Martial Arts Blogs A Journey to Shodan: 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Looking back.

Last January I wrote about my goals for 2011. Since the year is coming to a close, I thought it might be interesting to re-cap and see how I made out with those.

First and foremost this will be my Shodan year. 
This didn’t exactly pan out, however I have been given a date of February 24, 2012 – so this is close enough for me. Focused training has begun.

Give 100% every class.  
I do try to keep this in mind, and push myself if I feel I might be getting a bit lazy – it happens.

Stance. I will finally nail my open front stance once and for all.
I wouldn’t say I ‘nailed it’, but I certainly think about it a lot less. The open part is OK, but I routinely end up too narrow or too long which obviously needs work. So, the ‘once and for all’ has not been accomplished.

I never did go to yoga. It was a great idea, but for some reason I didn’t add this to my routine. I really should have – it probably would have resulted in a better update for the next goal I had…

Have an injury free year. 
Well, this didn’t happen either. After I recovered from the tendonitis in my wrist, I proceeded to re-injure my rib, which was very painful and I sat on the sidelines for the better part of a month. Then there were the minor pulls and strains throughout the year – I’ve actually got one now in my right tricep from repeated back-fists in one training session. I thought it was better until last week when I did Empi too many times and tweaked it again during a punch sequence. Thus I’ve been hesitant to really give 100% in the block and punch department – in doing so my overall performance is affected. Sharp hurts right now, which is bad timing, as I need to get ready for my grading! SO frustrating.

Having now reviewed the past year, it appears I’m chock full of good intent but the follow-through seems to be a problem. Although I recognize I have accomplished plenty of things that were not on my list, I’m still a little disappointed. After all, I had a whole year!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Too much information.

Why is it that after I miss a couple classes, the following class is always so frustrating?

I went away this weekend and missed Friday and Sunday classes, when I returned on Tuesday I experienced 1.5 hours of frustration.

  • “This is Godan, that should be a front stance, not a back stance.”
  • “Is that your back stance? It is way too narrow, move your foot out further.”
  • “Is that your back stance? Why is the weight distribution 50/50? It should be 70/30.”
  • “Look at your feet, your back foot is slightly at an angle.”
  • “Your over-rotation, is over-rotated.” Huh?

I only missed two classes! How did everything fall apart so quickly? I was quite deflated come end of class, so I stuck around and did some kata after everyone left to try to leave on a good note, but even then… “What was the long pause for?”

I understand the purpose of me being there is to learn, and if someone weren’t there to kindly highlight my deficiencies what would be the point? But there are just some days when it seems no matter what I do, it will involve a glaring flaw. Very frustrating.

Some classes you leave on a high, some you leave on a low. For me, Tuesday night was a low.
I hope tonight is better.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My impending grading.

Well, the date has been set for my Shodan grading – Friday, February 24.
When training through the ranks you know that if you stick with it the day will eventually come, but it always feels so far off. It is officially 94 days off for me.
One word: Yikes.

Each class has now been spent focusing on the details, from foot and knee position, turning without over-rotating, and adding Kime to everything I do. It really feels like my training has been kicked into overdrive and I’m no longer just ‘going to Karate’, it is more purpose-driven than ever.

Requirements and things to remember:
  • Basics: Kime, and don’t let my lead knee fall in as I push off back foot.
  • Kata: As long as I practice ‘from the ground up’ and turn my brain off during the test, I should be OK. Put on my Karate Mask and find a rhythm.
  • Bunkai: We rarely spend any time on this during regular class, so the prospect of having to do this for my black belt test in front of an audience is causing the most anxiety for me. It feels like I need to spend lots of training time learning something completely new.
  • Sparring: Again, we so rarely do this in class that I feel like if I am asked to do it in a test, it would be a hot mess – all form would fly out the window and self preservation would kick in. 
I guess it does come down to caring what other people think, and assuming people expect someone testing for their black belt to be sharp, crisp and in control – I certainly would. I believe for Basics and Kata I can pull this off, however, Bunkai and Sparring are a different matter, both I consider relatively new skills I need to develop. My opinion? These are skills that should be introduced and practiced regularly throughout the ranks, and with only 94 days to go, I’m just not comfortable cramming and exhibiting either of them, alone, in front of a crowd.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stop being so nice.

