Monday, February 26, 2007

At (rubber) gunpoint

What would you do if a gun was held to your forehead? I can tell you what I would do. I'd probably shit in my pants. Heh...

We worked on some gun control techniques last Saturday. Good thing it was only a rubber gun or I guess I would have died a few times. Seriously, how many times will one have a gun pointed straight to his/her forehead or temple? I certainly hope it will never happen to me. These techniques are all cute and everything and would certainly be the very last recourse, but I at least got to work on some locks and takedowns.

That's probably the biggest thing I'm seeing in my karate practicing these days, the increasing ability to first deflect a blow, second find myself in a position to grab a wrist on a hand, and third be able to twist that wrist or hand in a way that will lock it, not simply give it a gentle handsake... It's still all at the very beginning of the learning curve, but at least I'm aware that it's there now. I see stuff, can visualize the lock or the takedown...

If you've learn the tiniest thing about me, you should know that any event can be good to teach a lesson. We had another good exemple of that during our lunch break on Saturday. About halfway through our one hour lunch break, a kid came walking down from the upstairs classroom. I figured he was from the beginners bo class as the other class was an advanced traditional one and he was an orange belt (out of white, yellow, orange...). After a few minutes, I see that he's sit down in the dressing room and seems pretty upset. As the good father that I am, I go and ask him if everything's all right. His only reply is "I hate my instructor". I asked him if there's a particular reason why he's feeling that way and he repeats that "I hate my instructor, just hate him". See this kid is maybe 12, but that's some childish behavior, the kind I don't see very often in Andrew anymore. Trying not to be rude, I ask him again and I get him to tell me that he cursed in the class and he says that his instructor told him to go to the dressing room.

Make a long story short, what I later learned is that he indeed cursed, one of the bad ones, in class. Instructor heard him and told he would not accept it and he told him to do 25 pushups. When the kid told him he could not (or would not, I'm unclear on that) the instructor agreed with him that he would do 25 situps instead. Now, when sitting down, the kid cursed again, maybe even directed it toward the instructor, which prompted the sending off. I had a good talk about it with Andrew. While I highly doubt that he would even curse in class as he's a very respectful kid, we also talked about the respect you owe to grown ups in general and to your leaders in the various activities you take a part in. Would that be your soccer coach, your karate instructor, or your teacher at school. You owe these people some respect. It's kinda sad that parents have a hard time teaching that to their kids nowadays...


Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Thanks Mat for giving a name to that thing I kept calling "free style kind of self-defense practice". Yep, randori it is, or at least it seems close enough to what we do. It's especially of the aikido kind that wikipedia talks about, in which "the attackers are not allowed to resist or attempt to counter the defender's techniques."

And yup, yesterday's class, only two days removed from the test, did include a good portion of it practicing randori. We concentrated first on footwork, to get out of the way, but also to position oneself to block and then counterattack and then control, with a lock. Was fun and I'm definitely looking forward to doing more of it...

We also spent some time on Cat 3 which is now the latest kata we have to make better. I do know it from start to finish, but there are tons of subtleties in it that I never saw and will have to master before it's even near being ready to present at a black belt test. That's how it is, keep training and someday you'll have learned something...


Monday, February 19, 2007

Always expect the worst

Yup, always go into something that makes you nervous thinking that it will be way,way tough. Once you're in it, it turns out not so bad usually...

Test went great, I'm now officially a second kyu in kenpo karate!

The day started with a class which I took more seriously than I told myself I would. I mean, I practiced hard and even though I'd told you I would take it easy on the cardio bit, I ended up working myself to a good sweat.

