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Finally.... Nidan

While we waiting for the results of the exam Reed, MaryAnn and me lolled in the back practice area amusing ourselves with anecdotes and stories about the test that had just finished.  But time was moving on and the advanced belts were passing through to the locker room and leaving and I still hadn't been called.  

When we lined up to start the test the room was absolutely packed to the gills.  Twelve of us were testing this time which is a fairly large number for the room.  Add to this twenty plus judges and at least 10 testing partners.  The room was 90 degrees and we were already sweating profusely from lightly warming up.  

Since putting the twelve of us on one line proved impractical we were broken into three lines to give us space to move around.  Unfortunately, I placed myself on the far left of the room due to my rank and the length of my kata, but a 7th degree blackbelt placed himself in front of me which was frustrating.  I wasn't sure how to manage that because who kne…

Fragile Male Ego 2.0

Here's the pattern.  Practice at home when I can.  Go to class or private practice.  Get corrections, repeat.  Wake up in the middle of the night going over moves in my head or get cramps in legs because I didn't drink enough water.  Repeat.

I've got eight days before the test.  I can't believe I'm typing that.  We keeping working on detail work that Reed indicates should be related to the level of skill I should be at.   I'm meeting with Reed every day now and the heat is near unbearable in late August.  

He doesn't say I'm ready or not and I'm not asking.  I don't think I can bare to have him say it's 50/50.  The truth is that I have to be better than I was last time and I have to have judges that like what they see.  Urgh. 

I realize I can only do as best as I can, but I'd rather be done with this.  I really don't want to be in Ivana's situation where she had to come back three times.  I can only imagine that she kept going back …

2 Weeks To Go

The testing cycle is coming up in a few weeks (Sept. 6th) and I haven't found any anxiety yet; just the desire to see a success as I'd rather not practice this stuff so much anymore.  

We've added a few things and corrected a few things, but in the end I'm whittling away at small things to make myself look presentable/passable.  

Since this is a retest I'm slightly off schedule and figured I'd be testing by myself or a small group. That sounded nice because I didn't want anyone doing the same testing package as me for comparison and contrast.  I felt like the last time Olivia looked so good that it weighed against me.  Of course, I've improved and have a more appropriate partner in Reed, but I felt better without that comparison.  

As luck would have it, our sister school from Eugene will be putting up several people also working toward their Ni Dan. Hopefully I'll be shiny and awesome in comparison to them.  

I'll be trying to squeeze in as much pr…

Punishment Round

After a somewhat strenuous Black belt only class, in which I showed some nice improvement, we all headed down the hill to the school.  

I was feeling some degree of pleasure because I was given corrections and was able to deal with them right away.  Not always the case for me.

Sensei closed out the Black belt club with discussions on how to deal with test stress.  This was more oriented to our Brown belt who could potentially be testing along side me.  She's pretty young and is juggling the options.  She's never been to Yakima so she's considering do the test here in the Rose City.  

I hate the travel and expense, but I love going to the mothership.  It's a nice experience and it's great to see all the high ranking folks from around the region.  It confirms a deep bench for our Style/school even if it is just a regional thing.

Regular class started with movement.  This consisted of back and forth attacking and blocking. Although we haven't done this in awhile I did…

Notes On A Hot Day

Jeeez, I'm not really good at this posting thing lately.  The main focus is on the esoteric these days.  Smaller and smaller detail work.  It appears to be paying off as I received many compliments from my co-students and teacher last night.  I was a bit concerned about how I'd do because I'd been on vacation for two weeks and was only able to practice two or three times.  

We met on Wednesday of last week and I got a full sheet of notes.  I picked the lowest hanging fruit and started working on those pieces.  We went over the first five kata last night and everyone agreed that I was much improved.  This carried over into the normal class where we worked on two more and ripped into them with great detail.  

Exhausting due to the heat and a bruise on my foot that I picked up on vacation from walking so much?  Anyway it turned out to be a right to bed night.  

Today my foot is aching furiously.  I'm off to call the doctor.

