Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Mop The Floor

Illness and seasonal obligations are making the class fairly slim which can be a nice thing.  It's similar to a private lesson in that the attention is comprehensive and specific.  However it can be grueling.  The intensity is much more so you must come to class focused.  

There was only four of us for both club and class.  During the club I spent most of my time working on my Nidan Kata with our fourteen year old black belt.  She recently passed her exam and tends to get placed with me to help me with my "elementary" kata.  She's incredibly detailed in her reviews.  I feel like I have to nurse my ego at times though.  I'm like four times her age and have been practicing Martial arts for an accumulative time of two decades at the very least.  And then she points out all the stuff I need to correct, which by the way, are all accurate.  I shrivel a bit on the inside.  Shouldn't I better?

In regular class we mostly worked on bunkai after a protracted warm up my MaryAnn.  I'm finding that I'm very inflexible in my back/torso.  When did that happen?  Freakin' Fifties.  You never know what part is freezing up until it sneaks up on you.

Reed is absolutely amazing in that he takes from each of our kata and rotates us through all kinds of techniques.  I was Todd's for his white belt stuff and then he'd be my Uke for the complicated Goju stuff I was doing and back and forth it went.  I can pick stuff fairly easily, but asking Reed for assistance to suss out some tidbit can be painful.  He'll need to do the technique a few times to figure out the question and that means I'm going get my face ground into the floor fairly hard.  I never tap soon enough with him.  

Although I wasn't in any particular pain when I got home I took some Ibuprofen as a prophylactic.  I ended up sleeping nine hours!  I guess it took more out me than I thought!


Thursday, December 12, 2019

So Four Monks Walk Into A Bar...

New Kata alert!

Reed told us about a week ago that he wanted to jump ahead a bit in our katas to learn Shisochin.  I gather Goju-Ryu isn't really big on assigning meaning to their kata, but our teacher's teacher was somewhat religious and would connect something to everything.  In this case the kata was about honoring the dead.  And for whatever reason this time of year seems to be a good time to remember folks.  

So while we were learning it last night I asked what the words actually meant.  We know Shi means four, but that was about it.  So while we practiced Reed dug through  
his books and figured out that it meant four monks.  That's about it.  Sigh.  Not much of a story connected because that's the way of their school.

In regular class we practiced and went through the whole thing.  However today I was having problems remembering it, but thankfully I have videos from Chinen to help me remember.  Last night after class and this morning I apparently forgot a section.  Sigh.

Back to practice between teleconferences.  

Watch this guy rip through it.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Three Shots To The Chin

I remember once reading that if you're in a street fight remember to clench your jaw.  I think the rationale was that it's supposed to suppress a knock punch or broken teeth.  

With this in mind I tried to clench my teeth when I was working with Cooper.  We were doing bunkai for one of his katas which after a small exchange end up with a back fist to my jaw and then two follow up punches to the same spot.  

The first time we did it with contact I got that famous jangle letting me know that I definitely didn't have my jaw tight or that possibly it didn't matter.  Ouch.  

---

At black belt class I thought we were going to learn a new Goju-Ryu kata, but for whatever reasons I got pointed back to learning the second of our Kyoku katas.  I'm learning those to get ready to be a testing partner for Cooper when he goes for his Black belt exam.  I've got three more to go.  The tough part is that each one has more and more bunkai connected to it.  Trying to remember that is difficult. I gather the fifth one has 8 bunkai!

The Nidan isn't much harder than the first pattern wise, but what I did find challenging is that there is a lot of stuff going on.  There's even a new stance, kiden dachi.  It looks like a painful ballet move for me.  Ouch.

That and shoveling tons of mulch had me sleep a nice sleep!  And now to practice.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

GoJu Basics

I do go on about the basics, but learning a whole new style certainly has a way of dictating what you need to focus on.

