Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Big Change

After twenty-five years of smoking 1.5 packs of cigarettes per day, nearly every single day, I've managed to quit smoking, thanks to Chantix. (Champix, for those of you outside of the United States.) I've been free for two whole weeks, and what's more, I feel like a major shift has taken place inside of me, with regards to smoking and how I view it in my mind. I took the Chantix for a total of 18 days, and I quit taking it, three days ago.

First things first, though:
I've been free of that horrible addiction for 13 days, 15 hours.
I've NOT smoked 409 cigarettes. (That just blows my mind!)
I've saved $110.00.

My lungs are clearing up and cleaning themselves out. My breath, clothes, and hands don't stink like cigarettes, and I can smell foods, rain, soap, and a myriad of other things. Food and coffee taste better, and I don't get nearly so winded so quickly. My pulse rate is lower, and I'm not constantly feeling the urge to go out and have a cigarette.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that cigarettes are just nothing but poison. I was watching a video on YouTube, where the host put a glass of water in front of a smoker and said, "This is a glass of bleach. How deep is your urge to pick it up and take a sip?" The smoker replied that he no urge to do such a thing, and said, "It'll kill me!" And then the metaphorical light bulb kind of lit up over his head. ;-)

I really don't intend this to become a smoking cessation blog, but it really is a major component of my overall training, and getting in better shape is what has really driven this quit. The Chantix has made me develop acne, so I've taken myself off of it, but I suspect that there's no longer any need for it. I'm free!! :-))

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wansu and Chinto Kata, and other stuff

Got the Wansu kata memorized, and have started work on the Chinto kata. Workouts are still going well. Last night was my back workout: Lat pulldowns, seated row, shrugs, deadlifts, and triceps pushdowns, each exercise done for three sets to muscle failure in each set, around 6-10 reps, without sacrificing attention to form. Today, my traps are pleasantly sore.

I am now in Week 7 of my workout regimen. I'm still growing like crazy, and at the same time, getting RIPPED!! My clothes are all fitting differently and I feel GREAT!!
Monday night, in karate, we pulled out all of the Bobs and punching bags/stations, and went freestyle for one minute at each station. I went to throw a right front snap-kick and jammed my big toe. A few minutes later, on a different bag, I did it again... Holy crap, that hurt!! It's been tender and swollen, but I don't think it's broken. I still have good range of motion with it, and it doesn't hurt to bear weight, so I think it'll heal up on its own.

On Saturdays, before our freestyle class, we've been going through Hock Hoccheim's Close Combat drills, and he's going to be holding a seminar at our dojo on the last weekend of this month. I'm looking forward to that. Those of us who are in this first group/class, will be the instructors for future classes, so we're being worked hard and we're training hard. The classes cover hand, knife, stick, and gun tactics, and borrow tactics from martial arts, law enforcement, and elite military combat training. (SF and SEALs, mainly)

All in all, I'm very satisfied with my progress in all three areas. I'm doing a lot of training at home in addition to my weight training, and it's starting to pay off in my balance, flexibility, and speed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What an amazing book....

I'm currently reading this book, and absolutely loving it. This man didn't lift weights seriously, until he was in his mid-thirties. He's 61-years old, and looks downright amazing.... Below, I've included a YouTube video of him talking about different things.. It's definitely worth a look.

Monday, August 16, 2010

If you...

If you are going to show up and give your usual lackluster, halfhearted performance;

If you are not going to be worthy of the belt that you wear around your waist;

If you are going to just slop your way through every technique and kata, the way you've done, day after week, after month, after year;

If you really just don't want to be in class, and you're soooo bored that you can't even bother to act like you give a damn;

STAY HOME!!! QUIT!!! Don't let the door hit ya' where the good Lord split ya'! GET OUT!!!

You drag the entire class down, provide a crap example of what a higher belt-holder is supposed to be, and you make our whole class look bad.

GO. AWAY. No one wants to look at your face and read how very very bored you are. No one wants to look at your sloppy, half-assed techniques. No one wants to talk to you, since you never speak above a mumble, anyway.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Last night's class! FUN!

Last night's class was great! After our 30-40 minutes of calisthenics and stretching, we pulled out the dummies and went through one minute practice rounds, where we just threw punches and kicks, chops, elbows, and knees... After that, Sensei pulled out a staff with thick, soft padding on the end. One at a time, we would lie down, and he swing the staff down, trying to swat us with it. We were to roll over and over, keeping our hands up, and then get to our feet while protecting ourselves.

The first time, I did okay... I got thumped in the head, at the very end. The second time, though! The second time, I was fast! Rolling over and over, avoiding every swat of the staff, and then I found myself pinned by the base of one of the dummies, so I flipped my legs over in a backwards somersault, since I couldn't roll my body as a unit anymore. When I flipped my legs over, I used the momentum to carry me to my feet and came up with my arms raised and crossed overhead in a block, just as Sensei brought the staff down for another strike. It was perfect. The staff ended up between my crossed wrists.

It was fast, fluid, and it just worked out perfectly. I love it when that happens! :-))) It's also nice to know that my speed and reflexes haven't degenerated that much, compared to when I was in my twenties.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Miscellaneous Updates

I ordered a Shureido gi, a few weeks ago. I absolutely love it. The jacket is actually long enough, and the crotch-to-waist measurement of the pants is short enough that I don't have to constantly pull up on the legs of the gi, whenever I raise a foot, or go to squat down. Very very nice, and well worth the money. I'd like to actually have one more, and may buy another, in a few months.

The Wansu kata is coming along nicely, but I still have a lot of work left to do. Of course, after the Wansu, it's time to begin working on the Chinto kata, which is another long and complex kata, but I'm less daunted, now that I've got the Naihanchin kata down, and I've got approximately one-third of the Wansu memorized.

Workouts are still going strong, with unflagging intensity. I took the weekend off, but this morning, walked and jogged a mile. This afternoon is my day to work my back. Lat pulldowns, seated row, shrugs, deadlifts, and triceps pushdowns. I'm loving the way I'm starting to look and feel!

Funny thing about working out, though: There are about 50 different kinds of protein powders and tons of different supplements out there. Each supplement makes grandiose claims to be the latest, greatest thing, and promises to do everything except balance your checkbook and make you a millionaire. (I think I just pulled a muscle, rolling my eyes...) The only thing most of them are good for, is ensuring that the user has the most expensive urine in town. Hahaha...

I've narrowed it down to three supplements: A basic protein powder, a multivitamin, and fish oil capsules. That's it. That's all. The fish oil capsules supply the much-needed Omega-3s that most people don't get through their diets. (Unless they are real fish aficionados, which I am definitely not!)

80% of how you look and feel, is based on two things: Your fork and knife. The remaining 20% comes from what you do in the gym.

Check this guy out:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Found a good video of the Wansu kata

The same uploader has good videos of the Chinto kata, as well. What a relief! I've searched and searched for a good instructional video on both of these kata. It's a little less daunting...The sound quality for this video really stinks, and the narration is out of sync with the movements, but this video coupled with this PDF, really makes it more accessible.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sparred again, tonight! HOOAH!!!!

We had a big class, tonight! Thirteen people showed up, and our combined heat managed to raise the temperature of the dojo from 71F to 76F, by the time we were finished with our half hour of calisthenics. We did some medicine ball drills -- A stance drill, and then a speed drill.

After that, we had sparring. I was called out for the first match, and called on to spar against the black belt that beat me so badly, the last time we sparred. I thought, Oh boy... Here we go...

We bowed to Sensei, bowed to each other, touched gloves, and then went for a single round. Just before hajime, I got into a Seiuchin (horse) stance, turned sideways to him. I felt cool, loose, and relaxed. I waited for him to throw the first shot and really focused on my defense. My plan was to stay either all the way out, or get inside and bang to the body, since I'm 5'10" and he's 6'2" or 3" and has greater reach, power, and speed than I do.

