Thursday, June 30, 2016


Mark is 60 something and took his first Alzheimer test awhile back.  He got a borderline result on a basic office visit and means that he'll have to go in for advanced testing - probably a CT to see if there is any physical degradation. 

This bit of knowledge came up while we were in my backyard struggling to remember pieces of the kata (Kyoku 8).  I was genuinely concerned that I was slowing down his progress because I was really having a lot of difficulty with one section and didn't appear to be getting any better.  Amidst my apologies he started talking about memory and he gave me his story. 

His daughter is a psychologist and says that going to Karate is pretty great for him and the continuing health of his brain.  So I guess I have a leg up with trying to study Spanish at the same time, but his open admission about his own concerns made me depressed and hopeful at the same time.  I told him about my Mother and her decline and her current use of a dementia suppression medication.  The underlying fear being - am I going there?   Mark's matter-of-factness certainly goes a long way to making me feel better about being present and just addressing ones issues. 


Because my brain is so full of trying to remember, and frankly not feeling so good with my lack of progress this week, I started feeling nervous about class.  Slowing down Mark, disappointing Reed and myself; all start playing at my nerves.  That small dread of going to class was starting to rear it's ugly head, but, as usual, getting there and going through the motions eliminates the problem. 

In class we were assigned Ivanna to help us (Mark and me) out.  A few runs through the kata with almost constant help at one portion and then it was on to the 7 bunkai.  Ironically, we have those down fairly well, but we are both helping one another.  In a vacuum I'm not sure I could pull them all out by myself.  However, for a teenager, she is incredibly patient with her "old men".  She wanted to make sure of how we learned to make it a successful session, but I realized I have no idea how I learn!

By the time we finished up with our work, class had finished.  But we got a text from Dan Sensei saying that he couldn't have us over after class.  Again, I had that mix of conflicted feelings.  Relief that the evening would be mine, but the horror of not getting more time in to work on the kata.  In the end desire to learn won out and I invited everyone over for a backyard session. 

We collected and started working on the kata, but my yard provided a nice challenge.  It's all down hill.  So when I tried to go into a zenkutsu stance I'd find that rear foot contacting way faster and throwing off my balance. 

We ended up getting a lot farther in the kata and learning the eighth bunkai; humorously called, "I surrender", due the double forearm block that defender employs at the beginning. 

By the end of all the work, my fears has dissipated and my normal crappy practice the next morning wasn't as horrible as I anticipated.  A good week! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

All Natural Percussive Temporary Tattoos

At my old school bruising was regular and sometime spectacular, but it was also a badge of pride.  Now that I look back I sure we looked like a bunch of heroin addicts unable to find veins in our arms anymore.   A side effect of this was that over time I bruised less and less and impacts hurt less and less. 

In my current school the impacts are way less because we are so focused on form, but on occasion we'll have a blocking drill that will remind me of the good old days.  However, I notice that the sensitivity that I worked so hard to drive away appears to be eeking it's way back. 

Last night, I acted as Uke to Reed while he demonstrated a piece of the bunkai from Nifanshi Shodan (Now I realize it's also called Tekki Shodan).  I grabbed his wrist and he would drive my hand down to break the grasp and then while he brought it up he would slam a hammer fist down on top of the forearm to completely break the grip. 

Let's just say that the first time I was pretty sure he used all of his strength to escape the grab.  I'm not sure what my face did, but I was trying to be contained as possible.  I was truly shocked that I could feel that shot as much as I did and wondered about the bruises if it hurt that much.  And then he did four more times. 

Of course this morning there was no bruise and no soreness at all.  Sigh.  For all the lumps I would have like to shown something at work.  More than likely my co-workers would have assumed I'd fallen down. 

Class was mostly dedicated to learning more of the Nifanshi, but after class was back to the Kyoku Roku Dan.  I'm trying to make every piece count, but I feel like I'm slowing Mark down.  He's ahead in the kata and I'm struggling with a lot of nuances.   This was reflected this morning while I practiced the next steps at super slow speed.  Not because I was being cool, but because I couldn't remember the pieces.  Sigh.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


I have now moved into what I call SOP; Standard Operating Procedure.  My life has become a clockwork schedule of repetition that will hopefully keep me on the straight and narrow. 

I get up around 5, practice kata and exercise.  On Mondays and Wednesdays I go to Karate in the afternoon for two hours.  On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I run (one day for time, one day for pace and one day for sprints). 

I've done this off and on over the years with some regularity, but I have been doing this 6 weeks straight and, boy, do my arms looks skinny.  I used to love lifting weights, but I don't seem to have time to get that into my schedule.  So I'm looking thinner and this is enhanced because my pants look big on me and my shirts are looking draped rather than stretched.