Well, it's official, I'm too nice.

I've written in the past about the Karate Mask, but have a really hard time walking the walk on this one. I'm totally focused as I bow in to begin my Kata, but soon after the first move the mask falls off; I do the Kata fine, with some form of rhythm and good technique, but the emotional, mental and physical intent all seem to slip away. By the time I'm done, I am left wondering where it went and it is very frustrating. This is also true of my basics. I enjoy what I'm doing and it shows, but just last week I was told (in a nice way) to stop being so nice.

To combat this kindness, I have recently started envisioning someone standing in front of me while I execute my punches and kicks – not naming any names, as it varies depending on how my day went :).  Wow, what a world of difference this has made, or at least it sure feels that way. I'm no longer looking in some general forward direction, I'm actually focusing on the space directly in front of me and hitting with intent, right to the chest or face. I know, I should have been doing this all along, but I guess I've just been too nice until now. This is all part of what the Karate Mask should be – just let go, bury the enjoyment of doing something you love, and for that small moment in time, become a more aggressive and determined version of yourself. Don't just hit, HIT – and hurt the person! I need to start walking the walk on this point, so come grading day it feels more natural to me.

Hmmm, who will I punch in the face tomorrow?

Hangetsu Update:
I've finally got the pattern down and am no longer intimidated by that darned stance, so last night I was focused on tweaking everything in-between – including the tension and breathing. I'm still not loving it, but I am finally seeing progress. I never thought I'd be writing THAT in this blog.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The flickering light.

I've made no secret that Hangetsu is my least favourite Kata – in fact, it falls to the bottom of the list like a very heavy brick. Something happened tonight however, that may have... dare I say it... started to change my opinion. (gasp).

It dawned on me that I've been approaching Hangetsu all wrong, and the best way I can describe this is that I feel like I've been practicing it in the dark. I've been worrying too much about how everything looks instead of how it feels.

There is something to be said about skillful instruction, and how one simple phrase or idea can make a world of difference to a technique that has been dogging me for months. In particular it is the stance – and when Sensei pointed out the importance of the heels in this technique, slowly, very slowly the lights began to flicker.

Where once I was so frustrated that, despite my best efforts, my knees and toes were pointing in the wrong direction, and obsessing about how I hate the way the stance looks, it now became crystal clear that I must lead with my heels, and a subtle 'gripping' of my heels once I'm settled in the stance will help it fall into place.

Tonight, the lights flickered for a brief moment in time and it just stared to feel a whole lot better. I'm optimistic.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

(Wo)man in the mirror.

When training on my own, self-correction is very important, so there are a few things I do to determine whether or not my technique is as it should be.

The first is by feel. Sometimes I close my eyes and execute a move – immediately I can feel if my stance is too wide, narrow or just plain wrong, if my punch is at the correct height, or if my shoulders are relaxed or not etc. I've learned to trust this approach, because my body will always tell me the truth, whether I want to hear it or not.

The second is by looking in the mirror. That (wo)man in the mirror is never perfect darn it! She's always got something that needs fixing and it is my job to change her ways – I often become frustrated though at how easily she becomes frustrated, but I do try to remain patient with her. I make sure to take the time and really look closely at every detail - of course this slows the training down, but there are days when you just have to take a step back and work from the ground up, making sure everything from toes to posture is correct, in other words: take a look at yourself and make that change.

However, when all else fails, sometimes it is better to let Sensei step in. He's much more kind to her than I am.

And one final note for today: Happy Birthday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


One recent Friday night class, I put a lot of emphasis on my Kihon and was lucky enough to have one of my Senseis read from the Shodan Grading list as I worked through each set. Even though I had asked for his assistance, I got WAY more than I had bargained for. This being a Friday night, attendance was low and the other students had left early, so I eventually found myself the last student standing with two Senseis putting me through my paces. It really can't get much better than that.