My biggest mistakes, the first time we sparred and I got blitzed: I let my hands fall to chest level, I didn't move laterally very much, and I started out in a Seisan stance, more or less squared up to him. Bad mistakes, all of them...

This time, I was sideways to him, tried to circle to my right and away from his power, and I kept my guard up. He threw a lot of techniques to the head, just as in our first match, but because my guard was up, he only got one punch that came through and popped me in the nose. What felt best, was when he tried a spinning back-fist and he hit only my gloves. The only other real shot he managed to get in, was at the very end, where I got my guard too high, and he ripped off a kick to my mid-section that had me briefly feeling a little green around the gills. The match was over, by then.

I was able to time him a couple of times, and I was able to get inside and hit him a few times to the mid-section; not hard enough to hurt him at all, but enough to let him know that I was right there in his wheelhouse and popping him pretty good.

All in all, I'm very pleased with how the match went. Of course, I'm still not at black belt level by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel like I was a lot better, this time out. Next time, I'll be even better.

Things I need to work on: I need to move laterally more, need to be less flat-footed and more mobile so I can pop in, strike, and then get out. Because he's a taller opponent and likes to throw punches and kicks to the head and face, I need to work on getting lower, slipping those punches and kicks, and then banging back before he has time to get set again.

Good stuff... I learn so much, every time we spar, and I wish we'd do more of it. Now that my techniques are improving through working the kata and stances, sparring is a lot more fun!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Okay... Onward and upward!

Killer workout, this morning. Chest, shoulders, and neck. Flat bench press, inclined bench press, overhead shoulder press, and weighted neck-lifts, three sets per exercise, each one taken to muscle failure between 8-12 reps. My shoulders, chest, and lats continue to widen and broaden, and my waist continues to get smaller. My legs are getting a lot stronger and bigger, too. From workout to workout, I'm consistently raising the weights by an average of 5-7 lbs per exercise. The changes are exciting to see, and I feel great!! I'm being very careful to take my time to warm up, stretch out well, and do a light warm-up set before each exercise. In this way, I think I'll be able to keep from injuring myself. At this point, it really feels like the sky is the limit!

I've been working and working on the Naihanchi kata, and I've really got it in good shape. It doesn't feel nearly so awkward, anymore. In fact, I've even come to like it quite a bit. I'm ready to start viewing videos of the Wansu kata now, and if I can divide the kata up into halves, thirds, or quarters, maybe it'll be easier to memorize. I'm excited about it, and feel very encouraged by my rapid success with the Naihanchi. (Of course, I'm constantly working on the Seisan and Seiuchin katas, and I have a lot of refining of the Naihanchi kata, to do.) Anyway... It's getting there! :-)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Naihanchi Kata - FINALLY!

I finally got the Naihanchi kata memorized. Writing it out, step-by-step, was just the thing I needed to do. It seems funny now, that I ever had a problem with it! :-) Now comes the practice, practice, practice, and refining it. I have my freestyle class this afternoon, so I can work on it more, and demonstrate it for my Sensei, so he can make any corrections that need to be made.

I won't be eligible to test for green belt until November, so I have plenty of time to work on both the Chinto and Wansu kata, which are a lot longer and look to be a lot more complex.

It's taken me a couple of weeks to get the Naihanchi kata memorized, and I'm giving myself a month a piece, to memorize the Chinto and Wansu. This will give me a couple months of practice to get them into satisfactory shape for the next belt test.

After learning these next two, there are only three more empty-hand kata left, in the Isshinryu lexicon: The Kusanku, Sunsu, and the Sanchin katas. If I can get the Chinto and the Wansu though, then I am confident that I will be able to learn these last three. Along with those, I think the Bo kata is also a requirement, and possibly the Sai kata. I don't really know, though. No mention has been made of either of those. There may be Tonfa and Kama kata too, but again, no mention has been made of either of those.

I'm taking the day off from working out. I got up and walked a mile at 4 mph, and other than keeping up on my protein intake, I haven't done anything else. Maybe this evening, when I get back from class, I'll put in a workout, or I may leave it until tomorrow evening.

I spent the morning working on my motorcycle. I pulled off the windshield, saddlebags, saddlebag mounts, passenger foot-pegs, passenger backrest, and luggage rack. The bike's profile looks really low, sleek, and mean, now... I took my windshield bag and mounted it to the front of the handlebars over the headlight. The bike really looks great... Without the saddlebags in the way, the pipes really stand out, and without the windshield, saddlebags, luggage rack, and passenger backrest, it doesn't look like a grandpa bike, anymore. Hahahaha...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Learning and Remembering Kata

Good grief... I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, but nothing makes me feel dumber than trying to learn a new kata! The Naihanchi kata is the one I'm working on, at the moment. For whatever reason, it's just not going into my thick skull. I'm also going to be learning the Chinto kata, and the Wansu kata, and both the Chinto and Wansu are lengthy and complex. By comparison, the Naihanchi kata is very short and simple, but it's giving me fits.

If anyone has any tips on learning and remembering kata, I'm all ears...

Browsing around, I found this article. It's pretty good.

This is another good link!

Update: I actually took out a legal pad and wrote out, step by step, every movement of the first half of the kata. The second half, is exactly the same as the first half, just done on the opposite side. Finally! I think I'll be able to get it, now. From here, practice, practice, practice.

Waiting for FedEx to arrive... I ordered a Shureido gi, and I'm looking forward to receiving it. :-)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Continuing to work

Phew! Just finished a killer workout!

Three sets of each, each set taken to muscle failure:
Flat bench press
Inclined bench press
Overhead Shoulder press
Neck lifts (with a head harness and chain that I can thread through weights)


Yesterday was:
Hamstring curl
Calf raises (weighted)
Preacher curls
Forearm curls

Tomorrow is:
Lat pulldowns
Seated row
Triceps pushdowns

By cycling these three workouts, I'm working my whole body in five days, and then taking weekends off to rest and recuperate. Of course, I have karate on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and on Mondays and Thursdays, we do a TON of core training, which is why it's pretty much absent from my workouts. I'm also constantly working on kata, kicks, punches, balance, and I'm looking into making a homemade makiwara.

Every morning, while it's still so freakin' hot, I've been walking a mile on the treadmill. When it cools down a little, I'll be taking The Bear with me, and walking a mile every morning and evening, with him. :-)

It's ironic that at the late age of 41, I've got the best body I've ever had, and I'm in nearly as good of shape as I was when I was in the Army, from the ages of 17-23.

Monday, July 26, 2010

No Easy Way Out

(Song by Survivor) The intro is powerful stuff. Great song, and great scenes from the movies. Train hard! Train to WIN! Never cheat yourself. Give it everything you've got, all the time! Bring your focus, discipline, intensity, and passion!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Attitudes Redoux

Last night, I went through the Seisan kata with our brown belt, and we went over and over and over it, before class started. He's coming along, and I am glad to help him. He had his belt tied correctly, too. :-)

I overheard the white belt asking questions of Sensei, when we were doing drills. I think his interest is finally beginning to pique, and that's a good thing. Between a couple of drills, I caught his eye, grabbed my belt, and motioned to his, raising an eyebrow and grinning. This time, he let me help him. I tried to show him by untying my belt and having him follow me, but he still wasn't getting it, so I had him untie his belt, and I tied it for him. I'll probably have to show him a few more times, but he thanked me.

The last third of class, we were working on kicks. Front snap kicks, crescent kicks, heel strike/thrust kicks, etc. I was next to the white belt, and his kicks weren't really coming together, so I explained to him that kicks don't start with the foot; they start with the hip, go to the chambered knee, and the lower leg and foot comes out like a whip, and that the hip is like the handle of the whip. He and I went through a few kicks, and I saw the little light-bulb come on. Very gratifying for us both, I think. :-)

I'm pretty sure his mother has forced him to take karate, for whatever reason, so I'm sure that accounts for part of his attitude, in the beginning. Also, as I reflect on his attitude last week, I'm thinking that he was probably embarrassed, so he tried to cover his lack of knowledge, but heck, we don't know what we don't know, so I was glad to help him out.

