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Showing posts from 2017

New Stretch For Old Man

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Preparations for the Quarterly testing have begun in earnest.  In our school testing is called Celebration for the colored belts.  I believe this is to put a positive spin on something that folks normally stressful and try to get people to see that progression is something to be celebrated.  

As per usual, Mondays mean I'm going to be tired because I didn't get a good night sleep.  However, I've been trying to keep my regular schedule during the weekend as much as possible so I get a good night sleep during the start of the week.  This appeared to be working as well because I was able to go to sleep around 10 pm.  This means I could get up at 5 without any problem.  

Alas, the plans of mice and men often go awry and I was no different.  I was awoken at 4 am by the retching sounds of my cat.  For those of you not familiar with this incredibly upsetting noise, it resembles a broken pump trying get started until the mess gets ejected.  Unfortunately for me I didn't move fas…

Ka Ku Fa dose 2

Sensei Reed says that he is an auditory learner and as such tends to teach that way.  I would have said that I'm a visual learner or practical learner.  In the sense that I need to act it out, but in truth I need all of these to learn.

I hear Reed or Daniel in my head when I'm coming up on a move.  They use funny comments so you can remember what the move should be.  I also visualize their move and try to act it out.  And finally I need to do so often that it's muscle memory so I only need to worry about things like depth and intensity.
Why this?  Well, it was back to my fifth kata, Ka Ku Fa.  I'm endlessly worried about keeping all these separate and the first four have given me pause just trying to keep compartmentalized.  However, Reed is okay with giving me more to absorb if he think I can manage.  I'm just never sure I'm ready of course, but he clearly has a sense of things.
So now I'm practicing in the morning and in the afternoon.  Now the stories from …

Big Bird Five

Talk about the sound of inevitability!  I'm truly struggling to keep the four kata I have in my brain separated and as of last night Sensei Reed has added the fifth.  

The difficulty is that the kata are similar in that they have similar moves and similar structures.  As a result I've been practicing the woman and man kata as much as possible to get them really set, but I keep dropping a piece or two and having to start learning them over again.

I'm trying to figure out a way to identify areas of freezing, but the worst part was that I went back this morning to do the "of woman" kata and couldn't remember anything!  How frustrating!  Hopefully I can recall it tonight when I'm more awake.

So last night, during the second hour, he introduced to the first part of Ka Ku Fa.  Even more challenging.  Sheesh!

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I've been worried about my health recently, knowing that I have a doctor's annual coming up.  So I've been trying to clean my diet and get back …

Four Birds Amongst The Darkness

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Where to start?

In the last two weeks I've had so much going on I haven't been able to post or even think straight. Here's the short list: My Mother was evaluated at a Memory care unit.  The stay lasted for a week instead of a few days.My friend took his life and my wife found him.Mom was released yesterday, which seems like a very bad idea.  We (me and my wife) keep being pulled in my late friend's business.I cooked two Turkey's for Thanksgiving amidst two grown men fighting like they were children.  Ironically that stress was almost unbearable because all the players were close in proximity.  That's a lot, I know.  The stress was only magnified by my inability to sleep. 
So yesterday I was moping around after work and my wife pushed me to go to class even though I could barely keep my eyes open.  As usual, class was great and helped me to concentrate on the now.  I ended up working with girls again, but it didn't seem horrible as they were helping me rememb…

Memory Of A Fourth

I've been having the worst problems with my memory in the last year.  Just hanging out with or talking to my Mother who is experiencing a rapid decline due to dementia seems to have killed my ability to remember as well.  I'm attributing it to stress since I've experienced this in the past.  

While I was in grad school I thought I was losing my mind on more that one occasion. I would leave keys in the door and thought I lost them in the subway, I would forget where I parked a car, or what I was working on from time to time.  As a result, or side affect, I would take bone-crushingly deep naps.  I don't take naps as a rule so when it happens I know something is wrong stress wise.
Although I'm not driven to naps yet, learning the fourth kata has become a huge challenge.  As I mentioned in my last post I got home and immediately forgot everything I'd learned.  That's why I was experiencing a heavy conflict on Monday.  We had a guest in from out of town that has …

The Fourth Bird

I'm running behind trying to get this details down.  So it's going to be a list of stuff.

