Tuesday, January 27, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Infection And Review

I haven't posted in the last week due to a lingering illness.  As the cold/flu season rolls across the US I thought I had escaped the clutches of fever, chills and snots as my friends and co-workers were laid low all around me.  Alas, not even my robust immune system could fight off all of it.  Instead of snot I ended up with lung problems.

It's been two weeks since the beginning of the symptoms and there hasn't been much change.  Any movement induces coughing jags that last up to five minutes.  I found some old bottles of codeine cough syrup and I'm disappointed in the lack of progress.  I apparently developed a tolerance in one day.

Anyway, I decided just go to class and cough my way through.  I mean I'm going to work so I figured I might as well go and cough on my fellow students.

When I got to class Kyle let me know that the last three sessions were dedicated to preparation for Celebration. Celebration being the name for the testing gathering.  I have been told that in years past that the whole region collected for these quarterly events.  This would include 50 blackbelts and everyone's family, making a fairly massive event.  Obviously  this has scaled down.  Only the grandmaster (10th Degree Morris Mack) and another instructor come and visit the class to review the testing.  I keep wondering if this is a trend.  The TKD schools just seem to have the business model ironed out.

I think as a nod to my general hacking Reed Sensei had me act as a judge to our brown belt.  Mark did ten kata and I was supposed to be keeping notes on his acumen.  I had absolutely no idea how these katas were supposed to be performed so I would bother Reed with observations while he watched another student preparing for her 2nd Dan.

In my old class we were constantly nagged about head turns.  "You should always be looking where you're going!" they would tell me ad nauseam.  My guy didn't really make any particular effort in that area because his kata were complex enough that he was really concentrating on the next move.  Reed Sensei pointed out that as a rule there should be, per kata, two fast head turns for 90 degree and less turns and two slow head turns for 180 degree moves.  Neat rule.  My guy wasn't quite there, but Reed didn't appear to think that was a quick fix.  More of a long term correction.

I was bothered about my guys kicks.  He was just flinging the leg out.  Granted he's 62 going for a black belt so I don't think I can judge too harshly, but when I mentioned to Reed he was nice enough to bring it up in the review.  He actually had me stand up and perform a front kick so Mark could see how it was done.  I did one of my best.

Reed gave me some interesting information about the Kata section of the test.  Apparently, some of the kata performed are Shūdokan only and considered secret!  The doors and windows are actually covered so no one can see!  However, Reed did point out how funny that was because anyone walking by can see us practice them.  Still I liked the nod to traditionalism.  I find comfort that there is a connection to the past.  

Class finished up with jump rope.  Two instructors tied some belts together and we were to run through the rope.  They started with it not moving and we jumped.  They went one way and were to time our run to get through.  They went the other way and we had to jump to clear the rope,  and finally there were two counter-rotating belts (ala double dutch).  Kyle told me to focus on the front belt and I cleared without any problem, but after than I fell apart in the timing.  I would forget to pick my feet up after clearing the first rope.  Durrrr.  However a nice light way to end the class.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Shūdokan 20 - Fight Night 2

Based on the fact that I completed my 20th class, I'm going to leave off the Shūdokan in the title in the future. I think I can safely say that I enjoy the class enough that I'm going to stick around for as long as I'm engaged.  So much for my martial artists tour of various styles.  I simply can't beat the cost, location and teacher.


It a burst of ingenuity the Teacher decided to go fast and hard into movement.  Last night he took out flat rubber disks and placed them into patterns on the floor.  We would do follow the leader with various foot work.  Essentially enforcing the fact that movement translates into better distance control and trying to stop crossing feet if possible.  With all kinds of variations we worked our way up to cartwheels.  Which, being 48, set my confidence level to low, but it turned out that I could do them fine on one side, but the other turned into a round off.  Either way it was great exercise, but I'm guessing little practical martial art value.

In the past (by that I mean at my old school) Fight night wasn't regular unless I lead the class.  In retrospect I can see that I should have more rigid rules in place, but the way it was presented to me was to be close to realism versus point fighting.  It kind of blended for us over the years.  This version of Karate I'm in now stresses no fighting (or lack of conflict?) at all, minimal contact and point sparring.  I haven't seen much in the way of advanced technique either, but the work on basics is intense and multi-faceted.

In this school there are clear rules in karate point-sparring, but probably the only one last night that had a good working knowledge was the Teacher.  The line judges were struggling a bit with out of bounds and areas of contact that would give a point.  After a couple of false starts we got down to good business and had a fine time.

I have lots of experience from my other class, but this rigid environment is a bit tough for me.  I want to do take downs, which are fine, but have to be carefully managed so you don't bust joints. Definitely no throws.  Sigh.  So it was block, punch, kick and I was blocking too early.  So I had a majority of punches landing on my lead arm.  My hand feels like a complete bruise but with no visible signs.

So pretty sore and stiff today.  In the best way possible.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Shūdokan 19 - Happy Feet!

Did you ever have one of those classes where everything the teacher says appears directed at you?  I had that last night.  By the third time he stopped the class to make a point I was starting to blush. Although he didn't look at me directly, but I'm pretty sure that my issues were stimulating ideas to point out to the class.  Dang!

I can't say what makes the teacher chose the nightly curriculum but last night we fell back on 10 kata. Since this is major component for testing he hits this pretty hard.  Each person has to perform 10 katas.  The students perform one and wait for everyone to finish.  Then we are critiqued.  This eats up class time so much so that I worry that we won't get to the tenth one.

After the first Kata, the teacher brought up the overhand block.  I'm not saying that I a super student and that I've got the concept after the first time I'm told, but I was getting a red face because he'd told me already the rationale for how he does the block like he does.  I love it and I'm trying to do it, but trying to remember old kata didn't allow for the space to recall to do the overhead blocks in the "new" fashion.  About the sixth block and I remembered to start doing it.  And then he grinds it in during the explanation.  Ugh.

The next component to draw his attention was Happy Feet.  My second kata was much like the first, but my "C" step forces me to move my feet around while I seek balance.  Boom he saw that and was like, "yeessssss".  Probably the worst part of this was that he pointed out something that I never knew I did or even thought about.  Moving from one stance to another necessitates a shift in balance and he wants to see no movement in the foot.  To him (and I agree as much as it chagrins me) a constantly shifting foot indicates that the balance is not set before movement.  A solid and still foot indicates a strong base and good balance.

Finally, when we got to move advanced and explosive katas he stopped us and pointed out how important breathing is.  I couldn't stop from inwardly groaning.  Breathing is one of my worst problems.  I often hold my breath to point of exhaustion, hardly aware I'm even doing it until I'm completed doing whatever I'm in the middle of.  His story instruction was basically that.  Verbal exhalations remind the person that they are breathing.  Keeping it quiet doesn't do anything for you.  So when we went back to the next Kata I tried hard to breath loud, but I was so wrapped up around the feet issue, totally forgot about half way.  Arrgghh.

I should mention that I'm so self-absorbed that I never noticed if the other advanced students had an issue with this things or not.  I was just so wigged out that they were plainly issues for me.  MaryAnn did give me compliments about the power I bring to the katas.  However, this is only in contrast to the others around me.  They don't appear to give anything gusto in my eyes, but what do I know?  I can barely walk and breath at the same time!

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