I always try to see the best in people, and inwardly, I'm cheering for this kid. He only shows up on Mondays and Thursdays, so I don't get much time to work with him on stuff. I wish he would show up on Saturdays, to the freestyle classes, when there's a lot more time... Ah well... I'm glad he's coming along. I hope his interest continues to grow, and correspondingly, his level of effort.

Last night, I had my belt ceremony and was given my orange belt and kyu certificate. Very gratifying, but the sheer amount of work ahead of me, between orange and green belt, is a little daunting.

For whatever reason, the Naihanchin kata is just not sinking in... It's a short kata, but lord... I feel stooooopid!! Hahaha! I'll get it, though. It's like learning a new piece on the piano: At first, it's stilted, jerky, and very halting, and it stays that way for a long time. It's discouraging.... Then, one day, for whatever reason, I sit down at the keys and the song takes a huge leap and it's smoother and more cohesive.

I think that learning a new kata is a lot like that...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


My elbows are absolutely pain-free! I've been working out like a banshee all week, but NOTHING! No pain! I had a final appointment with my chiro/joint doctor this morning, and he said that my results are better than even he had anticipated!

Yesterday's workout was lat pulldowns, deadlifts, seated rows, shrugs, and triceps pushdowns. Tuesday's workout, I did bench press, inclined bench press, and shoulder press. Monday's workout, I did squats, hamstring curls, calf raises, and then preacher curls and wrist curls.

All of the upper body work, plus slinging the plates around as I changed out weight for different exercises, would have killed my elbows and made them hurt like they were full of broken glass, just a month ago. I feel fantastic! (Well, let me qualify that: My whole body is sore as hell!) But no elbow pain.

My chiro/joint doctor has been using something called A.R.T., or Active Release Technique, which consists of him pressing into my forearms and elbows on certain points with his thumbs, and having me go through range of motion movements. Then he picks a couple more points, and has me go through some more ROM movements.

Today was my fifth visit, and truth be told, I really didn't need to go, but I thought I'd go have one last checkup. Four visits, and this injury that has plagued me for the last year and a half is 100% healed! It's a miracle...

Dr. Jacobs, thank you, thank you, thank you!! :-))))

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Tale Of Two Attitudes...

White belt who has absolutely no enthusiasm, drive, or interest in karate.

Brown belt who's suffered a brain injury and has been away from training for five or six years.

I got together with the brown belt, and we went, step-by-step, through the Seisan kata. It's great helping others with their kata, because I learn a lot myself, as I show and explain. He was grateful for the help, and I asked him what was going on with his belt... It was tied like a bathrobe sash. We fixed it, and he thanked me for my help, and I thanked him for the opportunity to help. Very gratifying....

White belt also ties his belt like a bathrobe sash, and has done so since he started coming to class, a couple of months ago. I offered to show him how to tie it, but he said, "Oh, I know how to tie it. I was just in a hurry and worried about being late." He didn't fix it, didn't let me help him, and blew me off. I tried to help him with a basic drill that we were doing, a few weeks ago, but even when I showed him how to do it, and demonstrated how to place his arms and hands, he still just did it the way he felt like doing it, which was basically to half-ass it and continue to do it wrong and project  the absolute utmost lack of interest.

Screw it... I'm done helping him. If someone else wants to help him, fine... They can waste their time. There aren't words enough to even begin to describe my level of utter apathy, as it now applies to him.

*shaking my head....*

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Belt Test! YES!!!!

I went to class this evening, and I ran through Charts I and II, hit the makiwara a round of fifty strikes, practiced a bunch of kicks, and then went through the Seisan and Seiuchin katas a few times. I was all sweaty, and then Sensei came over and said, "We're going to start your belt test in a few minutes."

We sat in the tiled area and went over the history of Isshinryu and the history of Shimabukuro-sama. Then he had me run through Charts I and II, including doing the knuckle pushups on the tile floor. Then we took a short break, and he then had me run through the Seisan and Seiuchin katas. He gave me more suggestions on the Seiuchin, but he seemed pleased, overall, with my performance. He told me that he was going to promote me, and that orange belt was the first of the intermediate belts, and that I would have the next three kata to learn. (Naihanchi, Wansu, and Chinto.)

He also said that he appreciated the intensity that Julia, Mari, and I brought to the class. I commented on one of the brown belts in particular, who also really brings an intensity and a solid work ethic, and said that he was an inspiration. We talked about the black belts that have come through his tutelage. I always enjoy talking with him... I learn a lot, and not only respect him as my Sensei, but also really like and respect him as an individual.

Brad didn't show up today, but hopefully, he will show up on Monday. Sensei and I discussed his situation, and Sensei seemed pleased that I am willing to take Brad under my wing.

Phew! What a day! I'm still all sweaty, but very happy!

 I read this from beginning to end, this afternoon, and intend on making a slower, more thorough study of it:

Friday, July 16, 2010

New information that has come to light....

Okay.... As I alluded to in the comment section of my last blog post:

The new brown belt that we have in class apparently sustained severe head trauma in "Operation Iraqi Freedom," and there's been some damage to his frontal lobes. He trained at a different Isshinryu dojo for ten years and earned his brown belt, but he's been away from it for five or six years. Between the injury and the lengthy break, he's suffered what looks like total amnesia, as far as karate is concerned.

Now that I know the full story, I have a lot of compassion for his plight. Saturdays are our freestyle classes, where karateka show up and work on whatever they choose to work on. The senior belts often help out lower kyu, and Sensei is available to offer help, pointers, and corrections.

I'm going to try helping this brown belt. (First of all, I'm going to show him how to properly tie his belt.) I'm going to ask him if he'd like to work on stances, or go step-by-step through the Seisan kata together, or maybe work on charts together. I can use the work on all of these, and as one combat vet to another, he may be receptive to my help. If he's not, that's okay, too.

I can help him with the basic stuff, especially since it's all fresh in my mind. Charts, the Seisan and Seiuchin katas, and basic stances. He's obviously got the training, and as I help him, it will help me. Maybe as we go through different things, it will begin to jog his memory more... He's good about showing up, and I think he's doing his best, so I feel moved to help him. If he's a brown belt, at one time, he was obviously good. I want to help him as much as I can, so that he can become good again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Picked up another one.... *sigh*

We've had two new students join our class. One is a teenager who is new to martial arts, and the other is an older guy who's supposedly a brown-belt.  The young kid has absolutely no enthusiasm, and even when I and others spend time showing him a basic drill and how to hold his arms and hands, he does it so half-heartedly, if at all. No spirit, no willingness to even try to do it right. He acts like it's all a big drag. If it is, then why the hell does he even bother to spend the money and invest the time to show up? *shaking my head...*

The brown-belt is worse. He's supposedly trained for ten years at another Isshinryu dojo, under a different Sensei, but his gi doesn't fit him. He's tromping around on the heels of his pants, and ties his obi like it's a bathrobe sash. He doesn't know any of the most basic drills, the most basic stances, and doesn't know any kata, at all. But he's a brown-belt and out-ranks the rest of us who have been training our hearts out. It's ridiculous... I'm sure the other two brown-belts who really train hard and know their stuff, can't possibly be real pleased about it.

So now we have three slugs. The white-belt who can't be bothered to even try, the brown-belt who just can't possibly be a brown-belt, and another brown-belt who has absolutely no enthusiasm.

I look at the black-belts that show up to class, and I respect the hell out of every one of them. Each one of them is an amazing fighter, displays a ton of heart, train their hearts out, and really have some snap and pop to their techniques.