- A bunch of folks from our school went to a Kata only tournament last weekend and did very well.  My very own Mark got first place in his division! 
- The sensei's pulled down a lot of metals/awards, so they generally encourage everyone to go to this tourney. 
- I'd been off for a week due to guests and training at work which threw my schedule off.  Nice to be back as it were.
- I was paired with Sarah to help her on black belt prep.  I found out that I couldn't remember transitions.  I was worthless.  How embarrassing.
- In the after class the senseis confirmed that my first three were fine so I could start learning Hakutsuru no Ottoko.  It has a San Shin step that makes me look like I'm a zombie lurching from step to step.  Hilarious.
- I practiced it two hours after I learned the first few pieces and realized that I had lost the whole damn thing because I had concentrated …

More Birdy

Wasn't it just the other day that I was crowing about all the new folks?  Well, we've kept Alex and Cirloo, but the two older guys didn't come back.  Was I too enthusiastic?  I'll never know unless they told Reed Sensei that they would have loved to come except the creepy guy in the flattop was too much.  I hope that isn't the case anyway.

Last night was a mix of self-defense and Bunkai from Matsu Kaze.  The took the whole class to get through one series of punch-kick combos, but it went quickly and was quite fun.  In the end we were told about a Kata only tournament next weekend.  Unfortunately, it's when I have another slew of guests coming through, so that's right out.  Sigh.  Something close is hard to miss.
Somehow I managed to cut some part of my big toe, but I didn't realize it until I got to after class.  It didn't really hurt until this morning.  I hate foot accidents because how much it effects everything.  Just walking becomes awkward. 
In…

Veni, Vidi, Amissa

As with ancient conquering generals I took the field of battle, but with fairly low expectations.  I wasn't disappointed. 

It was fight night last night, but before I got into the mindset created by adrenaline and competitiveness I decided to focus on what I needed to happen.  I've been consistently disappointed by the lack of success in sparring while at my new school.  The root cause is that at my old school there were no point systems.  We went at it with vigor and tried to protect ourselves as best we could. 
At my current school sparring is solely focused on point based work.  So practicality is tossed aside for some fairly strict rules.  The torso and head are the only point areas, a leading shot to the body doesn't count, etc.  There are all these rules!
It's been a year and some and I'm getting better at that stuff, but I don't get to participate enough to remember each  time.  However, this time I wasn't going to worry about the final score.  I was …

Three New Students!

I was running around in circles as per Monday afternoon protocol.  This means that I did not get to sleep very well on Sunday night and meant that I was pretty tired by the time I got home.  To remedy this I laid down on the bed for a minute in hopes that I'd suddenly develop the skill to nap and wake up refreshed.

This was not to be the case because the cats followed me and decided that I would be the perfect pillow for an afternoon snooze.  I ended up staring at the ceiling for 20 minutes and got up covered in cat hair and not one bit refreshed at all.
The familial stress has also started taking it's toll.  I feel like my blood pressure is sky rocketing so my face is hot and I have a mild headache much of the time.  To counteract this I need to be running and eating less.  Neither of which appear to be happening. 
So going to class has become a bit of a talisman in that I'm doing things that are heading in the correct direction for a better and healthier me. 
I got to clas…

Beaten By Children

I thought we were going to continue with learning the Matsu Kazi kata, but due to the schedule it was self-defense night instead.  As a result we learned the bunkai from the first couple of moves from the kata.  

After a modest warm up that included leg stretches I realized I had stretched in who knows how long.  I felt like I was pulling every muscle.  I clearly need to warm up a bit more seriously before we get going.  And definitely work on stretching.  Ouch.

The mats came out and we assumed two rows facing each other.  One side is the attacker and one side is the defender.  We pulled moves straight out of the kata which I don't know if I'd use in a real fight, but every bit of knowledge is good.  You never know how something can be utilized.  

Reed asked everyone to partner up with some their size and I ended up being the odd man out and partnered with Adrianna.  I think she's around eight years old, but seems good about dealing with someone well over 150 pounds more than…

Pine Tree Wind

The real name is probably "wind blowing through pine trees", but I don't speak Japanese so translation and transliteration are going to be messy at best when filtered through my soggy brain. 