That class was a good wake up call though. We'd started reviewing our brown belt techniques, the 12 most advanced ones, kind of in order that we learned them, when a fellow more advanced brown belt who was with her kid offered to call them up for us. Not knowing we were working on advanced techniques before she got to us, she went and called a fairly basic one. All four of us practicing froze. While I was able to regain my composure when I realized I had to expect anything, my training partner had a brain freeze, a good one. For a couple more techniques, he looked at me blandly repeating "I don't remember anything, nothing is coming to me". I thought he was going to suffer a meltdown. I simply stayed calm with him and gave him simple hints to jig back his memory. He got back to it soon but was a bit freaked about the blank...

I had an hour and 15 minutes to kill between my class and that just was not enough to go back home so Andrew and I hate a sandwich as we usually do. There was no way I was going to go into that test without at least a little something in my stomach and Andrew had a bo class as per our usual schedule.

I was kinda surprised to see so many people show up as the time of the test was coming up. More and more people kept appearing, so much so that we ended up being 19 in the test. While three of them were kiddos who were testing for their blue belt or so, the rest was divided evenly in eight persons testing for 3rd kyu and eight more testing for 2nd kyu. To my knowledge, this was one of the biggest most advanced kind of test to have ever taken place at our school. Even more interesting, of the 16 more advanced candidate testing for 3rd or 2nd kyu, eight of us were adult candidates (4 for 3rd kyu, 4 for 2nd kyu). And I'm not even talking young adults, all of us over 30 (or very close to being 30) and even one fellow who's getting close to 60. Now you're talking!

Still, that left 8 kids full of energy and you know how it is, they have to burn them too, meaning burning us at the same time. I did sweat a lot, but I expected that. I'm not so sure my wife expected to see me with my face all red though. She came to pick Andrew up after his bo class, so it was about 45 minutes into our test, basically right at the end of the more cardio portion. I was indeed sweating like a pig and in between two reps, I saw her face in the hall. She looked genuinely concerned for my well being. :)

But I was fine and I survived that section first, then the one with self defense techniques, then we hit a wall with the free style self defense. The way our curriculum is build, more emphasis is put on pre-programmed (I'd even say almost choreographed) techniques up until you've received your 2nd kyu, so I knew that free style self defense (get attacked and defend yourself almost no matter how) would be a weak point. The test just confirmed it. The thing is, it pretty much confirmed it for everybody else too. If we got one good thing of that test, other than challenging ourselves to our limits, it's that our instructors acknowledged it and we should see more free style type of practice on our way to the black belt.

We finished the test with our katas. I felt mine went well. There was some sort of misunderstanding as to what was requried of us. For the last month or so, we practiced Cat 3 regularly in our classes even though we knew it was not required. What I had understood from my instructors was that if enough people had it, they would ask to see it. But then when the test came, our head instructor asked to see Sushi no kon sho, our bo kata, which we had not practiced in a little while. Not that I didn't want to practice it, but we were not really told to practice it by either of our two instructors. That was kind of odd. And frustrating, since I knew it quite well before the holiday break and with only a little practice, I would have been able to present it...

The test ended on a good, heartfelt word from our head instructor, a 5th dan lady. She told us that she was very proud of seeing such a big group of advanced belts like that. She added that while it will we will feel it as a great accomplishment to get a black belt, and we are getting ever closer she added, it will also be a great feeling for all of our instructors to see us graduate. She added that while plenty of people start as beginners every time they do an open house activity, not that many people grind it out all the way to the black belt...

Anyway, that was a good test. A test that leaves me a little sore, but not too much. Even bigger news is the fact that for the first time ever in any belt test, I did this test without a big brace on my right knee. I think I've explained in the past that I had injured my knee a couple years prior to taking on karate. I hyperextended it, leaving it a tiny bit unstable and wanting to bend sideways when I exercise and I'm really tired. Weak knee ligaments can usually be compensated for with a better control of the calf and thigh muscles, but when you get really tired, that control can tend to go out the window. That's the reason why I had always been nervous about tests. In classes, I usually wear a simple sleave. I thought about it long and hard and thought I'd try the test with only the sleave. The knee held superbly, no weakness in it at all. This was maybe my biggest win of the day. That, and that second black stripe on my brown belt. :)


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Today's the day

This has been a somewhat frustrating week...

