Martial Arts Blogs A Journey to Shodan: August 2011

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.