Last night we were introduced to Nifanshi Shodan.  This was one of my blackbelt test katas back up North, but was called Nihanshi Shodan there.  Reed tells us there is no F sound in Japanese thus the multiple pronunciations. 

The cool part being that I essentially know this kata, but as with everything in this class, the attention to detail is extraordinary.  Even the stance is called nifanshi dachi.  The hand locations are all based on a left-handedness which is another plus for me.  

I always feel that when I compare and contrast these things the Japanese version seems heavily stylized, whereas the Korean version is based on power, but neither seem practical.  Another spot that the Japanese version has over the Korean is that we learn the bunkai while we learn along with the kata.  Although moves are a bit exotic at least it forces the doer to realize that things can be done with the movements.

The after class session just ended up being Mark and I going over the 7 bunkai for Roku-Dan.  Hot and sweaty, but nice to go over the moves. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Two More

Knowing that Mark and I are on an accelerated pace to learn two kata with attendant bunkai is thrilling.  Yesterday the after class focus was to move us further into the Kata and then teach us more two more bunkai.  Know that we are up to number 7 is cool because we only have three to go. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Reed came into class carried a stack of boards!  I've never broken a board in class.  My last school was on an island and wood was expensive.  I think we could have gotten raw cut lumber, but I'm not sure where we would have dried it.  We always used the plastic break away boards, but those would give up their useful lives fairly quickly. 

I didn't get the option to break though.  We did paper, scissors, rock and the younger students all go to try.  I have to admit it's awesome to see a 10 year old blow through a piece of wood and just come off stoked. 

We focused almost solely on punching for the whole hour.  I feel refined for sure, but my body is also telling me that I was getting into new territory with how far we stretch it out to get that punch out.

The blackbelts all took off to Dan's place and after a wait we got rolling with our kata and bunkai.  As I spend more time with Mark I realize that we learn in different fashions which probably helps us quite a bit. He tends to hyper focus on whys before we get very far and I can remember the overall pattern, but the details escape me.  We are made for each other.  Hah!

We learned a little more of the kata with explanations and then we went straight into the bunkai.  Our new ones continue the high intensity grapple and lock.  Here are the clever names our older students have given them.

6. Breaking Sticks - push block in cat stance with a wrist capture, elbow slap/break, shoulder gi grab, push his shoulder to your knee and then penetration punch to head.

7. Is a drag - another capture, with a shoulder press lock and then kick to face with drag of Uke.

Violence is fun!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Shūdokan 80

Bone crunching, tendons grinding and snapping - that is definitely the way to celebrate the 80th class! 

I was experiencing the same feeling of dread, partial exhaustion and even a little a nausea from adrenaline, that I used to get going to classes at my old school.  This came, in part, due to the often regular contusions and joint pain I got from the regular impactful contact and joint manipulations that were part of the syllabus. 

The Shūdokan class has never invoked these feelings in me before because we rarely do locks or heavy impact, but I realized that there is an underlying excitement in having a goal and in the relatively short time of a year.  Also having class on Monday is a bit tough for me because I'm not usually well rested. 

With that being said, I got a surprise during class.  Mark and I paired up as usual to do our "fours".  We are to do the kata four times, and then practice the bunkai four times with each of us performing the attack four times.  We know three of the bunkai and it takes us some time to work through the second one. 

Currently the abbreviated list is:
1. Double shudo - into arm lock
2. Ridge hand block sequence
3. Wrist lock that ends in punch
4. Four on the floor
5. Belt pull

As I said we got up to the third bunkai and then MaryAnn Sensei was assigned to us to teach us number four.  Four on the floor is the name because that is where Uki's face ends up.

The move starts with a push block of a punch.  Then a two handed wrist lock that locks the elbow and shoulder (due to the rotation).  Push Uki to floor; stomp his shoulder to the ground and step over to lock arm until tap.  Step over head, pull arm up and chop to ribs. 

Number five was a relatively easy one.  Your back is to the attacker, they seize your belt.  You yoriosh forward to jerk them off their feet.  Turn and yori back into them and shoulder lock them and chop to neck.  So easy in comparison!

I'm guessing we're at 340 days to go!  We have to learn two kata and the first has ten bunkai, but Reed Sensei pointed out that it's kind of a fun thing versus a formal testing thing.  I'm not sure how that'll roll out, but time will disappear before we know it. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Three Bunkai

I'm pretty sure, at this point, Mark and I are going to be working on this kata, Kyoku Roku Dan, until we are blue in the face.  Reed has emphasized that we are to be absolutely focused on quality over quantity.  This means that due to the length of the kata we aren't supposed to be moving forward until each section is pristine.  The chunk we know is pretty good as Reed and Dan target spots for improvement over and over, but now the focus is on bunkai. 

Last night we started our warm-ups with kicks.  I love and hate the drill we perform.  Grab a partner and hold opposite hands and then endless roundhouse kicks.  It's a progressive drill that starts with kicks to the knee, then abdomen and finally head.  It's exhausting because at the peak of the drill you are doing 12 kicks on various targets while you remain balanced on one foot. 

So the day after I'm usually fairly sore from this kind of thing, but I'm suspiciously not crippled up.  So tomorrow I should be a broken man assuming I get a run in as well.

The horrible hot weather has passed so I was too troubled by going to Dan's house.   We trouped over there, but town is crippled with parades and fleet week, so time kept moving on and there was no Dan or Reed.  Impending weather finally made me impatient for everyone to show up so I bid adieu to the gang and ended up mowing for the next few hours.  Not the best way to learn, but my man Mark will be up on the next moves I hope.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Burning Hot

The Thorn City is currently in the grips of another early heat wave.  That means going to class is an absolute relief.  My house doesn't have air conditioning and usually our space is a little cool for my comfort, but after the short drive I was absolutely swimming in delight at the cool breeze blowing through the studio.

After bow-in the students who Celebrated(?) last week received their belts, badges and diplomas.  During the course of the class each student was taken to the side and they would discuss the results of the testing.   I'd love to hear what was said because Reed and MaryAnn have a very sensitive approach to how they talk to the kids. 

While that was going on I warmed up the class for some time.  This wasn't really required because most of us were already sweating quite a bit, but it was fun to try to remember the hansu stuff.  After that I lead basic kicks and punches up and down the floor.  I'm just not that imaginative. 

We moved to different katas depending on belt level.  I started working on Rohai Shodan with Ed, but was told to work on Kyoku Shodan with the new browns.  I already knew that one, but I was happy to clean up my bad form.  When I turned around at one point Ed had disappeared.  I hope he wasn't pissed for some reason. 

After we finished up it was time to head over to Dan's dojo garage.  Let me emphasize that I'm very happy to work out extra and learn a little bit more, but this is his actual garage and it is not air conditioned.  Reed and I got there a little early and, to our dismay, there wasn't a fan in site. 

I got a little further on Kyoku Roku Dan, but Reed and Dan dialed it back trying to get me to focus on little details before we advanced.  I was fine with that as he added two more bunkai to what we learned so my brain was getting filled. 

While doing grabs and wrist locks on Mark the heat and our perspiration created a fairly frictionless environment.  So a grab would slide around easily making it difficult to seal the deal.  I possibly made it worst by switching to a t-shirt, thinking that a gi would be too hot.  By the end of 45 minutes I had to quit in fear that I'd pass out.  No one else seemed as effected so I'll chalk it up to having poor heat management.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Celebration Actual

The day has finally come where I got to participate in Celebration, the under blackbelt testing demonstration assembly that runs roughly three times a year.  During the last year and a half I've managed to miss every single one of these, but I did get to see the blackbelts test up in trail city.  The blackbelt test was so confusing because I got pulled in to the testing and had no idea what the hell I was doing. 

Well, last night was a fraction better.  I got handed a clipboard filled with boxes and was told to choose two students.  We were then broken up into groups and there were three basic movements and then a series of kicks.  Followed by three kata (thankfully my two picked the same katas).  The bunkai for the three kata which took a while since both sides needed to do it three times.  I realized this was a good idea because the first one was a bit rough, but then they smoothed out.

The testing rounded out with elbow techniques and knife defenses.  Both of which my two folks did really well with. 

After the congratulations the students got notice that they'd get their results and belts on Monday.  Grading is based on EGON.  E is for excelled I guess.  I gave my two Gs with pluses and minuses.  I guess O is Okay and N is no go.

Since I'm gearing up for my blackbelt I started going to Dan Sensei's house last night.  This where the BBs can get their extra training in.  Dan is working on his forth degree and lives to make a dojo business, but this is rather informal and to get everyone moving forward takes some energy.  I don't have lots of time so I'm nudging as soon as we get the garage door open.  Unfortunately last night was already getting warm.  The thorn city is hitting an inclement period and it was already 90 when we started up.  I could only practice for about 40 minutes before I had to take off. 

The sum of my knowledge - about four more moves on the Roku-dan and no more bunkai.  But a few things pointed out and corrected.

Your Clothes, Book Cast With 100%

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