It's been a while since I've been to class (one month to be precise) and since I'm just tired mentally, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Folks are getting ready for tournament, and the idea to teach everyone a new kata at the same time this quarter started last night.  So my timing was pretty good there.  Unfortunately, the tourney fall on my birthday weekend so that's right out, but I'm finding it difficult to swing those due to the time and money. 

The new kata is called Mata Kazi.  I'm not sure about the spelling, but so far we've only gotten through the first couple of steps.  I tried to remember this morning during my regular practice, but most of it slipped away.  I can recall some more of it while I'm typing, but a bad night sleep roughs ever…

The Inner Torment Of Teaching Children

A long boring title?  Check.

Another drawn out rant?  Check.
About an issue that is entirely my own?  Check.
I should just write see other posts and probably leave it at that, but I will add a bit more sauce to the post.
I was actually able to teach a bit longer with the eight year olds that my normal five minutes.  I was actually given permission to give them push ups, but to my surprise neither of them knew how to do a push up!? 
After the teeth grinding effort of trying to get them to do one kata, which they should know in their sleep now, I was given a reprieve for a few minutes before I was handed off to even younger kids.  Swallowing my feeling of depression about working with them I hung my head and drug my feet over to them (not really, just how I felt).  To my surprise the youngest kids were the best!  6 years old and serious!  I had a boy and girl that turned out to have an attention span and didn't mind repeating what they were doing until they had it right.  I was so prou…

Pre Test For The Browns

It was an up and down night.  

In the beginning of class Sensei handed me my new custom Blackbelt.  wider and stiffer than old beater and now filled with groovy Kanji.  One side has my name and one side has the school name.  I told my wife later that one side said taco bell and the other said sandwich monster.  

Our two Browns are slated to take their testing for their Blacks tomorrow in the afternoon.  All the BBs are invited to go along, but it means that I have to take a vacation day, get a hotel room, and drive quick a bit.  I really want to be there for these guys, but my wife left on vacation and I need to prep to meet her.  It doesn't leave a lot of time to get things done.

An additional factor messing up the drive North is the PNW fires that are still out of control.  Driving to Yakima is going to be horrible.  I wish the best luck.

Class consisted of me working with the two youngest girls on basic blocks and kicks based on a deconstructed kata.  That was the longest 45 minute…

More Big Bird

As the Brown belts get closer to their test (on 9-8) I couldn't help be impressed with their knowledge and skill and feel a bit chagrined about my relatively modest learning curve.  I don't have to remember as much as they do, but after working on my new kata and adding a few more steps I realized this is going a very difficult couple of years.  I need to learn 7 more kata and still have to learn all the bunkai that goes with it.

The third bird is called Haku tzu ru no onna.  I'm probably not spelling that very well, but it's a lot of low cat stances and odd bird strikes.  I'm only half way and ran into some transition issues right away which is entirely normal for me.  I kept up, but realized that my learning felt slow and had to stop at one point because I couldn't absorb the info fast enough. 
Part of the issue with learning from some of the other high ranking black belts is that they have a tendency to talk about the esoterica.  So, whereas I need to practic…

I'm A Big Bird Three

Last night was an alternating Wednesday so we were going to be working on sparring.  With the additional material from Sensei's weekend seminar the content of class has become very interesting.

The class is broken into different groups after warmups to address the various levels of skill.  Last night the two brown belts were pulled to work on their test preparation.  They have a month or so before they go and they look pretty good to me.  I'm not sure how they'll do in the test, but they appear really confident and skilled.
While Mark worked with them I helped Reed with the kids on sparring drills.  The kids never seem to get to sparring because they are working on the new drills.  I'm fine with this because the drills are so awesome that I enjoy learning them with the kids.  Each one builds on the previous and before you know it we are working on a sophisticated drill that cuts through the basics of point based fighting. 
This is of great interest to me.  We never broke…

The Family We Adopt

Earlier in the day I received a text from Reed saying that Morris Sensei had passed away without further detail.  He'd been afflicted with Parkinson's for some time so it appeared the accumulative issues that go with it were finally too much for his system.  Morris Sensei was Reed's principle teacher.  They had met around thirty years ago.