We have five brown-belts. One is out due to a bad shoulder injury, two of them train their hearts out and really work hard, and the other two are just absolute slugs.. I know I shouldn't worry about what anyone else is doing, or what they are getting out of the class, but it still bugs me. If they don't want to be there, why do they bother? *sigh* I would never dare broach the topic with Sensei. If I were a teacher, I wouldn't want to hear a student bad-mouthing other students, and I've only been at this dojo for seven months. I'm also a "butter belt," so it's better that I just keep my big mouth shut and just keep right on working my ass off.

I'm testing for orange belt on the 24th of this month, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm going redouble my own efforts, because there is a lot of room for improvement with the Seiuchin kata, and with Charts I and II.

I showed Sensei the kick that I came up with, and he liked it. One of the brown-belts said that she learned a similar kick in Kachi-Kimbo. I thought that was really cool... There is nothing new under the sun, and I'm not arrogant enough to think that a kick that powerful would be something that no one else has ever thought of or tried. Instead of being disappointed, I was glad. It reaffirms that it's a good and true technique, and lets me know that I'm on a valid pathway of thought.

Here's a photo we took last night with Sensei Fugate, since all three of us are yellow-belts, for now:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Came up with a new kick!

This morning, after feeding and watering the animals, I ran through a couple of kata, and chart 1, outside in the grass. It was still nice and cool, with a good cloud cover, and the grass was fresh with dew. It was really nice. I did a few rounds of karate breathing, and then launched into the Seisan kata and did that three times, then did the Seiuchin three times, and after working through chart 1, which is all of our punches and blocks, I focused on a couple of specific exercises that I wanted to improve. Working on this stuff outdoors was different, and very nice. I enjoyed it.

I came in the house, and thought about working on the Naihanchi kata, and I was thinking about the wave-form kick featured in that kata. The Naihanchi stance is narrow, compared to the Seisan or Seiuchin stances, and somewhat pigeon-toed. It is a good fighting stance for a narrow area, or fighting in tight quarters.

The wave-form kick is a low kick thrown from left to right, or right to left, with the kicking foot crossing in front of the standing leg. It's usually thrown to inside of an opponent's knee.

I was messing with this concept, and tried it by passing the kick behind the standing leg. It didn't seem to do much, at first, but then I started it by starting by flexing the knees so I was a little lower, shifting the hip to the side first, and then throwing the kick low. This causes the kick to strike with the heel. Wow! Very powerful!

If it's thrown higher, the strike is with the ball of the foot, but it loses a lot of power. If an opponent was standing to my side and I nailed him in the outside of the knee with this, he wouldn't see it coming. No one expects a kick to come from that angle, and the kicking leg is hidden by the standing leg.

I don't know if this kick is part of some other system, or if someone else has come up with it before, but it's not part of Isshinryu. Can't wait to show this to my Sensei on Monday.

Just finished reading this. It was very good. Richard Kim, "The Weaponless Warriors; An Informal History of Okinawan Karate."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Seisan Kata - New Video

A new video that I did of the Seisan Kata. (I did one of the Seiuchin Kata, but upon viewing it, I can see a LOT of things that are in need of correction, so I'll continue working on that one, until it's looking better.) There are things I can improve in my performance of the Seisan Kata too, but it's looking and feeling a lot better than it did, four months ago. :-)

July 5th, 2010 - Seisan Kata

Monday, July 5, 2010

Music, two days without pain, etc.

What a miracle! Two days ago, I was still having a dull ache in my elbows. I awoke yesterday, and my elbows were entirely pain-free! This morning, too... I overdid it, playing guitar yesterday, and playing piano, this morning, so my right elbow has started buzzing a little, but with more stretches and holding pressure points and stretching, the pain quickly vanished. This is unbelievable, and I am just thrilled...

I play piano, guitar, bass, drums, and I sing, too. (I'm self-conscious about my voice...) Anyway, a lot of the musical stuff has been on hold for the past year and a half, while my elbows have been in pain, so it feels good to finally be back to doing the things that I love. I just have to rein myself in, so I don't overdo it, for now.

Here's the URL to my music. I play all of the instruments, track by track, layering them via Cakewalk Sonar, which is a multi-tracking and mixing program for PC. Most of this stuff is experimental, as I've been fooling around and trying to learn the ins and outs of the software, mixing, and trying out different sounds, musically. :-) Feel free to rate the songs, download them if you like, and/or leave comments.

I've been working harder on stretching my tight and stubborn hamstrings. What a chore... It's the one thing that I am dissatisfied with, as far as my flexibility goes. I have resolved to stretch them several times a day, every day, until they finally loosen up, and they will; I'm just very impatient.

Now that I've been studying Isshinryu for six months, several things are beginning to really fall into place. My balance was the first thing that I noticed. It is vastly improved. My flexibility has been slower, but it's coming along. What I've really noticed, is that my kicks, punches, stances, and quickness have all taken a quantum leap, lately. Of course, it's because of the constant work that I've been doing, but over the past couple of weeks, I've noticed a real snap to my techniques, a real jump in speed as I've worked on keeping the muscles loose and pliable and keeping my hands nice and loose until the point of impact, and my stances have really become very natural and easy. I'm no longer feeling uncoordinated, awkward, and oafish. There's a new grace, speed, and power to things, and it feels miraculous!

Sensei gave me notice that I would be testing for orange belt around the middle of the month, so I'm redoubling my efforts, particularly with the basic charts, and with the Seiuchin kata.

As with anything, I guess it's like pushing a truck: It starts so slow and difficult and nearly impossible at first, and then, it begins to pick up its own momentum and becomes nearly effortless. And still, there is the striving and bettering, and a constant return to the basics, to perfect and master even the smallest thing, bringing a fresh new focus, rather than thinking, Oh, I've done this a hundred times... A hundred, five hundred, a thousand... I've read that a black belt is someone who has mastered the basics.

The wonderful thing about mastering anything, whether it be martial arts, spiritual growth, or any other pursuit, is that there's never a point where one can say, "Okay! That's it! I've learned all there is to know! I've arrived!" There is always one more step... Ego jumps up and says, "WHAT??!! That SUCKS!!!" Hahaha... Deep down, greater and quieter than ego, our spirits exclaim, "YES!!!" *BEAMING!*

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finally!! Relief....

I've been going to a chiropractor who specializes in joints. In fact, I've got an appointment with him, this morning. I've been using Biofreeze, which, for those of you who don't know what it is, it's sort of like "Icy Hot," and when I've been rubbing it in, I've been using my fingers to encircle the elbow and forearm, and digging into the tissues, I've been "skinning" down my forearms. I've also found a pressure point about an inch down from the elbow, and I've been kneading at it.

My chiropractor is probably not going to be very happy with me, but I have a nearly 100% cessation of pain in both elbows! The first appointment I had, he did a technique called A.R.T., where he applied point-pressure with his thumbs to various points on the elbow and forearm, and had me move my arms in various range of motion movements. That was very effective, and left me pain-free for about three days.

This last appointment, he pulled out some big stainless steel tools and did what's called the Graston Technique, where he applied some kind of lubricating ointment to the skin, and then used the tools to "skin" the tissues, and this is where I got the idea to do it with my fingers, as I applied the Biofreeze. Graston didn't seem to be nearly as effective as A.R.T., but I'll talk it over with him.

I'm thrilled that I'm nearly totally healed. I'm taking a crapload of supplements, though.

In the morning, I'm taking Animal Pak "Lift," which is a joint supplement consisting of about six tablets. I'm taking a fish oil capsule, a multivitamin, an MSM tablet, and a vitamin C tablet. I take the fish oil, MSM, and vitamin C, three times a day.