The key to proper Kihon is to visualize someone as the recipient of your strikes - focus, aim and execute as if you were actually hitting your opponent - every time. If this very important element is left out, one is simply going through the motions. I can still hear their voices ringing in my head yelling "HIT!" every time I threw a punch. The frustrating part is that I thought I was hitting! I don't know how much more I could have put into it, I near threw out my shoulder I was punching so hard. I guess I'm not meant to perfect this particular technique in one intense lesson, but I really felt like in that short period of time I had improved my understanding of each technique and kicked it up a notch.

Things for me to keep in mind:

  • Don't drag my back foot - bring it with me.
  • Stop after each combination and make sure I am in a comfortable stance before proceeding.
  • HIT!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Learn. Polish. Sharpen.

As a 1st Kyu, I've reached the point in my training where I have learned all of the required elements I need to know to test for my Shodan (with the exception of Hangetsu, but I'm not going to go there right now). The next step for me is to continue to practice and polish all of my techniques from Basics to Kata, everything needs tweaking here and there to make the leap from just knowing how to do it - to actually performing it well. For me, this is the fun part, stopping during a Kata or Basics and analysing where my feet are vs. where they should be, adjusting my shuto hand to the precisely correct level, or making sure I'm not just in a decent front stance...I'm in a proper one, and making mental notes as I go (and actually running to my Notebook to jot them down).

At some point I will transition from polishing these details to finally sharpening everything up in preparation for my test. This feels like it is such a long way off for me, but I'm sure it will be here before I know it. I can feel a crispness slowly starting to creep into my techniques more and more as I practice - is crisp the same as sharp? Hmmm, perhaps it is part of the transition - and it is starting to feel good.

Things I need to polish:
  1. Back stance: weight distribution is 70/30 - really practice this one.
  2. Front stance: nail this in every Kata, don't brush over it to keep the momentum. Too many people really ignore this stance throughout Kata and practically walk upright for the duration.
  3. Empi: don't step out so far on the first move.
  4. Nukite: relax/lower shoulders and pull down on lats.
  5. Heian Nidan: the last two gedan are narrow stance - don't over-rotate the turn.
  6. Right down to the littlest thing...even your toes need to be touching when your feet are together as you bow.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Please don't strike me down.

This week was a funny one for me. I went to class on Sunday and practiced Hangetsu for a full hour and really started to get the hang of it. I left class feeling like this Kata really isn't as bad as I've been making it out to be. Then on Friday night I thought I'd ride this wave and continue where I'd left off, actually starting to enjoy this Kata - however, this time I became frustrated very quickly. Perhaps it was because Sensei was away on Sunday, so I had the hour to foolishly let myself think I was actually getting the hang of it and in reality I wasn't. I was probably making up some of my own moves and throwing them in here and there - no wonder it was feeling so good!

It's the stance, plain and simple. I'll probably be struck down by the Karate Gods for saying this, but I seriously dislike this Kata. The form itself and my feelings toward it should be improving by now but they aren't. I've thought about this long and hard - why is this Kata still my nemesis after so long? Is it because I've told myself I don't like it so many times that my mind and body resist learning it? I've really tried to like it, really I have. But when you don't like something, you don't. I've tried to like Brussels Sprouts in the past too, and have never developed a taste for them - perhaps this is the same.

This Kata just isn't for me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Find the flow and paddle down the river.

Sigh. I love Empi. When I tested for my 3rd Kyu this was my grading kata, I practiced it endlessly and it quickly became my favourite, it has such great movement and flow. Of course, during the years of my 'Karate break' my body memory buried it deep and it is only in the last year I've asked it to recall this lovely Kata. I'm always told "don't think, just do" when it comes to Kata, and this is the one where I fully understand what that means. I don't think about it at all, from start to finish - it just comes to me and I do it, and it feels fantastic. Other Kata, not so much.