I'd been under the impression that he and Reed were fairly close so I wasn't sure what the impact to the normal flow of things was going to be. At the end of class Reed told a Zen story that was a favorite of Morris.  While he was doing this he became choked up. He was not ashamed of being emotional, which I thought was pretty great.  He was showing the kids that it was okay to be open about it. 
Class warmup was more of the new sparring exercises which focus heavily on movement.  It's a lot of fun to move around in odd shapes and patterns, but it'll take awhile before any of that becomes second nature. 
While the rest of …

Post Seminar Fun Time

I think I might have mentioned before that Sensei has tried to make a consistent schedule which requires each Wednesday to be either self-defense or sparring.  The challenge being that the kids are literally being brought up from the beginning so putting them into the ring is taking awhile.

Last night we took a pleasant left turn.  Reed was able to get into a very elite training with Elisa Au Fonseca this last weekend.  She's the third top sparring champ in the world if I understand correctly and is definitely shooting for the Olympics in a couple of years when they do the demo for Karate.
Reed was able to get an invite and picked up seven pages of sparring exercises.  His normal follow up from that kind of thing is to immediately make everyone practice it so he can remember, but he locked himself down and followed the syllabus.  He did use new warm-ups from the training which was a nice change. 
As per usual, I got the four girls and had to work on Pinan Godan.  I feel like I might…

Super Death Killer Extreme

I ran down the hall to my wife with a big smile of childish glee, clutching my prize in my hand.  My wife was processing tomatoes for canning and had her hands full literally and figuratively so her response to my glee was a bit subdued.

"Honey!  Guess what I did?!" "Hmm,  what?" she replied distractedly. "I kicked a green fly out of the air and killed it!" I held out my hand to show her my prize.  The fly was slightly pulped and had one broken wing.  "Uhuh, that's nice," she replied laconically. "I know right!?" completely ignoring her lack of interest. 
Due to the amount of fresh vegetables in the house we're bound to get some bugs, but the unexpected birth of so many green flies was new to both of us.  As a consequence I ran around with a fly swatter killing as many as I could, but one errant fellow got out ahead of me so I lashed out with a beautifully timed front kick.  The top of my foot stunned the poor fellow and flung him i…

Keeping it 100

I could feel my teeth grinding at one point. 

When Sensei's eight year old daughter is "done" with class she only gives the very least in effort.  I can't imagine what she's like at home, but I imagine they feel more free to address her behavior.  Unfortunately, when I have to teach the young folks she is often an issue because I have to devote so much attention to her.  That means the group suffers.  I imagine I should just ignore her, but when she is partnered with another person they both get less done. 

Last night I had four girls of varying ages and experience trying to get through two exercises.   Each having less and less interest in the work as time went on.  On a good night everyone is pretty much on the same page, but as the time stretched on I seemed plagued by several issues.  The daughter and her partner started giggling which is a sure sign things are going down hill.  Then they started shoving each other.  In the other pair, one girl asked a questi…

Depression Stuff

My Buddy Colin Wee who runs Traditional Tae Kwon Do in Perth, Australia is an enterprising guy by anyone's standard.  So I was pleased when he approached me and several other martial arts folks to create some articles so that he could explore areas and how they relate.  I chose depression as a theme because of the issues I've been dealing with parents.  Below is the article I wrote for him and here is his.

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Depression, Symptoms And Its Treatment From the Martial Arts Perspective
Generally speaking, we all have ups and downs throughout the day, week, and season.  Most folks are not usually aware of the moods that pass by if they are fleeting and mild. We tend to become aware of our emotional state when it starts impacting our quality of life.  Because of cultural influence, this article focuses on the Western male.  I can’t speak to other cultures but I can imagine in most patriarchal ones the emotional response is similar.
Although the polar opposite of depression is mania, we’…

Potty Mouth

As I become more relaxed around the young students I find my behavior becomes more collaborative instead of instructive.  This is not necessarily the best approach and I find after the fact that I should cut down on the funny faces and jokes.  If I could keep it together I think the lesson would go better.  I just seem unable to manage that.  

Last night I was assigned a brown belt to run through his black belt test work.  He'll be tested in September and he's got a lot to get squared away before he's ready for his test. He's self motivated, but having time with the more experienced instructors would be a lot better than me.  I can only judge kata and point out improvements, but the techniques are still a bit mysterious to me.  He's got two months.  Tick Tock.

After about half the class I was give to the ten year old girl, Miya.  Her karate is very solid and she's earnest about her practice.  However, she vexes me with specific questions instead of just doing.  I…

Two Big Birds

I've been studying Haku Chofor about three weeks now.  Although it's not overly complicated there are fine tuning items to get squared away.  For me it's been the hands and keeping my fingers together.  Last night I got started on the second of these "bird" katas.  This is Haku Cho Dai. 

The somewhat humorous story Reed tells me is that the first kata looks as though the learner went to class and only learned the first part.  The second resembles the first, but it turns around and returns to the staring point like every other kata. 
It's not actually true because the katas are different enough that there would be no mistaking either, but the pattern is definitely the same.  I think that can be said about most katas though.  Anyway, this one is long in physical space.  I'm lucky enough to have a long living room and my wife begrudgingly allows me a chunk of it for kata, but the Dai takes up all the space available. 

We didn't have too many adults in clas…

Sweep The Legs!

After the last bunch of visitors had passed through the house and the obligations had been met, I can go to Karate with a minimum of guilt.  Of course while we were gone on a weekend trip my wife was busy prepping plans for ripping out another rooms walls.  So my fun time has dried up fairly quickly.

Thankfully she doesn't pressure me too much on Mondays and Wednesdays.  I think she understands I need to get my exercise and attitude adjustment as much as I can.
Last night was fight night.  Which means that Sensei Reed is getting the kids closer to sparring on a regular basis.  However, the class is relatively light on adults at the moment so he ended up managing the three ring circus while I helped our only brown belt work on her test.  We got through most of the bunkai (30!) which ends up with a few sweeps.  As an Uke (the attacker and loser) I mostly throw a punch and get beat up.  The sweeps aren't usually a big deal but I took my falls on hardwood.  This morning I'm defi…

Curriculum

During my black belt confirmation trip to Yakima, Reed Sensei and the others went to great length to talk about the upcoming year.  This was to develop the curriculum to match the other schools in the region and pitch ideas back and forth.  Through a lot of stories I've heard all kinds of the passive-aggressive behavior that the schools have had with one another, but for the most part they want to be on the same page.  However, having a head master who might not be absolutely consistent from time to time creates friction.

An example in Kata.  He tells one school hands are this way and another school that way.  When testing happens one school fails all the tests because their hands are wrong. How is the local instructor supposed to deal with this?  He teaches his students the other version and then they go back.  As you can guess this might create some feelings. 

To contend with this students are taught to expect flaky judgement at tests.  Not fair, but that's the way life is …

Two Senseis And The Cramps

"That's the name of my band.  You've probably never heard of them."
The tongue and cheek comment of many young musicians who like to quote that line in the Rose city seemed appropriate today.  The ridiculous, but fun situations I end up being in made the perfect band title.

Our regular class was a play day because of Celebration on Monday.  In the beginning of class Sensei said, "you can play or you can train."  His wife and I ended up training on the same kata for the whole hour.  It was fairly well needed in my case, just because I hadn't seen regular training in a few weeks.  His wife hadn't even been taught the kata.  So it worked out for the both of us.
I will say this, the children realllyyyy enjoyed their time.  I've never seen 45 minutes been so animated, and loud.
After class was brutally hot in the garage, but I got Daniel and Reed as teachers.  I needed to complete my learning of Pinan Godan.  I'd had the first half down, but needed t…

Teacher To The Stars

I'm trying to be better at recalling the schedule Sensei has set for class, but because we are getting ready for Celebration (quarterly testing in other words) the content of class has been devoted to getting the under-belts ready. 

Sensei thought he was going to be late and wanted me to start the class, but he showed a little bit early.  I'd spent a couple of minutes practicing the bow-in and didn't realize my part was just Hajime mas.  "Begin we will,"  in English.
Before class Mark gave me a "thank you for training with me" gift!  He's a fine artist so I was fairly pleased but felt dorky since I don't have anything for him.  My wife was happy because that's going to go up on a wall somewhere. 
Since we had time we ended up practicing bo kata and then Pinan Godan or as much as we could recall.
Class started and I knew where it was going to go before we even bowed in.  Time to teach the girls. Sigh.  However, I was only given Niva and without…

Relativity

A big part of my life is wrapped up around people visiting during the summer months.  Our home in the Rose city is pretty big so having visitors has become a fairly regular.  This summer we have exactly no weekends free.  Our current visitors are my cousin and her family from PA and that's been pretty great.  I don't have a sister and she's pretty much the closest thing I've got in that case and I also get along pretty well with her husband.

While they get out and tour around I try to see what my schedule looks like and what I can fit in.  Thankfully I was able to go to the first hour of karate last night.  I thought we were going to be doing a false celebration to get the students ready, and I was partially correct.  I was given to the brown belts and told to run through their test.  We had forty-five minutes and I didn't think that was going to work.  The Black-belt exam is pretty extensive and usually takes an hour at the very least. 
However, I was given some un…

Random Stuff

I'm not sure I forgot to post in the last week or so, but the slew of summer visitors has now arrived and my attendance is a bit spotty as a result.  

Tonight was still warm, but Mark and I were there early and worked on the staff kata for a bit.  Thankfully Kyle showed up and helped with a lot of the basic work, but I was already sweating by the time we bowed in.  

We had a long and interesting warmup.  By that I mean that we were introduced to push ups and crunches.  We don't normally do this stuff, so it was a nice change of pace, but he wanted the young students to know about it for the future. 

I ended up working with four kids on downward blocks for quite some time.  Normally I hate that kind of thing, but all four are very dedicated and serious so the time flew by.  

We finished up doing a little back and forth with Nifanshi Oyo.  My two kids knew it pretty well and took instruction very well.

Off topic - I have a sunburn.  My skin feels very tight and it's of course ver…

Burning All The Way

We lost every bit of Spring this year.  We went from the fifties to the eighties over night and it doesn't look we have any relief in site.  So this means Karate class is going to be insufferable due to the heat. 

Thankfully the club where we hold the class is air conditioned, but it appeared to be labored and just the barest activity brought the sweat out.  I probably wear the lightest of all our gis, but I was dribbling just trying to help a few of the tiny girls work on a kata.  There seems to be a regular ten children coming which is nice for the class, but it means that the old folks don't get to do much in terms of learning new stuff, but we are getting a lot in terms of teaching kids.

As I've grumped before that the kids can be challenging to me.  The two girls I got are cousins and love to laugh and giggle.  They are sweet and relatively nice, but they have a hard time digging into the details.  I'm afraid I'm not much of a teacher for that age group, but …

Laughing All The Way

I got in from the East Coast late on Monday.  For those of you that haven't read the past few posts, I had to travel out visit my parents.  Unfortunately my Mother has worsening symptoms around dementia.  It's absolutely the worse and my Father isn't in the best health to help manage around the house.  It's a soul-sucking situation. 

I'm normally very easy to laugh, but with the combo of jet lag and the situation I haven't found anything very light.  Every time I do laugh I feel guilty and so on.

I haven't sleep well for five days, but I know if I didn't get at least some exercise it would be even worse.  I opted going to the first hour knowing it was going to be sparring, but that suited me. 

The only problem is that the kids are so inexperienced that Reed Sensei is trying to get everyone to learn basic etiquette around the ring and how to handle themselves.  He's pretty clever so instead of working on tactics too much he opted to make it a game…

And So It Begins

Despite still being a bit wiped out from the weekend I was anxious to get to class to see what was next!  MaryAnn had planted a bug in my ear about the day after you get your sho dan (first degree).  You get to do something else! 

It hadn't dawned upon me that I was actually going to get to practice something else for once.  I've been working on Kyoku Roku Dan and Nifanshi Sho Dan for so a whole year so getting to look at something else was absolutely novel.
Regular class is taking on a new vigor.  A majority of the students are young folks from the ages of 6 to 13.  I think we have eight children most of the time now with new ones appearing all the time.  Last night we got a new kid and I was assigned to him after warmups to work on the basics.  Normally, I don't care for this kind of thing because kids have even less attention span than I do, but he did great.  Probably a half hour of straight work and he got better and better as time went on.  I was very impressed.
My gue…