A Little Collection Of Notes

I'm still grinding away at my practice and occasionally learning a bit of new stuff, but lately I've been teaching a bit more than practice, but it's all stuff I needed to work on anyway.  

Most of the time I've been working on Ni Pai Po which is modestly long and somewhat challenging.  However, I'm teaching it as I refine it.  I had no idea how difficult it was to pass timing on how rewarding it is to see the other person get it!  

My next big goal is to be lower in stance by the end of every kata than the start.  That goes with the assumption that I'm rising during the middle of the kata.  

I've been working with my new bunkai partner, Reed.  Which is nice as we look better matched than I did with Olivia.  We are simply practicing the basics and haven't amplified the standard stuff we usually use.  Reed usually leaves that to the last couple of weeks.  Stressful to me, but that's how he works.  

Other news:
I'm now using a blood pressure cuff twice…

Head So Big

Hey All,

Just another episode of "practice, practice, practice".  It's been tough to get motivated to do my daily practice (the entire test with shadow bunkai), but I'm trying to do a little each day so I don't forget stuff.  Mostly I'm working on two basic stances, cat and long split (Nekoashi Dachi and Zenkutsu Dachi respectively).  

Sensei had told me to video myself as much as possible and it's provided to be a cruel mistress.  Even when I think I'm doing better in practice, review doesn't pull any punches.  I've been doing this for three weeks or so and really trying to do a few things better.  That would include depth of stance and balance.  Two things that are so simple yet equate to the backbone of what everyone is going to see and judge me on.  

As I suppose all men must do, the farther I squat down the more I have a tendency to lean forward.  I've been forcing my back straight for awhile, but it means that I have to struggle with my…

Working The Basics

It all comes down to the basics - at least when folks are looking at you with a microscopic analysis of your skills.  Each superfluous movement of a foot, every time I look in the incorrect spot, and every stance that makes me appear standing far too tall all add up to make me look less than proficient.  

I mentioned some years back that this style of karate tends to focus deeply on Kata because one of the original guys said that some people are naturally adept at fighting so the only way to see where the skill lays is within kata and bunkai.  

Because of my intermittent history with various martial arts over the course of my life my basics are scattered at best, but has made me flexible when it comes to relearning.   

This all leads to last night.  Somewhere in my head/sub-conscious I decided that I would do all the stances as low as possible.  Just to see where it would go.  I'd stop when my knees couldn't take it or i'd fall over.  Then I'd focus on my hips.  I make th…

Painful Review

Or maybe not.

It's taken me a bit to sit down and write about the test and my feelings around how it went.  It's been a week plus now and I have had plenty of time to mull over how it went.  But let me jump back to the test first.  

Reed, MaryAnn and me got to Yakima with about three hours till testing.  We checked in our hotel which was pretty rough as places go, but at least semi-clean.  Lesson learned; don't go for the cheapest place you can find.  

We drove over to the dojo and they hadn't opened up just yet so we sat around outside socializing while everyone collected.  After they opened we went in and changed into our Gis and started warming up.  Strangely, I felt very distanced emotionally and not overly nervous or excited.  

Olivia and I practiced our bunkai lightly and worked through our kata and just chatted until we were told to line up.

The test seemed to take a long time because we were with some other advanced belts and their parts took a very long time.  This…

One Day To Go - Nidan

Everything is in preparation and everything is practiced.  A few of the bunkai got shifted yesterday, but not in a big way.  Hotel is secured.  Travel is planned.  Details are detailed.  

The adrenaline is pumping and we all feel good.  Three of us are testing (Daniel, Olivia and me) and we've been told we look really good.  Better, in fact, that when Sensei took his Nidan or so he says.  

Last night we aggressively went after our bunkai for several hours.  Unfortunately, I'm feeling pretty bruised, but nothing is impaired.  

I'll do a run through today and call it good.  Tomorrow we leave in the morning and will have a couple of hours before the exam to warm up.  I'm not sure I need that much, but it'll nice to work out some of the adrenaline with a light run through for me.  

Pray to the karate gods that we get good and equitable judges and that we do a great job as well.

