Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rebuild The Base

Class took a slightly strange turn last night.  Instead of test prep, we worked a strange augmented block.  Not that the block was strange, but that it was initiated from a side chamber.  I guess a lot of any art probably looks odd from the outside perspective.  The trick at the end of this was the disclaimer that we (black belts) would need to execute the block at the very last moment.  This causes me to rethink everything I'm doing and thus look and feel very clumsy.  Relearning, retooling whatever the word might be.

This was prep for Pinan Shodan.  Which has tantalizing similarities with my Pinan Sa Dan.  It will be interesting as we learn more of the Kata to see their similarities.

A new old person showed up. Olivia has her Shodan (1st degree black belt), but hasn't been able to attend due to her college schedule.  Hopefully she'll be able to continue to come regularly.  I am finding that our 4pm time is pretty terrible for most folks.  I love it because I get home early in the afternoon.  However, the school will never expand at that time slot. 

After class it was back to the basement dojo at my house.  Seven people packed in and we managed to get me through the entirety of Gekki Sai Dai Ichi.  Now for the refinement process.  Fifty times till I look vaguely smooth and then retool again for correction.  Wee.

After the basement session I noticed that Sensei Reed and Sensei Daniel talking by the car for several hours.  I went out and chatted with them.  Daniel has a degree in business administration and was selling a business plan to Reed.  I applaud this because Reed has no plan.  He knows that we need to grow.  Currently he's got six regular paying students (including me).  However, to get a better time slot at the gym we'll need to make more money and then we'll be able to attract more students.  A sort of chicken before the egg situation.  Of course the idea is to have a self-sufficient free-standing facility in some nebulous future.  They had it once and it worked well for them. 

I feel a type of ownership in the whole deal because they are such nice people.  And who doesn't want more time to get a beating?  Two hours a week and some extra on the side doesn't make for a steep learning curve.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Flex And Fall

We had a nice warm-up which included stretching.  I mention this because this school doesn't really focus on this too much.  I guess if you are working on flexibility it needs to happen outside of class.  Since the kicks and work we do are pretty basic, flexibility isn't an issue.  I have to give this approach a lot of respect because the athleticism required for fancy kicks and dynamic moves wouldn't have been great for me.  I would have tried to do them and been sore all the time. 

That being said, I ended up getting thrashed quite a bit working with Kyle on his next self-defense moves.  Uke leads with a left jab, that arm is captured in an arm lock followed by a takedown, move into shoulder lock and rollover.  Then submission.  After 30 minutes of that I was creaking.  If Kyle did the take down slowly I ended up falling slowing and that always hurts.  Once we got up to speed I could take the fall normally.  Unfortunately, I would have to take it slow for him and that put strain on my back. 

In the final 10 minutes I worked with Mark on his Application component again.  As Reed Sensei points out I'm learning everything really out of sequence and don't even know the kata that the application process is derived from, but should I get to the point where I learn that one this experience will be nice to have under the belt.

- fall back into cat stance with left mid block
- step forward with one two punch
- fall back into cat stance with left schtow(?)
- grab his right with your left and do right schtow. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Assuming the test was a bit anti-climactic to my co-students, I was wondering how they were going to be emotionally post celebration.  I assumed a renewed attitude to get it right next time.  However, class was restricted to four of us.  People were out sick or obligated and none of the kids showed up because of spring break.  Which didn't make it feel like we were going to jump in with vigor.  Ivanna was out sick and Mark did, at the very least, look more focused. 

There was a couple of young guys working out in the room when I got there who ended up joining us.  Sensei talked about prices and some other basic class stuff when I got to work on my stuff.  A young lady came in a bit later.  I assume she must have been a previous student she started working with MaryAnn on a somewhat advanced technique. 

It was back to the Bo (staff) for me to iron out even more technique issues.  Mostly focused on stance and then Sensei had me focus on staff positions.  Then on to work with Mark.  During the test I found out that he had been only trained up to a certain portion of what the other folks already knew.  So now he's learning the mirror of his training.  That means that I get to learn by his side as his temporary Uke.  As I mentioned in the last post, the test taker has to know the techniques backwards and forwards.  In Mark's case he was only shown the forwards.  Due to our rather short learning schedule per week that's all that he could get in before the test.  I'm not sure why Sensei didn't just wait off, but my guess is that he wanted Mark to experience a test to see how it felt. 

I got a quick review of what the work will be for Mark and Ivanna for the next quarter.  It's going to be tougher for Ivanna I think.  She's going to have to retool her whole approach to how she presents. 

Monday, March 23, 2015


I put my big boy gi pants on and went with the other black belts from our school and went down to Eugene.  It was a two hour trip with two hours spent getting there and then two hours back.  I finally got home at 11pm.  It made for a very long day. 

First thing of note was their school.  An old auto shop that had been refitted at some expense.  It must have been 2000 square feet or so.  Two full rooms.  That school's leader was a fifth degree (go dan) which gave the proceedings a very authoritative feeling, but the big deal was the Shihan and his wife (another super high ranker) doing the judging.

So many degrees I got sunburn.

The fun bit was being in a room with only blackbelts.  Everyone was very convivial and most people were mostly focused on warming up.

21 Black and 2 Brown

I can't claim that I totally understood the scoring system, but the candidate had to perform 10 kata, then they had to break it down into sections with another person and then perform the whole kata with another person at attacker and defender.  Afterwords it was elbow techniques and some self-defense.  

The other Shodans (first degree black belts like me) from the Eugene school had to constantly ask questions among themselves because they didn't understand why our folks were doing different stuff from their folks.  Confusion abound.  There were two Browns shooting for their blacks, about five Sho's going for their Nidan and two Nidan were going for their third.  Of our school one brown and one Ni didn't make it, but the guy going for his third did great.    

So the ride home had a somber feeling, but we'll see how folks are tonight.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Surprise Celebration

I knew something was up when I walked into class last night.  Chairs were set up all around the periphery and mats were on the floor.  Most of the kids were there running around and a few of the adult students were fussing around.  My presumption - we were going to do a dress rehearsal for Celebration (nice way of saying testing), but I was incorrect. 

Sensei Reed hadn't gotten to everyone at the last minute, but we were doing the Celebration last minute for the colored belts and on Friday the black belts and candidate Mark were going to Eugene to test! 

Apparently the head cheese got double booked and it was either that or waiting until May and driving to Yakima (five hour drive?).  So the three black belts and Mark all decided Friday was good.  I'm invited along, but not sure if I want to burn half a day for the experience.  I want to be there for Mark and celebrate if he's successful and be supportive if he's not. 

While the kids tested I was helping Mark through the toughest bit of one of his routines and that took the whole hour.  So I ended up missing how the process was, but it was definitely group oriented.  And I missed helping out Kyle.  He had to the head throw using MaryAnn Sensei who is a foot shorter than him.  I felt bad because I saw that one out of the corner of my eye.  It went poorly for her.  He wasn't advanced enough to know to squat down before she went over the shoulder.  Slow motion train wreck ensued.  He still got his next rank though.  Weeee. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Meat Collar

I'm too lazy to research if I've used this title in the past, but it's appropriate this morning.  I'm having a hard time looking side to side and it made driving a challenge on the highway.  It feels exactly as if I have a thick collar of gristle wrapped around my neck making move difficult, but painful. 

I'm more used to the lower back spasm that tells me I haven't been careful. I think anyone over 40 knows the neck pain I'm talking about.  Hell, I've done this sleeping poorly and woke with the same neck pain that lasted for a couple of days.

The flip side of this discomfort is that it is a direct result of Kyle getting ready for his test on Friday.  His portion includes two self defense scenarios which include escape from a full nelson and a throw from an attack from the rear.  Unfortunately, I was the punching dummy for him for most of the night.  At the end of class he was telling me that he wanted to ask MaryAnn Sensei if I could be his dummy (Uke) during the Celebration.  I hope it's going to be the case, because Friday is going to be a long affair (5:30 to 8). 

At the very least this means I get to participate a little in the big show instead of sitting to the side in my gi looking like a naughty child.  I'm a bit nervous about how I'm going to be perceived by the head dude.  I assume there is going to be some questions about who I am, or maybe he won't care.  Hard to say. 