I'm also stretching my arms several times a day, since I spend most of my day at the computer. I do what's called the "Double Hitchhiker." I stand with my arms straight out and level with my shoulders, thumbs up, like the Fonz on "Happy Days." Then I tilt the thumbs back, back, back, rotating from the shoulders, and when I get my arms rotated back as far as they'll go, then I extend the wrists back as far as they'll go, open my hands up, and stretch the fingers out as wide as they'll go. Basically, what this does is remind the body that the arms rotate from the shoulders. It lengthens and stretches all the tendons, ligaments, and muscles from the shoulders all the way down to the wrists, and opens up the shoulders, chest, and neck. It counteracts the hunched-over and hunched-in position that most of us adopt, when sitting at the computer for long periods of time.

I'm not sure if the supplements are finally kicking in, or if the chiropractic stuff is really starting to work, or if the stretches and kneading are what's making the difference, but whatever it is, I'm just glad that I'm finally healing up. It'll be so nice to be able to go through my days without constant pain, and to be able to really put forth maximum effort in karate, without worrying that I'm damaging myself, or wondering how badly I'm going to hurt, the next morning.

Friday, June 11, 2010

To The Pain!

Heh... Extra points for whomever gets the reference of this title. It's an easy one...

Anyway, last night, we pulled out the three Bobs and another freestanding bag. We went from bag to bag, and for timed, one minute periods, we practiced beating the crap out of them, using techniques and movement. It was fun.

This morning, my neck and shoulders are sore, my left middle knuckle is swollen and very tender, the top of my right foot is aching pretty good where I bruised it a few weeks ago in sparring, and the tendinitis in my elbows is fairly humming with pain.

It was a great class. After the 30-40 minutes of stretches and calisthenics, working on stances with the medicine ball, doing the circuit drills, and then practicing fighting up from the ground, my dogi was wringing wet...

Good stuff. :-) I just wish it didn't hurt me so much. My hand and foot will heal up. My elbows just refuse to heal, and it's been very frustrating. :-(

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Last night, we pulled on our headgear and pads, put in our mouthpieces, and sparred. My first bout was with a fellow yellow-belt. I'm 5'10", 177 lbs. He's about 6'2", and pretty muscular. When we've done grappling and fighting up from the ground, he's always been a tough opponent, and last night was no different. He had so much of a reach, height, and weight advantage, and he's starting to learn how to capitalize on that, but our match went well, and I gave as good as I got, and maybe even a little better...

I ripped off one kick to his left thigh, and I think my foot pad had slipped out of place. I tagged him good, but my right ankle is in a lot of pain, today. Hopefully, it's just a sprain. There's not been any great swelling or discoloration, so I'll give my body some time to deal with it, before I go running to the doctor for X-rays. Anyway, I gave a good showing for that match.

The second match, I got my ass kicked. There's a younger black-belt in class, and again, he's a big guy: Maybe 6'4", and all arms and legs. I threw a punch, which he blocked, but I turned it over and nailed him in the face with a back-fist. Oh, baby... It was ON!! It was like fighting a spider... All arms and legs, and he wasn't doing much to pull his punches and kicks. I got in a few good shots, and he was telegraphing his kicks, so at one point, when he went to throw one, I grabbed his foot and he stumbled, losing his balance, but he recovered too quickly for me to move in and capitalize on it. He ripped off a kick to my head that had me seeing stars and little birdies for a moment, but he never knocked me down, and again, I feel that I made a good showing, even though he beat me soundly. At the end, I said, "Well, we proved one thing; I sure know how to take a punch!" Everyone cracked up...

One thing I really need to work on, is keeping my hands up. I always start out pretty good, but as the round wears on, I start dropping my hands. Not good... I ate a lot more shots than I should have. Ah well... I'll get better with time and practice. What I lack in technique, I make up for in toughness, heart, and speed. I'd sure like to get hit a lot less, though! ;-)

Anyway, I really enjoyed it. :-)

Monday, May 10, 2010


At my heaviest, back in December of '09, I weighed 187 lbs. At 5'10," I didn't look bad, and I'm pretty muscular, but I was developing some softness around my middle that I was dissatisfied with. Since starting karate again, quitting soft drinks and junk food, and eating five small meals each day instead of three large meals, I've lost a total of thirteen pounds. I'm getting back to my fighting weight, and the really great thing, is that it has felt effortless. I'd like to be back to 165-170. That's when I felt my lightest and strongest, but it's been several years since I was that light.

The tendinitis in my elbows seems to be slowly healing. I have good days and bad days, but lately, it seems that there are more good days than bad. I've felt good enough that I'm considering getting back into lifting weights again. If/when I do, I'm going to take it very slowly, and work very lightly for a couple of weeks, until I'm sure that I'm not causing myself any damage or setbacks.

Finally, the biggest problem; the thing I am most dissatisfied with, and my biggest regret: Smoking. I've cut down significantly, but it's time to quit. I may not succeed. Lord knows, I've tried and fallen flat on my face so many times, but I really do have to try. In the past, I've tried Zyban, Chantix, Nicorette, cold turkey, etc. Smoking is just out of phase with who I am, physically and spiritually. It's time for it to go. I'm ready to be done with it. I have three packs left, and when those are gone, I'm quitting.

The only constant in life is change. Right now, all of them seem good and positive.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Enthusiasm and Focus

I just got through reading one of blogs I'm following: Just A Thought.

(It's a great blog...) Anyway, the topic of discussion was how contagious enthusiasm is.

My classes are on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Monday nights are the hardest, because after working all day, I'm usually just not "feeling it," but I leave that behind, when I enter the dojo. No matter how tired I am, whatever else I have going on in my life, the second I hit the doors of the dojo, all of it falls away. This not only gives me a break from the strain of everyday living, but even if I'm totally exhausted before class, by the time the class is over, I'm drenched in sweat and I feel GREAT!

The converse is also true: We have a young brown-belt in our class that has been taking karate since he was a young boy. I don't know if he's just bored or just has a lack of energy, or what... His lack of enthusiasm is a real bummer, and it drags the level of the class down. It's like everything he does is just half-hearted. Honestly, I try not to look at him much, and instead, focus on myself and what I'm doing, and look to others in class, who are giving their all, for inspiration... Last Monday evening, we worked on fighting up from the ground, and for the first time, he showed some real enthusiasm, speed, and focus. I inwardly cheered for him... Everyone was enthusiastic and focused, and because of this, it was an awesome class!

When I first started out, getting this 41-year old body to cooperate, was like trying to push a truck... Every class left me aching, tired, and shook my faith in myself. That's all changed, now. I've dropped ten pounds, and the tougher and more demanding a class is, my only thought is, BRING IT ON!! I look forward to each class, feel myself growing stronger, leaner, more flexible, faster, and more coordinated, and I now have unshakable faith that I will see this through to black-belt and beyond.

I'm glad that the majority of pupils in my dojo are focused and enthusiastic. I know that this is gratifying to our Sensei. I've taught various classes on a variety of topics, especially during my years in the Army. When students just sit back and act like they are there under duress, and act like they have no enthusiasm or interest, it makes it difficult for me to teach with fire and enthusiasm. When I find a student that is interested, engaged, and enthusiastic, it fires me up, too. I find that I want to teach that student as much as I possibly can, because s/he is a willing recipient. The whole teacher/student relationship becomes something that is mutually beneficial and mutually inspiring. Knowing this, I do my best to extrapolate that to being a student in my dojo.

And far from being mindless cheerleading, or like a Jack Russell terrier overloaded on espresso, it just means giving absolutely 100%. By giving every bit of effort I can; by giving 100%, my own sense of honor is satisfied. When class is over, a great peace blooms within me. My conscience is clear, my spirit feels cleansed, and the other knots in my life that previously seemed so complicated, seem to suddenly unravel and the road through all of it emerges straight and shining before me.

And finally, if, by my own focus and enthusiasm, I can inspire others and somehow elevate the level of the class, then that's just the cherry on top.


