Martial Arts Blogs A Journey to Shodan: December 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My nemesis - Hangetsu.

Well, I guess the time had to come – and to be perfectly honest, I really haven’t been looking forward to it. It’s time to learn Hangetsu.

I really love kata, and I’d even venture to say it is my favourite part of Karate. Despite the many challenges they present, and no matter how frustrated I am while practicing them, I’m always eager to tweak the details and make them look as good as I can. I personally think they can be a thing-of-beauty to watch - with the exception of Hangetsu. In my years of training, this is the one kata I have never enjoyed watching, and have actually avoided learning until absolutely necessary – and much to my chagrin, it seems that time has come. CURSES!

It’s the leg positioning. Simple as that. From the waist up I anticipate it will be somewhat enjoyable to learn, but I’ll certainly need to get over the foot, and leg position. Not that I won’t be able to do it, it just looks…well…not right. Legs staggered, toes pointing in, knees together… it’s meant to defend against a kick to the groin – but I don’t know. It just looks wrong; I’m all about the aesthetics.

This is going to be one of my biggest challenges yet. I really enjoy karate, and of course kata, and to practice something repeatedly that I don’t like – I will have a hard time with that. It is a necessary part of my Shodan grading, so I foresee spending a lot of time on it, who knows, maybe it’ll grow on me.
Only time will tell.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

1st Kyu grading.

Well, my long anticipated 1st Kyu grading is now complete; it's an experience I will never have again, so I'll record the good, the bad and the ugly here for prosperity.

I went in feeling really good after deciding the best way to approach it was to look at it as just another class. I wasn't about to be asked to do anything I wouldn't normally encounter in class, so my nerves didn't get the better of me.

The Good: I was prepared! I am so glad I stuck (as best I could) to my resolution and practiced my kata. I was asked to perform all of them, and without that additional practice I'm sure I would have stumbled or lost my way here or there. I was able to start and finish each with the confidence that I knew what I was doing.

The Bad: I was the only one grading for 1st Kyu, so I had to do Kanku Dai on my own, in front of a generous size crowd. I messed up after the third move (forgetting my kick), however, I was allowed to start again, only this time I had to turn around and do it facing the aforementioned crowd. Typically I get super confused when asked to do a kata facing a different direction (luckily I'd practiced that too), and nervous when people watch me – but I managed to put on my kata mask, focus, and with the help of a little conscience on my shoulder yelling at me to punch and turn, I did just fine - although it did forget to tell me to kiai once :-/
So, I guess this part can be considered 1/2 bad, but with a good ending.

The Ugly: Admittedly there were a few ugly parts – such as doing Bunkai for Jion with only a few moments notice. It wasn't pretty, but I fumbled my way through it. That was actually the first time I'd really been in the middle of a bunkai, and if I was being graded on that alone, well, there is no way I would have passed, I admit, it was pretty ugly.

I didn't display perfection, but I did my very best and am proud of my effort and the result...I passed!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Shotokan resolution - an update.

It has been brought to my attention that I've been remiss in writing an update on the progress of my Shotokan resolution, although I've been meaning to do so for a few weeks now. Thanks to Terry for the gentle reminder - so here goes...I'll lay it all out there.

To recap the resolution:
  1. Arrive to class early enough to practice two kata of my choice, on my own.
  2. I will practice each kata once on Saturday and Sunday morning.
Resolution number one:
Update: Admittedly, this has been difficult to maintain.
Excuse: Arriving to class early has proven to be a challenge for me - 45 minutes after arriving home from work, class starts - most days this feels a bit rushed.
Reality: My dojo is 4 minutes from home - I need to try a little harder on this one.

Resolution number two:
Update: I'm happy to say, hasn't been as difficult as number one. I have a small personal dojo in my basement and I've been practicing my kata...ok, maybe not each of them as the resolution specifies. Why not? Shoot, what's my...
Excuse: I can't really think of one. Recently I've been focused on my grading kata for my promotion coming up this Friday night, so Kanku Dai has been top of the list, with secondary focus on Jion and Basai Dai to keep them top of mind. So yes, I've been practicing, just not all of them.That's something right?
Reality: I might be asked to do Heian Godan or one of the other lower level katas in my promotion, who knows. Am I ready for the unexpected? I think so, but that's not good enough. I need to be confident that I can do any kata asked of me without falter.

Back to the resolution. This time I'll do it. Really, I will. Starting by showing up early for class tomorrow.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Let your conscience be your guide.

Am I ever glad I went to class this morning; I learned so many new things, including how to sing.

Now, one might think singing has nothing to do with karate, however, by doing so today I learned a valuable lesson on how to breathe properly during kata. When you sing a song as you do your kata you will be forced to breathe, rather than hold your breath which many people do. Most of the time I find I have the opposite problem, I breathe out on every move and before I know it I am completely winded, this exercise really helped me to control that. Another unexpected benefit, was that while singing, I wasn't thinking about every move I was doing, and my body did the kata rather than my head. FINALLY! 

Eventually this lesson evolved into 'singing the kata' so as Sensei stood behind me, saying "Turn, hit, hit, block, punch, breathe, go now!" like my conscience sitting on my shoulder, I felt inspired to really push myself. I think my kata today improved exponentially. Wow, that conscience of mine can really light a fire.

Tidbits to remember:
  • Kanku Dai - remember the new leg/foot positioning when dropping down to the floor.
  • Kanku Dai - finishing move is no longer crossing arms - left hand stays on hip, while right blocks - then finish. 
  • Sing every kata.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hands up.

“Hands up if you think you’re ready to be graded”.

Well, that’s a tough one. In terms of basics, yes, I think I’m ready. There are a few things I will brush up on before next Friday night, but I’m confident that I know what I’m doing. To get through this portion of the test successfully all I need to do is listen and focus, and I’ll do just fine.

Kata is a different story. Kanku Dai – the longest kata in Shotokan Karate – is my kata for 1st kyu, and no amount of practice will make me feel like I know it well enough for grading. Take last night for instance – in the very first move my foot was out of position, repeatedly. This would be frowned upon in a grading, in fact I frown upon it the second I feel myself doing it. I expect a lot from myself and I want to know it well, and perform it well. On the other hand, if I wait until I perfect the Kata I’ll probably be at 2nd kyu indefinitely because there will always be more to learn.

I suppose if the grading is based on how much I have improved since my last promotion, then yes, I’m ready. I am confident I have done that. I know perfection is not sought by my Sensei's, nor is it expected. I put that on myself. If this is the case, ask me the question again and I’ll put my hand up without hesitation.