. Judges in a competition are nothing to him, but other people, he's still unsure. Maybe seeing me getting ready for such a thing might pump him up a bit. Another idea I had was to do our kata kind of like synchro style. Maybe that would work, Steve and mini-Steve, me and mini-me. His group is taking part in the same representation as mine, from 6 to 7:30pm so maybe fitting a father and son thing in there could have some appeal to both kids and parents. Just thinking out loud here, I'd still have to get him to agree to go on stage. Oh, almost forgot, the show is happening on stage, in an auditorium that can seat about 420 people... sigh, what have I done? I'm frigging nervous just thinking about it...

And before you ask, yeah, they will be filming the whole thing so there should be videos to be posted at some point in mid December...


Monday, October 23, 2006

Sweatin' the toxins

Ever since the competition, I've started feeling the symptoms of a little cold getting stronger in me. Not much, you know, the itchy throat, a litte sneezing, a little stuffy nose. Dang did I felt like I was sweating all the toxins out of my body this past Saturday. Not that it was a much tougher than usual warmup or anything, but you know how it is when you are not 100%...

Anyway, went through class no problem. We worked some on our kata, the Crane, Cat 1, Cat 2, but also Pinan 3. Got a few things corrected in my Cat 1 kata, some more work for the hips. Someday we'll get it right. :)

The bo class turned out to be a "compact" one. Even though a couple students were missing, we were restricted to about half of our usual space because a best test was going on in the adjoining class room. We worked mostly on agility drills, including some of them while sitting down on the floor. I tried, and actually succeeded a couple times, to throw my bo over my head while it was spinning horizontally. I will probably never incorporate such a move in one of my kata, but it was kind of fun for one class. Can't wait to finally have some time with our instructor so we can start working on new moves to add to our kata. Might have to get Andrew a private class (which I attend anyway) for that to happen though. Andrew skipped his traditional class last Friday (the one where I usually have some free practice time) because he was making up the swimming class of last Sunday that he missed in order to go to the competition...

Trad class tonight, the cold seem to be coming a bit stronger. Hopefully I'll sweat it out a bit more and it'll go away faster...


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Falling in love, again

Pretty uneventful night of practice yesterday. I brought my bo but only did my kata a couple times, and only at about half speed. I did work on my handling of it, the finer kind of handling. Gaining speed in my spinning will lead me to spend less time spinning it and will make my strikes become the main focus of the kata.

I did all my kata, starting with the three pinan, then Circle of the Tiger, then the Statue of the Crane and ending with Cat 1 and Cat 2. Was definitely more relaxed doing Cat 2 by myself as opposed to being in front of judges, and I worked on some of the little things I didn't like on the video of it.

I also served as attacker for the class instructor. He's done that a few times in the last couple weeks, ask me to come over to help him demonstrate a self defense technique. I'm more than happy to oblige, as I often get tips about how to do them, even though I already know the techniques. Hearing somebody other than my regular instructors explain them, and especially to younger kids, is good. It also helps him as showing a technique against a lapel grab is easier to show with an attacker of about his size and strenght as opposed to being grabbed by a 4 feet high 8 year old. :)

I had brought Andrew's new bo with the hope that there would be a private class right after his traditional class and that we would be allowed to share a tiny bit of the gymnasium. Sadly, the only class planned for the evening was their 6 to 7 traditional class. I still pulled out Andrew's bo for him to try it for a couple minutes. We bought it at the competition last Sunday, but he didn't use it for the competition, seeing how much lighter it was than his older bo. His reaction to it yesterday was a pure joy to see. He went all "woah" and his eyes widened as he did a few figure eight and then some strikes. As I grabbed out stuff to head back home he told me he would have really wanted to keep on practicing with it. Again, when we got hom, at 7:10 or about, he told me he'd have wanted to practice outside, pretty much in the dark. It had rained all day and it was wet all over, so I told him he couldn't but it was still very nice to see him get all excited about it. He told me he really looks forward to our next bo class so he can practice with it some more. Looks like he fell in love with his bo, again... Good kid...


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kali, err say that again?

Got through warmup yesterday and a quick run through the first 24 self defense technique, a run that reminded me that I need to work on them more. Man was I mixed up on some of those, even though I know all of them, or I used to know all of them...

Once through these, our instructor told us we'd do some kobudo and that Daniel, his usual assistant and 3rd dan black belt, would be the instructor for the night. I was expecting him to tell us to go get a bo, but know, he pointed to some sticks on the floor, kind of like strong cut off broomsticks, maybe a couple feet long, maybe a bit longer. He told us what we would be working on was called kali. I have found many places talking about kali on the web and it's also called stick fighting, or escrima. Not so sure it falls inton kobudo, or at least it doen't fit the okinawan kobudo line, as the kali are a philipino weapon.

He took us through a few different strikes, some very interesting stuff. You actually hit with the stick as if you had a blade attached to it, mostly doing motions in continuity, in the shape of an eight. We went throuhg the downward 8 (with right hand, from right should to left thigh, go up and round to left ear and strike downward from left shoulder to right thigh, repeat the round movement), then the upward 8 (reverse the motions, from left thigh to right shoulder, go round and tow right thigh and strike back up to left ear). That last one could look a bit like hitting a tennis ball with a racket, either brushing it forward or with a backhand. The effect with a blade would be a slicing of the blade, going upward or downward, depending on which way you go.

We went on with a bit more, including some blocks and counterstrikes then we went to actually hit the things together. Weeee!!! :) We actually did a few self defense techniques that did make a lot of sense. Some say finding a broom to use as a bo is easy, but think about it, it would be even easier to find a two foot long stick to block then strike an attacker. Block, strike to the wrist, chamber the second stick (yeah, we had two in our hands at one point, how scary) and strike again. I loved it! :)


Monday, October 16, 2006

Some bo kata videos

Here they are, father and son, well, actually it's more like son then father, but you get my drift... :) Enjoy!

Comments are welcome. As I said, I stumbled early in the kata and it stayed on my mind for the rest of it. Had I started off solidly, it would have showed for the rest of it. Still not a bad kata, I think. Will need to work on my hands position and strieks. For reference, check when I make side to side strikes. The elbow of my forward hand is a tiny bit bent. That shouldn't happen...

Andrew's performance was very good, from my perspective. Lacks a bit of explosiveness, but he's fairly clean in his strikes and spins the bo better than I do. Give him one more year of work and he could be doing some crazy forms. Go Andrew!!!

Finally here's a bonus for you. Remember when I talked about young Emilie Paquet going to the World Championship at the ripe age of 12? Well, I was able to film her in between one of our kata. There it is:

She is only 12, remember that. Her sense of focus never ceases to amaze me. A great performer. She'll be in Spain from November 6 to 11. Good luck in Spain Emilie!

Expecting too much?

I can't lie to you, I come out of yesterday's competition wanting more. Out of six competitors in the 30-39 weapons form category, I came in second place. Not bad some would say, but I was gunning for first place. I'll have some videos up soon and you will see where I stumbled in the start of the kata. It didn't start pretty and even though I recovered from it, it was always on the back of my mind and I kind of lacked focus from there on. Still, I'm happy with the plaque and will aim to work on what went wrong and on adding strike sequences to the kata for the next competition. I'll also try to keep on working on controlling my nerves.

My traditional kata, called Cat 2, I thought I had it fairly well pegged. After seeing the video, I see that I was so stiff, it wasn't even funny. Came in 5th out of 6, so kind of ugh. Anyway, there again, I come out of the competition with some knowledge of what I need to work on to advance. If only for that, it was a productive day.

Andrew had sort of a frustrating day on the whole. I saw him do his bo kata from afar (getting ready to present mine) and at first I felt he had performed it well. That was confirmed when I saw the video. He did indeed do it the best he probably could have done it although he was competing against two other very good bo artists and he came out of it 3rd out of 3. The good news for him is that this was his last competition with his very heavy bo as we bought him a very light one. It'll probably take him some time to get used to the lightness of his new bo, but I think he'll benefit greatly from it. Darn, he can spin the bo more naturally than I can, with a bo heavier than mine is, I can't wait to see him spin a lightweight one.

Then came his traditional kata. There, I was the one who learned something. Next time we will compete, we will certainly have him take a private class before the competition, but we'll do it earlier than only four days before the competition. As I was saying in a previous post, Andrew changed his competition kata from Statue of the Crane to Circle of the Tiger only last Wednesday. While he did it perfectly on Friday, that was in front of one of his instructor. He had a couple of tiny stumbles yesterday that, coupled with a few erraticly high scores given to another little girl, meant he finished out of the medals. They don't give positions for people out of 4th place, but he was probably in the middle in a group of 10 competitors.

In fighting, more "frustration" ensued. They were only three to enter the 9yo intermediate underbelt fighting category. They gave a bye straight to final to one kid while Andrew and the other one fought to start it off. It's point sparring, two points for a kick and one point for a punch, head or body doesn't matter. Andrew's opponent was a smallish but feisty kid. He got ahead on Andrew 4-2 at one point where I saw that he was keeping his guard in front of his belly to keep Andrew from scoring with a body kick. And told Andrew to go for the head which he did in two consecutive points, but the other kid go the winning point on a jumping kind of punch that only lightly grazed Andrew's head. Andrew lost it 4-5 and was given 3rd place while the winning kid fought again, lost and received 2nd place and the kid with a bye received 1st place, even though he just got lucky to get a bye. Nothing against the kid, just the circumstances... I found that Andrew had a much better fighting stance, especially cutting on one thing he used to do. He used to switch his forward and back foot all the time, often selling his next move. This time, he didn't do it and I thought that was good of him.

Not a bad day all in all, even though it could have been better.

I'll be posting videos soon.

edit: in my whining and self-cetered state, I forgot to mention that one very nice thing happened in that day. I met two very nice fellows in Mat and akarien, both bloggers and martial arts enthusiasts. It was a lot of fun talking with you. Sadly, I don't have pictures to show for it since when we got together for the picture, my wife was gone, with the camera bag, trying to fine a knife to cut Andrew's new mouthguard. In my stupid nervousness of the morning, I had forgotten his mouthguard at home, doh! :)


Saturday, October 14, 2006

As ready as I'll be...

Tomorrow's the day...

I'm a darn perfectionist. Job, family, a whole lot of stuff keeps me from practicing 8 hours a day but that's almost what I wanted to do the last couple of days. At one point, I have to tell myself "that's okay, it's about as ready as you'l be able to get for this one competition". And with that in mind, I forced myself to wrap things up this afternoon...

Had a nice, if not spectacular practice session with the bo last evening. Just worked on some basics, spins, the throw, some strikes. Didn't even do the kata once from start to finish. Meanwhile, Andrew's class was doing another one of their mock competition. I didn't see his kata, but I knew he was on with his first kiai. Kid's got some life in his kiai now. He finished tied for first place with another older kid, maybe 11 or 12 years old. Even this morning, as I was getting ready for my class, his instructor of last night told me about how well he had delivered that kata. Good, good...

Today was more of the same for him, he did his kata in his class but they didn't score them today.

Me, we worked on some freestyle self defense stuff and since I had told my instructor I wanted some free time on my own to work on my traditional kata, Cat 2, I moved away from the group with about 20 minutes to do in the class. Did the kata numerous times and I'm feeling good about it, about how I'm delivering it. It's not a very long kata, but it plays into my strength, as it calls for many kiai and my kiai are somewhat convincing. ;) I know that I will be competing with some other people doing Cat 3 which is a much longer kata, with more moves and strikes and even kicks, but I'll give my all...

In the afternoon was our bo class. Worked some on my kata, section by section until about 40 minutes in when our instructor got to me and Andrew so we could do it for him once. Andrew did it first and got some stern telling off by our instructor. He said he didn't get the feeling that Andrew was pushing and I must admit that I also felt like Andrew was a bit mushy. He started over and it was much better. Once he was done, our instructor told me he would really like to see Andrew perform his kata with a lighter bo. Andrew's bo is indeed a bit heavier than the kind of bo you need for the kind of open style kata we practice. To tell you, his 4.5 foot long bo is much heavier than my 6 foot long one...

When we got to my kata, I started but then darn it, got untracked. I simply stopped and asked to start over and then, BOOM! I nailed it, strong kiai and all. At one point, it was almost surreal, I had the feeling that after my second kiai, the other students in the class had stopped practicing to look at me. Felt kind of weird. I know it won't be like that tomorrow as there will be tons of kiai coming from all over the place, but it sure felt special today. When I got done, my instructor applauded and told me if I do it that way tomorrow, there's no way I can't win. I'm going there to give it all I got, we'll see.

I'll make sure to let you all know how it went.

Good luck to my fellow bloggers, Mat and akarien. I'm really looking forward to meeting you guys.


Friday, October 13, 2006

One step back, to better leap forward

Wednesday's practice started kind of weird. As the kids were starting their class, their instructor got to talk with one of the parents about her kids class taking. He got the rest of the kids to kneel down and meditate, as we do at the start of every class, for a couple minutes or so. After a bit more than the couple minutes, seeing how he seemed to be busy talking, I simply asked him if he wanted me to take charge of stretching. Not that I wanted to impose myself, but I'm alwasy up for helping out. He said to go ahead so I went to the group and got them to stretch. Felt kind of weird to be in front of the class like that. The instructor got back not much later and took over control of the class, thanking me for the help.

I went on to practice my bo a bit. Had trouble finding back some rythm for the bo throw but eventually got it back. My mind was elsewhere at the start and when the instructor asked me to come help him show some self defense techniques to a couple of brown belt kids, it almost felt good. Lasted about 10 minutes and when I got back to my bo, I was well into it. Did the kata a couple times pretty well although never as good as I'd want it to be. I'm a perfectionist, heh...

Anyway, I also did Sushi no kon sho a few times and Cat 2 also a couple times. It came out well. Will work on it a bit more on Saturday.

Andrew had a private one-on-one half hour class with his instructor right after his hour of traditional class. I decided to leave them together for the 30 minutes session, kind of not wanting to be in the way. I got back after 25 minutes and saw Andrew do his bo kata. Even though his traditional instructor is not our regular bo instructor, he was able to pump some life in his kata. He knows what judges look for and he gave him tips and hints as to where to look when striking, taking control of his stances. He said the first time he did the kata, Andrew's stare was about all over the place. They worked on that and I was indeed impressed with how Andrew delivered his kata for the one time I saw it.

When he got present his traditional kata one last time, his instructor turned to me and told me they had agreed it would be better for him to present Circle of the Tiger instead of Statue of the Crane. They worked on getting Circle back to presentation form, but I also agree it's a much stronger kata for him, even a possibly winning kata. I was beginning to feel bad about "forcing" Andrew to present the Crane kata. While he has made strides in making it his own, he's still a tiny bit away from nailing it and his instructor told us that as soon as there's some wavering in the crane stance, deductions start to apply. The whole situation reminded me of the Quebec Open last April. We were maybe 8 or 9 men competing in the traditional form category, ages 30-39, advanced underbelts. I finished 3rd with Cat 2, my highest kata, but also one I grew to like. After they'd given out the finishing position, the center judge told us all to gather around him and I thought what he said was very cool. He told us that we almost all looked like fine practitioners that were kind of testing our limits, presenting forms that would be the next one asked for the next belt, or in my case kyu, test. He added that sometimes in competition, it's not always necessary to present the highest kata you know (or sometimes barely know as you just learned it) but one with which you feel comfortable, one that you have really made yours, that you can feel in your guts. Yeah, that made sense then, makes even more sense now. Maybe in December I'll try that route and could present Circle of the Tiger myself...


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Long weekend recap

Not only was this past weekend a long one for us Canadians, it was also a pretty active one for Andrew and I. Let's get right to it.

Friday night bonus

Andrew usually gets a traditional class on Friday evenings and I used to find some room to practice my bo in an adjacent room, while a private class of two is going on. Say I used to because I had not done it in a long while. I spent one hour practicing some basic moves, mostly those not taking much room. I often like to simply hang there, working quietly, often listening for tips our instructor is giving to the two kids he's teaching. I'm not disturbing them and not taking any of the instructor's time, but sometimes I learn a thing here or there.

I did come out of it with an idea for an addition to my bo kata though. Even got a video of it. Look for it a bit later in this post. ;)

What I also like about that one hour is that since it's free practice, I can kind of take a break at times and watch my boy practice or perform his kata. They did something neat during that class. Since there's a competition coming up, they did a mock competition, including presentation to the judges for a kata, performing said kata and even some point sparring to end the class. Even better than a formal competition, they corrected the kids right after they'd performed their kata. Andrew surprised me, his Crane kata is not bad, not bad at all. Still a bit of work needed but he's made big strides in the last couple of weeks.

Saturday morning class

After our usual warmup, we worked a bit on forms. We went through pinan 3, Circle of the Tiger, the Statue of the Crane and our latest, which for me is Cat 2, the form I will present this weekend. Was again happy with how they went. It's also always nice to get little things corrected in your basic forms.

We then went on to work on some selfdefense techniques against knife attack. These are not required until you are actually a black belt, but we sometimes work on them anyway and it makes for some very interesting classes. Also nice when you start seeing that a knife thrust is just the same as a direct punch, thus making the technique against a knife thrust just as useful against a direct punch.

We finished class with a couple of quick renditions of Sushi no kon sho. As I said before, Sushi no kon sho is the one traditional bo kata that is part of the requirements to get a black belt in our style. It's also the one bo kata that underbelts who don't take open bo class usually present in competition. It sure will be nice now to watch it be performed and actually know if a mistake was made or not. I remember a fellow student from my school who came out of the ring at the Quebec Open and whispered to me that she'd made a mistake and asked me if it looked real bad. I just couldn't tell her if she recovered well or not, I just didn't know the form well enough to comment. I probably would not be able to judge a competition on the finer points right now, but I think I'd know if someone took a misstep somewhere.

Saturday bo class

Our afternoon bo class was just as crowded as a week ago but we got it working. Worked mostly on my bo kata and trying to incorporate the move I learned about on Friday. That move is simply a new way of throwing my bo. See, about two third of the away through my kata, I throw my bo from my right to my left hand. What I saw on Friday is a different way of making that throw. Instead of simply rolling the bo over my right hand and throwing it with a spin, I roll it over the hand, then do a sweeping move with the hand before throwing it. Video to come soon, in fact, just a bit later in this post ;)

I got to perform my kata in front of our instructor at the end of class and he said he liked it. I had talked with him about the throw and he said he liked it too when I practiced it and he said it worked well in the kata too. I had in mind to do the kata with all my full force kiai in place but was a bit stiff to start with and missed one. He kind of picked on that, saying I didn't looking "into" the kata until about a third of it was done. He added I really looked like I got hot after my first kiai, so he recommended me to add a kiai fairly early in the kata and I agree with that.

One thing to note though, as I was practicing that new move and other bo handling techniques, I dropped my bo what seemed like a record number of times for a one hour class but when I got to perform the kata "for real", I got it done without a glitch. This makes me feel good for the upcoming competition.

Sunday afternoon fooling around ;)

okay, now what? Sunday afternoon??? Yup :) But as the subtitle says, it was more fooling around with my bo and my new karate training gear. Please meet my new best friend:

Got it on Saturday afternoon, in preparation for next Sunday's competition. Wanted to test it and I set it on a little table outside and took the bo with me with work on my new throw. My compute doesn't have a firewire port but I was able to transfer what little clip I had filmed to DVD and ripped it on the PC for you viewing pleasure. :)

click here to see me performing my old style of bo throw

The first couple of times I throw it is how I have always done it in my kata and the third time is a lousy way of the new bo throw.

click here to see me performing my new style of bo throw

I think you can better see what I meant by doing a "sweeping move before the throw". With some more work, I think it'll come in nicely in the kata itself.

Monday night class

Monday was Thanksgiving for us here in Canada and as thus, a day off work. We worked on Halloween decorations, then cleaned up around the house, got the patio furnitures into the shed and such mundane stuff. After dinner, I dozed off in the recliner in the living room and it took a good kick in the butt to get me off it and go to class.

Turned out to be an interesting class to say the least as we worked on rolls. Backward roll first, then combination forward then backward roll. Some stuff we don't often spend a lot of time on but are still part of the curriculum of our school.

We then went on to work on falling. Side falls, forward fall, backward fall and then incorporated that two by two with a throw. You get thrown, try to fall the right way. Again, not that we never work on that, but it's not often than we spend a good 30 minutes of a class specifically working on falling.

All in all, another interesting class that got more and more interesting as it went on...


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Feeling in synch

Nope, I'm not talking about the boys band but more about feeling in synch with your kata. There are some days where nothing seems to work. You take a wrong step here, feel like you lacked "juice" in your punch at another place. Yesterday evening was just the opposite. The bo felt good in my hands. I did my kata from start to finish only once, but I worked on many sequences and they indeed felt better with every repetition.

But not only with the bo did I feel in synch, but with my traditional forms as well. While the kids started with their warmup and went through punches and kicks work, I did some bo work. Once they broke out to work on separate things and Andrew was sent to work on his Statue of the Crane kata, I watched him do it once. He knows it and seems able to do it without much hesitation although he lacks intent in it. What I mean is that some of his punches and/or blocks seem a bit lifeless. It was not like that with his previous kata, Circle of the Tiger, but he had been performing it for a long time, so I can only assume he'll get better with time, as he grows with the kata. To kind of help him, I told him about his punches and blocks and to give him an example, I performed the kata for him. It had been a while since I last practiced the Crane but darn it, I fell right at home with it. I really felt good doing it, felt I had a lot of purpose. Hopefully this will help him see what needs to be done to make the kata "believable".

This feeling of being in synch continued for the rest of practice, and was especially good when practicing the kata I will present at the upcoming competition, Cat 2. I have a few little things I need to work on, and I know it is not perfect, but I felt good while doing it...

This was our first Wednesday night where both classes were condensed into the 6pm class. Andrew's instructor gave a special notice to the class though. Even though it makes for a better class to have 12 kids at once in the big gymnasium, they still have to account for the second hour, i.e. pay somebody from the school to be there, pay rent for that hour, etc. He said that that second hour would be available to anybody who would like to receive some private class. I've paid for private bo class for Andrew in the past, but we've never done it in traditional class. In his notice to the kids, which I was the only adult listening to since I was at the back of the gymnasium, he mentionned that that kind of class can be good for anybody wanting to get ready for either a competition (ding ding) or a test. I had already talked with his instructor in the past, about the possibilty of taking some private half hour classes. I felt the timing would be about perfect for a half hour next Wednesday, about four days before the competition. I asked Andrew when I talked to him about his kata and he said he wanted to do it, so next week we'll do 90 minutes with him going private for the last 30 minutes.

I'm sure this will be very good for Andrew. His instructor is very good with kids, and especially with kids doing competitions. Incidentally, he will be going to Spain for the WKA for the World Amateur Championship, with a student of his, a 12yo black belt named Emilie Paquet who they say has a shot at winning as many as 4 world titles. She lives in the same town as us and I train with her dad, a newly graduated brown belt, like me. I saw her a few times and she is simply amazing, a great competitor. She will compete in creative form, creative weapon (bo), traditional weapon (bo), and traditional form (hardstyle). As I said, she is 12 and she will compete in the under-13 category, meaning this year is her best shot before a few years, as 13 year olds are usually having a hard time competing in the 13-17 class... The championships will be happening from November 6, to November 11 so... GO EMILIE!!! :)


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Getting out of an unfriendly handshake

Very interesting class last night. We worked on some self defense technique against someone who would grab your hand or your wrist, handshake style, i.e. his right hand grabbing my right hand. It's hard to put into words but basically the technique consists into bringing down my hand, for the sake of example here let's say it's the right hand that was grabbed, while twisting my body counterclockwise so that I kind of turn my back to my attacker while bringing my hand close to my lower back. Yeah, at first it is counterintuitive to turn your back to him, but the way it twists his hand, he gets at my mercy and I can hit him with a left elbow to the face, at which point he would probably let go of my hand and I can follow up with a combination with my right hand. Was pretty effective in practice...

We finished class with some work on our kicks. Our kicks have americanized names so I'll call them by what I remember them being called. The first we worked on was the spin around hook kick. You start wacing your opponent, swiftly turn clockwise (if you are going to kick with the right leg) and hit the hook kick while spinning. It was a lot of us looking like fools at first, then being woozy, then getting a bit better, but not by much. The second I think was called a spin around jumping reverse crescent kick. Kind of similar but with a jump added to it, as if the first one was not tough enough, heh. Anyway, we did them two by two with a partner holding a pad. Gave us a good workout.

Ring 12 and 4 is where we'll be

There's always something special to me when I make our entry into a competition official. To me it means there's no coming back, now you gotta get ready for it... Well, it's now official. We're both entered into the October 15 competition in Ste-Foy. There will be 228 different categories at that competitions and from the categories list, you can see that I will compete in categories #16 (weapons, 30-39, all underbelts) and #88 (traditional form, 30-39, advanced underbelts) while my son will compete in categories #8 (weapons, 9yo, all underbelts), #57 (traditional form, 9yo, intermediate underbelts), and #103 (fighting, 9yo, intermediate underbelts).

Even though rings 4 and 12 could seem far apart in numbers, they will be pretty close in distance, as you can see from this plan. Only one ring apart. I think that's the closest we've ever been in a competition, and maybe the closest I'd want us to be. We're not close enough that Andrew could get disturbed by me doing one of my kata right before him, while he's getting ready.

This competition will be even cooler as one of my reader has already confirmed that he will be competing. Yep, akarien, all new to the Nick Cerio's Kenpo style, has decided that he will compete. He will compete in the same ring as me, although he'll be a young puppy among the 30-39 crowd. ;) Good luck akarien!


Monday, October 02, 2006

The bo groove is back, now what?

Saturday's traditional class was good. As always a good warmup workout to help sweat out a bit. Was a bit frustrated that some upper back pain prevented me from going all out in the situp/crunches section. Going up and down was making me cringe so I held myself still. You gotta know not to push it when something's not feeling right. The pain started around last Thursday and is just about gone now. Don't know where it came from, might have forced the wrong way while holding Matty...

Class went on with us doing Sushi no kon sho a few times. After skipping last Wednesday night practice, I was not hoping I could remember the whole of it and yep, it's in there to stay. Now we'll start working on the form of it, make it look more natural. We went on to work on self defense techniques against a club attack. It had been a looong while since we'd worked on them, both me and my usual training partner, so it felt good to get some work done on them. We followed that with a run at the 12 upper level open hand self defense techniques. We are now to the point of adding a bit more speed to the execution of these techniques, more hips, less robotic movements...

A weird thing happened at the bo class though. We were having dinner Andrew and I and people we had not seen in the first couple of weeks of bo class were coming to the dressing room. First a kid took is lunch with us. Last I'd seen him, he was taking the first of two hours of bo, the one for beginners. I knew he was not a beginner, but thought he was taking that hour for special reasons (like havign another activity later in the afternoon). Anyway, that made for one extra student. Then another kid that I had never seen showed up. Then three 17-yo white belts arrived. I remembered about our instructor telling us that these three new students would probably be moved to the advanced class in order for them not to get too bored as they would most probably learn faster. This meant we were 13 students in that class. It was very cool for the warmup, where we only do strikes while standing in one place and you hear all these bos move and all, but it made for a tough class when we got to work on our kata. Think about it, my bo is 6 feet long and in my kata, I have some strikes where I'm fully extended, baseball strike style.

Anyway, we managed to each find a spot and nobody got hurt. I worked mostly on separate segments of my kata, repeating them over and over until I felt good with each one of them. I felt I really got my groove back in that class. Did my kata in front of our instructor toward the end of the hour and he told me it was day and night from last week to this week in the fluidity of the whole kata. He pointed out 3-4 things to work on. He's got a good eye and I pretty much always agree with what he's telling me to work on. I just can't see these things for myself. For example, he told me that I now lean a bit forward in only one sequence of strikes, which is an improvement since I used to lean forward on pretty much every sequence. I now need to concentrate on that one sequence.

He then showed us a new sequence he wants us to practice so we could include it in our kata. It's a pretty cool sequence, but I'll need mucho work on it to get to work. It includes a part where we drop to one knee, strike with one hand to one corner, go back up, spin and strike back to that same corner. Anyway, very hard to describe, as you can see by my complete lack of ability to do so. :) Andrew is not one who's comfortable trying different new things, but he didn't completely dismiss the sequence. I made sure to cheer him up saying we would take time to master it before we put it in. He always wants to do "like daddy" and while I was the first to modify our kata last Sprin, he asked me to show him the changes so he could do them, "just like daddy"... :)

The season opening competition is on October 15 and there was never any intention for us to put anything new in our kata for that competition. The plan right now is for us to enter the October 15 competition, skip the November one and enter the December 10 one. That would give us almost 2 months between now and December 10 to work on adding new sequences to our kata.

Speaking of competition, Andrew's probably the one of us two who's got the biggest hurdle to overcome. We're not officially entered, but I plan on competing in both weapon and traditional form. For my traditional form, I will present the same kata that gave me a 3rd place at the Quebec Open, Cat 2 which is also my highest kata. Andrew on the other hand, has been learning a new kata since he passed his green belt (5th kyu) last April. He'd been presenting Circle of the Tiger for a long time. He was used to it and had perfected it. Now, as a green belt, if he were to present that kata, he would be judged more harshly, or more thoroughly, so he's working on presenting his latest kata, the Statue of the Crane. It's a tricky kata to master. From the Studios Unis website, they say this kata (just like Circle of the Tiger) is derived from the Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu system, which doesn't help me much. The tricky part in it is that, as its name implies, it has a crane jump/stance on one foot, that is not always easy to land without looking awkward. Anyway, I talked with his instructor and he seemed confident that Andrew would have it in competition shape in time for the 15th. Other than traditional form and weapon, Andrew usually also enters in fighting where he usually fares pretty well. The kid's got instinct.