Monday, May 3, 2010


I've finally got the Seiuchin Kata memorized. I was comparing it to the Seisan Kata, and noticed that the Seiuchin Kata is actually quite a bit shorter than the Seisan Kata, and yet, seems a lot more complex. I'm sure that as I practice it, there will come a great deal more refinement in my technique. At Saturday's class, I ran through it over and over again...

Speaking of Saturday's class, belt testing was being conducted. One brown-belt was testing for black-belt, and another brown-belt was testing for brown-belt with black stripe. I hope they did well... The weather was really nasty, and my daughter was complaining that she was hungry, so we left before testing was concluded. I think a girl from the kids' class was testing for her yellow-belt, too.

Couple of bizarre dreams, last night. Still pondering what they might mean...

First day back to work after a week of scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico. What a great vacation! I'm tanned, mosquito-bit, and relaxed...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Seiuchin Kata - Yes!!

This evening's class was great... Saturdays are less formally structured classes, where people can show up and work on kata, charts, or whatever other things they want to work on. The classes are smaller, and Sensei has more time to give individual instruction, and the senior students help out, too.

With the help of Sensei and two senior students, I was able to run the Seiuchin Kata all the way through. I ran it through a few times... It needs a lot more practice, and the shift between the Seisan stance and Seiuchin stance is  a little challenging, but I finally feel that it's coming together. I've learned this one at a faster pace than I learned the Seisan, even though I find the Seiuchin to be quite a bit more complex.

I am greatly encouraged... I'm going to work on it like crazy over the next few days, because I'm leaving on the 21st for a one-week scuba diving trip.

Absent from class lately, is a 12-year old boy that had been in the kids' class, and was in the adult class, when I began training at this dojo, last December. He's been absent for a few weeks now, and I don't think he's coming back.

Another absentee, is a guy that started a few weeks before I did, who is around my age. He got his yellow-belt about a month before I did, and his Kata were looking really good. He was training hard, and he was one of the people in class that I admired, and whom I felt really elevated the level of the class. He's been absent for a few weeks now.... I hope he returns.

Yet another absentee, is a young woman who is a blue-belt, but she's been accepted to the Memphis School Of Art, so because of that, she probably will not be a regular, anymore.

It seems like our class is getting smaller, but hopefully, that just means that the intensity will remain, or even increase.

One of the senior brown-belts is gearing up for her black-belt test! I'm excited for her! She hardly ever misses a class, is always quick to help others, and really trains hard. I think I heard Sensei telling her that it would happen on the first Saturday... (I'm assuming he meant May.) Ganbatte!!!


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Hardest Lesson For Warriors....

I think the hardest lesson for warriors to learn, is that of humility. At class this evening, I was called on to demonstrate the Seisan Kata. Objectively, I guess I did okay, but I didn't get low enough, wasn't focused enough, didn't snap my punches and kicks the way I should have, and at one point, even got a little off-balance. It was embarrassing. I can do it so much better than I did, and I feel like I really blew it.

There was another, albeit minor, incident too, but I don't feel like going into it... Maybe next time I show up to class, I'll wear my white belt, instead... I'm a little discouraged and frustrated, to be perfectly honest. I also know that true to my happy-go-lucky self, that I will dwell on it, analyze it, keep whatever lessons I'm supposed to learn from tonight's class, and then I will let the rest go, and the frustration and embarrassment of tonight's class will only further steel my resolve to work harder, get a little better each time, and this too shall be conquered and turned to my own advantage.

For now, I'm discouraged and frustrated and a little angry. I acknowledge and accept that, and in so doing, those feelings will cease to persist. No sense in swallowing that poison. Spit it out, shrug it off, and drive on.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Seiuchin vs. Seiunchin?

I've seen the name of this kata spelled Seiunchin and Seiuchin. I'm not sure which is proper.

Anyway, this is the latest kata that I'm trying to learn. It feels awkward. It doesn't snap for me the way the Seisan Kata did/does. I'm not sure how to really articulate it, but I'm having a tough time with it, and having a tough time becoming inspired by it. Giving up on it is not an option and of course I will persevere, but I'm really not very fond of it. Maybe as I get better at it, it will begin to really pop for me. I hope so... Because it seems very difficult now, it may end up becoming one of my favorite kata, by the time I have the whole thing worked out.

My wife is really coming along. I've been working with her on Chart I and she's got that memorized, and I've been working with her on the Seisan Kata, too. She's got the movements memorized and just needs to refine it a little. She spent years in ballet, so she's already got the neuron pathways established for quickly memorizing a sequence of moves, and has naturally good balance and flexibility. I'm so jealous.... Hahahaha... I'm happy for her, and she's really enjoying karate.

Bob and I are twins! Hahahaha....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tonight's class, anticipation, and... Bob.

Tonight, in about an hour and a half, I find out if I passed my belt test. On the one hand, I'm pretty detached about it, acknowledging that in the grand scheme of things, belts really don't mean much. On the other hand, I'm pretty stoked. It feels like I'm finally on my way, which I also acknowledge as being kind of silly. I've been on my way for quite some time, now. Still, it'll be nice not to be a shirobi, anymore. (Eh... Providing, of course, that I passed the test!)

Bob showed up today. w00t!! I positioned him in the basement dojo, filled the base up with water, and then set the height of Mr. Bob. I took an old Everlast T-shirt and put it on him, and took a pair of old shorts and cut a hole in the middle of them so I could put them on Mr. Bob. I topped it off with a pair of old motorcycle sunglasses and a Stars & Stripes doo-rag. He looks very cool...

My daughter had no idea that Bob was coming. She came into the garage after I was done, and I told her to go into the dojo and turn the lights on. She yelled, "YES!!!! OMG... That is SO COOL!" Hahahahaha....

I've got a DVD of workouts that involve Bob. I'll watch it later. Maybe later tonight, I'll snap a couple of pics of Bob and post 'em up.

My ankle is feeling a bit better. I kept Arnica gel on it, and took some sublingual Arnica tablets that I have, and I think they helped. Riding the motorcycle today, I didn't notice any undue tenderness, when I was stopped at stoplights and holding the bike up with my left foot, so.... we'll see how it goes tonight at class.


At the end of class, the woman who was testing for brown-belt, my daughter, and I, were called up, one at a time, and our belt certificates were presented to us. The actual belts should be here by Thursday. w00t!!

More work on Chart I tonight, as well as fighting up from the ground with a variety of kicks thrown from a prone position, and then rolling up/fighting up into a good Seisan stance. Great class!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Belt Test

Daughter and I had our belt test, yesterday evening. We had to do Chart 1 and 2, and then run through the Seisan Kata. We both did just fine with Chart 1 and the Seisan, but we need work on Chart 2. Overall, I think we passed, though. We'll find out tomorrow night.

There was another woman with us, testing for brown-belt. She did pretty good, and I hope she passed. She works so hard, shows up to every class, and she's quick to help others who are having a hard time with one of their kata. She's also legally blind, but it doesn't appear to slow her down at all. I'm so proud of her and always inspired by her... She's always quick to offer help and suggestions.

This is the first time I've ever tested for a belt. When I studied Wado-ryu in Japan, there were only three belts: White, an intermediate green, and then black-belt.

Yesterday afternoon, I was warming up in the basement dojo and skipping rope. I came down on my left foot and it turned inward, resulting in a bad sprain. I had to grit my teeth through the test and while running through the charts. What a rotten time to sprain an ankle! Yeesh.... I hope it heals quickly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Journey With The Grandmaster

What a fantastic book!! The photos alone, are well worth the price of the book! There is one rare photo of Osensei Eizo Shimabukuro seated next to his brother, Osensei Tatsuo Shimabukuro. Two masters, brothers, seated side by side...

I e-mailed Major/Sensei Bill Hayes and thanked him for his book, and he graciously replied back, pleased that I had enjoyed his book. Enjoyed is not the word for it; I freakin' devoured it! I couldn't put it down...

Thank you to Sensei John Vesia for recommending it.