It all started on what should have been a nice almost semi-private class. There were only 5 of us in Monday's class. Furthermore, three of the five were set to test today, so our instructor decided that we'd go through our katas step by step. While some pointers helped me, at one point I almost felt depressed by how many "little" things I had to correct to make them perfect. It started to make me doubt that I was even ready to test. That stance there, that strike here, that move there, aaaaarrrrggggg! Information overload!!!!

I tagged along with Andrew on Tuesday and while there's usually not much room available on Tuesday nights, I was able to find a little corner and I practiced on my own. I was able to get my groove back, do my katas "by instinct", how I feel them and I thought they came out okay. That went a long way to put my mind at ease towards the test. I also went through my techniques, all 36 open hand ones and 15 club ones and I feel they are all coming out fine.

Then came Wednesday. I don't know how it was where you live, but here a storm started hitting us around supper time. I had planned to go take a class at 7, but I feared they could the road between the school and our house so I didn't chance it, skipping what would have been the last more intense class before the test. That bumme me out but oh well, what can I do?

Comes yesterday. My wife asked me if I was nervous. Quite honestly, not really. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? I know my stuff, know how to deliver that katas, I've tested them in competition. I only need to calm down and everything will come of itself.

I have class this morning but I will take it easy, mostly using it to review everything and make sure there are no glaring holes anywhere...

Wish me luck.


PS: how cool is it that this post, on the day of a test, is my 100th post on this blog... :)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Well, the couch won...

They know when to push you, hard. Yep, instructors know. Last Saturday was our last Saturday of "real" class before the test. yeah, I say "real" class because while I (and many others) will be going to the class next Saturday morning, the day of the test, I will not push myself super hard during the cardio portion of it. I'll use that class to mostly review my stuff and warm myself up a bit for the test coming up in the afternoon.

So, with this in mind and seeing how many of the people in class will be on the test next week, our instructor gave us a preview of said test, not that we didn't know what would be coming our way. ;) It all started with a good aerobic warmup. As part of the end of that warmup, he told us to do a stationary jog and be on the ready. He started calling KC's, but kept telling us to keep on jogging in between each of them. Once the 20 KC's had been reviewed, 50 jumping jacks, then we got to self defense techniques. Aspiring brown belts (or 4th kyu testing for their 3rd) need to know 24 while my group (3rd kyu testing for their 2nd kyu) need to know 36 of them. We kept doing them, always going back to stationary jog in between. When we got to the last 12, the aspiring brown belts were asked to keep on doing their 12 highest ones. I'm happy to report that I felt good with them. They came and flowed pretty well with only very minor screw ups on my part.

Our instructor then paired us up two by two and we went to self defense techniques facing a club attack. Again, it went well. I could be a bit closer and I'll try to remember that for the upcoming week.

Then came katas, and that's when being tired, in a crowded room, facing in a different angle that we're used to hit me. Pinan 1 went well but pinan 2 was a disaster. I was out of synch and felt completely lost. I started with some moves of pinan 3, continued with some of pinan 2 and then finished with some more of pinan 3. Seriously, it was not pretty. The good news is that I know why it happened. I was just not focused on what I was doing. I caught a reflexion of myself in one of the mirror just as I started and instead of concentrating on what I was doing, I looked at the reflexion. The even better news is that I acknowledged that it was a screw up and was able to put it in the back of my mind and simply forget it. When our instructor asked us to go with the pinan 3, I nailed it. We kept on going, Circle of the Tiger, then Statue of the crane, then Cat 1, Cat 2, and even Cat 3 which is not a requirement of the 2nd kyu. I think I did them quite well and if I can do them that way on the test, I'll be very happy.