The Final Week to Nidan

My wife has been talking to be me about how we as people interpret adrenaline.  Is it fear or is it excitement?  

I've been calling it "a case of the nerves" for years.  In an attempt to frame my upcoming test in the best light possible I'm called it excitement, but tempered with reality.  

For all the practice tests we've been working on we've been given passing grades, but they keep on pointed out that there is a level of precociousness with the judges.  They've identified a few that simply fail people outright with not a lot of reasoning.  Or in the worst case scenarion - no reasoning.  

To put it in the best light- the judge will identify something wrong with the kata and have no way of putting into words that are helpful to the person in the test.  Definitely not helpful and it's occured over the years with no avenue of complaint.  Urgh.  

My fingers are crossed tight that we get some supportive upper ranks to give us objective scoring.  

I leave Frid…

Two Weeks To Go

Hey all, I apologise for not writing.  I'm sure there is more than enough to talk about, but the test is in two weeks and pretty much the only things I think about are the test and the test.

I kept meaning to write, but composing my thoughts in a cohesive manner has been tough.  I run through the test pretty much every day and last time I wrote I had intense workouts pretty much every day.  I didn't think I could get any more changes or improvements in.  However, last night I was given a few corrections to work on and they seem doable to fix.  A foot there and a fist there and so on.

Probably the biggest deal/change was that we converted the normal bunkai on our last kata into a Oyo.  Oyo is a longer, back and forth demonstration of the techniques in which both sides gets to play at attacking and defending.  The normal bunkai was just a single move and seemed modest compared to the kata; which is very long and complex.

Olivia and me, with the help of Reed and Daniel, contructed a…

One Week Straight

The question I pose, is how much karate is too much?  

I've just completed a week of karate.  Normally I try to practice every day, but during the last week I was doing work outs and refinement with other people every day except Friday.  The pinnacle was driving up to Eugene with Sensei's Reed, Daniel, and MaryAnn to meet with Sensei Albert for an intense review.  It ended up lasting 6 hours.  

Both Reed and Albert had Morris Mack as their primary instructor and Reed considers Albert a type of uncle in the complex school relationship.  I think Albert is around my age, but he's been practicing since he's been six.  Unlike many of us,  he never took any time off, so his reserve of information is tremendous.   

Our purpose was to go over our testing material to see what a fresh pair of eyes might see.  At times I thought Albert was skipping looking at basics and just looking at the main areas of interest in each kata, but as time went on he would shift occasionally to pick u…

Six Weeks

Last week we had a new guy show up for class which is always a pretty cool thing in my opinion.  He came last night and participated and by the end of the class you could see that twinkle in the eye that reminds me of a religious conversion.  He's going to come back to class on Wednesday for sure. 

I enjoy when we have a new adult in class.  There is such an interesting chain of events that gets people there as an adult.  How they find time; how they make a new priority; and how do they find us?  If he makes it more than a month I can't wait to here the story.  He's at least done some TKD and Judo so he's no neophyte, so it's nice to see him fall into the basic moves.
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Daniel Sensei said we've got 6 weeks to go until the test.  Generally speaking this is the pinch time where we work out as much of the bugs in our katas as we can.  Up to two weeks before the test it's crunch time.  To that end we are meeting as much as possible to get things dialed in.  At …

A Brief Glimpse Into The Future

In the midst yet another deep dive in the details of one of our kata I started feeling the warmth of some emerging confidence.  I'm not saying that my kata was any better than before, but I felt relaxed in that I was able to correct small errors quickly and feel a bit better about things in general.

We didn't have much of a class last night.  I was just with Reed and Daniel and the point I found some of that confidence was when all three of us did the same kata and I saw that I was doing the same timing as them and I actually looked good.  Of course then I messed up some portions, but the first part was gold.