In other news, I broke down and bought a Bob. (Eh.... It's not what you're thinking! (Haha...) Photo below:


I think this is going to be a fun and useful way to practice various techniques, and I think my daughter will be very happy about it, too. We have a couple of these at our dojo, and she enjoys using them to train, when our Sensei drags them out every so often for drills or technical demonstrations.

I'm also thinking of making (or buying) a makiwara, in the near future.

Class tonight, and I'm looking forward to it. :-)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Home Dojo! Finally!

I went to Lowe's this morning, and found 2'x2' gray mats that interlock like puzzle pieces, in the Flooring section. After buying a bunch of them, I went home to the basement dojo and began putting them together. After moving the heavy-bag and frame, and juggling things around a little, I managed to get all of it installed. What a difference!

The mirrors covering one wall, and on the opposite wall, the heavy-bag in the corner, to the right of that, the speed-bag, and to the right of that, the reflex-bag. Still further, to the right of the reflex-bag, the treadmill.

It's all come together finally, and it's a place that's pleasant to train and work; a place where I feel like I really want to spend time. The room is L-shaped. In the shorter, wider part, I still have all of my weight-training equipment, along with various cast-off stuff that I was getting out of the house... An aquarium, a huge old TV, the steam-vac, etc., and everything is sort of jumbled in there, as I shoved things out of the way to make room for the home dojo.

Over the next week, little by little, I'll probably begin working on organizing that stuff, too. Giving away stuff to people who want it, hauling some of it to Goodwill, and then, to the dump with the rest of the junk.

It feels good to finally get things the way I that I first envisioned... :-) My daughter is crazy about the new dojo too.

My wife is going to be joining us in our class, starting Monday! She showed up at last Saturday's class to pick my daughter and I up, and started talking with our Sensei. She's been interested, as my daughter and I have progressed, so I guess we are going to become a martial arts family. :-)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Living The Martial Way

I am thoroughly enjoying this book! Nodding my head on every page... I would recommend it highly to anyone, but especially those involved in martial arts. Pursuing and practicing martial arts isn't something that we "do" three times a week. The entire martial philosophy is a unique way of seeing the world and living the life of a warrior. Marvelous book...

I've also received this book and can't wait to dig into it:

Class was great, last night, as usual. We took a part of the Seisan Kata and turned it into an exercise. It gave me some much-needed practice on a part of the kata that was giving me a little trouble. We also did some ground and pound stuff, and worked on another exercise where, from a lying position, rolling to one side or the other, rising up on the the left or right forearm and raising our lower hip off of the floor, and then bringing the top knee across in a strike. It was tough! It calls for explosive movement, coming mostly from the core. Good stuff! I'm mildly sore, this morning.

My basement dojo is finally taking shape. I've got my heavy bag, speed bag, and reflex bag all set, along with the treadmill and inversion table, and the glass company came on Tuesday afternoon and installed three mirrors on the wall opposite from my heavy bag. I still need to get mats. I'll probably take floor measurements this weekend, and then browse around at sporting goods stores to see if I can get them at a reasonable price.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Getting on with it...

Last night, I pulled on my dogi and headed to the basement. I warmed up on the treadmill, stretched and stretched, then hung upside down on the inversion table, and then stretched some more. I ran through the Seisan Kata a few times. (more on this, in a minute) Then I began working the heavy bag. I hit the bag fifty times, paying attention to my breathing and technique, striking it like a makiwara. Then I began working on kicks.

I was envisioning sparring, and began working on a combination kick, where I was in a left or right seisan, and with the front leg, making a front snap-kick, and then with the back leg, whipping it around in a side-kick. Then I went into a front snap-kick and before setting the front foot down, bringing the rear foot around in the side-kick. It's a technique that I think would be totally unexpected, and I think that rather than fully throwing the front snap-kick, I could feint it and then really rip off the side-kick. I practiced this with both left and right, and following it up with punches. I don't know if this tactic will be effective or not, but if it is, I feel it will be pretty devastating.

With the Seisan Kata, I'm having to really focus on my stance, when I shift directions, because if I step out too far or my stance is too narrow, then I can't rotate on my heels. More refining of my technique and trying to do it enough that it becomes something that I do automatically. I've had to work on my open side-block too. My natural tendency is to angle my hand upward, rather than keeping the wrist straight. I'm not sure where I picked up that habit from, but I'm working to correct it. Right now, I get it right about 3/4 of the time...

Lots of lower back stretches... My back is still really stiff and so are my hamstrings. I sat on the floor with my legs spread out straight, as wide as I could get my legs, leaned forward, and grabbed the frame of the treadmill again, stretching, stretching, stretching... I think this is something that I'm going to have to do everyday, and really stay on top of it. Eventually, my back and hamstrings will loosen up, but those are some big muscles, so it may take longer than I wished it would. It's okay... I'm patient. Dogi soaked with sweat again... :-) In bed by 2200, meditated for about fifteen minutes, and then dropped right off to sleep.

Up at 0530 this morning, went out, grabbed the dog, and took him for a two-mile walk. The morning walks are always peaceful. The world is silent and there are no cars on the road. The Bear just trots along beside me, and only sound is the click-click-click of his nails on the street and my own footfalls. Once we returned, I filled his food dish, watered him, and then went back to the basement. More time on the inversion table, more stretching, and then a couple of run-throughs of the Seisan Kata. It's improving, and yet, there is still so much room for improvement...

After a couple of weeks of hard, steady training, I've lost at least half an inch off of my waist. I've always been in pretty good shape, but now I'm seeing my abs beginning to peek through. Very gratifying, and an unexpected bonus. :-)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Arrrrr!! Great Class!!

Whoohoo!!! Awesome class, this evening!! The more the instructor poured on, the more I just grinned... And breathed... And sweated... My dogi is SOAKED!! Hahahahaha...

We went through some of the basic bunkai of the Seisan Kata, with two opponents throwing kicks and punches, and using movements from that Kata to block or deflect and redirect. It was very physical and very fun.

I'm also enjoying the book, "Living The Martial Way." I've realized that I am not a martial artist. I am, and always have been, a warrior. My first foray into Wadoryu, and now Isshinryu; these are not things that I got into in order to learn only a martial art for its own sake. I have always been interested in archery, guns, marksmanship, training my body, and exerting myself, because I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy pitting myself against myself, like a piece of steel that's between the hammer and the anvil -- The harder, the more difficult, the more "impossible," the better, and I have never found a more worthy opponent than myself. Not that I am the strongest, the best, the smartest, or the greatest warrior by any means, but I enjoy ferreting out my own weakness, competing against it, and rooting it out.

If I succeed, I have become better, faster, stronger, and a better warrior. If I do my very best and fail anyway, then I take that failure and I rip it apart and take every bit of wisdom and learning out of it that I possibly can. In this way, a failure becomes a small setback, and even that is turned to advantage!

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

The Good:

Today, I received my copy and can't wait to dig into it:

This afternoon, I'm getting a 42"x 130" mirror installed in my workout room, and I have class, tonight.

Over the weekend, I installed my speed-bag brackets and platform. It's nice to have it up. :-)

The Bad:

After going through all of the strain and headache of installing my speed-bag platform, when it came time to put the bag on the swivel, I discovered that the bag will not hold air. CRAP!! I've got a new one on order... Hrmph.

The Ugly:

After a couple of weeks of weather in the upper sixties, I awoke to damn near blizzard conditions, this morning. G'ahhhhhh!!! Ah well... Winter's last hurrah, I guess. Pfft.....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Hidden and Secret Knowledge

Much has been made, in martial arts culture, about the secret techniques, or the hidden things in a given style.

I was talking with my Sensei this evening, and talking about Isshinryu and about people that had studied Isshinryu and then gone on to other styles. He made the comment that principles of Isshinryu provide a very sound foundation from which to pursue other styles. That made a lot of sense to me.

