Thursday, October 29, 2015

I Promised...

I promised to myself that I would not gripe about my physical ills on the blog, but since I've had some time off working on the house I've collected a slew of small issues.  Most notably my right foot has three puncture wounds that have healed enough that I can endure class, but last week's session produced a tear in the pad of my big toe.  Which simply produces the worst pain until it healed up.  I guess it's the constant pulling and movement.

So last night I'm doing good, but notice another spot on the right foot is giving away.  Great.  This time near the pinky toe.  I should have called myself Pinkytoe instead of Potatoefist.  

It was just Mark and I until an boy of about five was brought into class.  This isn't usually a big deal, but the kid's parents are the most beautiful people I've seen.  All white teeth and blond hair with a tan.  And on top of that the boy is able to focus the whole time!  Damn perfect people.

Reed Sensei had us go through movement drills that made us look absolutely horrible.  So move forward, block/strike, turn to the open part of the stance, block and strike, turn forward do it again and move forward.  We looked worse than the five year old.  Super embarrassing.  At one point a guy came in to watch and I think he left after 10 minutes.  Probably wondering why a couple of advanced belts looked like lurching drunks.

We finished up with Kata work and although nothing new was learned on the Kusanku I did refine a few pieces.  

I'll be in out for the next month making attendance very sporadic.  I'm hoping December allows me to get into a regular pattern.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Move and Sprawl

Two nights in a row!  I'm practically a lifer at this point.  Ha! After such a long time off I was incredibly sore on Tuesday.  I still felt pretty horrible this morning, but I was kind of excited to work on something new. 

Unfortunately plans went a little sideways because we did a lot of basics which I clearly needed.  Shudokan uses a very direct approach and they are okay about crossing feet on attack which I can't even begin to do unless I concentrate really hard. That and very twisted torso on the reverse punch.  I mean it makes sense to cover a lot of distance, but it takes a lot relearning on my part. 

I'm also out of practice as it relates to distance and contact.  My left punch was severely needing some recalibration.  I struggled so much and partner was a slight 19 year old girl.  If I made a poor contact I would have taken her head off. 

While we practiced variations on that Reed Sensei brought out the mats and for the next session.  Which was defending against the sprawl.  The standard first attack from someone with a wrestler background which goes for the legs needs to be countered by a sprawl.  Basically jetting the legs out wide and making your weight forward and down.  Each of use did a couple of go rounds trying to tackle someone our own weight, but Reed is a big man and it didn't go well for me. 

We then did a 6 o clock, 12 o clock position to turn the attacker over and get into an arm bar.  Lots of fun, but I split my food pad and ground  a lot skin off my feet ouch. 

Great night and I feel very exercised.  Well see how I feel tomorrow!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Big Sweatin'

I just realized I haven't posted since August!  Well I'm back for at least three sessions before travel and work get in the way again. 

Back in August we decided to work on the house again  which meant that we'd be working every night and every weekend.  It's been grueling, but we've made major progress.  During this time the only time I've had to myself to practice is really early in the morning.  Three katas a day has allowed me to keep most things in place.  I was rewarded in class when Reed Sensei said, "well you've obviously been practicing", boom!

After a brief warm-up I taught, or retaught, Sarah the staff routine and after a few goes at that Reed moved me back to the Kusanku and refined my boo-boos.  I got learn the next section which was a lot of fun. 

On the ride home I realized I haven't been moving like that in a long time.  Lots of ab work to jump around.  Argh.  This weekend I turned 49 so I felt pretty good that I still move pretty well and kick pretty high.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New Kata 2

After warm up Reed Sensei got me back on Kusanku to introduce me to the next couple of pieces.  Since I actually haven't seen the complete kata I have no idea it's overall length or complexity.  So it's kind of fun to iron out the components as they come.  

Periodically Reed will stop and work through a piece of the kata. When I asked he said he hadn't taught this one in five years!  I don't know if I could remember anything if I stopped doing it after 6 months.  He certainly has a phenomenal memory.

After that it was back to the elbow techniques. This time I was trying to test my knowledge by going first, but I was only able to get through the first five and still needed hints.  We got through the two bunkai and application and then moved up to Mark's third kata's work.  I hope I'm helping him memorize this stuff because it comes slow to me.

The heat is almost unbearable outside, but the sport's club where we have class is nicely air conditioned.  For some reason I don't cool down that much when I'm changing out, so I'm perspiring before we even get started.  I'm wearing a light gi and it feels so close and clingy.  Yuck.  

No running or weights due to travel and I'll be leaving town tomorrow for the rest of the week.  I'm 200 lbs this morning.  Hopefully I can keep it under control.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New Kata!

As I've mentioned before Shūdokan is very focused on kata.  The preset movements act as a foundation to everything done at the school.  First comes kata, then the bunkai and finally the application.  

Unlearning the casual brutality of my old school is not difficult, but I often look back fondly on how tough it used to make me feel.  I miss the physical contact, but not the injury so I console myself with the excitement of learning new stuff as a replacement.  However, my learning curve is a bit modest.  At six katas, I'm still getting fine tuning tips and reminders about footwork etc. 

To my pleasure, last night Reed Sensei hit me up with, "let's work on a new kata tonight" again.  Before that started Mark and I went through the ten elbow techniques and then worked on the Kyoku series.  

The Kyoku are specific to Shūdokan meaning that they aren't supposed to be shared openly.  That being said they feel fairly normal in the scope of kata, but their bow in and out are unusual.  Working with Mark on their bunkai and application didn't take that long since we'd worked on them in the past I could kind of remember them reasonably well.  

My new kata is called Chattan Yata Ku San Ku.  I have no earthly idea if I'm spelling that correctly.  Apparently, we borrow several kata from Yata from Chattan (or maybe that's the other way around?).  Reed Sensei tells me this is black belt kata which will have some jump kicks.  We made it through the first leg so now I have something new to practice!

Exercise note

I'm trying to keep consistent with the running.  I got up to 2.5 miles, but it was littered with stops and one of my calves gave up on the return.  Assuming I have time tonight I'm going to try again and see how it feels.  

I'm keeping up with the weights, but's relegated to the weirdest most broken up schedule I could imagine. For instance I did shoulders at 5 this morning.  What the hell is wrong with me!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Low Legs, Lowest Legs

It was a fantastic evening.  I had been having a difficult time keeping a regular schedule in the last month mostly due to season tickets to our local Women's soccer team and a lot of social obligations. So actually getting to class has become a pleasure as well because it acts as a stabilizing force in an otherwise chaotic schedule.

There are 10 techniques and I notice everyone has there mnemonic.  Here is my new list:

  1. Stop 1
  2. Stop 2
  3. Stop 3
  4. Waiter 1
  5. Waiter 2
  6. holding
  7. Slippery
  8. Elbows
  9. holding
  10. Knockdown twist
Of course, this morning I can't remember what I call number 6 or 9, but I'm getting better!  

I worked the rest of the class with MaryAnn Sensei on her application of a Gojo Ryu kata.  I'm about a foot and half taller than her which is great for her because of the Aikido-like management of the attacker.  I walk up behind her and grab her arms which lead to a complicated arm lock (because I don't let go), a heel to the groin, followed by a Judo throw.  I think it's a Harai goshi or Hane Goshi, but unlike a Judo throw there is no way to exit and slap.  So you just eat the mat with your arm drawn up behind you.

All 40 throws. The Harai and Hane are tucked in there.

When it was my turn to be the defender I was operating at the height advantage/disadvantage.  I have to squat lower than MaryAnn's hips to do the hand work and the throw.  After four attempts I ended up having to stop due to burning knees and thighs.  I'm sure I'm not doing something correctly, but this is for MaryAnn's next rank so I doubt I'll need to work on this anytime soon.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Exercise Note 2

The heat in the area is showing no signs of going anywhere so I grabbed my running sandals and hit the road in 100 degree, arid heat.  The strange thing about being in such a dry stretch is that it didn't appear that I was sweating at all.  I am fairly used to perspiring a moderate amount trying to move my 200 lbs around.  I realized later that it was probably evaporating as fast as I was producing it.  I never felt uncomfortable, but I only ran for 13 minutes netting me a 1.3 mile run.  Not very exciting, but with reconstructing my gait and a slight fear of overdoing it in the heat I thought I did pretty good.

I only took one pause at the turn around, but I did feel sorry for people out in the heat as I trundled by.  A man chasing his stomach while his lovely moobs swayed to a mild beat has got to put anyone off their chow.  I wonder how my wife can tolerate the site.  However, this might explain why she has the lights off in the bedroom when I come to bed.

The important part of this note (really not all about self-loathing) is that my legs don't hurt at all, but I have a small amount of tenderness on the tip of one toe that must have been rubbing incorrectly. Talk about a great progress.  My knee didn't show any sign of wear or tear and my legs feel comfortably exercised without the gripping pain from my last go round.

I squeezed in a shoulder work out while we watched TV later in the evening.  It feels great to use weights again after all this time, but I must admit it's a bit upsetting to use such small amounts.  I'd rather keep away from injury though and I'm keeping my eye on the long path.

For those of you interested in near barefoot running here's the site I eventually chose because of the price of make it yourself shoes Xero Shoes.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gettin' Swole

Since my crippling run on Sunday I haven't put on the sandals for my next run, but I would say I'm more or less back in working order.  All the pain I experienced several days after is gone and my legs feel a bit stronger.

The problem with going for a run is that we are going to be hitting 100 today.  The only time to run being late in the evening and that's when I'm trying to get ready for bed.  A conundrum since I need to get back out on the road.  It might be a short run (1 mile), but it'll be getting out there for a little bit to toughen those feet up and work on my technique.

Just as I left the house last night my wife said, "have fun", which I rarely think about anymore. While I attended at my old school I made her say, "break a leg" as way of fending off injury.  That honestly didn't work since I was fending off injury constantly.  And now when she says have fun it appears to have the opposite effect.  Last night was an unfortunate repeat, but it started with a moment of enthusiasm.

Reed Sensei asked me if I was ready to learn a new Kata!  I was very excited by this even though I could work on what I have for some time, but I ended up spending the class working on the staff routine with Sarah.  Again the class went quickly because of the focus on refinements, but I didn't get learn anything new.  Sad face.

I got home and had some energy after dinner and descended into the basement and actually worked out with the weights.  Finally putting a light workout on my chest.  My morning push up regimen hasn't been able to keep up with my aging muscle mass; giving me the appearance of a post-menopausal B cup.  I really don't like taking my shirt off.  This is one very important reason to get the weights.  Of course I don't want to hurt myself so I had to take it easy last night with very light weights and two sets.  Maybe in a year I can build up to something more.  At the very least I'd like to have some tension in my muscles.  I hate looking in the mirror and seeing something that looked like a man, but now a melted candle shaped one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Burning Thighs

My foray into barefootish running lead to an immediate physical blow back.  I finished a mile and half loop and felt pretty good until the next day.  The idea is that because you are moving so carefully you insulate yourself from impact and thus running doesn't cause any issues to knees and back.

What is not mentioned is that if you are still out of shape your body is going to be pissed off after a surprise exercise session.  I got up on Monday morning barely able to move my legs.  My left knee felt liked it had been kicked by a mule which is an unfortunate sign that I overdid the exercise.  On the flip side I had zero problems with my feet.

So it was off to class in the evening with my normal pattern of trepidation, but it this case it was founded on the concern that I could barely walk up the stairs.  Thankfully we did a bit more warm up than usual and I didn't suffer horribly when we had to run around the room five times.  The class went smoothly.  I ended up doing the elbow techniques and staff routine with Sarah the whole time.  She's better at picking everything up than I was.  But  I could be an awesome teacher as well.  Hah.

I got home and told my wife how it was going to be the last cool night in awhile so we should go to an outdoor brewery and enjoy the evening air.  She agreed, but later asked to take the bikes.  I thought to myself, "well this is going to be challenging", but it wasn't far so I thought we'd be okay.

The next 45 minutes almost led to a divorce.  My wife, who is always flawless in directions, decided to take a different route.  Again, I wasn't worried, because she always finds routes that are usually faster.  We ended up converting a 15 minute ride into the tour de France.  I have never been so agitated.  It was like she was choosing a larger hill at each bad turn.  My already burning legs were on fire.  I had no idea there was so many hills in the Rose city.  Lactic acid aside, I was also only riding a bike that only has three gears.  More suited to beach cruising our pleasure bikes turned into mobile torture devices.  My wife, however, had the indignity to never appear to be out of breath.

We eventually got to the brewery.  I waxed philosophic about how the ride home would be easy, but my newly shredded legs were like pushing a rope.  By the time I got to bed I could barely walk.  Today was hilarious because I had to walk down stairs to leave and I had to clutch the railing like a sailor on the deck of ship getting tossed in massive waves.

This should be a running day, but I don't think that's going to happen.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Exercise Note 1

I purchased some Bowflex adjustable weights off of Craigslist this week and started a modest work out routine yesterday.

In the evening I did an 8 mile bike ride followed by a half mile run with my new sandals.  I should mention that I ate a huge amount negating any of the positive effects I was working towards, but I woke up feeling a bit fitter.  I'm sure it was all psychological, but I'll take it.

As promised, running in sandals turns out to be a less stressful activity that one would think.  Because you are conscious of your feet, you become careful about the force you place on them which evens out your running.  I also had to make sure that I keep my posture upright.  I realize a half mile isn't saying much, but my feet and legs appear to have no issues.  I'm not sure how this is going to pan out as weather gets colder, but I'm anxious to try a longer run when I get back from our weekend.

My goal is to run regularly for a month.  When the scorching heats the area I don't even want to go outside,  limiting my time to the evening or the morning.   We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Big Shūdokan 50

I guess I should express some enthusiasm for making it to my 50th class, but in all actuality I haven't passed a year and relatively speaking I haven't learned a lot of the syllabus.  

That being said, I've enjoyed the class immensely and love the folks there. Progress feels slow, but every time things speed up I can barely keep up.  So maybe the pace is just right for me. 

Monday night I helped teach the squirrelly kids basic movement to "wear them out".  All that I succeeded in was to tire myself and doubt that the kids were getting the point.  

The rest of the night I spent teaching Sarah the beginnings of the staff routine, Chattan Yatta.  She's got a lot of experience in her old school so she was able to pick up a lot faster than I originally did.

Fitness Report

Living in the Rose City can be a trying experience in that life here is a never ending exposure to delicious food and wonderful beers.  As my friend likes to say, "sometimes you have to pump the brakes!" referring to slowing or stopping the cycle of visiting a new restaurant or brewery every couple of days.  

So I do what most people do; I find something different to get me motivated. I'm back up to 205 and I'd rather not be there since it's not muscle.  So I bought some weights off Craigslist.  This had to be the shadiest thing I've ever done. 