Since I was recently reminded to Touch the Ground once in awhile, I've again been making a point to practice all of my Heian Kata to keep the patterns front and centre. With relative confidence that they will no longer drop from my memory when I'm feeling pressure, my next challenges are to breathe properly and find the flow, my own flow, in each Kata. This can be difficult, as I begin with great intent to do this, and then before I know it I've finished the Kata. I'm left thinking: was there any flow? did I simply breeze through it from beginning to end without proper pauses and Kime? I don't remember. With time and practice this will become easier as I strive to make each Kata my own - one at a time, I'll find the flow. From there, I'll paddle down the river until I reach the end: when I reach rapids I'll 'give 'er', and when I reach calm water I'll slow down...breathe.
Simple as that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Karate Geek

Another great Friday night class has come and gone. It was particularly great because I was the only one there! Of course it helped that it was a holiday long weekend, but for the most part, Friday night classes are not well attended. Why more people don’t take advantage of this I can’t understand – if not every week, just once in awhile – polish up on techniques that need extra work. It is the perfect opportunity to get one-on-one help, and on this particular Friday night, I learned so much it was like three weeks of classes in one.

I followed the Shodan grading sheet and went over all of the required basics. It's funny – no matter how well I think I know a technique it never ceases to amaze me how much room there still is for improvement. After two classes this past weekend full of personal attention, I feel like I have so much more control over my techniques. I learned a number of things that I believe will really elevate my overall form if I consciously practice them each class, and silly as it may sound, it's exciting! Perhaps I'm a bit of a Karate Geek...

(Some of the) things I need to work on:
  1. Gyaku Zuki / Mawashi Geri – don’t let my hand drop during the kick.
  2. All punches and blocks – in basics and kata, pull down on lats when executing each punch and block. The result is a technique that feels and looks way better (if I do say so myself).
  3. Yoko Geri Keage – draw it up properly, snap it out and draw it back to the knee quickly - don't try to make it look pretty.
  4. Heian Nidan - after the last shuto, complete the kata without pausing.
  5. Continue to practice breathing properly during kata.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Touching the ground.

When I was moving up through the lower ranks, I admit, belts were a serious motivation. I didn't want to stay yellow, orange...even purple wasn't good enough. When I finally hit blue I felt like I was getting somewhere – looking back, I think that is when I really began to take it in. Now as a 1st Kyu, belt and rank don't mean as much to me. I am focused on learning, challenging myself and enjoying the details, I'm at a point where I feel like I'm accomplishing something in every class. Frustration has given way to enjoyment – and for me, personal satisfaction means more than the colour of the belt around my waist.

Having said that, I know I can't sit on this 1st Kyu fence forever, naturally Shodan is the next step. With that in mind I have been focusing on what lies ahead – Empi, Tekki Nidan...I've even been thinking it's time to fully learn Hangetsu. In fact, I've been spending so much time looking ahead, that I have been failing at my resolution to look back – and by this I mean practicing the fundamentals that got me to this level – I need to  remember to 'touch the ground' more often. Go back to the root of all Kata and work up from there, practice Heian Shodan with all the determination I grant Empi. Yondan, Godan, Tekki Shodan...don't leave them behind because I passed that level so long ago. I still need them.

As my Sensei told me last night: "When you get close to the top, don't forget to go back and touch the ground once in awhile".

So as of today:
Empi: Feeling really good.
Tekki Nidan: I need to think less about my stances, just let them happen. Time to focus on the top half. 
Hangetsu: need to get on that one.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


After class last night, I felt like I was well on my way to polishing up a couple of Kata, and it really helped to think back to some words of wisdom I’d been given in the past, but for some reason never recorded here in my blog.
To do Kata well, you must have two things: mental intent and physical intent.

Here is my interpretation of those words:
  • Mental Intent. Focus on the Kata every step of the way – let your mind and body connect and be in the moment.
    A benefit of training this way is that I find my balance improves dramatically. Balance is sometimes a problem for me, especially when turning quickly to move in another direction – I tend to over-rotate. Staying in the moment, not three steps ahead, keeps me in check.
  • Physical Intent. Visualize why you are doing the Kata as you are doing it, there is someone attacking you. If you simply go through the motions as a means to an end, your Kata will suffer.
Mental and physical intent carried out through the entire Kata will always elevate your form, and set you apart from others. To put it simply: it looks way better.
If you’ve got these two things mastered, then the hardest part of Kata is behind you – seriously. I’m nowhere near mastering these, but knowing is half the battle – practicing is the other half.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Secret

Sunday’s class was exactly what I needed to get myself back on track after missing so many classes due to injury – two hours devoted to working on my own kata. Besides a temporary mental block where I’d combined Yodan and Godan I’m feeling really good about where I’m at. I’m really focusing on keeping each kata top of mind so my days of drawing blanks in class stay behind me.

