Thursday, March 31, 2016


Although my diary says that I've been going for roughly two and half years, the long breaks have impacted the overall amount of instructional time.  By my count I'm at around 65 classes.  To me this means that I haven't even seen half a year of regular instruction yet. 

I'm pointing this out because when I started going to class I would go to the after hours black belt group to get extra time in.  During this time I was acting as the Uke to Mark and had to struggle through the defensive part of his application routines.

Shudokan works in a three step process.  First you learn the kata, second you learn the bunkai, and third you learn the application.  I admit to being confused by the bunkai vs application, but to the best of my comprehension I would say that bunkai is the practical application of the moves in the kata whereas the "Application" is a full on two person choreographed fake fight using all pieces of the kata. 

This is the kind of stuff that used to make me frustrated with martial arts in general because even though it requires skill and relies on tons of practice, you weren't trying to actually fight someone or use the skills an actual free environment.  Now that I've eaten kicks and punches over the years in free style sparring I've come to love the lack of serious impact in the Application portion of the work and I get plenty of exercise from doing the "dance moves", as my wife likes to call it.  But I have realized now the attention to detail that goes into making the application correct is reinforcing basics at a very deep level. 

I noticed this last night when Mark had to make sure about his foot placement.  If he didn't he couldn't sweep my leg.  This was fairly relevant to most moves, but the foot placement stuck in my brain.  The idea is that in a lot of step ups you want to make sure that your foot is placed outside the Uke's. You might not want to do a sweep every time, but it'll always give you the option. 

Part of whatever kata application Mark was working on last night required him sweep/strike me.  When I'm down he does a big kick in the chest to which I'm supposed to immediately roll out backward and come to my feet to attach him.  Did I mention that we work on a hardwood dance studio floor?  I ended up doing the roll back about 10 or so times.  And I'm sore as hell this morning is so many places, but not my back.  Will miracles never cease?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I'd like to think that I let my life periodically spin out of control just to give it some spice, but that is disingenuous.  The truth is that it just gets that way because of aggressive time-lines my wife sets up for the house.

When we moved to the Rose City we purchased a 100 year old house and we've been working on it for the whole two years with only minor breaks.  During the breaks I've been able to get to Karate with some frequency, but rarely longer than three classes at a time before something turns up. 

The current work doesn't really require me to do much, but as a dutiful husband I like helping when I can.  The deal is that my wife works very hard all day and then when I get home there really isn't much that hasn't been handled.  So I can often get a pass and trot off to Karate.  Then I kind of feel bad that I've left her there not really doing much.  This means that I miss the extended classes for the Black-belts so my learning is stuck at one or two hours a week. 

Anyway, I was able to scurry away to class on Monday without too much guilt and found out that the our two black-belts and brown belt are going up to Yakima in about six weeks to get another shot at testing.  As such the class is going to be dedicated to do a lot of prep work.  So we had to do a lot kata work and that means even more fine tuning. 

Due to the exhausting nature of weekends I'm rarely well rested on Mondays (manual labor all day and socializing all night) so my kata was full of stuck moments and small errors.  This got me partnered with MaryAnn Sensei and back to Sanchin.  Holy cow!  Even more stuff to work on.  That night we realized we missed bobs on movement and a whole sequence of breathing in and out with hand presses at the end before the yoy.  Back the drawing board.  Such a simple kata that gets harder and harder to do.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sanchin 3

After warmups and some review of the basics we worked on cat stance (Nekoashi-Dachi) for some time.  In this school the weight-baring leg is pointed more forward than in my old school.  The idea is that you are closing the gap.  Ideally being able to stop a kick to the groin. 

We spent a lot of time going back and forth on the floor and I realized my recent forays into leg exercises really didn't do me any favors because my knees told me approximately how far I could go and it wasn't anywhere low. 

To add insult to injury, we had a competition who did the best cat stance while doing blocks and strikes.  I lost early because I have a habit of dropping my arms between moves.  Rookie mistake.  Something to work on.

After that it was back to Sanchin.  Not that I mind working on it, but it gets a bit tiring working on the same thing ad nauseam.  This time around I found out that for whatever reason I was looking down most of the time (apparently at my hands) which was throwing everything off.   After working on that I was instructed to punch higher (think xiphoid process; my own that is) and everything started looking a lot better, but I was working on that so hard that everything else went to hell.  I also love holding my breath which makes me dizzy by the end of this heavy breather of a kata.

This morning's practice was severely curtailed due to the construction in our house.  Our glorious main room that has been empty for several weeks is now closed off as my wife rips the walls out.  The only space I've got is the basement where I can't really lift my hands above my head.  At least I offered my cats some really excellent entertainment as I stumbled around in the dark trying not to stub my toes. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sanchin Sweatin'

I got to lead warm ups again, but I get to a certain point and have no idea what to do next.  I then ask the class, "what should we do next?" which gets me lots of blank looks.

MaryAnn Sensei reminded me that it's a dictatorship and not a democracy.  Well, next time...

After warmup I was placed with MaryAnn and worked on Sanchin for the entirety of the class.  For those who might not be familiar with this breathing intensive kata, there is a lot going on in something relatively simple from a cursory look (well, aren't all kata?). 

Sanchin dachi (stance) looks like an offset pigeon-toed with the addition of tucking ones behind in as forward as possible.  This "locks" the stance into place giving the practitioner an unbelievably solid stance.  Look at this guy for instance:
His Sensei checks stance from the floor up.  Up to and including a kick in the crotch.  How fun!

I was mostly concerned about getting the basics down, but because this is a very tension filled kata I neglected to watch my breathing. This left me a little woozy when I finished.  So I think I did this about 20 times and pretty much soaked my gi. 

It was a solid evening and I was happy it was only an hour.  So tired.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


I made an assumption that we'd be sparring again since Sensei's tournament is this weekend and I was close to being correct. 

Sensei poked his head in and had me warm up the class.  During this time I did punches and blocks and finished up with kicks.  I chose front kicks and side kicks.  I had to explain why I referred to them to as "snap" kicks.  In our old school we used the term thrust kick and snap kick to delineate the difference between the way they are delivered.  New info for this group - whoops. 

The way I broke down the kicks really didn't win me any points either.  There just isn't any emphasis on this kind of thing for lower level belts.   I would have thought it would have been mandatory to get it ingrained, but such is life. 

So after a little work on attacks Sensei started having us focus on reading intent from fist and foot placement.  Although this wasn't necessarily new to me I'd never done it with his method.  He would have the opponent freeze into a position and have you guess at what they were going to throw next.  This included the old "I have no idea what I'm going to throw". 

He then had us set up the sparring area and had a couple of fight then someone would call freeze and we would break down what we thought we saw.  No matter how good we thought we were there was also a lot crap to be seen.  I attribute this to the fact that when someone calls freeze everyone tends to freeze just when you're pulling back.  This created some really silly live sculptures.

Sensei is off to his tournament that I would have loved to seen and participated in.  He isn't doing weapons or kata, but just judging and kumite.  Can't wait to hear the after action report.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Sh┼źdokan 60

Wow, sixty classes! It's nice to see progress, even if it's just measured in numbers.

During warmup Reed Sensei told us he was going to a regional competition.  He didn't feel good about his kata, but he's going to be doing the kumite for senior, black belt division.  I'd love to have seen that.  For a big man he moves very smoothly and is incredibly thoughtful and deliberate with his actions. 

When he told us this I had an inkling that we'd be having a fight night and I was right!  After warm ups he took us through a sequence of punching, kicking, and distance work. 

He introduced me to concepts that I was aware of and practiced often enough, but did have a name for.  The first of the these is the blitz.  Basically, going straight at your opponent (maybe eating a punch).  The second was the Stuff(ing).  When someone blitzes you the response is a front snap kick. 

There were other bits and pieces I'd wish I'd known in competition.  Basically, the judges aren't going always going to get it right.  So you can do a few things to help them out with their decisions. 
  1. If you punched then you better have that hand back in chamber/retraction when action is stopped.  This signifies a good hit. 
  2. Your poker face better on game.  Good hit, bad hit, when action is stopped you face better be still.  No acknowledging or eye rolling on bad calls.
A weird thing in class is that we all train to punch with the right.  There is literally no attempt to work on the left.  I have to ask Reed.  I assume it's because of lack of time. 

Fight Review:
  • vs Kyle - Tater wins 3 to 2.  What the hell?  The kid was getting all the flags.  So I had to make it clear I was winning the exchanges. 
  • vs Mark - 3 to 1.  Poor Mark doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body.
  • vs Sensei - 1 to 3.  I would say my pride was a little hurt, but I was literally the only person to get a point on him.  Sheesh.

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...