"Cash only, no check" muttered the barely articulate man in a heavy eastern European accent.  The boxes were brand new and I assume must have fallen off a truck somewhere.  Clearly not what he had in the pictures as they were photographs he must have pulled off the web somewhere.  I quickly loaded the boxes and took off.  

The other part of my healthy regimen is to get back to running/jogging.  I say this so often that it all sounds like a joke to me.  However, after reading the book "Born to Run". I got motivated by the idea that I could possibly run longer than my best three miles.  

To this end I ordered a kit to build some running sandals.  We'll see how this pans out.  I did a test last week to the end of my street and, low and behold, it wasn't bad.  I'll let you know how it goes.  

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Inauspicious Return

After a month of having an unsettling bronchiospasmic cough that still appears once in a while I was pretty excited to return to class.  I think I've been out for almost two months at this point.  

I got in late by my standard (five minutes till) and no one was there.  Which always leads me to think that I may have gone on the wrong day or they had a holiday and neglected to mention that to me.  However, I had a text chat with Sensei and knew that everyone should be there.  

Before we got started a very muscular man came in with his 6 or 7 year old son. I didn't get to chat because we started to line up pretty quick, but before Sensei rushed in I overheard him talking to his son.  It was along the lines of "I know you don't want to come sometimes;  I know it's fun when your brother is here; sometime we have to keep coming to build on things...".  I was impressed because this was a very big man.  The kind I associate with brash, over the top personalities that come with steroid laden work outs and gold chains.  However, this guy was extremely mild and obviously a thoughtful and caring parent.  So point to him for breaking my mental stereotype.  

Although his son seemed hesitant and shy, he opened up nicely during the class and participated fully during the class.  Sensei does work with the kids very well.

After bow-in Sensei grabbed me and we went through Chattan Yata (the staff kata) again.  So much for my warm up!  He fine tuned six areas that had fallen off in my practice and then I literally spend the next forty minutes practicing the kata and getting those pieces he mentioned back in alignment.  

This got me to thinking.  Of all the practice I do - over time I manage to lose components of kata and technique regularly.  I remember all the forgotten stuff as soon as it's pointed out, but my memory apparently can hold so much if it's not constantly being reemphasized.  To test this I was trying to do some of my old TSD katas this morning and for the most part they are only living as pieces. I'm sure I could relearn without too much effort, but I assume my focus should only be on the task at hand. 

The last ten minutes of class was spent on wrist locks!  Finally something I could do with some confidence.  As I assumed - there are only so many variations on a theme, but always something done a little different.  I definitely brought a bunch more then they were teaching and they were okay with that.  

The way I was taught:
  • grab same side wrist with thumb up
  • grab same side wrist with thumb down
  • grab opposite side with thumb up 
  • grab opposite side with thumb down (kinda dumb, but you need to know how to get out of stuff)
In each of those there should be an escape and or a lead in to capture and lock. Shudokan (or whoever donated these techniques) allows for rotation in a grip where TSD does not.  Both are effective.  So I feel like I expanded by personal canon and maybe got a little respect from the gang.  Weeee.  

The reason it was inauspicious was because I was sweating so profoundly I couldn't believe it.  The work with the staff was so completely tiring that I had to periodically stop for a drink of water.  My shoulders are screaming today and my neck feels two inches thicker than it should.  Nevertheless, it's awesome to be moving again!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Off Task

Hey loyal followers and anyone else that makes it to this page!  I haven't posted in a bit because of family issues and an unfortunate cough that has turned out to be bronchitis.  I'm looking forward to seeing the end of it, but I'm only on week two and I've been told the minimum is four to six weeks.  I'm going to try to return to class tomorrow to see how I do.  I'm almost up to 50 classes and I love a milestone, but to what end I'm not sure.  Just that it's a nice round number.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Story Time

One thing that I very much like at this school is the "story time" component.  Apparently, the original gringo got his stories from the Japanese master and would periodically tell them.  In time each school leader would repeat them so after awhile everyone would get the details; a verbal history as it were.

These stories are where the kata came from and how they have changed and why.  Yesterday's story was about the elbow techniques that we have to know.  The basic ten moves we have to know for the first black are performed with another person (Uke) who pretty much just throws a straight punch.  But because there are ten of them my poor memory struggles to get past four or five.  Everybody seems to be making a mnemonic to remember, but so far that hasn't happened for me yet. 

The story of the elbows is that Ichigawa was in Europe (Switzerland?) with Morris Mack Sensei.  He had a dream that included a kata of elbow techniques.  When he woke he approached Morris and said I think this is for you.  Morris said thanks and learned it, but didn't think much of it.  Over time that kata became the ten techniques we know now.  While we learn them Reed Sensei also shows the things that have changed even through his sojourn;  an open hand here versus and fist there.  It gives the feeling of acting out living history. 

During the warm ups I was telling Reed that I really liked how I wasn't constantly fighting injury in this school.  This is germane because I woke up this morning with a mangled neck again and shoulder again.  I can't figure what I'm doing that flairs that but it was completely gone for the last couple weeks.  Sigh.  I've also started running again which makes my legs completely fried.  Stretching feels I'm pulling scabs.  I definitely have to work that in more regularly. 

One of the teenage students, Kyle, is going to be off for the summer.  I told him that I hoped I'd be farther ahead by the time he got back.  He said, "If youre better that would be great for me to learn from and if you're not it'll give me an opportunity to resume where I left off".  Either way he wins.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Notices Of Age

I am absolutely in the worst pain right now.  Apparently abundant manual labor around the house is no substitute for the gym and moderately hard aerobics.  I discontinued running awhile back because I just didn't seem to be able to put it to my schedule.  The same goes with the gym.  Since I've moved to the Rose City I haven't been able to look at a gym because of the time commitment. 

Which brings me to why I'm so uncomfortable right now.  Last night we started late and MaryAnn Sensei led the warm-up.  Although she is thorough, I can barely stifle an inward groan sometimes.  She takes a long time and doesn't use an out loud count.  This leads to the occasional late start.  Last night was an impressive detour into yoga moves.  If it were anything but in our class I would have applauded because I clearly needed to work on torso flexibility, but the warm up went into the 30 minute mark and I was groaning before we finished.  What happened to my flexibility?

While we were finishing up Reed Sensei placed rubber disk in patterns around the back of the room.  This indicates we'd be doing movement drills.  Again this can be onerous, but are great for reminding our feet what they need to be doing.  However, last night they went into new territory.  I thought doing cartwheels was a challenge, but we did a one knee down squats.  Again this shouldn't have been an issue, but even after one run of 10 or so squats I could feel my hams lock up.  By the 20th I could barely stand up. 

Thankfully everyone was very supportive, but I think they were a bit concerned since my face was not only congested red, but I was sporting a rictus of pain.  After that, we were asked to see what we needed to work on.  I partnered with Kyle to work on details of Pinan Shodan.

When I got home I needed to mow the lawn.  Now a considerably daunting task since my legs weren't really supporting my weight.  It was like someone removed my knees.  Before I hit the sack I took a Alleve and I think it was the only thing that allowed me to get out of bed today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


After two plus weeks off I was experiencing my normal anxiety about returning to class.  I may have mentioned this before, but it's like experiencing a panic attack.  The adrenaline is spiking and I feel absolutely weak.  I know, intellectually, that I'll be fine when class starts, but wading through that is challenging.  

What made me nervous is that I feel out of shape and it was going to be a long night.  I was hosting the after class practice in the basement dojo and that can run on till 7.  So I'll be going from flaccid to three hours straight.

Class whistled by and I did some focus time with MaryAnn Sensei on the Goju kata, then we did a little work on the Pinan Shodan.  This time doing the application work which everyone finds very fun.  I partnered with Olivia and once we worked out the bugs we moved very well together.  

During After hours I worked with Mark most of the time on his three applications.  Which in any situation is a sickening amount of stuff to remember.  He did great until the last bit which is when he lost a few moves.  We tied it together and thought we were great until Sensei came by and point out that we missed a huge amount of stuff.  Back to beginning!  

At the end of the night we reviewed the application drill that we had gone through during class and I was partnered with MaryAnn Sensei and she demonstrated that enthusiasm doesn't always equate with smoothness.  It's a hell of a thing to talk to a senior and ask them to slow down.  

As of this writing I'm only experiencing modest soreness, but I imagine as the day progresses I'll be begging for ibuprofen.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


After being overwhelmed on Monday, a little dedicated time in the evening to work on the kata appeared to let things settle in my mind.  Although I still have to stop and think, I can keep things separate now.  I mean I have to really think the whole kata through before I do it.  Thankfully they are really short.

We went over the 6 major blocks; which I find very different from my own.  Anytime we do a block we initiate with elbows stacked.  It's somewhat exaggerated, and when we do them at speed a lot of that is lost, but we practice all at three speeds.  The lesson is that you want to get it correct, but at speed you're not going to be perfect.  And that you have to practice at high speed. 

After that we worked a bit more on Pinan Shodan before Mark and I worked on his kata, bunkai, application work. 

At the end of class we gathered at the front for a lesson.  Reed Sensei likes to spend a few minutes for an instruction or moral tale.  I wasn't sure what to make of these, but I enjoy them because I can't think of anytime in my life that anyone actually said this stuff (maybe Sunday school?).  Last night's lesson referred to eye gazes.  To recall we tend to look up and to the right and if stretching the truth we tend look down and to the right.  Thus the term "a downright liar".  Obviously it depends on lots of factors, but it was pretty cool.

He finalized the time with a poem:
I'm born with a set of tools,
A shapeless mass,
And a book of rules.
I need to build
before I die
a stumbling block
or stepping stone. 

I don't think I have that totally right, but you can see that where he was going with it.  Nice sentiment and places the work in creating the people we want to be in our own hands.  Or that's how I interpreted it. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Little Overwhelmed

I think I officially hit the point of saturation yesterday.  I'm up to six kata and I'm struggling to keep it all straight.  They start to fold in on one another and then I have to go back and start over again during practice.  Then they evaporate altogether!

I got to class a bit early and asked one of the young black-belts if they knew the second Geki kata.  She had no idea what I was talking about.  So I guess Reed Sensei is assigning me kata based on an algorithm know only to him.  I'm not complaining other than I don't think I'm doing things justice.  I can do the technique well, but have a hard time remembering transitions and stances. 

In my latest case the two Geki kata are very similar and start off the same, but change subtly after the first run 1/3.  So now they are blended and I'm struggling to keep them separate. 

Added to this is that the whole class is learning a kata together (Pinan Shodan) which is fun and all, but as in the case last night I'm removed to help the black belt test guy.  Which I love, but then I lose the content of the other stuff! 

So until I can settle the Gekis I'm going to have to practice more in the evening to separate them.  Another concern is that my forms from TSD are going to go away!  How do we keep all this in place?!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New Stuff

After warm up I was directed to MaryAnn Sensei while each group went to work on different things depending on skill.  I was supposed to check off on Gekki SaiDai-Ichi and then learn the next in series, Ni.  I love this kata because it's relatively short and incorporates sanchin. 

We went through it a few times and refined some pieces and then moved on to Ni.  It starts pretty much the same way, but moves to open hand Sanchin and changes to cat stances in the end.  Fun! 

Not me, but this is exactly the one I just learned.

I finished the day working on Wando with Kyle.  I had to straighten out the starting stances. 

I also realized that I have been given a lot of respect in that they continue to teach me Black belt level kata.  I was struck by the fact that no one else seems to be working on the things that I'm working on.  It could be that I'm being taught things that are somewhat for someone getting close to the test or for the 2nd degree.  I'm really not sure, but it is fun.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fight Night 2

One of the returning Black Belts, Olivia, requested a sparring night so I wasn't too surprised to find that we were going to do last night.  What I was surprised by was my physical response - total adrenaline wipe out.  I know everyone is different about how it hits them, but for me it's always been complete exhaustion.  It's like I have all the after-effects and none of the exhilaration. 

We had a brief warm up and then spent a good 20 minutes on movement drills.  Basically trying to speed up our ability get in and out of distance.  The drills are great because they drive in the idea that you don't need to cross your feet to move in all directions and that you can actually move quicker as a result. 

The class had about 12 people so I got two matches in.  One with Mark (the brown belt) and one with Reed Sensei.  I got Mark 3 to 1, but Reed whooped me 3-0.  I'd like to think that I got a couple of good ones in, but they were either obscured or occurred at the same time and he presents way better than me.  By that I mean he ke-ayes appropriately.  It always takes me a few minutes to remember that.  Derp.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shūdokan 40

I ran into class a few minutes after it started.  Dojo decorum dictates that I sit in seiza (kneeling with feet crossed) until I'm acknowledged by the Sensei and asked to join the class.  Even on marginally soft material seiza is brutal to me after a couple of minutes.  Circulation cuts off quickly, but in this case I'm kneeling on hardwood to add the measure of discomfort. 

Sensei pointed to me after a minute and I started to rise, but he began explaining to the class how I was demonstrating appropriate behavior and went on for another minute before asking me to join.  I got to my feet unsteadily and joined in the kicking warm up.   I normally love exiting seiza because you can stand so smoothly without using your hands, but in my case it looked pretty unsteady. 

We were "introduced" to side kicks last night.  I've been doing these since my first day in beatings over a decade ago.  Considered an advanced technique in this school it has only been shown to me for the first time last night.  In a way to get folks to possibly avoid worrying about foot placement, the kick practice is to direct the foot to the rear corner.  This mean you don't have to shift the floor foot. Clever but weird to me.  And since I'm nursing a sore back that doesn't seem to want to heal, my kicks were incredibly low. 

Then it was on to learning yet another kata!  I'm struggling a bit to practice them all in the morning.  My TSD ones are falling behind due to time constraints!  The one we are learning is Pinan Shodan which includes that side kick.  Although we didn't get all the way through Sensei had us work on the bunkai of the first couple of moves.

One rather significant point of the bunkai, in this case, was to showcase how to properly rest into the cat stance (Nekoashi Dachi).  If done correctly the groin is protected. 

I'm hugely dubious of this claim because I can't quite get into the position to hide my junk, but Reed Sensei had me kick him in the groin twice in front of the class to show that it can be done.  Brave man.  So I know it's possible, but I can't control the cringe that comes along with impact downstairs.  Something to work on.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Drink From The Firehose!

In attempt to be a bit healthier I decided to eat a salad at lunch.  This turned out to be a poor idea.  By the time I got home I was ravenous and had to set up the basement dojo for after class practice.  I finished putting the mats down and ran upstairs and shoveled a few handfuls of frosted mini wheats into my mouth before running out to class.

I usually try to get to class about 15 minutes before go time.  This allows me to warm up a bit and go through my katas before the kids show up and start running around.  It's nice to have all the space to myself.  I also don't have to worry about ramming the staff into the ceiling when I do that kata. 

In last nights class we had a fairly difficult warmup, because Olivia, our 18 year old Black Belt, lead and her youth comes with a lot of energy.  Running on low calories also mean that I was swaying when we got up from the floor. 

Our group activity was to work on reverse cat stance, with block and kick.  After doing that for awhile I was pulled aside to learn Kyoku Shodan.  Mark got the job to teach me, which I thought was nice because I'd been his dummy for awhile and now I was actually learning was he was going through with me in the past.  It's a simple kata for beginners, but with the addition of Bunkai and Application I was a little overwhelmed. 

After class we met in my basement and I had to demonstrate all three components to Reed Sensei.  This means doing the kata, doing two Bunkai (self-defense-esque setups) and then application of the whole kata from an attackers and defenders standpoint. 

Then I was partnered with MaryAnn Sensei to work on Gekki Sai Dai Ichi.  I knew the basic pattern, but I need to sort out all the foot work.  Since it's a Goju Ryu I assumed it was all Sanchin stance, but there is all kinds of stances.  So we worked that out and I sat back for a second and realized that I was completely saturated.  By that I mean I could work on what was in front of me, but I was concerned that I was going to forget what I just worked on. 

This morning I did all four kata and was pleased that I could remember what I worked on, but it all felt rough; with plenty of stopping and thinking instead of just "doing". 

So occasionally drinking from the fire house is possible without getting your head blown completely off.  I'm living proof.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Rebuild 2

I came in a bit early and worked on my katas and generally warmed up.  Olivia returned, potentially swelling our ranks to one more person.  And then the surprise was that Charlotte (a four year old?) was joined by her mother, Sarah.  She decided to join the class.  She came from a Kyoshukin school and was asking me questions.  We both came to the conclusion that the lack of sparring and hard contact exercises was probably a good thing.  I based that on the fact that I don't have regular injuries or trips to the doctor at all.  So kind of sad and kind of nice.

The basics we worked on were knife hand and stance differentiation.  Because Shudokan borrows from other schools, they want to pay respect by doing technique as that school does.  To this end bow ins, stances and movement are all to mirror the founding school.  So we often come across with all kinds of things that tend to be very specific. 

For example, we learned the difference between fudo dachi and shiko dachi.  Two different schools that are similar, but neither uses both.  Fudo puts the feet into a "L" shape.  Whereas Shiko places the feet 120 degrees. 

We practice Fudo and then added the knife hand strike.  After flailing about for awhile we actually appeared to smooth out after awhile. It was learning to walk and chew gum all over again.  I assume that only my massive years of experience allowed me to do it without falling on my face.  Hah!

We finished up with escapes from front choke attempts.  The more advanced technique ended up in a standing guillotine.  My neck is still tender from a few weeks ago (exacerbated by chopping wood) so I was a bit nervous.  Thankfully my youthful companion decided not to joist down on my neck. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rebuild The Base

Class took a slightly strange turn last night.  Instead of test prep, we worked a strange augmented block.  Not that the block was strange, but that it was initiated from a side chamber.  I guess a lot of any art probably looks odd from the outside perspective.  The trick at the end of this was the disclaimer that we (black belts) would need to execute the block at the very last moment.  This causes me to rethink everything I'm doing and thus look and feel very clumsy.  Relearning, retooling whatever the word might be.

This was prep for Pinan Shodan.  Which has tantalizing similarities with my Pinan Sa Dan.  It will be interesting as we learn more of the Kata to see their similarities.

A new old person showed up. Olivia has her Shodan (1st degree black belt), but hasn't been able to attend due to her college schedule.  Hopefully she'll be able to continue to come regularly.  I am finding that our 4pm time is pretty terrible for most folks.  I love it because I get home early in the afternoon.  However, the school will never expand at that time slot. 

After class it was back to the basement dojo at my house.  Seven people packed in and we managed to get me through the entirety of Gekki Sai Dai Ichi.  Now for the refinement process.  Fifty times till I look vaguely smooth and then retool again for correction.  Wee.

After the basement session I noticed that Sensei Reed and Sensei Daniel talking by the car for several hours.  I went out and chatted with them.  Daniel has a degree in business administration and was selling a business plan to Reed.  I applaud this because Reed has no plan.  He knows that we need to grow.  Currently he's got six regular paying students (including me).  However, to get a better time slot at the gym we'll need to make more money and then we'll be able to attract more students.  A sort of chicken before the egg situation.  Of course the idea is to have a self-sufficient free-standing facility in some nebulous future.  They had it once and it worked well for them. 

I feel a type of ownership in the whole deal because they are such nice people.  And who doesn't want more time to get a beating?  Two hours a week and some extra on the side doesn't make for a steep learning curve.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Flex And Fall

We had a nice warm-up which included stretching.  I mention this because this school doesn't really focus on this too much.  I guess if you are working on flexibility it needs to happen outside of class.  Since the kicks and work we do are pretty basic, flexibility isn't an issue.  I have to give this approach a lot of respect because the athleticism required for fancy kicks and dynamic moves wouldn't have been great for me.  I would have tried to do them and been sore all the time. 

That being said, I ended up getting thrashed quite a bit working with Kyle on his next self-defense moves.  Uke leads with a left jab, that arm is captured in an arm lock followed by a takedown, move into shoulder lock and rollover.  Then submission.  After 30 minutes of that I was creaking.  If Kyle did the take down slowly I ended up falling slowing and that always hurts.  Once we got up to speed I could take the fall normally.  Unfortunately, I would have to take it slow for him and that put strain on my back. 

In the final 10 minutes I worked with Mark on his Application component again.  As Reed Sensei points out I'm learning everything really out of sequence and don't even know the kata that the application process is derived from, but should I get to the point where I learn that one this experience will be nice to have under the belt.

- fall back into cat stance with left mid block
- step forward with one two punch
- fall back into cat stance with left schtow(?)
- grab his right with your left and do right schtow. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Assuming the test was a bit anti-climactic to my co-students, I was wondering how they were going to be emotionally post celebration.  I assumed a renewed attitude to get it right next time.  However, class was restricted to four of us.  People were out sick or obligated and none of the kids showed up because of spring break.  Which didn't make it feel like we were going to jump in with vigor.  Ivanna was out sick and Mark did, at the very least, look more focused. 

There was a couple of young guys working out in the room when I got there who ended up joining us.  Sensei talked about prices and some other basic class stuff when I got to work on my stuff.  A young lady came in a bit later.  I assume she must have been a previous student she started working with MaryAnn on a somewhat advanced technique. 

It was back to the Bo (staff) for me to iron out even more technique issues.  Mostly focused on stance and then Sensei had me focus on staff positions.  Then on to work with Mark.  During the test I found out that he had been only trained up to a certain portion of what the other folks already knew.  So now he's learning the mirror of his training.  That means that I get to learn by his side as his temporary Uke.  As I mentioned in the last post, the test taker has to know the techniques backwards and forwards.  In Mark's case he was only shown the forwards.  Due to our rather short learning schedule per week that's all that he could get in before the test.  I'm not sure why Sensei didn't just wait off, but my guess is that he wanted Mark to experience a test to see how it felt. 

I got a quick review of what the work will be for Mark and Ivanna for the next quarter.  It's going to be tougher for Ivanna I think.  She's going to have to retool her whole approach to how she presents. 

Monday, March 23, 2015


I put my big boy gi pants on and went with the other black belts from our school and went down to Eugene.  It was a two hour trip with two hours spent getting there and then two hours back.  I finally got home at 11pm.  It made for a very long day. 

First thing of note was their school.  An old auto shop that had been refitted at some expense.  It must have been 2000 square feet or so.  Two full rooms.  That school's leader was a fifth degree (go dan) which gave the proceedings a very authoritative feeling, but the big deal was the Shihan and his wife (another super high ranker) doing the judging.

So many degrees I got sunburn.

The fun bit was being in a room with only blackbelts.  Everyone was very convivial and most people were mostly focused on warming up.

21 Black and 2 Brown

I can't claim that I totally understood the scoring system, but the candidate had to perform 10 kata, then they had to break it down into sections with another person and then perform the whole kata with another person at attacker and defender.  Afterwords it was elbow techniques and some self-defense.  

The other Shodans (first degree black belts like me) from the Eugene school had to constantly ask questions among themselves because they didn't understand why our folks were doing different stuff from their folks.  Confusion abound.  There were two Browns shooting for their blacks, about five Sho's going for their Nidan and two Nidan were going for their third.  Of our school one brown and one Ni didn't make it, but the guy going for his third did great.    

So the ride home had a somber feeling, but we'll see how folks are tonight.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Surprise Celebration

I knew something was up when I walked into class last night.  Chairs were set up all around the periphery and mats were on the floor.  Most of the kids were there running around and a few of the adult students were fussing around.  My presumption - we were going to do a dress rehearsal for Celebration (nice way of saying testing), but I was incorrect. 

Sensei Reed hadn't gotten to everyone at the last minute, but we were doing the Celebration last minute for the colored belts and on Friday the black belts and candidate Mark were going to Eugene to test! 

Apparently the head cheese got double booked and it was either that or waiting until May and driving to Yakima (five hour drive?).  So the three black belts and Mark all decided Friday was good.  I'm invited along, but not sure if I want to burn half a day for the experience.  I want to be there for Mark and celebrate if he's successful and be supportive if he's not. 

While the kids tested I was helping Mark through the toughest bit of one of his routines and that took the whole hour.  So I ended up missing how the process was, but it was definitely group oriented.  And I missed helping out Kyle.  He had to the head throw using MaryAnn Sensei who is a foot shorter than him.  I felt bad because I saw that one out of the corner of my eye.  It went poorly for her.  He wasn't advanced enough to know to squat down before she went over the shoulder.  Slow motion train wreck ensued.  He still got his next rank though.  Weeee. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Meat Collar

I'm too lazy to research if I've used this title in the past, but it's appropriate this morning.  I'm having a hard time looking side to side and it made driving a challenge on the highway.  It feels exactly as if I have a thick collar of gristle wrapped around my neck making move difficult, but painful. 

I'm more used to the lower back spasm that tells me I haven't been careful. I think anyone over 40 knows the neck pain I'm talking about.  Hell, I've done this sleeping poorly and woke with the same neck pain that lasted for a couple of days.

The flip side of this discomfort is that it is a direct result of Kyle getting ready for his test on Friday.  His portion includes two self defense scenarios which include escape from a full nelson and a throw from an attack from the rear.  Unfortunately, I was the punching dummy for him for most of the night.  At the end of class he was telling me that he wanted to ask MaryAnn Sensei if I could be his dummy (Uke) during the Celebration.  I hope it's going to be the case, because Friday is going to be a long affair (5:30 to 8). 

At the very least this means I get to participate a little in the big show instead of sitting to the side in my gi looking like a naughty child.  I'm a bit nervous about how I'm going to be perceived by the head dude.  I assume there is going to be some questions about who I am, or maybe he won't care.  Hard to say. 

During class last night I was helping a four year old, Neva, with block and punch.  We would freeze at the end of the movement while we waited for the others to finish.  During this time she noticed some of my chest hair, 
"What's that?" she said.
"Chest hair" I responded. 
"Why is white?"  to which I sighed. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Uke or Ookie?

With only two more classes to go before the celebration testing, I'm probably showing more excitement about the whole thing than anyone in the class.  I just realized that they've done all this before and it's new to me even though I'm not doing anything other than standing in a corner (I think...).

After warm up I got partnered with Mark to practice his 10 elbow techniques.  Now that I've done these a few times,  I'm starting to remember the overall pattern.  We went through them three times which left me a bit bruised since I was the Uke the whole time.  I always thought it was pronounced yookie, but everyone in this class says Oo-kay.  The Uke's job is to give himself to the Shite (it's pronounced sch-tay, not like the Irish saying the poop word).  Ideally, if I present perfectly all ten times then Mark will not have to think; just react.  I am the canvas on which he paints a masterpiece of technical prowess. 

Well, I don't know if we reach the heights that are inferred in my purple prose, but Mark has definitely shown a vast improvement in the flow of his technique.  That or I know when to fall down now and make him look good!  Hah.

The only thing I'm concerned about is that he's supposed to be doing a practical demonstration of one of his Kata's and he still appears to be learning it.  I'm not sure if this going to be on the test or what, but it doesn't look good to me.  I'll find out about it Monday. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Shūdokan 30!

Thirty Classes!  It's astounding to me that so much time has passed.  At eight classes a month, plus some after hours practice with the black-belts I feel like I've been there for a year.  My original idea to try a different style every month pretty much went out the door after the first couple of classes.  While not super warm to my presence, I have felt welcome enough to be taught at my level of skill.  The folks that have been going there have been doing so for a long time so my guess is that the bonhomie that I normally associate with a class is probably normal for my time here. 

Next Friday is the big test!  It's exciting to see everyone get geared up psychologically.  At the old school testing felt very random and it was targeted at one person at a time.  Here it's based on a three or four month cycle in which all people are tested (not me) for their next rank.  So the little kids will be working on their ranks and the teens will be working towards their regular ranks, etc.  I'm a little bummed that I can't help out Mark for the partner required portions of the test, but I don't know the material well enough.

After missing a week (the entry way plaster and paint is done!) it felt like I'd been gone for a year.  We were a small class and practiced zenkutsu dachi (one leg back, front knee bent) moving and then adding punches while we walked back and forth.  The punch was broken down into seven steps.  Talk about deconstruction.  Thinking about the mechanics at that level is wreaking havoc on normal punching, but I get the sense that I'm rebuilding in many senses of the word. 

Following that, we did some blocks (middle with strike?) which was considered very advanced technique.  Which led me to realize that the advancement connected to belt and test was predicated on doing basic technique very well.  Once a basic kick and punch was done well, the person could learn the next one and then test on that.  Whereas my introduction was learning a lot of techniques and slowly mastering then over the years.  There is a lot to be said for what is being done at this school in terms of teaching technique.  There is no hurry to learn a lot.  But what is being taught is pretty thorough and well-engrained before new technique is introduced.

After class Mark told me how he thought I looked relaxed and good at teaching the kids in the previous week.  I told him thanks, but how I was so stressed out about it.  Apparently, years of beatings made me look relaxed on the outside.  Makes me wonder about other teachers.  Do they hold tension inside while they look confident on the outside?  Probably.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Hiatus Week

I'm out for a week due to house work project backlog.  We bought a 100 year old house when we moved to the Rose City and it needs constant work.  This month we are replastering walls and ceilings.  Brutal dust and physical labor. 

So just practicing my three new Katas in the morning and hoping I'm not missing too much at class. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Welding With Children

The horrors of the past have come to revisit me.  I have become complacent in my outsider student status, but that was disjointed sharply by MaryAnn Sensei last night. 

In my old school my Black Belt test had a few things predicated before I could take the actual test.  The test not occurring until my teacher was satisfied with my progress in a few areas.  The first I will call "Deal with your fears"  or "For god's sake, they are just kids." 

After years of teaching the adults off and on my teacher noticed that I only took a peripheral interest in working with the kids.  The patience required was well beyond what I could generate even on my best day.  But when he went on vacation I would take up the challenge to provide continuity for the kids.  He didn't usually take kids under six, but there always seemed to be a row of kids around four years of age eating their boogers and generally not knowing their left from their right. 

So when he wanted me to be ready for my belt he would assign me things like teach the kids class for several months and while I was doing it he'd have to leave the room so he wouldn't start laughing out loud at my obvious exasperation.  Over time I learned to appreciate the kids and their obvious growth and personal diligence.  I also recognized that wasn't going to be my forte'. 

So last night after warm up MaryAnn Sensei pulls me over and says, "do you know the Kieso Kata number 1?"  It was my turn to look like a booger-eating moron.  So she had me teach the new kids a basic C step, then downward
blocks.  I was supposed to have them tie that together so they could walk and downward block at the same time.  She swung by after about 15 minutes and taught me and my wards the first part of the kata.  Which we dutifully practiced for another 10 minutes. 

After class I was able to fondly remember a lot of what I mentioned above with some degree of fondness, but I get frustrated because teaching doesn't always feel like a direct route in my martial progress.  Which probably means that it is.  Hah!

After class I had my first lesson in MIG welding.  Thus the title.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Progress report

Slight change of plan last night after we bowed in.  In fact so much so that I didn't even know what the Sensei said to me. One of the other students told me, "he wants you lead warm up."  Oh right!

I'm usually shifting my brain into neutral during the warm-up, so suddenly being in charge again after years of leading in my old class threw me off somewhat.  I think I did everything we normally do, but some of it was out of order, but no one appeared to mind.  But by leading I ended up missing out on the little run that goes around room five times and then back around the other way.  It's a great way to warm up.  Ah well.  

Kyle and I completed the Chatan Yata Bo Kata, but I'll need a lot more assistance on that one.  Actions are good, but transitions from stance to stance are missing in a lot of pieces. 

After class we headed down to my basement dojo to work with the gang on the test prep.  Judging doesn't feel like my forte', but I gave my best shot after the two candidates did their ten kata.  I feel out of place making comments, but I just don't know now harsh it's going to be for them.  And not being one of the fold yet I'm not sure of what value they place on my commentary anyway. 

After that I got placed with MaryAnn Sensei to work on a new Kata!  Gekisai dai-ichi.  It's a Gojo Ryu basic one.  I got the first few steps before we ran out of time.  Still exciting progress since I've only been in for a few months now.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Last night was back to the preparatory grindstone.  As of tomorrow the class has 30 days to get ready for Celebration.  Celebration being the general term for gathering the various schools and doing testing.  In the past all the schools in the Northwest region would get together with their families and it became quite the event.  Due to the cyclical nature of martial arts school membership the event is now a very modest affair. 

Instead of a big road trip to Yakima we have the head guy come here and sign off on tests with a big social/dinner afterwards.  If I understand correctly Shihan Morris is into his 80s at this point and his sons are showing signs of their age which may preclude the celebration from occurring on the selected date.  However Sensei will continue on treating our curriculum as if we are going to have the gathering. 

Mark will be going for his Black Belt and Ivanna will be going for her 2nd degree.  And thankfully I won't have to do anything.  I was a bit concerned that I'd be partnered with Mark just to be his Uke, but I don't know the techniques smoothly enough.  I was even concerned about doing the basics with the children.  It's all very alien to me,  always stopping and thinking of the next move. 

So while Sensei focused on getting the children ready, Kyle and I worked on the Chatan Yata staff kata.  I'm now at 2/3s.  It's coming a little bit more smoothly, but my inability to practice the transitions at home are slowing me up.  My wife and I have been putting a lot of effort into redoing the interior walls so the house now resembles one of Dexter's plastic kill rooms.  Two new ceilings and tons of replastering makes for a constant cloud of dust.  Hopefully next week we'll be back to have some larger space for me to practice.  The basement dojo is just too low to have a staff swinging. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Clutched tightly between the thighs of large man, with my own shoulder compressing the veins in my throat, I struggled to understand why I was so jealous of Bob and his judo class.  But that was a very small thought as my desire to breath overruled pretty much everything else.  

Bob has recently started Judo class.  I am jealous of Bob.  The mechanics of Judo make it necessary to practice with other people.  The mechanics require the practitioner to engage physically with another person. My current art is very traditional.  We do not engage physically very often.  I am on my 26th class and we have done groundwork about 3 three times.  I am not complaining, but I miss the chess like struggle of using the body in 3 dimensions and letting kinesiology take over when other senses are not centrally engaged.  

So while we prep for Celebration next month I assumed that we would be working on kata and exercises ad nauseam.   During a self directed warm up Sensei pulled out mats and and prepped an area, which meant ground work!

We were introduced to "shrimping" (forcing your hips to the side and down to create space) in order to learn to put people into a triangle choke with our legs.  
We then learned how to escape by putting the soon to be locked arm into a bent position with the hand up by the face.  This takes the lock out of contention. We were supposed to get the second hand up in between the legs, but it didn't go that way very well for me.  

I got picked as the Uke for Sensei quite a few times and he is a strong man. Even when we was not doing an arm bar I was quickly tapping when he squeezed his thighs.  Three seconds to midnight.  

Mark and I ended up choking and being choked the rest of the hour.  Really fascinating stuff and physically grueling.  I was a bit concerned about my back, but this morning everything was in the right place and I didn't experience contraction.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Weps 2

I just realized that I had forgotten to post after Wednesday's class, however it wasn't much more than a repeat of Monday's course work.  Kyle got assigned to me to continue my work on the Chatan Yata staff kata.  I'm pretty sure that's not the way the name is pronounced, but until I get an authoritative response from Sensei I'll go with Noah's best guess with spelling/pronunciation.  

Ironically, Kyle showed up early to work on the kata anyway so we worked on it until MaryAnn Sensei showed up to start the class.  My new word is Say-deit-say.   Again I have no idea as to the spelling or pronunciation, but it's said at the beginning of class to call the students into formation.  Blackbelts not instructing stand on the right of the Sensei perpendicularly.  Instructing ones face us and the students are in a line facing the Sensei.  

After bow in (Go-zi-mash-e-tah) Kyle spent the rest of the class helping me get through the first third of the routine.  In addition to the chatan yata move (the figure eight set) I learned a second routine that requires me to switch hand grips while the staff is over my head.  I saw myself in the mirror and realized it looks like a parody of a martial artist.  I definitely need to be practicing this a thousand more times.  Even 45 minutes of practice sets my shoulder on fire.  I guess I'll be stretching that out over the next month or so.

I told Kyle that I had always wanted to do the Kamas (little sickles) and wanted to know how staff had come up.  He said that it wasn't brought into the syllabus until Brown belt, but he asked politely and Sensei started him out (Kyle is a Orange Belt, but dedicated and earnest).  He figures after awhile he might bring up a second request.  

This got me to thinking when I might make a request for some knowledge, but I'm so new that I think I'm just going to wait off to about a year.  The upcoming celebration (testing) should be neat, assuming I'm even allowed to watch.  I don't even feel comfortable talking about how to address the concept of testing for me.  I'm not sure how I would run a transplant Black belt.  In my own school our teacher would just test them after a few months, but it was for each belt level.  He just didn't want to award a high belt unless the new guy would stay around for a bit.  We never had an hour sheet for tracking like Aikido schools.  It was all done via subjective measure.  I can see where that could be bit insulting; in not respecting previous work even if it is in a similar style, but the new guys never seemed to mind.  They just appeared to be there to practice.  I'm trying to keep the same mindset and let it flow.  Objectively, I only know one kata all the way through.  Less than most of the white belts.  As they say in Mexico, "tranquillo".  Relax.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Midway through class I could see my right hand swelling up, which was weird because I haven't seen any injury based on class since I left my old school.  The base of my thumb was literally twice the size of the left and both hand were bright red. 

I didn't care though.  I had a huge smile on my face and a partially functioning hand was not going to remove that. The reason is because Chiten Yata, my first staff (bo) kata.  I have no idea if I'm spelling that correctly, but after a decade or more I'm finally doing a weapons kata.  Sensei has asked me a few times if I knew anything or had any experience.  I can literally count the times I touched a staff on one hand and I'm not using all the fingers.  In my last school our syllabus sacrificed weapons for more and more complex technique.  I'm sure if we could have worked in one more day of instruction we could have had that.  

Last night the class consisted of me and Kyle and bunch of kids.  I've come to enjoy these because of the focused nature.  I wouldn't want it all the time, but it's great now and then.  Kyle knows the whole staff kata which is supposedly for a more advanced level, but he was able to run me through the initial sequence for which the kata is named.  I've search on line, but because I don't know how to spell it I can't post an example.  Sufficed to say, it's the figure eight move that I have seen in the fancy katas.  In time I can record my progress for the laughs.

I practiced the initial sequence 50 time with Kyle.  Unfortunately, this is where I started noticing my hand getting more and more swollen.  Thankfully, it never got to the point where it didn't function optimally.  After a night sleep it's back to normal but it feels well worked.  

The kata has three thirds and I was able to get to the end of the first third, but even with running home and practicing immediately after class I was unable to complete that third.  The chiten yata, I think I have that.
Celebration is scheduled for March 20th!  Although I'm not testing, I'll be excited to see how it's run and how our folks do.  Crap, now I'm not sure if I'll be required to do the basics!  That would be embarrassing for the school.

Monday, February 09, 2015


Just a quick note to the fans that I've made a lot of progress on my basement dojo.  When my Sensei was moving he had to clean out his storage and had a huge pile of the those 3 x 3 interlocking sport mats.  For helping him move I have a semi permanent borrow of a huge stack.  So I've been cleaning them and installing them downstairs for the last several weeks.

I've done a couple of rolls and the mats are very compressed.  Of course they are on concrete, but whatever foamy goodness they had 10 years ago seems to have left the building.  Still, it creates a nice insulating layer against the cold floor.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Behind The Scenes

Since I have been writing this blog I have struggled with the direction of the writing.  I would like to be entertaining, but I really started it with the idea that I would have a location in which to store my notes from class and have people reflect on those if they felt they could add something.  

Since I have started Shūdokan I figured I would just stick with the notes and not worry about the personalities in the class.  The class is small enough and folks are nice enough that I don't feel the need to write about them much.  

My last school had such a cast of characters and in regular rotation that I could have really spent most of my blog writing about them.  This was most likely because I lived in a small town and everyone knew everyone and their business. For instance my good friend ended up divorcing his wife and soon she was dating another one of my good friends from class.  It would put us into a weird situation in which we couldn't talk comfortably.  

A compounding feature to this small town dynamic was that I became friends with my last Teacher.  We socialized frequently and I saw him go through two marriages and other big changes in his life.  However, the man who teaches is not always the guy you drink beer with.  I will say this in his case, he was consistent as person could be, but it always troubled me to see him going through trials and tribulations.  I obviously wanted my teacher to be a superhuman untroubled by the slings and arrows of the world.  

Which brings me to Reed.  He has the outward appearance of the serene Buddha. He is a storehouse of knowledge due to teaching exclusively for almost 20 years.  Everything has a reason and everything has been thoughtfully considered.  His personality is relaxed and consistent and he has the ability to share a small joke now and then.  

Last week he mentioned that he was unable to go to the extended Monday night work because he was moving.  When I asked he said that he was moving back in with his wife.  This confused me because they always together at the class; dropping off and picking up kids.  Apparently, they were separated for several years!  

I wanted to be supportive and offered my truck for moving.  This lead to an evening of moving a lot of martial arts stuff.  As I have mentioned before, Reed ran a successful school for many years and as a consequence has accumulated a lot of stuff. I think we moved forty or fifty staffs, swords and assorted ephemera. On top of that four wavemaster dummies, and 50 3x3 sport mat squares.  This doesn't even include 100's of gi's, signs, tournament equipment, and paperwork.  Probably the neatest thing was the posters from the past where we got to see the students over the years.  That connection with lineage is important to me even though the school is a shadow of itself.  Reed's instructor told him that he could make a go with 100 students.  Reed had 60 as his highest number.  

Last night I was Uke for Mark's practice.  He practiced 40 techniques on me and then did 10 kata.  I was impressed in spite of myself.  Of course I felt like a walking bruise in the evening.  Taking repetitive falls on hardwood is okay for one or two times, but 10 or more was having an accumulative effect.  

He is showing rapid improvement.  Anything we mentioned last week has been taken care of.  Better kicks and relaxed shoulders for sure.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


As a fan of UFC fighting and its progression over the years, I have always been intrigued by the notion that a fully rounded fighter needed to know ground skills as well as stand-up striking.  I just assumed that ground work was just something I was not ever going to get to do.  Just learning the catalog of skills related to TSD (Tang Soo Do) took me 7 to 8 years.  

In TSD a big principle is "never go to ground".  So I spent my whole martial arts life pretty much learning never go there or fighting my way out if I took a throw.  I was fairly jealous of the guys in our previous small town that got to do Judo and later the military combatives.  Those classes were pretty much the same time as ours or in conflict with something else.    

Let me make it clear, I am never going to compete in UFC or whatever local version they might have for old men, but I have always been struck by the idea of a well-rounded fighter.  So that is why I get excited when we stop testing preparation and do something which feels like it's off the syllabus.  

Last night was dedicated to escaping front chokes.  It was mostly make sense kind of things; pushing toward to break the thumb grasp, ducking between the arms, then we added in breaking the balance of the choker and using that to pull them off balance.  Finally, pulling the choker off balance and then doing an arm bar or standing submission.  

This was all fine and good and I am pretty comfortable with all this.  At my TSD school we were busy choking the crap out of ourselves most of the time, but it nice to get "handsy" once again.  And then Reed Sensei has us pull out the mats!  

The rest of the class was focused on how to exit a choke while you are on your back.  Which finally lead up to a reversal and arm bar.  It was so much fun!  I am saying that because I got it instantaneously.  For the first time all the stuff I have learned in the past came together so that I inherently knew exactly what I was supposed to do.  It was joyful moment in which I had to be shown a relatively complicated move only once and I knew how to do it kinesthetically and, more to the point, I understood the dynamics applied throughout the whole sequence.  Fantastic!

I also found that yellow belts have to execute an escape from the floor choke to move up in rank.  Fascinating.

Also, stopped coughing on Sunday.  Boom just like that.  But I still feel pretty out of shape. 

Bassai in the park

Holy Cow!  So much time has passed since I've sat down and collected my thoughts for a quick update about my martial practice.  March wa...