My work life and social obligations have been complex enough that I've only been able to get to class once a week.  I'm always in fear that I'm missing and falling behind, but Reed pointed out that we are way ahead of the schedule because we on a three year program.  Being three kata in means that we are "ahead".  

This means that we work on the basics.  That means it's doing muashauke's and sanchin dachi's until we're blue in the face.  So that's what we'll do and then on the side I keep learning the Shodan kata for a upcoming brownbelt so I can be his partner.  So life feels pretty full.

Of note - part of sanchin is that you a proper stance so that you are strong in certain ways.  To check this another person hits you in certain ways to confirm that.  One of these is a kick to the groin.  Although your knees aren't touching you should be able block enough to stop the shin to get to the groin.

While we were practicing we tried to do the "tests" while we were in our best stances.  One of those tests is that kick.  However the kick is done with the shin, not the foot.  As the shin comes up between the legs the lead knee jams it up and the other thigh traps it.  

Unfortunately Olivia used her foot and went up without friction into my crotch.  Ouch.  Thankfully she didn't put any gas into the kick.  Lesson learned.

---

Side news!  My old buddy Bob Patterson is alive and possibly kicking.  He actually moved to my part of the US.  Who knows - we might get to meet in real life!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Three Plus Kata

Although it was like learning a new kata, Olivia and I learned the variant of Sanchin that has a turn around, but the amount of strikes is the same.  The addition of the turn came with a brutal new leg muscle development scheme.  

Each movement in Goju-ryu is usually accompanied with a slight dip.  I assume this is to force good foot placement and make you stable, but the turns we are required to dip all the way down (as far we can go) to develop our leg muscles.  At the test we are supposed to be back to normal.  Ah tradition.  My legs felt like rubber.  

While we worked on basics in the two hours of class we were introduced to some of the sections in our upcoming kata.  Yikes!  Complicated handwork coming up.

Here I am in all my glory! Cover your eyes.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Cita 111819

Just a quick note about Monday.  I won't be able to go to class tonight, but wanted to note my brain's mood at the time.

I was completely exhausted after a pretty busy weekend and I just haven't got a lot of sleep.  So I look forward to being exhausted from class so I can sleep well on Monday night.  Unfortunately,  I had to work a very long day and ended up only going to the last hour of class.  Not really enough time to get warn out, but nice to get warmed up. 

We worked on basic foot work in Sanshin and went through a couple of katas then I was forwarded over to our new/old student Marsha who was working on Rohai Shodan.  I got to work on refining at kata she did eight years ago.  She was pretty darn good and only needed a bit of my advice.  Awesome. 

Then I worked with Cooper for a bit as his punching dummy.  He's a green belt that Reed wants me to be his test partner for his blackbelt.  That's a bit down the line for him and I have yet to learn all the kata he'll need to know. 

No class tonight for me since I have to go to a memorial.  Sigh.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Two Ways To Skin A Kata

I felt like I just got to the point where I had met the absolute max of what I could take in.  It felt like zero to 100% in one instance though.  

I got to the black belt class early and so did Mia.  So I asked her a few questions about the first in house only kata we have, Kyoku Shodan.  After that she asked if I wanted to learn the second one.  "Sure," I said, thinking that it was going to be as easy as the first one, but to my chagrin the pattern was confounded with additional hand techniques so it immediately turned into a blur.  Later in the regular class we went over the 10 kihons (beginners kata) which added to the mess in my brain.  

When everyone else showed up to the BB class Olivia and were taught the first iteration of Sanchin, the primary kata for Goju Ryu.  This is the one where you'll usually see the guy with the top of his gi off while someone hits him to make sure that their stances are correct.  And here I was doing it and grinning like and idiot while I was it!

Not me pictured

The guy in the video is doing variant B of the kata.  Olivia and I were informed that the Goju schools don't really care what version you're doing, but you better have damn good basics when you buddy starts doing the smackins.  

