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!*