I've been a keen karate student for 16 years, Shukokai and Shotokan, but there still seems to be no shortage of things to learn and explore. I'm hoping this blog will allow me to share my experiences and hear other martial artists thoughts.

Archive for April, 2012

Me, Myself and I…Day 5

I grabbed a quick half an hour to practise a few things on the bag.

Continuing the theme of awareness that has come into focus this week I started off by ‘seeing’ an attack from first the front, moving and blocking and then hitting the bag with a counter strike and then repeating for the right hand side, left hand side and rear. I was imagining the strikes were normal attacks you would imagine a non-martial artist might throw so a face punch, swinging hook like punch etc.

It was interesting to start to get a bit of a feel how I preferred different responses to attacks from different directions particularly from the right and left hand sides. I then worked on taking my response beyond just a single counter for frontal attacks. My bag is mounted on a sprung base which means I can grab hold of it and pull it down onto knee strikes and practise trying to get a bit of a grip for some throws like Kubiwa (to encircle the neck).

It did bring to back to my mind an exercise we used to do at my old Shotokan club. We’d open up one of the fixed kumite routines to give us the choice of any counter as long as it would be effective in hurting the assailant. It taught you that the simple straightforward techniques would be quick and effective assuming they were well targetted at the assailants vulnerable areas.

Then I worked on my Shiotsuki inspired combination a bit more. The Shiotsuki series is the same simple kata but just using a different block so down block for No.1, inside block for No.2 etc. I was thinking about simplifying my combination to focus just on expanding the applications from the down block and stepping punch but it didn’t seem to work very well. Again it was good to have a bit of time to try out a different approach to see if it worked.

I’m certainly enjoying using these little practise sessions to try out different ideas at my own pace. Iain Abernethy uses the example of an acorn containing everything needed to ultimately become a tree with it’s many branches to try and describe how a kata can represent a whole system of combat. It feels like a similar idea can represent the wealth of information I receive through my club training that then needs to be unpacked further, examined and practised.

Me, Myself and I…field trip…Day 4

After writing last nights post I hopped onto Twitter to take a look at who might be able to provide some information about awareness. I scrolled down to the bottom of my following list and saw that Iain Abernethy was the first person I’d chosen to follow. I’ve visited Iain’s website a number of times and know he has articles that he has written on there so thought it was as good a place to start as any.

Sure enough a brief look through his articles uncovered an article called ‘Awareness: The Key to Karate for Self Protection’.

Iain suggests an exercise to develop your awareness. He recommends engaging in a conscious internal dialogue anout the dangers and potential dangers that could arise in our day to day activities. Rather than drive into work today I was travelling there by train and then walking approx. 20 minutes upto the site. I thought this was a great opportunity to try our Ian’s suggestion.

When I got on the train I discreetly checked out each of my fellow passengers, as part of this I made use of window reflections. Then on the walk upto site I was conscious of identifying upcoming blind spots and quickly making sure no danger lurked there.

I thought it was a really easy but useful exercise. Generally as a person I’d say I have pretty good awareness but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t seek to improve it further.

Iain’s article is well worth checking out.

Me, myself and I…Day 3

I was a bit slower off the mark on Day 3. My intention had been to be up with the larks and run through some kata and combinations downstairs. But I took the easy option and had a few more minutes snug under the duvet.

That reduced the time I had a little but I still managed to run through Tekki Shodan a few times.  I really like it as a kata to run through first thing in the morning. It’s a nice compact kata which helps when you’re pretty tall and haven’t not got a dojo sized space to hand. But it’s not just about convenience, it’s a kata I really enjoy doing so it worls well to help shake off the cobwebs in the morning.

Then I took sometime to explore Shiotsuki No.1. I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve thought about what I think are the combative principles within even this straightforward kata. And after working on Bassai Dai and Niseishi at training the night before I wanted to revisit my thinking a little.

The first movement, as is so often the case, is to look in the direction of the threat. To me this is about making sure you’re aware of what’s happening around you to give you a chance of seeing a threat which may lead to an attack. So I wanted to think about that thought over the course of the day.

The study of self defence seems to be evolving out of martial arts and bringing together different aspects with a focus on the practicalities of self defence/self protection. Today’s thinking has left me with a new addition on my To-Do List to see what people in thes areas have to say about developing good awareness.

Now what are the chances of me perfecting my spirit tomorrow to not hit that snooze button!

Me, myself and I…and the rest of the club…Day 2

Having training on a Tuesday night helped me achieve today’s karate commitment. Some of my fellow students had been successful at Sunday’s grading so congratulations to each of them and every credit to those that didn’t take the night off and turned in for training.

Sensei David has a little game were we all close our eyes and then have to execute the stance he shouts out. Traditionally I’m pretty poor at this and am normally out of the game and seated by the second or third call but of late I seem to be doing better. Previously I wouldn’t have placed knowing the names of the various stances as any kind of priority but now if feels like it’s important to have a handle on all aspects of karate.

I think that’s because I see how it has value in a couple of ways. Firstly I see how knowing how the names translate can give clues to what the techniques are about. And secondly as you become more of a senior member of a club you find yourself coaching newer students and I think knowing the correct names and not going ‘um, you know that one with your right leg over here and the left….’ helps you teach in a credible way. If I look a bit unsure about the name why should anyone trust what I’m saying about anything else.

After running through some basics we spent some time on the kata for our next grading. It was great to have Sensei Colin take us through Bassai Dai and Niseishi. We touched on what a couple of the moves are all about and he showed us what was happening in that situation. Understanding what’s happening really helps to understand how those techniques need to be executed.

What seems clear to me is that I’ve done what probadly a great many karateka do. I placed more importance on being able to do the basics and to feel like I was doing well at the kumite. Subsequently I left my study of kata at understanding the flow of moves, being able to do those moves well and perhaps knowing a few bits of the bunkai.

Now it feels like I’m getting a greater sense on how all the elements fit together and by understanding the value of each you can progress you study in other areas. For example by looking and thinking about what a kata is about and what it’s trying to teach beyond just a set of moves it gets me thinking about how I can be more aware in situations, how I need to work on evasion through my footwork, how I need to look at fitting blocks, strikes and throws together that suit me to list just a few.

I suppose I could dwell on the negative and think ‘well why didn’t I understand that sooner’. But I want to see it as another lesson learnt, new awareness that I need to apply to karate and be able to step back or revisit training and say what else do I need to understand about that, what else is there here that I need to incorporate.


Me, myself and I…Day 1

I read Moving Zen by CW Nicol recently and there was a little bit of envy in the situation he’d found himself in. Him being in Japan and being able to train every day. Well I’ve got a few days off work this week and I got myself in my garage this morning before breakfast to have half an hour on my bag. I’m going to aim to train every day this week, if there isn’t a Day 2 post you’ll be able to gauge my commitment to this exercise!!! Now having read other martial artists blogs and social media posts I know fellow martial artists put in some serious training time on a weekly basis and I know I’m more of a slow and steady kind of guy but for me my training needs to sit in balance with all the other aspects of my life.

It was really great to work through a few different things in just thirty minutes or so.

To warm up a bit I started by blocking an imaginary attack and then moving through landing some counter attacking moves on the bag at half speed. Just working on finding some counter attacks that worked for me in response to an attack. One thing I tried to incorporate was evasive movement as well as the blocking and countering. I know all too often my path of evasion is straight back rather by moving inside or outside and keeping in a better striking range.

Then I worked on some attacking combinations. Using quicker half steps with feinting punches to tee a strong technique to land on the bag. I always feel pretty clumsy because unless I work it up from a slow speed when I try it fast I lose the flow after the first couple of steps. After getting the steps and punches sorted I worked on making sure I was starting to really use the hip rotation to bring more power. It felt good to make the realisation that I could bring that in and get more power. It made me realise I could bring in an extra feinting strike through using that body rotation.

Then I ran through some basic strikes and kicks. I positioned myself side on for the yoko geris and that got me thinking about using an ushiro geri in response to an oncoming attack from the side as it would be far more powerful so I practised a few of those.

So it felt really energising to not just practise quite a few different things but to spot some improvements and have some extra ideas popping into my head.

Who knows maybe there’s something in this everyday thing :-).