The problem with this kata being so slow is that keeping place for me becomes a challenge. It's not actually a long kata, any stretch of the imagination.  Three steps forward, five punches at that point, four press downs and two muashiukes going back.  Boom you're done.  However due to the deep breathing and pace I can remember if I'm on the third or fifth move.  Sigh.  And on top of this, tomorrow we learn variant two which has the turn in it.  It's the one I learned four plus years ago.  Good luck brain!   

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Rear Hand Blocks First

Well, I thought I was doing pretty good with this first couple of kata from the Goju school and was anxious to move on to Sanchin or the second Kyochu.  Reed shot me down on that and after some review I had a lot to do to refine what I had.  But don't I always! 

Although I've done some Goju in the past, actually putting it into use is tough for me.  One of the biggest pieces is that they block with the back hand and then pass that grab or blocked hand to the lead hand.  It's hard to describe, but if I can put together a video to demo it you'll see what I'm referring to.

After practicing at some length and making errors left and right, Olivia pointed out that we are essentially white belts in a new style.  Ergh, didn't think of that, but so true.

Thankfully everything seems pretty straightforward now, but we'll see. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

A Little GoJu, A Little Shudo

Just a quick progress report today.  

  • Gekisai Dai Ichi and Ni are down pretty good
  • Bunkai is better, but still needs to be smoother
  • Learned Kyoku Shodan
  • Bunkai is two separate items
  • Oyo is back and forth with the two Bunkai
Pretty easy so far, but I've got Sanshin coming up which I did four or so years ago, but my recollection is a bit fuzzy.  The video below gives you an idea, but we have a slight variation because we are Shudokan doing another school's kata.  Weee.

So much breathing!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Pulled Muscles That I Don't Know The Name Of

As a follow up from Monday I'm still plagued with the issue that I'm fairly out of shape.  In my defense we don't often do a lot of basics due to test prep, but that's changed and it was a shock to the system.  

At blackbelt class (before the regular evening adult class) Olivia and I went over Gekisai Dai Ichi and went on to learn Ni since they share most of the same moves.  We followed that up with the Bunkai.  I'm pretty proud of the fact that we learned it as fast as we have even though it's fairly elementary.  The bunkai causes me more problems but even that was going fairly well by the end of adult class.

I'm scheduled to learn the Kyoku kata with a high school guy named Cooper.  This will make my plate very full indeed, at least for that first year or so.  However, my focus immediately turned to the warm up.  This is usually by-passed because were all working out in the blackbelt class the hour before.  To add insult to injury my wife has been learning to become a yoga instructor and we thought we'd run through a routine just before I left for class and it left my legs like rubber.  So much for warming up.  

Daniel had us do kicking drills for only ten minutes.  In just ten minutes I managed to pull/frog the thigh muscles in my left leg.  What a softy!  This morning was met with the worst pain just trying to get out of bed.  Not fun.  I was able to run through the kata this morning, but I'm really enjoying sitting still.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Fresh Look

As a celebration I decided to try another theme for awhile.  I hadn't realized so much time had passed since I last posted so when I sat down to type I thought it might be nice to have a small change.  

The last month was pretty much a write off in terms of classes and practice.  I got to go to two classes right after the exam and then work had me travel until class last night.  I was feeling pretty out of shape and pretty soft, but the treat of completing a rank is that you get to learn something new!  

My current plan for my third degree is incredible aggressive.  I have to learn twelve kata with the bunkai in three years, but I also have to learn 5 kyoku kata on the side.  These are the school only kata that are not shared outside, but a brown belt needs to know them all before they achieve blackbelt.  My job is to learn those as well because my blackbelt was acknowledged from my old school, but it left me without some fundamentals.  They are actually seven Kyokus, but the first five are supposedly elementary, the sixth is for the confirmation exam a year after the blackbelt is awarded and the seventh is supposed be for fourth degree and above.  