During class last night I was helping a four year old, Neva, with block and punch.  We would freeze at the end of the movement while we waited for the others to finish.  During this time she noticed some of my chest hair, 
"What's that?" she said.
"Chest hair" I responded. 
"Why is white?"  to which I sighed. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Uke or Ookie?

With only two more classes to go before the celebration testing, I'm probably showing more excitement about the whole thing than anyone in the class.  I just realized that they've done all this before and it's new to me even though I'm not doing anything other than standing in a corner (I think...).

After warm up I got partnered with Mark to practice his 10 elbow techniques.  Now that I've done these a few times,  I'm starting to remember the overall pattern.  We went through them three times which left me a bit bruised since I was the Uke the whole time.  I always thought it was pronounced yookie, but everyone in this class says Oo-kay.  The Uke's job is to give himself to the Shite (it's pronounced sch-tay, not like the Irish saying the poop word).  Ideally, if I present perfectly all ten times then Mark will not have to think; just react.  I am the canvas on which he paints a masterpiece of technical prowess. 

Well, I don't know if we reach the heights that are inferred in my purple prose, but Mark has definitely shown a vast improvement in the flow of his technique.  That or I know when to fall down now and make him look good!  Hah.

The only thing I'm concerned about is that he's supposed to be doing a practical demonstration of one of his Kata's and he still appears to be learning it.  I'm not sure if this going to be on the test or what, but it doesn't look good to me.  I'll find out about it Monday. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sh┼źdokan 30!

Thirty Classes!  It's astounding to me that so much time has passed.  At eight classes a month, plus some after hours practice with the black-belts I feel like I've been there for a year.  My original idea to try a different style every month pretty much went out the door after the first couple of classes.  While not super warm to my presence, I have felt welcome enough to be taught at my level of skill.  The folks that have been going there have been doing so for a long time so my guess is that the bonhomie that I normally associate with a class is probably normal for my time here. 

Next Friday is the big test!  It's exciting to see everyone get geared up psychologically.  At the old school testing felt very random and it was targeted at one person at a time.  Here it's based on a three or four month cycle in which all people are tested (not me) for their next rank.  So the little kids will be working on their ranks and the teens will be working towards their regular ranks, etc.  I'm a little bummed that I can't help out Mark for the partner required portions of the test, but I don't know the material well enough.

After missing a week (the entry way plaster and paint is done!) it felt like I'd been gone for a year.  We were a small class and practiced zenkutsu dachi (one leg back, front knee bent) moving and then adding punches while we walked back and forth.  The punch was broken down into seven steps.  Talk about deconstruction.  Thinking about the mechanics at that level is wreaking havoc on normal punching, but I get the sense that I'm rebuilding in many senses of the word. 

Following that, we did some blocks (middle with strike?) which was considered very advanced technique.  Which led me to realize that the advancement connected to belt and test was predicated on doing basic technique very well.  Once a basic kick and punch was done well, the person could learn the next one and then test on that.  Whereas my introduction was learning a lot of techniques and slowly mastering then over the years.  There is a lot to be said for what is being done at this school in terms of teaching technique.  There is no hurry to learn a lot.  But what is being taught is pretty thorough and well-engrained before new technique is introduced.

After class Mark told me how he thought I looked relaxed and good at teaching the kids in the previous week.  I told him thanks, but how I was so stressed out about it.  Apparently, years of beatings made me look relaxed on the outside.  Makes me wonder about other teachers.  Do they hold tension inside while they look confident on the outside?  Probably.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Hiatus Week

I'm out for a week due to house work project backlog.  We bought a 100 year old house when we moved to the Rose City and it needs constant work.  This month we are replastering walls and ceilings.  Brutal dust and physical labor. 

So just practicing my three new Katas in the morning and hoping I'm not missing too much at class. 

Your Clothes, Book Cast With 100%

  At 6:05am I looked at my phone quizzically while trying to wake up.  My SaBomNim (master teacher), who is legally blind, sent me the messa...