Thursday, February 26, 2015

Welding With Children

The horrors of the past have come to revisit me.  I have become complacent in my outsider student status, but that was disjointed sharply by MaryAnn Sensei last night. 

In my old school my Black Belt test had a few things predicated before I could take the actual test.  The test not occurring until my teacher was satisfied with my progress in a few areas.  The first I will call "Deal with your fears"  or "For god's sake, they are just kids." 

After years of teaching the adults off and on my teacher noticed that I only took a peripheral interest in working with the kids.  The patience required was well beyond what I could generate even on my best day.  But when he went on vacation I would take up the challenge to provide continuity for the kids.  He didn't usually take kids under six, but there always seemed to be a row of kids around four years of age eating their boogers and generally not knowing their left from their right. 

So when he wanted me to be ready for my belt he would assign me things like teach the kids class for several months and while I was doing it he'd have to leave the room so he wouldn't start laughing out loud at my obvious exasperation.  Over time I learned to appreciate the kids and their obvious growth and personal diligence.  I also recognized that wasn't going to be my forte'. 

So last night after warm up MaryAnn Sensei pulls me over and says, "do you know the Kieso Kata number 1?"  It was my turn to look like a booger-eating moron.  So she had me teach the new kids a basic C step, then downward
blocks.  I was supposed to have them tie that together so they could walk and downward block at the same time.  She swung by after about 15 minutes and taught me and my wards the first part of the kata.  Which we dutifully practiced for another 10 minutes. 

After class I was able to fondly remember a lot of what I mentioned above with some degree of fondness, but I get frustrated because teaching doesn't always feel like a direct route in my martial progress.  Which probably means that it is.  Hah!

After class I had my first lesson in MIG welding.  Thus the title.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Progress report

Slight change of plan last night after we bowed in.  In fact so much so that I didn't even know what the Sensei said to me. One of the other students told me, "he wants you lead warm up."  Oh right!

I'm usually shifting my brain into neutral during the warm-up, so suddenly being in charge again after years of leading in my old class threw me off somewhat.  I think I did everything we normally do, but some of it was out of order, but no one appeared to mind.  But by leading I ended up missing out on the little run that goes around room five times and then back around the other way.  It's a great way to warm up.  Ah well.  

Kyle and I completed the Chatan Yata Bo Kata, but I'll need a lot more assistance on that one.  Actions are good, but transitions from stance to stance are missing in a lot of pieces. 

After class we headed down to my basement dojo to work with the gang on the test prep.  Judging doesn't feel like my forte', but I gave my best shot after the two candidates did their ten kata.  I feel out of place making comments, but I just don't know now harsh it's going to be for them.  And not being one of the fold yet I'm not sure of what value they place on my commentary anyway. 

After that I got placed with MaryAnn Sensei to work on a new Kata!  Gekisai dai-ichi.  It's a Gojo Ryu basic one.  I got the first few steps before we ran out of time.  Still exciting progress since I've only been in for a few months now.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Last night was back to the preparatory grindstone.  As of tomorrow the class has 30 days to get ready for Celebration.  Celebration being the general term for gathering the various schools and doing testing.  In the past all the schools in the Northwest region would get together with their families and it became quite the event.  Due to the cyclical nature of martial arts school membership the event is now a very modest affair. 

Instead of a big road trip to Yakima we have the head guy come here and sign off on tests with a big social/dinner afterwards.  If I understand correctly Shihan Morris is into his 80s at this point and his sons are showing signs of their age which may preclude the celebration from occurring on the selected date.  However Sensei will continue on treating our curriculum as if we are going to have the gathering. 

Mark will be going for his Black Belt and Ivanna will be going for her 2nd degree.  And thankfully I won't have to do anything.  I was a bit concerned that I'd be partnered with Mark just to be his Uke, but I don't know the techniques smoothly enough.  I was even concerned about doing the basics with the children.  It's all very alien to me,  always stopping and thinking of the next move. 

So while Sensei focused on getting the children ready, Kyle and I worked on the Chatan Yata staff kata.  I'm now at 2/3s.  It's coming a little bit more smoothly, but my inability to practice the transitions at home are slowing me up.  My wife and I have been putting a lot of effort into redoing the interior walls so the house now resembles one of Dexter's plastic kill rooms.  Two new ceilings and tons of replastering makes for a constant cloud of dust.  Hopefully next week we'll be back to have some larger space for me to practice.  The basement dojo is just too low to have a staff swinging. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Clutched tightly between the thighs of large man, with my own shoulder compressing the veins in my throat, I struggled to understand why I was so jealous of Bob and his judo class.  But that was a very small thought as my desire to breath overruled pretty much everything else.  