So I was pretty excited about going to class last night, but really didn't understand how quickly I'd gotten out of shape.  I wasn't out of breath, but my muscles felt slack and warm up basics that required lots of blocking showed me that my desensitization has long since passed.  I was squirming in pain a lot.  

The good bit was that I got to learn Gekisai Dai Ichi.  I had learned it four years ago in order to help MaryAnn.  Back then I was just helping people out with whatever.  MaryAnn was learning and she was best doing it by teaching others what she was learning.  

It wasn't that I remembered it well, but I remember the basics.  It's a fairly simple pattern to remember, but leave it to me to make something more complicated than it is.  We also went through the bunkai which generally speaking, is easy, but there is a lot of moving parts.  

Here's a slow and fast breakdown of the kata:

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

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 knew what kind of crazy stuff he was going to be doing?

As part of the test process judges and come up and randomly select a person to judge.  In my case they would ask what Kata package I was going to be doing and either moved on or got my list of kata.  I'm not the two who ended up with me were particularly thrilled with doing a Nidan, but they both knew the katas in my list so I thought that was a good sign.  Unfortunately, the guys that did my test last time didn't volunteer again which bummed me out because I wanted to show how much I'd improved.  

The test always feels like it starts abruptly, but that's because that wait is several years long!  We do the bowing and then it's go time.  I don't remember doing much of the kata, but can recall the bunkai fairly well because of the thumps, sweat and exhaustion.  Reed and I selected a complex bunkai to finish everything off after the 10th kata.  I was completely shot and we had to do it four times.  Each time I had to reach down and pull the energy to get moving.  I wasn't quite gasping, but I was pretty darn close.  

And then it was done and we got to watch a few folks that has twelve kata and then it was bow out and drink some water.  A side note is that I didn't urinate for a full 12 hours afterwards, and that was after consuming liters of water.  I've never been so dehydrated.  

During the test I had to make my way around that 7th degree guy, which wasn't great, but I gather it didn't weigh against me.  I completely messed up the 9th kata I did, but I did it with great confidence so if the folks who were watching they might not have caught that.  I could fail two kata and still pass though.

After everyone had passed through I started to get concerned.  There was a lot of passes for the high rank folks and there isn't a lot of tests where everyone passes.  My nerves were getting to Reed so he went to find out where things were.  He popped his head back around the corner and waved me forward.  

Reed and I kneeled in front of the two Shihans running the test.  

"You've got two passes!" I whooped and bowed.  And then they reviewed the notes from the two judges and gave me the certificate.  And then I was done.  

I was pretty happy evening and we ended up staying up to 1am telling stories and joking, but I found that the next day I simply, was.  I was neither up or down.  Phooey.  

I was glad that I was able to start something new after so long, but I didn't necessarily feel any particular excitement.  So it was the journey after all, not the destination.  Phooey again.  I wanted that excitement of achieving something I'd worked on for so long and feel a buzz that lasted days.  Sigh.  I was just focused on trying to sort out what to work on next.  

The drive back from Yakima was long, but fun and I think that was a reward in itself.  Rather than dealing with failure, it was gift to look at the future and the possibilities expressing themselves while we talked.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

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 to prove it to herself, but it absolutely burned her out on Karate.  She never came back.  School and regular life took the preference at that point and she never made space ever again.  I definitely don't want to be in that situation.  

Writing this is cathartic.  I've got to get my head in a correct space to do well, but not perseverate over the results.  The goal is to do the best I can without rushing.  

Ten straight days of practice?  Not sure about that part, but it allows for a lot of focus on one kata/bunkai a day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

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 practice as I can in the mean time. weeeee


Thursday, July 25, 2019

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 didn't think much about it until we got going.  I ended up with Kyle, who's my height and quite a bit heavier than me.  I get a kick out of this because when I started at this school he was still going through puberty.  

We were doing a multitude of attacks and defenses which started out fine, but after two runs I thought the muscles in my forearms were broken.  I mean I know there is bruising, but my muscles actually felt like they burst.  By the forth run I could barely make contact.  I kept think that the bruising was going to be horrible that night or today. And to my surprise I don't have one mark on me! My arms are a bit sore, but there's not one bruise.  Totally weird.  



Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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 a day.  Slightly high blood pressure for three visits in a row means I have to monitor.  Depressing.

I've been back to running after a very long time off.  I thought it was good for you.  It's a perfectly ridiculous way to spend time.  I thought it was going to help me sleep better.  it seems the fitter you get the more you have to work to get exhausted.  Silly!

I'm making knives for my three teachers.  I should have done a video on how not to do it.  However, I'm impressed how sharp these things are.  I'm up to polishing the blades a bit more before I work on the handles.  I want those done before the test this time.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

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 balance in a new position which is also trying to be very low.  It also means that I have to practice this in every position in my katas.  Ouch.

Last night we had a very small class, just three of us.  So Sensei had Mark watch him and I do Haku Cho and Haku Cho Dai.  He wanted any remarks so I was prepared to take the regular onslaught of commentary following me do a kata.  

These comments aren't verbatim of course, but here's the gist:

  • Tater had lower stances
  • Tater had better hands
I told Sensei I'd give him a 20 later for making me look so good.  
Of course it wasn't particularly fair since it's all that I work on, but it was a nice feeling after being made to look shabby by doing the same things next to Olivia for the last year and some.  



Thursday, May 16, 2019

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 them snap for every move with a punch or strike.  

What I didn't take into account was that Daniel was going to run the class and he was okay with working on our cardio.  And part of working of cardio was just trashing the legs.  Squats, sprints and slow kicks.  I mean I loved it, but by the time I got to work on kata I was pretty wrung out.  However, I made sure those stances were fantastic, just hard as heck to keep balance when moving.  

Today's practice felt a tiny bit better and a tiny bit lower.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

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 gave me ample time to rest which I appreciated.  I also had a great view of their bunkai which impressed me greatly.  There were a lot of complicated throws which we rarely see in karate.  

After we completed we ended up sitting in the lobby for an hour.  Apparently, there was a lot to discuss which was intriguing.   We found out later that the judges were taking the view point that their style was different that what we were presenting.  Reed was politely explaining that our style was what we'd been doing for the last ten years.  So they had to come to terms with a lot of theoretical stuff before they could address the results.  

The higher ranking folks went into to get their results and it took another hour for just three folks.  Finally Olivia, me and another guy that tested for Nidan were ushered in.  They gave Olivia her notes first but they said right away that they all passed her.  They went into a lot of detail about what they liked and what needed to be fixed, which was minimal.  They loved her bunkai because of the way she thrashed me around.  

Then it was my turn.  They all agreed that I need to come back next quarter and do the test again.  I had been fairly hopeful, but it was balanced with everything they had said before and I had a sneaking suspicion that being partnered with Olivia probably wasn't in my best interest.  She looked so good that everything that I did looked mediocre - the differences were really emphasized.  I mean I really needed to do some things better, but you get the idea.  They also didn't like the fact that she was my partner.  They thought I needed someone that I could hit and I clearly was holding back on occasion.  Although she would say that was untrue because she was really sore.  

In the end I got two pages of very detailed notes which makes fixing things way easier when you have a check list.  So I'm burying myself in making my basics way better, but the depth of my stances really weighs against me.  I'm not totally sure how to make them deeper because it doesn't actually feel like I can.  Well shall see.

I have until September 3rd (which is the next test day) to see how far I can go.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

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 Friday morning to drive up to Yakima.  Our test is in the evening and isn't surrounded by the normal Kyu level belts or larger ceremony which is a bit of a bummer, but it means we'll be out of there fairly early depending on the amount of testers. Normally, we'd be there till midnight.

During this week we are trying to do as much fine tuning as possible before we take off.  As part of this the regular class time is totally dedicated to test run and bunkai refinement.  In the BB class I ran through the test and noticed all my flaws, but MaryAnn Sensei still thought it was a pass.  Unfortunately, Olivia couldn't be there until the evening class so I ended up going through the test again.  I was completely shot about halfway through which didn't look good with me gasping.  Thankfully I can do one run and look okay, but that stretched me pretty bad.  And then we spent the last 15 minutes working on one bunkai that I'm kinda sketchy on.  No longer!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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 an interesting and graphic routine based on 6 self-defense moves.  I don't know about Olivia, but our practice leaves me pretty sore and bruised.  By Saturday of last week I was having problems with my abs and realized that my ribs were bruised.  Nice work Olivia!

Next Friday is the exam and I'll be excited to do it, but I'm a touch nervous because there is always space for failure.  If it occurs I have to wait four to six months for restest, and thankfully don't have repay the test fee.  Each rank goes up another $100.  So my NiDan will be $200.  Poor Daniel is going for his ShiDan which will go for $400.  Ouch.  

If I can get the video practice from Olivia I'll post or link here.  

On a side note, allergy season is here and practicing with a half lung is brutal.  Hopefully things will be clear by next week.  Wheezing at the test will probably be frowned upon.

Monday, April 01, 2019

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 up errors in my more advanced katas.  This gave me a small sense of pride, assuming that it meant my basics were solid enough to be ignored.  

I left completed wiped out, but no one said that I sucked so bad that I shouldn't test.  In the greater scheme of things I'm only able to fail two Kata to blow the whole test, but I'd rather they all be good/great.  

Perhaps my only area of concern was that I didn't feel any nervousness when I was performing my kata in front of everyone.  I'd rather experience some tension, which would be more like the actual exam.  

I'm looking forward to this week. Only two class nights and time to actually practice on my own.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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 two weeks out they no longer trying to correct actions and just encourage us to keep practice sharp. 

This week I think I'm going to be meeting every day, but I think Reed Sensei is getting us particularly squared away because we are going to head up to Eugene to visit with his instructor to have a fake test.  This process is to get an objective view of our progress.  Albert Sensei should be able to identify anything that we can work on it short order. 

All of this work means that I'll be sharper, but it's exhausting.  I hope they don't expect this for the next 6 weeks, because my wife will kill me and I'll never get anything done around the house. 

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Maia was particularly sharp last night.  Our little brownbelt helped the new guy and me through variations on takedowns last night.  Unfortunately, leaving me a bit bruised and sore this morning.  She's going to be a good instructor possibly one day. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

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 get into it.  At the very least we have the basic ones down.  The newer ones we tried aren't set in my mind so if we go that route we won't do well unless we work very hard in the next couple of months and real life doesn't often allow that. 

I'm off the East Coast next week so I'll miss yet another tournament period and I'll have to really work on practice as not to lose what I've got. 



Tuesday, February 19, 2019

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 to show that we can extract a move from the kata and make a practical defense out it.  The ones that were original to our teachers are often short and a bit boring.  So we've been developing them into some lengthier more elaborate exchanges. Last night we made a rather action packed one that started with me being the aggressor.  I try to do a forward collar grab and Olivia reaches in and grabs mine and pulls me down toward her.  I'm met with a knee to the chest.  This brings me into position for her to swing a leg over and catch the opposite shoulder and drive it down while yanking my other arm up.  The result is that I spin in the air, land on my back and she punches me in the face. After we did this a few times I notices my elbows getting a bit sensitive, but didn't think much about it.  Apparently my new gi is way rougher than I'm used to and removed the skin around my elbows in a couple of places,  ow!

After all the action I'm completely sore this morning.  My back is in knots, my thighs are super sore from knee strikes, but I'm motivated to practice and have already made it half-way through the test by 8am.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

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 short.  We worked on expanding it which seems fun and more action packed, but I wasn't sure if I needed to have Olivia buy off on it.  

It did serve to get me to understand that our creativity can be put into use when everything seems to be pretty rigidly set out in our style of Karate.  I think the regional group of leadership has started focusing on the fact that we need get outside the box when we are at this level of practice.  It just takes time to rework my brain.

At class we had three point sparring and took it me long time to warm up to.  I only won two matches and it didn't feel great.  I only remembered to use my legs late into the matches and that turned the tide for me.  I don't believe my legs are much longer than anyone else, but their perception is that they are hyper long.  Whatever.  It got me the points.  

Point sparring agitates me.  Knowing exactly what to look for and to do the things are that easy to be witnessed turn the tide in scoring.  So a good block on a kick or punch are disregarded for a few reasons.  I get it and I'm learning, but I don't have to like it.  It's just that my natural competitiveness makes a loss frustrating.  

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

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 usually just doing one, one , one.  I'll need to continue to work on that.  

The side notes 
My Mother is nearing the end of life, but seems to be able to make miraculous recoveries each time she goes to the hospital. She has a medical directive in place that indicates that she wants to end life, but my Father is having a problem with this so things get complicated.  So my brother and I wait by the phone.

We are working on yet another part of the house.  This time it's our bedroom.  Since we are pretty good at it now it's gone a lot easier, but it's still a month in.  This time we've elected to put in built in closets and under window seating.  It just means more time till completion.  So we're living in a guest room in mean time.  

We have chickens and we're still learning lessons about them.  We had, through a variety of circumstances, two bantams until the rooster died two days ago.  This means that the hen is by herself because we can't allow her to mix with the regular hens.  So my wife has decided to make her a house chicken.  And my wife is now leaving for a week to take care of a sick friend.  Sigh.  


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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 because it was the easiest to absorb.  However, now we are given about 6 to 12 depending on how much needs to be addressed.  That being said it's nice to say that I can address a lot of the things given to me, but some things remain elusive.  It kind of depends on the location of the correction in the kata.

During my Saturday practice with Daniel and Olivia I managed to open up the top of my foot.  Due to my frozen toe, I'm unable to go to my right knee and be on the ball of my right foot.  So I go to the top of my foot.  It doesn't slow me too much, but on Saturday, I kept catching the top of my foot on a high spot on the floor.  By the end of the training I had a nice bloody hole.  Here I am on Tuesday still with Band-Aids, hoping that it heals up before tomorrow.  Hah!


Thursday, January 03, 2019

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.  Boy, is that tough.  Before bed I opted for ibuprofen and realized I should have taken it earlier as a prophylactic.  Just turning in bed was tough.

We were able to get about five kata with their bunkai before time ran out, but the amount of notes were pretty significant.  Nothing horrible, but basic things that have slid out of focus.  Hips, hands, and depth.  I'm so used to Daniel being on an A+ level with his kata that I was caught off guard when Reed give him a few notes here and there.

Regular class consisted of only Sarah, me and the two Sensei's.  When the class is this small Reed reserves the time for R & D.  The semester's kata is SonShein (sp?) which feels very elementary, but I gather it can be used for Blackbelt level tests as a rest kata.  A rest kata, as I'm finding out, is a purposefully short one set in the middle to give yourself some breathing room.

Anyway, the process of R & D is to create Bunkai and test every approach to a move to see how it works. During one of our ideas we moved into a triangle choke (grabbing under one arm and around the neck at the same time).  Unfortunately, I've been dealing with a slight neck issue and totally didn't think of it, but Sarah gave me a shock when she bared down a bit and my neck gave me a red alert.  Strangely on the ride home I noticed that I could turn left way better than I had been in able to for months.  I hope that holds.

Full Iron Circle

When I started at the Shudokan school five years ago, MaryAnn Sensei was working on her San Dan and as part of that she would teach me the k...