Kiba Dachi is present in many Kata and I’ve been working hard on my posture, making sure my knees aren’t falling in, and keeping my hips in the proper position. I also try to be aware of the proper foot placement every time I move; both feet should be facing forward. While this sounds simple enough, it has never felt quite right; my ankles have always felt a bit more strain than I think they should.

On Sunday however, came a revelation that with practice will finally have me feeling completely comfortable in my Kiba Dachi. The secret lies not just in your feet facing forward, but how they face forward and exactly which part of them should be facing forward. One very important detail I was missing. It was seriously a slap myself on the forehead “NOW it makes sense” moment. I really wish I’d clued in to this a lot sooner, however, I guess it is all part of my Karate journey – I can’t learn everything at once now can I?

On that note, I'll refrain from revealing what the secret actually is and leave it to individual students to discover as part of their own journey. I'm just thankful it has now been passed on to me.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What I've been missing.

Well, the day finally came! With my rib almost healed I returned to the Dojo for a two hour class on Sunday. I had planned to wait it out a few more days and go back to class on Tuesday, however, after watching a grading on Friday night I was inspired and realized just how much I've been missing over the past seven weeks.

The majority of my time was spent practicing Bunkai which was great, it's the thing I am most worried about for my Shodan grading. Kata, basics, combinations and kicks I can practice on my own, but - I believe I've mentioned this before - I have a tough time remembering things (hence my Notebook) and the thought of having to be creative enough to develop, and then remember Bunkai for six different Kata is enough to make me slightly nauseous.

After about an hour of Bunkai, Sensei Barry transitioned us into one-step sparring. I suddenly found myself standing alone with a line of five students who had been instructed to each take a turn and attack chudan, and for each individual attack I had to think of a unique block or series of blocks and strikes. I blanked! Sensing my distress, Sensei Barry gave me some sage advice - draw from your Kata. Immediately I thought back to a comment from Doug on my Form vs. Function post in March. Draw from your Kata, practice it slowly and figure out what works. So rather than being stressed about being put on the spot, I slowed down and blocked the punches. Not everything I tried worked flawlessly, but then when it came time for the others to take a turn, theirs weren't perfect either - we're all there to learn and learn from each other as well.

I'm so glad I went back a couple days early, it was a fantastic class.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Karate of the mind...and spirit.

I’ve been out of commission for the better part of a month, and Karate has been on my mind the whole time. I really don't like missing class, so I am actually going through Karate withdrawal.

First, a bad cold in early March lasted for two weeks and then turned into a terrible cough, which in turn re-fractured my rib – an injury I originally suffered two years ago. The pain is indescribable. Sigh. I admire UFC fighters. How in the world can they take repeated kicks to the ribs with the force of a semi-truck, and keep going – when I cough and fracture mine, sidelining me for a month or more? Note to self, take more calcium supplements!

So here I sit – trying not to cough, breathing shallow, no sudden movements, reading other peoples Karate blogs with envy, as I anticipate another few weeks of recovery time. Time away from the Dojo = time away from my Shodan training. Very frustrating.

The other day I attempted to very slowly perform Kanku Dai – or at least go through the motions so my patterns are still top of mind upon my return. When that proved too painful, I began practicing Karate of the mind. This is where rather than physically performing the kata, I do it in my mind, and wow, trust me it's not an easy thing to do! My mind wanders and I have to force it back on track by starting the kata over again in my head. It takes a very long time to complete a kata this way.
Admittedly, it isn't quite the workout that doing the physical kata is, but it's the best I can do at this point – and I have to do something. My mind and spirit are willing, but my rib fiercely objects at this time. I need to pay attention to that and take it easy.