Personally, I've looked into Krav Maga a little, and liked much of what I saw there, and then related it back to Isshinryu, rather than dropping Isshinryu and pursuing Krav Maga.

I'm of the opinion that until I've reached at least black-belt in Isshinryu, then I won't be able to fully appreciate what Isshinryu has to offer, and probably won't be able to fully appreciate what other styles have to offer, either.

There is the superficial stuff -- The physical forms of whatever art we choose, and then there is the infinite subtlety; the facets of what we learn and how this new knowledge is like plowing the hard soil so that a deeper knowledge can seep in.

I'm finding that as I run through the Seisan Kata, and the beginnings of the Seiuchin Kata, that I'm focusing on so many things at once: My breathing, the angle of a wrist, rotating on the heels instead of on the balls of my feet, making sure each punch is at the proper height, making sure it's guided towards the center-line, making sure that I'm extending to 98% and then snapping it, making sure that each kick, I'm chambering the knee properly, raising it high enough, and then snapping the kick, making sure my toes are pointed up so that I'm striking with the ball of the foot.... So many things...

While I'm doing all of these things and concentrating on all of these things, my body says, What if you bent your knees more and lowered your center of gravity? What if you reached your hands out, opened your palms, and then brought your fists back, when you go to stack your fists? What if you rocked your hips forward as you went into the front snap-kick? 

So many other things like this... When I listen, I can hear and see my Sensei in my mind's eye, telling me to concentrate on my breathing, telling me to rotate on my heels rather than the balls of my feet, telling me that my wrist needs to be straighter during an open-handed side-block. When I listen, my body also has its own wisdom and it begins cooperating, rather than being so uncoordinated and stubborn.

There are hidden and secret techniques in our chosen martial art. They aren't likely to be discovered on some newly unearthed scroll or parchment. They come from within ourselves, as we refine ourselves spiritually, physically, and mentally, as we pursue and perfect our art.

On a different note: I found out that my daughter and I will be testing for yellow-belt on the 3rd of April. A blue-belt in our class will be testing for her brown-belt. I'm really happy, because I've seen how hard she works and practices. There's another woman in our class who is a brown-belt, and I hope she tests for black-belt soon. She's awesome... This evening in class, there was one of the kids from the childrens' class, testing for his yellow-belt. It always makes me feel good to see others advancing... :-)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Last night's class

Excellent class... We started out with the usual warm-ups, stretches, and calisthenics, and then we did a drill with the medicine balls and seiuchin stance. We did another one where we walked around the dojo, alternating elbows to knees, coming down in a good seisan each time. Through the stretches, calisthenics, and drills, I really focused on my breathing -- Inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth. It's becoming a good habit.

After that, we worked on a couple of street survival techniques. The first technique was how to perform a proper choke-hold, and how to defend against one. The second technique we worked on, was doing weapon redirection and take-aways, if someone is threatening us with a gun. Fascinating stuff...

In my basement workout room, I've shoved all of my weight-lifting equipment to the side. I've got the heavy-bag, and last night, put up a reflex bag. This weekend, I may try to put up my speed-bag. I looked into getting a wall-mirror, and one of the local glass places quoted me $200 for a 48"x130" sheet. We'll see....

This morning, my legs and shoulders are pleasantly sore. Slowly, incrementally, my flexibility is improving. No matter how slow, as long as my progress is steady, it's very motivating and encouraging.

I'm looking forward to Saturday's class. Saturdays are less formally structured, the classes are smaller, and it's a chance to work on kata, charts, and other techniques.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Draggin' Tails

Hahahahaha.... I crapped out, last night. I took the dog for a walk, but didn't train. This morning, instead of hopping out of bed and taking the dog for a walk, I slept the extra half hour. Class, tonight. I'm looking forward to it. I'll probably take the dog for a walk before I go...

Poor little puppy:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A History Of Isshinryu and Founder Tatsuo Shimabuku

Very impressive and comprehensive history. Fascinating....

Excellent and thorough

Injuries, flexibility, and adaptation

Last night, I donned my dogi and went to the basement to put in some practice. I've got tendinitis in both elbows, and my back is very stiff. Rough life I've led.... Six years as an Army medic, a couple years of boxing, lots of brawls, a couple of car accidents, and on and on.

I took my time warming up on the treadmill, and then started doing some stretches. The stretch that gives me the hardest time, is sitting straight-legged on the floor, legs apart, and trying to lean forward and put my forearms on the floor. My hamstrings and back just say, Nope. Sorry, pal. Ain't gonna' happen. I sat straight-legged in front of my treadmill, then leaned forward and grabbed the frame and pulled myself down a little more than I'm ordinarily able to stretch. I'm hoping that as I gradually do this, that it will make a difference. My back is a little sore, today... I also have an inversion table, and I think I'll begin making use of it.

After I finished warming up and stretching, I ran through the Seisan Kata a few times, refining it, taking it nice and slow, evaluating my stance, hand placement, wrist angles, breathing, and really trying to snap the punches and kicks.

After this, I went over and began working the heavy bag. The frame for the bag has a couple of anchor-points, so on a whim, I ran my hand under the bottom side of the bag. I found an anchor loop! I didn't think the bag had one, so that was a pleasant surprise. I went and got two long straps and secured the bottom of the bag to the frame. Now it doesn't swing so much, and if I hit it without gloves, it functions almost like a makiwara.

I ran through 25 straight punches with each hand, just like working a makiwara, and then I ran through Chart 1, with each punch hitting the bag. I did a bunch of chops, and then worked my front snap kicks, side kicks, and crescent kicks.

I stretched again, and then called it a night. I slept well... Dreamed that I was on a scuba trip to Mexico, and followed a dive-buddy through a jungle to a place of waterfalls. I jumped in, needing no scuba equipment, and the water was clear as gin. I saw a friend of mine that I've not seen since high school. She was just hanging out there, mid-water. We were able to talk, but I can't remember what we talked about... Cool dream!

Up at 0530, donned sweats and tennis-shoes, and took the dog for a 2-mile walk. :-) I'll probably do it again, this evening.

Tonight, I'll probably take it a little easier in my workout. Warm-up, stretching and running through the Seisan Kata. My elbows are both buzzing with pain, today. I've got class on Thursday night...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

My 12-year old daughter and I began studying Isshinryu karate in January, 2010.

I first studied karate (Wadoryu) when I lived in Japan, from 1987 to 1997, but due to work and other things, wasn't able to stick with it for very long. The instructor never explained anything. It was very traditional, in the sense that the instructor would demonstrate and everyone would follow. I appreciated the discipline and tradition of it, but I can also see the negative side of it, too. There were no belts. The instructor was a black-belt, and there was an intermediate green-belt, but 95% of the class remained white-belts.

I am determined to stick with Isshinryu. My instructor is a 5th dan black-belt, and is also a certified instructor in Close Quarter Unarmed Combat with the Hoccheim Group. For all that, he's very down to earth, very approachable, encourages questions, explains the philosophy behind various techniques, and is very encouraging, patient, and firm, at the same time. I feel fortunate to have found this caliber of instructor, and my daughter enjoys learning from him, as well.

We are testing for yellow-belt on the 1st of April, and we are training hard for that. While the goal of receiving a new belt is very motivating, I am discovering that training is its own reward. The belts are nice, but are almost incidental.

For me, it's about the path, the discipline, and embodying the warrior spirit. At the age of 40, my body is not as flexible as it once was. It creaks and groans and complains, and the day after each class, my back, shoulders, and elbows ache. I'm keeping a sense of humor about it though, and tell my body, "Complain all you like, but quitting is not an option."

I took the opportunity to videotape myself running through the Seisan Kata, the other night. It makes me cringe a little... When I practice, I feel like I'm doing everything right, but upon viewing the video, I can see several mistakes. It's very humbling...

I love this. This is the bunkai (application) of the Seisan Kata: