exploringkarate

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 October, 2013

What might not be for today may be for tomorrow

Or ‘The lessons that take longer to learn can be more worthwhile’

Autumn is here now and winter not far behind. I picked up an American collegiate style cardigan I have to put on and remembered how for a while it wasn’t really a piece of clothing I really favoured. Now it’s something I enjoy wearing which got me thinking about how things can change over time.

It got me thinking about how for quite some time the roundhouse kick, mawashi geri, was a kick that when it was announced in class as the next thing to practise I would groan inwardly. It felt uncomfortable to try and execute the kick as I lacked the lateral flexibility to execute it correctly and still achieve a reasonable height. I wanted to be able to kick at the same height as my fellow students so to do so I would cheat and manage something of a halfway house that I was content with because it at least allowed me to kick the pad with power.

Training at the Shotokan Club I attended for several years helped me with my technique as the Sensei there would not accept my halfway house. The quality of the technique was the more important aspect and was not to be sacrificed. Once the technique was correct at the maximum height possible then, and only then, should effort be directed to improving it’s height.

There is still a great deal of room for improvement with my mawashi geris but no longer do I groan inwardly when I have the opportunity to practise them. In fact when I train at home they are the kick I enjoy practising the most. Having worked hard to improve the technique it almost feels like a gift to myself when I have the chance to practise it.

I also thought about some of the strength exercises I now do. Now if I find an exercise that initially feels difficult to do I realise that is the very exercise I need to spend time working to improve as it indicates a weakness in a particular area. In the past I would perhaps simply have avoided doing that exercise again in favour of one I felt comfortable with.

And again it is a case of not having unrealistic expectations in terms of the number of repetitions or level of weight I expect to lift initially. It’s often about starting with something manageable but then working to make steady improvement.

So whether it is the fact that it can take a while for the penny to drop and understand how you need to approach a problem. Or simply that you have to take a greater number of smaller steps to get to the same end goal. I’d say it feels better to achieve something that demands a greater focus or commitment.

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We all choose our own path but perhaps it’s good to come back home with what we’ve learnt

The choice of two of my fellow students to leave our club and continue their martial arts studies at a different club has had me thinking this week. It will be a shame not to see them training at our club any more. Our club has a nice friendly atmosphere and that feeling is generated to a large part by it’s students so to see students who have been a part of that for a number of years moving on is a little bit sad. But my reflection has been more about the decisions I’ve made in terms of my own karate studies.

When I came back to the club it felt good to be back. I guess each style and club has it’s individual mix of how they do things. Personally I’ve always enjoyed the use of impact pads and focus mitts as part of practising our strikes. At our club as part of our later gradings we’re asked to develop our own combinations and focus mitt routines. And I’ve enjoyed the opportunities this has brought to think about kata and their different applications and practise them in different ways.

I’m happy to take some ownership of my own martial arts learning, which I imagine is the same for many of us. In the main this has taken the form of picking up and reading different martial arts books. But in the last couple of years I’ve also attended a few seminars. I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility they offer to spend some time training with different instructors. I like that I can learn something new but then have the time and space to think about what I’ve learnt, explore it and figure out how it can blend in with everything else that I’ve learnt.

I like the fact that our club does give it’s senior students the chance to lead classes. If we’re all following our owns paths and learning different things then we also have the chance to bring back what we’ve learnt and share it with our fellow students.

For me it feels like being part of the club becomes more of a two way street. I’m certainly grateful for what it’s given me over a good number of years and it feels like I have an opportunity to put something back in.

Karate isn’t just for the Dojo No.2: the morning shave

I’m 6 foot 5 tall which has a lot of plus sides but occasionally some things aren’t quite set up to cater for the taller person. The mirror in our bathroom isn’t that big so when I’m having a shave I have to hunch down a bit to take a look and make sure I’ve done a thorough job. But again karate comes to the rescue with the shiko dachi stance. By dropping into shiko dachi I can lower myself down to just the right height to ensure I get a good view in the mirror without an uncomfortable hunch down.

So Karate isn’t just for the Dojo :-).