Thursday, July 21, 2016

Detached Retina

While warming up for the beginning of class Mark told me that after our previous class he started seeing flashing lights in his vision.  After he visited the doctor he found out that he had a detached retina!  He thought that it was from the throws I was giving him on a leg sweep move.  Wow.  I was kind of feeling guilty, but he pointed out that it's just his body being old and we just have to take it easy with throws in the future.  Needless to say when we practiced that move again I was hyper aware of where he was going and how fast.

Regular class was laughably small.  Basically Mark and I with four very young kids.  I got three six year olds and was told to set up the sports floor.  These giant red and blue puzzle pieces are the mainstay of most dojos I've every been too and provide a nice barrier between my pointy bones and a hard floor. 

After we emptied the closet out and got the floor put together (we can't keep it down permanently because we are renting a space for the hour).  We had an exercise to teach the kids how to bridge.  One would bridge (a back arch with the shoulders and feet on the ground), one would roll balls under the arch and one would catch the balls.  As you can imagine this was met with incredible delight and much noise making.

After that was mastered, we were taught the full mount, open and closed guard, feet hooks, and an escape from full mount.  Once the kids got used to being in close proximity to one another they did a fairly nice job of twisting and rolling.  Thankfully Reed came and saved me gave me the option to do this same stuff with MaryAnn Sensei.  As usual I'm worried about my back, but since I was fairly warmed up I could bridge her and roll without any problem.  I took Ibuprofen in the evening just in case though. 

After class we met at the garage and ran through the kata about three times and addressed a lot of little pieces.  An arm out and foot placement in a couple of spots.  I'm not sure I remembered any of this in my morning practice though.  Too sleepy this morning.  However we are only a few moves from the end of the kata which feels tantalizing close.  The practice time is paying off.  We are three months in and the kata is almost fully realized.  In another month is should be fairly smooth and we might possibly working on the two man application. 

On the depressing side, by wife is getting a little tired of me being away from the house for so long.  She's been great with letting me have this time but it irks her because it only gives us a few hours a night to hang out.  I'm seeing that I'm going to have to make some breaks in the schedule to reduce that trouble spot. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dangerous Dance Of Death

Sometime back my buddy, Bob Patterson, had an article about folks looking for support in order to fund a documentary on the Dance of Death.  The skinny is in this article. 

The reason this caught my attention was that I read those comic books as a kid and saw those ads for the "Black Dragon Society" and how they fired my imagination.  This was augmented by endless viewings of kung fu movies on local cable access channels.  How it would be a wonder to fly through the air or be able to whirl my hands in complicated patterns to make striking like a snake seem so effortless. 

Three plus decades later I'm writhing around on the ground with a foot in the back of my shoulder while my arm is pinned in such a way that one sneeze would shatter my elbow joint and I think to myself, "man, he's got to improve his technique to make this hurt more". 

When I had a few minutes to think about the session I asked myself, "where did that sense of youthful wonder go?" In the thick of action, when me and my partner are experiencing a smooth synchrony, there is a shared frisson of energy.  This apparently only occurs when I'm learning, but much like staring at pictures of cute baby animals on the internet, it's a feeling of pleasure that only lasts for a relatively short time.  After I crest the learning curve I need something more complex and engaging to get the same zing I get the first time around. 

That being said I got a partial thrill learning the next bunkai for kyoku Roku dan last night.  After you get put into an arm lock you get to a snake-esque move with your captured arm which leads to a shudo to the chest of the other guy, followed by a liver punch and then an outlandish straight-legged kick that throws the other guy in the air.  Super fun!

As usual I get ahead of myself.  Although class was the standard block of practice I got assigned to two little girls to work on their kata.  Queue circus music.  I have so little skill with working with little kids.  No wonder my first Sensei got so much pleasure in assigning me work with them.  Sadist. 

I did have a moment of clarity in teaching when I realized that I could get one girl to do an inside crescent into her hand to sort out the move in a bunkai.   Reed was watching out of one eye so I felt proud when he emulated it.  I'm sure he would have done something way better and faster though. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Flying Elbows Of Death

In the after class Reed Sensei sat us down gave us the low down on our requirements for Black Belt confirmation.  A fee, a thesis, and the components of the physical bits (kata, 2-man, bunkai, etc.).  An intriguing piece was "good attitude".  Apparently some folks would get big britches and be a bit condescending to lesser belts.  I don't know how that would even be possible since everyone there is so cooperative.  Different times with a bigger school allows all sorts to move through. 

The other area in which we are expected to perform is the advanced elbow technique.  There are roughly three levels of skill related to the elbow techniques; the first being basic - which would equate to moving out of the way and giving Uke a shot with a elbow.  The next level would be adding a should lock and strike.  The level Mark and I are going to be working on includes a brutal takedown coupled with an arm bar.  After ten of those I had to take a handful of vitamin I this morning - and I fell great. 

The throw and locks occurred during the regular class session after a brief warm up and some partner drills based on the Kyoku Shodan kata.  The browns are just starting their ramp up for the Black Belt process and this is the first of the Shudokan only katas.  The bunkai is pretty straight forward, but I'm feeling a bit bruised from the repetition.  Being the attacker can be a bit painful because the initiating punch is always getting blocked hard to open up some area. 

The after class session had the sit down as I mentioned above, but we went into Kyoku Roku right away.  Mark has missed a few classes so we had to review where he left off.  As agonizing as I find his learning pace, it must no worse than my own.  He has to go over it slowly and repetitively until he's ready to go on.  He then got a big dose of the next steps which I mentioned in the last post. 

My last addition to the kata, following the water cups, is the straight legged kick.  A silly looking think that yori's into a umadachi; the weirdest stance I've ever scene.  One leg bent and the foot forward while the other is straight with the foot turned in.  It's so you can execute a punch to the side while the feet remain in place.  Wild!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


For the second class in a row I haven't had my partner Mark to work with.  Although it's not a drastic thing at the moment, the fact that he was ahead of me was helpful because he could help me work through some stuff.  As of last night I'm slightly ahead in the kata and, I think, have refined enough that I'm looking at least as good has him on what we commonly know. 

I was partnered with Dan Sensei last night in after practice to work on refining the kata till I was blue in the face.  Paired with the fact that I'm not feeling rushed we slowed down the speed and worked on each piece till I started getting it right.  This morning I was able to do it fairly well I thought.  Only a few slow spots that agonize me while I try to remember what's next. 

Regular class was spent with a brief warm up and then kicking drills.  I love these because if we keep regular with them I feel healthy and balanced.  Infrequently practicing them makes me feel out of shape and shaky.  After that I practiced Kyoku 6 four times and got a small addition of moves.  At the after class I was able to get a little bit more. 

The new moves, which I will call the pizza man and the water cup, turned out to be simple in comparison to the constant use of wrist strikes and hand rotation.  Those have been befuddling me for the last three weeks whereas the pizza man took one minute to learn.  The water cup turned out to be an easy one for me.  In my old school we had an exercise where you had a half full cup of water.  You had to rotate it under your arm pit and over your head without spilling it.  This turned out to be the same move.  Hilarious!  I never thought that would turn out to be helpful.  You just have to wait 6 years and poof!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Sh┼źdokan 85

I was hoping to make a bit more progress in the big kata last night, but when I did finally get to work on it in the after class I just stuck with sorting out all the handwork in the one section I'm slightly frustrated with. 

During regular class we worked on adding a few more moves to Nifanshi Shodan, but these were introduced as self defense moves.  After we finished up the warm ups we were to partner up and I got Sensei.  I enjoy working with him but it means I'm going to take some hard hits now and then.  And here I complained about not getting impact now and then!

The after class session took a bit to get started, but I was able to go through my trouble areas several times and iron out the boo-boos as much as I could.  Ivanna went through all my bunkai, but while this was occurring Reed, MaryAnn and Dan were sorting out the application series. 

The application is a continuous display of bunkai using two people.  There is attacker and defender rolls and the purpose is to display the each bunkai shifting back and forth.  If done smoothly it resembles a great fight scene.  I'm looking forward to learning this for sure.  I told my wife she'll have to get the video camera out because when I get to do this it'll be fantastic.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


Mark is 60 something and took his first Alzheimer test awhile back.  He got a borderline result on a basic office visit and means that he'll have to go in for advanced testing - probably a CT to see if there is any physical degradation. 

This bit of knowledge came up while we were in my backyard struggling to remember pieces of the kata (Kyoku 8).  I was genuinely concerned that I was slowing down his progress because I was really having a lot of difficulty with one section and didn't appear to be getting any better.  Amidst my apologies he started talking about memory and he gave me his story. 

His daughter is a psychologist and says that going to Karate is pretty great for him and the continuing health of his brain.  So I guess I have a leg up with trying to study Spanish at the same time, but his open admission about his own concerns made me depressed and hopeful at the same time.  I told him about my Mother and her decline and her current use of a dementia suppression medication.  The underlying fear being - am I going there?   Mark's matter-of-factness certainly goes a long way to making me feel better about being present and just addressing ones issues. 


Because my brain is so full of trying to remember, and frankly not feeling so good with my lack of progress this week, I started feeling nervous about class.  Slowing down Mark, disappointing Reed and myself; all start playing at my nerves.  That small dread of going to class was starting to rear it's ugly head, but, as usual, getting there and going through the motions eliminates the problem. 

In class we were assigned Ivanna to help us (Mark and me) out.  A few runs through the kata with almost constant help at one portion and then it was on to the 7 bunkai.  Ironically, we have those down fairly well, but we are both helping one another.  In a vacuum I'm not sure I could pull them all out by myself.  However, for a teenager, she is incredibly patient with her "old men".  She wanted to make sure of how we learned to make it a successful session, but I realized I have no idea how I learn!

By the time we finished up with our work, class had finished.  But we got a text from Dan Sensei saying that he couldn't have us over after class.  Again, I had that mix of conflicted feelings.  Relief that the evening would be mine, but the horror of not getting more time in to work on the kata.  In the end desire to learn won out and I invited everyone over for a backyard session. 

We collected and started working on the kata, but my yard provided a nice challenge.  It's all down hill.  So when I tried to go into a zenkutsu stance I'd find that rear foot contacting way faster and throwing off my balance. 

We ended up getting a lot farther in the kata and learning the eighth bunkai; humorously called, "I surrender", due the double forearm block that defender employs at the beginning. 

By the end of all the work, my fears has dissipated and my normal crappy practice the next morning wasn't as horrible as I anticipated.  A good week! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

All Natural Percussive Temporary Tattoos

At my old school bruising was regular and sometime spectacular, but it was also a badge of pride.  Now that I look back I sure we looked like a bunch of heroin addicts unable to find veins in our arms anymore.   A side effect of this was that over time I bruised less and less and impacts hurt less and less. 

In my current school the impacts are way less because we are so focused on form, but on occasion we'll have a blocking drill that will remind me of the good old days.  However, I notice that the sensitivity that I worked so hard to drive away appears to be eeking it's way back. 

Last night, I acted as Uke to Reed while he demonstrated a piece of the bunkai from Nifanshi Shodan (Now I realize it's also called Tekki Shodan).  I grabbed his wrist and he would drive my hand down to break the grasp and then while he brought it up he would slam a hammer fist down on top of the forearm to completely break the grip. 

Let's just say that the first time I was pretty sure he used all of his strength to escape the grab.  I'm not sure what my face did, but I was trying to be contained as possible.  I was truly shocked that I could feel that shot as much as I did and wondered about the bruises if it hurt that much.  And then he did four more times. 

Of course this morning there was no bruise and no soreness at all.  Sigh.  For all the lumps I would have like to shown something at work.  More than likely my co-workers would have assumed I'd fallen down. 

Class was mostly dedicated to learning more of the Nifanshi, but after class was back to the Kyoku Roku Dan.  I'm trying to make every piece count, but I feel like I'm slowing Mark down.  He's ahead in the kata and I'm struggling with a lot of nuances.   This was reflected this morning while I practiced the next steps at super slow speed.  Not because I was being cool, but because I couldn't remember the pieces.  Sigh.