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 Flexibility

1st Kyu, another step on the ladder

Yesterday I successfully graded to 1st Kyu. This means I’m the highest rank of Brown belt and my next grading will be to become 1st Dan, a black belt.

The 1st Kyu grading has been my focus since the end of last year. It’s has felt really good to have a definite goal to aim for and for it to be a part of my training in lot’s of different areas:

  • For the grading I had to put together both a combination of moves to demonstrate and a focus mitt routine. It was a great opportunity to try and apply some of the practical karate ideas I’ve come across in the last 12 months or so. I went right back to the first Karate kata I was taught, Shiotsuki No.1 and explored what it was all about and how the basic moves could be used in different situations and  added to.
  • I’ve really worked hard on my lateral hip flexibility. Most Monday night’s I try and have a really good stretching session and I’ve incorporated more flexibility work with my hips and I’ve really felt the difference. By no means have I attained a Jean Claude Van Damme level of flexibility but it’s improved all the same.
  • I’ve worked on my impact work, particularly my Mawashi Geris (roundhouse kicks). I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that for many years it was a kick that felt like a real bane but now it’s a kick I really enjoy practising on my bag.
  • I started to use visualisation techniques to ‘train’ without having to work my body. I definitely need to refine how I apply this technique but it was certainly useful and highlighted parts of kata or combinations where I wasn’t totally sure of the sequence of moves and so flagged up areas were I needed to spend more time.

In the run up to the grading I felt pretty confident as I knew I’d put the hours of training in and worked on all the right areas. However on the morning of the grading the butterflies were there in my stomach.

But it really felt that all the preparation and training paid off. There were still areas that on the day I didn’t quite execute as well as I would have liked but overall it was a good solid performance.

It’s a really great euphoric feeling after a grading. You’ve made a real commitment towards a goal that you can be working to for the best part of a year sometimes. To reach that goal obviously feels good. But I think what I’ve really learnt this time is that working towards that goal provides great opportunities to work on different areas and learn great techniques to improve your knowledge and ability.

I guess it feels like as well as enjoying reaching your destination it’s important to really savour all those smaller challenges you’ve worked through along the way and ensure you learn as much as you possibly can.

What have working towards your goals taught you?

Keep taking your daily actions

I wouldn’t say great flexibility is something that comes particularly naturally to me. A few weeks ago for instance my lateral hip flexibility was feeling particularly unresponsive when I was running through warm-up before we really got started with training. We’d also not done kicking on the pads for a while and when we did my mawashi geris felt very rusty.

Now I didn’t think I had to put a plan in place right that instant to address that feeling of rustyness but it has been something I’ve tried to work on.

If I find myself with half an hour or so in a morning I’ve been fitting in a little session on my punch/kick bag to work on my kicking techniques. I haven’t been worrying about speed or power, more about getting the technique right, particularly getting the knee on the kicking leg up nice and high to enable the rest of the kick to work as well as it can.

I’ve also been spending time exclusively on my lateral hip flexibility. Giving myself the time to slowly increase the stretch to let the muscles relax in each position before widening and stretching a bit more.

I’ve definitely noticed a feeling of greater flexibility, for me at least, and a return of confidence in my kicking techniques. It reminded me of a tweet the author of the book SUMO, Shut Up and Move On, Paul McGee had posted. ‘Remember success is a process not an event. So stop looking for the magic answer and keep taking your daily actions.’

I’m certainly feeling the benefits of spending time working regularly on flexibility and technique. I’ll be making every effort to keep taking my daily actions. What are yours?

Developing my skills on the freestanding punchbag

Planning to have a session in the garage with my freestanding punch/kickbag tomorrow. I’ve used it quite a bit but it’s only been in the last dozen or so sessions I feel I’ve started to get a better understanding of how to use it to practise and develop my skills.

Some of the different routines I’ll run through are:-

  • Warming up – at about a quarter to half speed I’ll run through an improvised sequence of techniques, working to use the full range of stances and good execution of techniques.
  • Practising basics – I’ll run through the full range of striking techniques, doing about ten reps of each and practising on both sides of the body.
  • Working on kick height – My lateral flexibility isn’t great so I like to work on my mawashi and yoko geris to try and improve the height I can execute them at, I’ve got a couple of lines of tape around the bag to mark the level I’m seeking to reach with each.
  • Practising sparring combinations – I like to work on my footwork and putting a few techniques together with the last technique landing on the bag. It helps me to find technique combinations that feel comfortable and to try and improve execution of others.

I like having sessions with the bag. Having a session on my own gives me the opportunity to work on things following club training sessions or to prepare for future training.

You can feel and see when a technique connects well and work to improve it. My bag stands on a spring which gives it a certain amount of movement so I can build in some element of working with it’s movement and timing techniques. Plus I feel like I’ve had a good workout afterwards which always feels good.

Do you use a bag for practise? Got any good routines?