Two things I've learned:
  1. Protect your ribs at all costs - even T3's don't touch this kind of pain.
  2. At the first sign of a cough - take Buckleys. It does taste terrible, but it's a very small price to pay.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Form vs. Function.

There are two ways to do a kata: one for form and the other for function, or in other words – Bunkai. I’ve done enough bunkai to know that every move in a kata has more than one function, the tough part is figuring out exactly what that is.

I am used to doing kata for form, trying to make my movements as sharp as possible and letting my body take over instead of my head. I feel with bunkai I am taking a step backwards though, because suddenly my head takes over again and I’m constantly thinking about who is standing where and at what level the next attack will be placed. Adjusting the more precise moves for functionality can be mind-bending to say the least.

With the prospect of some serious bunkai training on the horizon, I feel myself slowing my katas down slightly as I actually visualize someone standing on the receiving end of my blocks, kicks and punches. What exactly should I use that shuto for? A block? A strike? Both? Is my gedan blocking a kick or punch? Is it even a block? I probably should have been incorporating this into my training all along.

Two of my problem areas are being creative (coming up with unique bunkai moves) and remembering things (retaining said bunkai moves in my memory for longer than 10 minutes). I have had some challenges in the past, but to come up with my own individual bunkai for six kata is going to be the biggest challenge of my karate experience to date.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Signature.

When I first came back to Karate I was very unsure of myself, and rightfully so. I’d missed many years, and memories of what I’d learned in the past had all but faded. Relearning everything was difficult and Kata was certainly no exception; I used to know what I was doing, but now I was watching other students for queues on what came next. I soon learned that relying on other people was risky, because although everyone looked much more confident than I, they are human and make mistakes too. I wasn’t improving by following others.

Once I had learned all my Kata with a certain amount of confidence, I fell back into a similar pattern. When the class was asked to do Kata as a group, I would try to keep up, and finish with everyone; I didn’t want to finish last and have everyone watching me. My form was suffering. By trying to keep up, I was cheating my stances, shortening my blocks and not completing one move before moving on to the next. I needed to slow down, regardless of what everyone else was doing. I’ve come to learn that it isn’t a race.

Every kata is mine. Mine to learn and mine to interpret. Where I might pause after a sequence, others may continue right through. I might rip through the first five or six moves and then slow down, it all depends on where I think my attacker may be coming from. No longer does a pause in my kata mean ‘Crap, what’s next? Where was I? What kata am I doing???’ Although admittedly, that is exactly what it has meant in the past. Now, it’s my signature.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It’s a Cha, Cha, Cha. Not a slow dance.

I was fortunate enough to have some one-on-one time on Tuesday during and after class. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of that to finally ‘get’ something.

Lesson number one – stances. They can be frustrating to master and a bit uncomfortable to hold, but I really enjoy the challenge. Kiba Dachi, in my opinion, is the most uncomfortable stance of all, if you’re doing it right. I endeavor to always practice with the below points in mind so it will become easier with time, but at this point, I cannot hold this stance for very long. As a matter of fact, I am in a proper Kiba Dachi as I write this one sentence, and feel like I just can’t type fast enough – I’m ready to collapse.

One trick I learned was to practice by standing against a wall for posture:
  • If your back and shoulders aren’t touching the wall, you’re not in the correct stance.
  • If your quads aren’t burning, you’re not in the correct stance.
  • If your inner thighs aren’t tightened to tilt your hips forward, you guessed it, not in the correct stance.
Final Tip: When in a proper Kiba Dachi, simply shift either of your feet 90 degrees outwards and...voila, you're in a nice Kokutsu Dachi! Amazing.

    Lesson number two – basics. I continued to work on my own after class ended, at which time my conscience stopped by with some pointers and kicked me into gear. Basics at my level are about three things:
    1.     Technique
    2.     Speed
    3.     Momentum
    It is time for me to build on my skills by adding speed and momentum to the technique. No more rhythmic ‘slow dancing’ through the moves, making them look all pretty – hit ‘em, chase ‘em down! If I do it correctly, I should have extra momentum after my final technique and will need a few extra steps to bring myself to a stop – like a little cha, cha, cha at the end. After practicing this for only a few minutes, I was winded.
    Note to self: step up your conditioning!