I haven't been writing much because there hasn't been much beyond practicing the test and working on timing.  May feels far away and just around the corner at the same time. I'm experiencing a bit of nervousness about the bunkai portion simply because we haven't spent much time on them.  Olivia and me just haven't been in the same room enough to really g…

Half A Bubble Off

It was late in the evening and sudden impact of our foreheads connecting was alarming since it was accompanied by that ripe watermelon noise.  Both Reed Sensei and myself stumbled back for a second as my eyes attempted to focus for a bit.  Thankfully neither of us was hurt and that led to some laughter.  

However, that wasn't going to be the end of it and it certainly wasn't the beginning either.
Since it was a Monday we did a Test run through starting in the Black Belt Club (aka Reed's garage).  I felt pretty good going in, but my recent lack of practice started to show.  By the fifth kata the accumulation of mistakes make me stop and start over at one point - a definite low point.  

I will say that part of the distraction is that I'm trying to keep my eyes up.  I practice with my eyes down and that's a no-no for testing.  Through the course of the night I got better, but the first katas were pretty terrible.  

In between each kata is the bunkai.  These are designed t…

Research And Development With Fists

Intermittent poster here. 

I keep forgetting to jot down notes from class and/or training.  Each class has a tendency to blend with another and improvements are small and overall progress is measured by increments.

For instance I know all the patterns all the way through now, and I don't usually have too many errors anymore, but the focus is on timing now.  So we methodically go through each kata and work on fast, slow, rest, speed, etc.  Thankfully I'm getting slightly better while Olivia appears to be squared away already.  Thankfully she's patient with me and can offer constructive criticism and great support.

Due to the schedule, last night was fight night, but Reed was feeling creative so the Black belt club worked back and forth on developing bunkai from some of our kata.  

I was asked to see if I could figure something out of Hakutsuru No Ottoko.  This turned out to be very difficult to do.  The standard bunkai really uses the best that the kata offers, but it's sho…

Timing And Technique

With our Ni Dan test coming up in three months attention to detail is the primary focus.  

I try to be objective about my personality, but the truth is the fact that I'm having some problems motivating myself to do the practice I need to do.  This would be absolutely going over problem spots in katas until they no longer crop up.  However, work at the house and life issues make practice hard to do most days.  I mean, I'm just making excuses at this point, but this leads up to how I do in class.

Last night we met in Sensei's garage and even though the heater was on we could see our breath.  Due to possible snow barely anyone made it to class.  So Sensei, Maia and I just worked on refinement.  In last night's case I worked on Wando for both hours and although I'm concerned that I have a lot of issues we were able to get me to look pretty darn good by the end of the evening.  Timing seemed to be a big issue for me. My sense is that I'm doing a one-two and I'm us…

Hole In Foot

My wife and I are redoing yet another part of the house.  This time it's our bedroom and it should be the last of the massive internal projects.  We opted to pull an old wall out to expand the space and so far so good.  The detail work coming up as we put things together will take a long time, but the major operations have completed nicely. 

This kind of work at the house causes some difficulty though because I work my regular day and then work at night.  My only escape is to go to Karate which is nice, but I'm wiped out pretty quickly by midweek.  It's not so much the exertion, but the constant activity.  It also leaves me in a situation where I don't have enough time to think or process so karate can become a bit more difficult. 
Olivia (my NiDan partner) and me are at the point where we are fine tuning as much as possible so when are being critiqued the amount of notes can get pretty sizable.  The normal process is to be given three items to correct per session beca…

Back In The Saddle

It seems like a propitious start to the year to have the class almost immediately after New Years day.  We didn't do anything ceremonial, but it appeared that vacations and very cold weather kept everyone home for our advanced classes.

Black belt club was just me with Sensei's Reed and Daniel.  As per the Monday schedule we did as much of test run through as we could.  Reed's garage is heated by a moderately sized space heater, but when I got there I started warming up with a jacket and hat on.  Once we got going it wasn't bad, but I kept my socks on the whole time.

Before I went to class I was splitting wood and chose not to use my back brace.  This turned out to be a poor choice in the long run.  Splitting is great work, but bending over and over again to pick up the split stuff appears to be the worst thing I can do to my lower back.  To add insult to injury, the Sensei's have really begun to focus on my stance in such away that I'm no long leaning forward.…