Monday, October 27, 2008

Bando or Bandon't there is no try.

Getting an alternative view on any martial topic can be mind blowing.

My school has been friends with a Bando practitioner for many years. He just ran a sparring seminar for us focusing on their approach to continuous sparring.

Point sparring deals with the very first exchange of what will be an extended exchange (on average). Continuous sparring is judged on positioning, scores, and fight control. It's a good way to get rid of the bad habits found in point-stop fighting.

The seminar was eye opening and included new concepts on blocking and striking and provided a good lesson in how to be a good partner. The Japanese talk about the social contract between martial arts practitioners, an agreement to adhere to certain rules and approaches to fighting. Without this unstated agreement, there would be no safety. My partner during one portion of the seminar didn't adhere to the goal of a "half-speed" drill.

He broke my rib.

It took me about half-an-hour to realize I was injured, but it prevented me from finishing the seminar and makes it less likely I'll trust this guy to not injure me in the future. When you are partnering someone it is imperative that you pay attention to instructions and adhere to both sides of the social contract. If you do that you'll learn more, be injured less frequently and have more fun with your practice.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Serious Training?

Andre Bertel is a nutjob. Seriously, just read his blog here.

But us mortals can in fact learn from the obsessive among us.
At friday night workouts, I tend to be unfocused and have trouble sticking to my game plan.
Andre does it right. He has planned workouts. He does his thinking BEFORE the training. He's like a walking Nike ad. Just do it. My homework for myself is to create a menu of workouts that I can pick from. I've got my material, so now I need repetitions.

Man that guy knows hot to train.

Oh and a favorite saying of mine:

Talk does not cook rice - Johnny S.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm baack.

Things have been horrible in my life till recently. I got to go away to our training camp. No videos or pictures yet, but I hope to be able to post shortly.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Here is Some Bling from the ERKC.
3rd in Black Belt Weapons
1st in Heavy/Lt. Heavy Black Belt Fighting
I was .1 away from 3rd in Black Belt Forms

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fighting Dirty

One of the Most Interesting Things (tm) about Tournament Karate Sparring is that it isn't Karate.

I'm not saying it isn't fun, skillful, or martial, I am just saying it isn't true martial art. And let me tell you why...

Well first, let me tell you a story. 

The Naval Academy Karate Team came to our ERKC this year and did an amazing job. If you were to imagine the type of group that would be welcome at any tournament, they would be it.  Athletic, talented, humble, and intelligent.  To give you an example, a yellow belt won the Kata and Fighting in the Women's White to Blue division.  (Neglecting that she supposedly had dan rank in another art, she still was competing in the correct division based on my observation of her skills.)

Now here is where I come in.  I fought one of their Yudanja in the Heavyweight division. He was a good fighter and tall like me. I'm not used to kicking against someone who is just as tall as me, so it was an interesting experience. He was up in points, 2-0, after he head kicked me. I wasn't getting my distances right, so I decided to use my hands. I scored with two 1 point hand techniques in two exchanges.  

It was 2-2 when I fought dirty. I was getting anxious.  I hadn't planned to lose in the sparring division, it has been a few years since that happened...  So maybe my hubris was getting to me.  Interestingly, when I switched my style to "hands", I was fighting a very different style than I normally compete with.  In fact, I don't really drill my hands in sparring much; I am much more of a Kata exponent than a fighter.  So the main information I pick up for hand techniques is from my Kata.

It seems you CAN actually learn to spar from Kata :)

So HOW did I fight dirty?

Now, this wasn't a conscious thought or intended action, but I used my right hand to grab onto his Dobak and punched him with my left. 

That's not very sportsmanlike is it? (No Fezzik, it isn't...) In fact, that may not match your view of Karate at all.  

While the legality of the move is questionable (according to one Kodanja, one hit while holding the Gi/Dobak is fine...) the intent is obviously outside the realm of Sport Karate.

But I am pretty sure it was awesome traditional karate. Real karate isn't about sport, but about putting the smackdown on anyone who would intrude on your individual safety. The Japanese call the grabbing/holding hand action "Hikite" in Kata.  Every time we do a basic move, our non-striking hand is pulled back to the hip.  Why?  Shouldn't we be guarding against the next strike?  Well yes, you should....  UNLESS:  you are gripping a soft, fleshy spot on their body, pull them off balance and beat the living crap out of them.  Then you don't have to worry about blocking.

For example look at the 4th and 5th sequences of Gojushiho:

During those sequences, the artists sweeps the hand in front with a clearing motion, a GREAT chance to cling on to something.  Pull them into you, punch them a few times, kick them, and then punch them again (This version, while labled Dai, is the JKA Sho version).  In the JKA Dai version, the kick is retracted backwards, in the JKA sho version, the kick extends forward with the body weight.  In the Dai version, the kick would be lower on the leg while holding the attacker, destroying their base, while the hikite hand pulls them towards you as you punch in the head.  The Sho version has you smashing their knee while driving through them.

Establishing control of your opponent is the first step in dominating a confrontation. Sport karate establishes that control as distancing and timing. Adding drills to practice physical controls can build strength, tactical awareness, and conflict based confidence and bring you closer to the true nature of Karate.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Still no Kata to Kill Cancer

At the hospital, watching over my mom's recovery......

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Evolution of a Nidan

In TKA Nidan/Eedan is the last true test and Sandan/Samdan tests are the equivalent of being made in the mob. Third for us is probably the equivalent of 4th in other schools.. One of the markers of approaching this track is being able to teach other black belts. Also, the informal hieararchy sort of clues you into who is approaching the level. I'm sometimes hesitant to take the role of teacher at our workouts, but other times this comic shows how I feel about what people are doing or teaching. It's also very interesting when I have ideas that are at odds with some of the upper ranks in the school.

I think the interesting aspect of this process is when your martial knowledge outgrows your martial skill. Just knowing how good you want to be and knowing that you understand HOW to get there, but not yet being there... Man.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Benefits of Increased Fitness

Monday night was an intersting night for training. Some good things, some bad things. They relate, so I'll start with the good things.

Even with a cold I was feeling pretty fit throughout the whole class. I'm still having trouble maintaining structure in some of the Kihon, especially hugal jaseh soo do mahkee, but overall I was able to push my techniques pretty hard. My leg strength has let me introduce some more dynamic kicks to my reproitoire. Namely, I've got my jump side and jump spin side kicks back with some decent accuracy.

Decent accuracy, but not much control on the jump spin kick. I ended up blasting one at just the right range to have a technically perfect kick but a pretty damaging kick at that range. I'm not very proud of that contact I made, so I'll have some drills I need to hit for the control. It also makes the problems we've been having with some of the brown belts, especially because some of the issues are dealing with posturing, contact, and overall attitude... So I just lost some credibility.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Watching Underbelts and the Unruly Brown Belt

Tonight was the county adult test for underbelts. Small group, plethora of white belts, paucity of higher belts... and some really bad jujutsu.

Watching the white belts and some of the yellow belts, I was striken by how varied basic skill levels were. Some people just start [i]better[/i] than others. Age, genetics, and lifestyle all impact your ability to acquire, develop, and execute physical skills. It is true. Life really isn't fair. Thank god I am tall and semi-athletic. And we can only control certain things.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sloughing away the outside....

I feel like my outer protective covering is sloughing away.

One of the things that has astounded me while training for my blackbelt back in 1996 and again now as I prepare for another test, is the emotional impact of training. The training can be pretty tough and sometimes strips me of the normal defense mechanisms I use to make it through the day.

I am just starting to train for my Nidan and I feel this emotional exhaustion and I've yet to really begin the most intense part of the process. I think this new "naked" self is a generally positive thing. With my mom's cancer, my stress over medical school waitlists, and Steph's hope for a new job, there are very few things I can control the outcome of. The quality of my performance at the test in August feels like the only locus of control I have. So there is a sense of purpose to my training, only if to escape the tortures of the waiting game that is the rest of my life.

But there are other benefits too. I am very...proud of karate. Not "my karate" but the tradition I carry on, this living antique I carry with me. Reivigorating my training is like polishing the antique. I am taking care of my posession so it can be passed onto others, shared and disseminated, continuing the chain of knowledge that stretches back to those unknown and forward to those unthoguht of.

I am also excited to see my own personal growth. I am coming into my own identity. Second degree in my school is really the first step to cementing your martial identity. It is the last true test we face in our school. So in this case, the stakes are higher than ever. The outcome of this test impacts my self-perception, my ability to establish further links in the chain as I move to Philly, and my lasting impact on my martial family.

The first layers of protection, my 10 years of floating in the school and my inconsisteny in training are being beaten off of me. I am raw. I am obsessed. Excited. Scared. And it's going to get worse. Six months of hard work ahead.

Beatings will continue until morale improves.

It'll be a bumpy ride till August... let's see what happens.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Black Belt Exam

Two Provisional Nidans tested. April passed and is now a full Nidan; while Nick didn't pass, he DID kick Brad in the head, which was awesome.

The Junior Black Belt Candidates: They were awesome. ALL of them. Even though not all of them passed, it was great to see their passion for their training. I was very impressed with some of their techniques as well.

I got to actually fight one of the Senior Black Belt candidates. I had a good time. He did get in one shot to my left eye. I think I kicked him in the head a few times and controlled the fight. So I looked good. Andy fought well enough to pass as well. Wins all around.

One of the older gents passed as well and received his provisional Shodan the same night his daughter cleared her provisional off. Great job Bullens! Maybe photos or videos to come.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Karate Gear Distribution

In keeping with my sometime-career of Private Karate Instruction, I've acquired access to wholesale karate merchandise. While I don't plan on running a brick & mortar store, I'm more than glad to help out any friends who might need help acquiring training equipment.

Plus I can get Tokaido uniforms for cheaper now!!! Wish AWMA would carry Shureido too.

A week with very little training...

So, this week is slow due to testing and school schedules. I was scheduled to attend a Monday and a Wednesday class. Monday happened to be President's Day.... No class there. Wednesday, the county closed afternoon activities, so I ended up with no classes. Thankfully, Jake took me to his house and we worked on kata/hyung/forms for about 90 minutes. We spent a good amount of time on my sidekick in Bassai Dai. Did a bit of work on Kanku Sho and Nijushiho as well.

The interesting thing about the training with Jake was the video. (Sorry no Youtube videos this time... I'll explain why.) I was both entirely satisfied and totally disgusted by the videos. The kata were boring. Fundamental technique was strong, but they were inherently boring forms. Jake said I obviously looked like I was a 1st Dan looking to move to 2nd and that the foundation was strong... BUT it's obvious my armchair karate-ka nature had taken some of the vim and vigor away.

To quote Vaughn:


Monday, February 18, 2008

The Youtube Forms Project

Hopefully, you'll be hearing (maybe seeing) more about my training in the months to come.

As you can see, I've posted a video of my Nijushiho. Now' I'm looking to catalog videos of me doing forms at an acceptable level. I'd like to catalog all 1st and 2nd dan forms I know without looking (more) like an idiot.