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: