Thursday, November 30, 2006

working hard

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's all in the head

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's all in the head...

Now if I could only convince myself...


Monday, November 27, 2006

Weekend recap

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, November 25, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

a new Cat in my head

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

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

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

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


Monday, November 20, 2006

Weekend report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 16, 2006


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

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


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On where I am now...

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

with new eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Welcome to the Matrix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Buns O' Steel

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

this will need some (more) work...

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

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

It didn't go super well.

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

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

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

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


Monday, November 06, 2006

Weekend report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, November 03, 2006

Footwork, like dancing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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