    When you receive something of value, you should find a safe place to put it. This blog serves as my safe place. With so much valuable information being passed on to me, I know I could never rely on my memory to recall it when needed. How else could I possibly hope to remember it all?

    Monday, January 31, 2011

    Tekki Knee-dan

    In yesterday's class I spent a solid hour working on Tekki Nidan. Aside from simply learning the pattern, I've made a commitment to myself to always perform the kata in a proper kiba-dachi – which is easier said than done, considering it is the only stance in the kata and it appears eight times throughout.

    Each time I land the stance I do a four-point mental check:
    1. Feet facing forward
    2. Back straight
    3. Hips forward
    4. Knees out
    If my knees fall in, it is a sure sign my posture is poor and my hips aren't in the correct position. When in a proper, deep stance you can bet I feel it – my quads burn a little, my ankles feel the pressure, and my knees will ache the next morning (if I've done the kata for an hour, so I learned today). If I feel nothing, I've cheated myself with lazy stances.

    For now, as I'm still learning the kata, it can be a bit distracting to do this check every time; sometimes after correcting my stance I've forgotten where I am in the kata and have to retrace my steps. This being said, practicing in full stance will pay off in the end because I want my body to learn it as well as my mind. And when my body knows it, my mind won't have to.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    And so my journey continues.

    Class last night really felt like the first night of my Shodan training as I practiced the three new Kata I must know for my grading: Empi, Tekki Nidan and Hangetsu.

    Tekki Nidan is new to me. I’ve seen others do it in class, and even tried to fumble my way through without success, so I’ve been looking forward to learning this one. My brain was working overtime to get the pattern down, making sure my hands and feet were positioned correctly – this is one where I should be practicing a nice deep stance, knees out, and good posture from the outset. Note to self: No lazy stances in this Kata!

    As the time ticked by, I noticed that I was consciously avoiding Hangetsu (to fully understand, read my previous post regarding My Nemesis). I know I should be practicing it, but chose Empi and Tekki Nidan instead... I need to learn those as well, so I wasn’t really doing anything wrong, but my internal judge was making me feel guilty. So, alas with 15 minutes left, I tried to remember the pattern of Hangetsu and slowly went over it a few times.

    Something I’ve thought about often is that I should actually be enjoying the frustrations of learning new things, rather than letting it get to me. Once I allow myself to become frustrated, it's an uphill battle and that energy is best spent elsewhere. I love Karate and so too should I love the process of learning, no matter how many times I stumble, mess up and draw complete blanks.

    So as of today:
    Empi – I know the pattern well, it still however needs the details and a little less thinking.
    Tekki Nidan – The pattern is getting there, it needs rhythm and a lot less thinking.
    Hangetsu – Still mental gaps in the pattern and the last sequence of moves for some reason won’t stick. Once I get that down, I need to start practicing it with the proper stance (ugh) and breathing.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    2011 Goals

    Well, it's 2011 and I'm going to try something new – set myself a few goals regarding my training this year, so here goes:
    1. First and foremost this will be my Shodan year. It's a lofty goal, so I best train with that in mind each and every class.
    2. Give 100% every class.  I admit sometimes I slack off a bit: lazy with my back stance because my muscles are tired and object, I don't execute punches and blocks in basics to the best of my ability because it can be exhausting – you know the general excuses.
    3. Stance. I will finally nail my open front stance once and for all. It's time to stop over-thinking it, and get it into my muscle memory. If I have to dedicate entire classes to doing just that, I will.
    4. Yoga. I've never really had any interest in yoga, it's far too gentle – I much prefer to punch and kick things. However, I've recently been told it would do wonders for my flexibility and reduce the possibility of pulled and strained muscles – ultimately helping me....
    5. Have an injury free year. If I stick to number three on my list, this may be attainable. So once my two injuries from 2010 are healed (right wrist and arm), this new goal will kick in.
    It will be interesting to look back on this list one year from now and see how many I've managed to attain. Hopefully all of them, so having this in writing will be a good frame of reference for me and keep my goals top of mind.

    One year – starting now.