Bob has recently started Judo class.  I am jealous of Bob.  The mechanics of Judo make it necessary to practice with other people.  The mechanics require the practitioner to engage physically with another person. My current art is very traditional.  We do not engage physically very often.  I am on my 26th class and we have done groundwork about 3 three times.  I am not complaining, but I miss the chess like struggle of using the body in 3 dimensions and letting kinesiology take over when other senses are not centrally engaged.  

So while we prep for Celebration next month I assumed that we would be working on kata and exercises ad nauseam.   During a self directed warm up Sensei pulled out mats and and prepped an area, which meant ground work!

We were introduced to "shrimping" (forcing your hips to the side and down to create space) in order to learn to put people into a triangle choke with our legs.  
We then learned how to escape by putting the soon to be locked arm into a bent position with the hand up by the face.  This takes the lock out of contention. We were supposed to get the second hand up in between the legs, but it didn't go that way very well for me.  

I got picked as the Uke for Sensei quite a few times and he is a strong man. Even when we was not doing an arm bar I was quickly tapping when he squeezed his thighs.  Three seconds to midnight.  

Mark and I ended up choking and being choked the rest of the hour.  Really fascinating stuff and physically grueling.  I was a bit concerned about my back, but this morning everything was in the right place and I didn't experience contraction.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Weps 2

I just realized that I had forgotten to post after Wednesday's class, however it wasn't much more than a repeat of Monday's course work.  Kyle got assigned to me to continue my work on the Chatan Yata staff kata.  I'm pretty sure that's not the way the name is pronounced, but until I get an authoritative response from Sensei I'll go with Noah's best guess with spelling/pronunciation.  

Ironically, Kyle showed up early to work on the kata anyway so we worked on it until MaryAnn Sensei showed up to start the class.  My new word is Say-deit-say.   Again I have no idea as to the spelling or pronunciation, but it's said at the beginning of class to call the students into formation.  Blackbelts not instructing stand on the right of the Sensei perpendicularly.  Instructing ones face us and the students are in a line facing the Sensei.  

After bow in (Go-zi-mash-e-tah) Kyle spent the rest of the class helping me get through the first third of the routine.  In addition to the chatan yata move (the figure eight set) I learned a second routine that requires me to switch hand grips while the staff is over my head.  I saw myself in the mirror and realized it looks like a parody of a martial artist.  I definitely need to be practicing this a thousand more times.  Even 45 minutes of practice sets my shoulder on fire.  I guess I'll be stretching that out over the next month or so.

I told Kyle that I had always wanted to do the Kamas (little sickles) and wanted to know how staff had come up.  He said that it wasn't brought into the syllabus until Brown belt, but he asked politely and Sensei started him out (Kyle is a Orange Belt, but dedicated and earnest).  He figures after awhile he might bring up a second request.  

This got me to thinking when I might make a request for some knowledge, but I'm so new that I think I'm just going to wait off to about a year.  The upcoming celebration (testing) should be neat, assuming I'm even allowed to watch.  I don't even feel comfortable talking about how to address the concept of testing for me.  I'm not sure how I would run a transplant Black belt.  In my own school our teacher would just test them after a few months, but it was for each belt level.  He just didn't want to award a high belt unless the new guy would stay around for a bit.  We never had an hour sheet for tracking like Aikido schools.  It was all done via subjective measure.  I can see where that could be bit insulting; in not respecting previous work even if it is in a similar style, but the new guys never seemed to mind.  They just appeared to be there to practice.  I'm trying to keep the same mindset and let it flow.  Objectively, I only know one kata all the way through.  Less than most of the white belts.  As they say in Mexico, "tranquillo".  Relax.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Midway through class I could see my right hand swelling up, which was weird because I haven't seen any injury based on class since I left my old school.  The base of my thumb was literally twice the size of the left and both hand were bright red. 

I didn't care though.  I had a huge smile on my face and a partially functioning hand was not going to remove that. The reason is because Chiten Yata, my first staff (bo) kata.  I have no idea if I'm spelling that correctly, but after a decade or more I'm finally doing a weapons kata.  Sensei has asked me a few times if I knew anything or had any experience.  I can literally count the times I touched a staff on one hand and I'm not using all the fingers.  In my last school our syllabus sacrificed weapons for more and more complex technique.  I'm sure if we could have worked in one more day of instruction we could have had that.  

Last night the class consisted of me and Kyle and bunch of kids.  I've come to enjoy these because of the focused nature.  I wouldn't want it all the time, but it's great now and then.  Kyle knows the whole staff kata which is supposedly for a more advanced level, but he was able to run me through the initial sequence for which the kata is named.  I've search on line, but because I don't know how to spell it I can't post an example.  Sufficed to say, it's the figure eight move that I have seen in the fancy katas.  In time I can record my progress for the laughs.

I practiced the initial sequence 50 time with Kyle.  Unfortunately, this is where I started noticing my hand getting more and more swollen.  Thankfully, it never got to the point where it didn't function optimally.  After a night sleep it's back to normal but it feels well worked.  

The kata has three thirds and I was able to get to the end of the first third, but even with running home and practicing immediately after class I was unable to complete that third.  The chiten yata, I think I have that.
Celebration is scheduled for March 20th!  Although I'm not testing, I'll be excited to see how it's run and how our folks do.  Crap, now I'm not sure if I'll be required to do the basics!  That would be embarrassing for the school.

Monday, February 09, 2015


Just a quick note to the fans that I've made a lot of progress on my basement dojo.  When my Sensei was moving he had to clean out his storage and had a huge pile of the those 3 x 3 interlocking sport mats.  For helping him move I have a semi permanent borrow of a huge stack.  So I've been cleaning them and installing them downstairs for the last several weeks.

I've done a couple of rolls and the mats are very compressed.  Of course they are on concrete, but whatever foamy goodness they had 10 years ago seems to have left the building.  Still, it creates a nice insulating layer against the cold floor.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Behind The Scenes

Since I have been writing this blog I have struggled with the direction of the writing.  I would like to be entertaining, but I really started it with the idea that I would have a location in which to store my notes from class and have people reflect on those if they felt they could add something.  

Since I have started Sh┼źdokan I figured I would just stick with the notes and not worry about the personalities in the class.  The class is small enough and folks are nice enough that I don't feel the need to write about them much.  

My last school had such a cast of characters and in regular rotation that I could have really spent most of my blog writing about them.  This was most likely because I lived in a small town and everyone knew everyone and their business. For instance my good friend ended up divorcing his wife and soon she was dating another one of my good friends from class.  It would put us into a weird situation in which we couldn't talk comfortably.  

A compounding feature to this small town dynamic was that I became friends with my last Teacher.  We socialized frequently and I saw him go through two marriages and other big changes in his life.  However, the man who teaches is not always the guy you drink beer with.  I will say this in his case, he was consistent as person could be, but it always troubled me to see him going through trials and tribulations.  I obviously wanted my teacher to be a superhuman untroubled by the slings and arrows of the world.  

Which brings me to Reed.  He has the outward appearance of the serene Buddha. He is a storehouse of knowledge due to teaching exclusively for almost 20 years.  Everything has a reason and everything has been thoughtfully considered.  His personality is relaxed and consistent and he has the ability to share a small joke now and then.  

Last week he mentioned that he was unable to go to the extended Monday night work because he was moving.  When I asked he said that he was moving back in with his wife.  This confused me because they always together at the class; dropping off and picking up kids.  Apparently, they were separated for several years!  

I wanted to be supportive and offered my truck for moving.  This lead to an evening of moving a lot of martial arts stuff.  As I have mentioned before, Reed ran a successful school for many years and as a consequence has accumulated a lot of stuff. I think we moved forty or fifty staffs, swords and assorted ephemera. On top of that four wavemaster dummies, and 50 3x3 sport mat squares.  This doesn't even include 100's of gi's, signs, tournament equipment, and paperwork.  Probably the neatest thing was the posters from the past where we got to see the students over the years.  That connection with lineage is important to me even though the school is a shadow of itself.  Reed's instructor told him that he could make a go with 100 students.  Reed had 60 as his highest number.  

Last night I was Uke for Mark's practice.  He practiced 40 techniques on me and then did 10 kata.  I was impressed in spite of myself.  Of course I felt like a walking bruise in the evening.  Taking repetitive falls on hardwood is okay for one or two times, but 10 or more was having an accumulative effect.  

He is showing rapid improvement.  Anything we mentioned last week has been taken care of.  Better kicks and relaxed shoulders for sure.

Your Clothes, Book Cast With 100%

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