He'd had us do 25 crunches in between the Crane and the Cat 1 kata and we got back to some abs work after Cat 3 with that nice ab workout where, two by two, one person is laying on his back, head in between the ankles of the other person who's standing up facing toward the feet of the other person. The person on the floor then lifts his legs while the person standing up pushes them back down. We did 40 of those. I usually tend to die, not tire, die, at 25, but this time, I did the whole 40 reps. I'd say I'm ready to test. :)

I don't think I need to tell you that my 36 year old body was a tiny bit tired following that class. We got home at about 12:40 and had dinner then. The WKA competition was starting at 1pm and I wanted to go, after my parents were going to leave from visiting us. Only, I sat down, only for a few minutes on the couch to relax and watch some TV. Well, you guessed it, the couch won and KO'ed me. That nap sure did feel good though... :)

When I woke up, it was already passed 3pm and I didn't feel like going outside, so I passed on the WKA, too bad. But I felt rejuvenated by the nice workout and ensuing nap...


Friday, February 09, 2007

Making the best of it

Remember when I talked about Emilie Paquet and Elymaud Samson and how well they did at the WKA world Championships last November? well the cycle starts over again, meaning the Quebec qualifiers are coming up this Saturday and they will be in Lévis, maybe 3 minutes in car from where our school is.

Thing is, this time around our bo instructor is entering them and because of that, our bo class of this week as been pushed back to the end of our 12 weeks schedule.

Now I find myself with a free Saturday afternoon and I'm thinking, why wouldn't I recharge the batteries of the videocam and pay a little visit to that competition?

So this is what I think I'll do tomorrow afternoon. Competition starts at 1, our traditional class ends at 12:15. Enough time to grab a quick bite and head on out there.

I'll try to make some videos available to you next week. Hopefully I'll be able to catch our instructor in action...


Thursday, February 08, 2007

some pre-pre-pre-testing...

...or "you're always being tested anyway".

That's how I go into most of my classes. Heck, it's how I live most of my life. There's alway somebody evaluating you. Be it in your work, or how you educate your children, there's always something putting a virtual score on what you do. The thing is, it's even mor prevalent when you get close to a belt test.

It's been over a year now since I passed my 3rd kyu so it's been a little while since the last we went into that pre-test mode, but I remember it clearly. 3rd kyu in our style is clearly where the intermediate vs advanced line is drawn. Not that I considered myself all that much more advanced after being handed a brown belt, but I trained quite hard for it and indeed felt like I had accomplished something. I'm getting that vibe again. Come February 17, not much will change other than I'll have a second black stripe on my brown belt, but I'm training with a renewed focus now.

The last couple of classes, Monday and Wednesday, have been expecially focused on the test requirements. From KCs to higher katas and self defense techniques on Monday and techniques again with some rolling yesterday. I'm starting to realize that quite a bit of what we do is based around aikido stuff. Not so much the curriculum stuff but the extra-curriculum one, like the locks I talked about in a previous post, shionage et sankyo. And now the rolling. We did some forward rolling, just like the Aikido Ferret is demonstrating here and also some backward rolling. Doesn't look like much but when you think about it, rolling is a pretty good way to break a fall.

As for how things are coming, I felt good about it yesterday, real good actually. The curriculum self defense techniques are pretty much all coming out without thinking about it and I like that.

Andrew update

Marc (MrX) was aking about Andrew in a comment on my most recent post. Andrew is doing well, quite well actually. The regular schedule for him would be traditional classes on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, but for some reason, he's missed one per week the last couple of weeks. He's also been having class with the owner of our school, Dgina, a 5th dan who's very good with kids. Funny story from last Friday. As I got to pick him up after his class, he came walking and she was walking behind him, telling me over his shoulder that he was a lucky fellow that day. Apparently, there was an odd number of student and when they got to practice self defense techniques, she paired up with him. His beaming smile told me he had worked hard to impress her. When I asked her aloud how he'd done, she nodded telling me he knew just about everything he needs to know to test for 3rd kyu. He only needs a couple more self defense techniques against clubs and he'd have it all. Sure, there's a time limit to go through, but still I was impressed to hear her say that. The most pride came just when he went downstairs to change in the dressing room. She added in a whisper, so I'd be the only one to hear: "he's growing, maturing, your big boy". Yeah, he is growing. We see it everyday but it's always nice to hear. Sure makes a daddy proud. :)

He too won't be competing this weekend. I asked him if he wanted to, that I would support him and go cheer for him, but he said he didn't feel like it. I figured if he can keep on enjoying the karate, the competition is not necessary. He also seems to enjoy practicing with his bo once a week. I can't ask for much more from him to be honest...

Speaking of bo class, I'll be out of it for a couple of weeks. This Saturday, our instructor is competing in a big competition in Lévis so the class has been postponed to later and next Saturday, well, I'll be testing during the time of the class, so...


Monday, February 05, 2007

stuff's happenin'

Yep, it's not because I'm not posting that I'm not training and that stuff isn'T happening, so here goes with a hodgepodge (my new favorite word) of karate stuff...

Let him pick a side

Knowing that February was coming fast and with it, supposedly a test, I asked my wife to be home on time on Wednesday so I could jam in an extra hour of class. She did make it and that class was nice, even better than most Wednesday night class in that it wasn't too crowded. We worked on punches for a little while to warmup then went on to work on locks, namely shionage and sankyo.

Quite honestly, I felt god with the two of them, better than I expected. Facing either a lapel grab, a hook punch or a direct punch, I was usually able to block/deflect the punch or get out of the grab and then put myself in position to follow it with either of the two locks. That was a feel good moment.

we ended by working on the locks out of a crossed wrist grab. Imagine an attacker grabing your right wrist with his right hand, a bit as if he was shaking your hand. Thats where we the one playing the attacker had to pick a side, either pull to his right, or to his left. Depending on which side he takes, shionage or sankyo comes just naturally. No need to think about what the name of the lock is, or to fight his pull, just let him pull and go with the lock. He pulls to his right, my left, it's sankyo. To his left, my right, it's shionage. Realizing I was able to simply do it, without even thinking, was another feel good moment.

So February as started

So yeah, we get to Saturday morning and the first thing our instructor tells us, in the middle of the warmup session, is that the test date has been set for February 17. I guess I feel good about that date. I mean, could I use more time to get ready? Well, who wouldn't? Still, I feel like stuff is coming along nicely and that I will be ready, or at least, I won't be doing much worse than any other 3rd kyu who will be on that test. You know, it's not that I compare myself with others so much, but you never want to be the one doing the most mistakes in a test...

That class was a good one though and it actually is the main reason why I'm saying I should be ready for that test. After doing some stance drills, we paired up to work on our self defense techniques. Our instructor asked us to do facing both a right (the more natural one) and a left handed attack. My partner and I decided to do them one by one, right then left and as such were going through them a bit slower than other paires who did all techniques right handed and then left handed. At one point, when we heard the other two pairs calling much higher techniques than the one we were working on, she told me something along the lines of "woah, we're slow". I didn't care much and told her we were learning to work them properly. When we got to the end however, we finished about 3-4 minutes before the other pairs, as it became obvious to us that they were finishing their left handed versions of the techniques.

Quitre honestly, the techniques were coming and flowing quite well. I was very happy with how it went. Two more weeks like that and I'm sure we'll be good to go.

Sad not to compete, but...

Yeah, not competing in the upcoming Levisien Open is kinda sad, but I've discovered that I've started enjoying "playing" with my bo so much more. While there's something to be said about having a bit of pressure to spice things up, too much of it is never a good thing. Without having to think about a competition coming up, I get to experiment stuff, try learning that new trick I saw, finally simply enjoy the escape of practicing with the bo. I practice martial arts for myself, to evade from the everyday stress. There's no need in making myself nervous about it. There's that, and as you know, the lack of practice time.