Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Challenge: 41.50 - 43.50

30 minutes makiwara, 1 hr Sanchin and 30 minutes Tenshin.  Ni-Sei-Shi is important training for resistance, sensitivity and uke-waza.  The most important aspects are 1) whole body movement - using your stance and hips to strengthen your motion, 2) kakiwake-uke as a transition to soto-uke, kosa-uke, uchi-uke, and 3) controlling centerline and transitioning from defense to offense.  Morote-tsuki and kakiwake-uke are two-sides of the same coin.  The bunkai for Ni-Sei-Shi should be against the lapel grab of morote.  You must develop the sensitivity and ryote ability to the approaching fist.  Keep your elbows in for both morote and kakiwake.  The two techniques should feel the same.  Kakiwake should enter into ma before the elbows return.  Morote should rotate at the last moment.  Practice each like it can turn into the other.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Challenge: 39.50 - 41.50

30 minutes of sanchin, 30 minutes of sabaki, 1 hour of tenshin

The rotation in tenshin from sanchin or seisan dachi can be broken down into two motions: as the hips turn it becomes neko ashi dachi then you swing the leg behind to a kosa dachi before completing the rotation.  In sanchin dachi it is important not to raise your tanden.  In seisan dachi it is helpful to think of the kosa motion as a rotating trip to the opponent's leg.  That feeling of attacking will give the motion the urgency necessary to complete the turn.

Did I ever notice that sabaki 5 is the same motion as the shuto-haishu kamae in ni-sei-shi?  Sabaki 5 needn't attack only to the side or from a rotation.  There is so much to learn even from the things that I think that I understand.  Truly, Budo is depthless.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Challenge: 38.00 - 39.50

30 minutes sabaki, 30 minutes makiwara and 30 minutes ude gitae.  It occurs to me that just as fin-di in the shuri-te hooks and pulls (and twists) and in the naha-te it pushes and traps (and twists), uke-waza must boil down to sensitivity.  We need a lot of drills to build the feeling of when to push and when to pull - when to stand and when to move.  When the strike is intercepted close to the wrist on the blocking forearm the hand should come into play, controlling the strike at the attacker's wrist through small circles of the your own wrist.  But when a strike is deflected by the forearm in the vicinity of the elbow, it is more natural to control the action with a small circle of the shoulder and elbow, to lay atop the striking weapon and move to control the opponent's elbow.  However either elbow or wrist interceptions can change to either pulling or pushing fin-di.

This is partly why it is so important to see a block not as a lateral movement but as a forward interception with internal rotations.  Both your arm and the opponent's arm must enter into ma-ai - one is directed at kyusho along a straight trajectory and the other intercepts that vector by entering ma and creating a small arc to which the attack will be tangent.  But these arcs must be as small and subtle as possible to allow muchimi (stickiness to your opponent) and to prevent reversals by the opponent.

In this way although ikken hissatsu differentiates karate from gung fu and kempo, muchimi is the dimension of  tanshu tantai in karate (searching for the hands and feet).

Remember to incorporate nage-no-kata 1 into practice for Sabaki 2.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Head of the Class

My first students are named BD, Kevin, Hennoch, Adam, Zack, and Habib.  They are so young, so young in fact that I can't believe that I was ever so...carefree.  They aren't carefree of course, they just sell it very, very well.  They seem to have so much life in them that they can't sit still.  I don't know how far in karate they will go, but I hope that I can give each of them something they can keep.

Learning, studying and practicing.  Kihon, Kata, Kumite.  China, Okinawa, Japan.  Shin Gi Tai.  I'm beginning to see how important it is to have simple lesson plans, to build a broad base of development.  You have to hope that something you practise causes a glimmer within - something that they do makes them want to do more.

What a responsibility it is standing at the head of the class.  Having them bow to you.  I don't know if I'm really ready but at least I'm eager.  Hopefully I can make them eager as well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Challenge: 35.50 - 38.00

Been reading this book on Heart rate training and I've started jogging again with purpose.  It spells out specific heart ranges for specific adaptations and since I'm an utter novice, I can feel comfortable simply being a white-belt, that is, running to build my endurance.  So I've been going on a couple of hour long jogs at a very easy pace.

I've had a lot of time reading and studying physiology and exercise and I guess I have for a long time known that your heart rate is elevated for hours after you finish a strenuous bout of exercise.  But I don't think it ever occurred to me why that was.  It was only in this book that it spelled out the obvious: the metabolic demands for recuperation following tissue breakdown brought on by strenuous work sends messages to your heart to increase its resting rate to facilitate the recovery.  Thus your heart rate is an impartial and accurate measure of whether you have fully recovered from your previous stress.

I've been measuring my heart rates in the morning and without fail, my resting heart rate in the morning is around 70 beats.  But measure it the day after a jog and it's up to 78.  A day later, it's back down to 70.  Like clockwork.

I can't believe I never knew this.  How many times did I wonder whether I was going too hard or too soft?  And my heart was telling me the whole time.

"My heart skips a beat"

I was dead tired after that first run and I was taking my pulse to get a sense of where my heart was at.  I was lying down panting and the rhythm was...troublesome.  It wasn't even.  It would beat three times in sequence, then take a beat off, then repeat the three beats.  I thought for a second that I was having an arrhythmia.  I sat up and took it again.  This time, it was five beats on, one off, five beats on.  Then I stood.  It was beating uninterruptedly.

I shook my head.  Depending on whether I was standing, sitting or supine, the signals from my baro-receptors (blood pressure sensors) were changing the beat to compensate for the higher or lower blood pressure.  Though the rate of beating seemed to be determined by my oxygen debt and fatigue, the rhythm was being altered to balance out the pressure that my system needed.  So even though the frequency of beats stayed the same, an off-beat was inserted every 3 beats when lying down and every 5 beats when sitting to adjust my heart's output to my body's demand taking into account the effects of gravity.

I feel like I have this magical clock beating inside of me all this time and I didn't even realize it.  Maybe I should see what it can really do!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Challenge: 34.00-35.50

Motobu sensei says that kicks aren't that useful in a real encounter.  But mine are really bad.  My hamstrings are very weak.  Shiko will help.  Test of 2:10 and 47 pushups, both fail.  Stay in hikite-kamae, make it harder not easier.

I noticed that when Ushiro-sensei throws a kick, it never lands forward.  His hikiashi always brings it back.  Your hamstring contracts more powerfully than your quad, accelerating the leg to the initial position.  Even when your hips square.  Another things is that his supporting leg stay relatively static, it doesn't betray the motion.  You have to have very flexible knees to keep you foot from rotating - I wonder if Sanchin does that too...?

Stay low in your stance and remember that metsuke is not just the direction, but the sensitivity.  Wholesight...we have to practice more.

I figure I should get to 10:00 in Shiko before moving on.  If I can get to 75 pushups, I'll move onto Rings and  Splits training.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Challenge: 32.50-34.00

Afternoon karate.  Warm-up.  Kata work between Shiko and Pushup work to failure.  46 (fail) Pushups followed by 30 and 26.  90 seconds Shiko, followed by 110 and 130 (fail).

It is important to think of the first part of the exercise as pleasant.  They are the ones that, as Ali said, you shouldn't even count.  Doing them doesn't make you any stronger.  But you have to do them, so you should enjoy them.  Enjoy the easy ones and harden your fudoshin for the ones that matter.  The ones that make demands of you.

My kicks are very bad and my hamstrings are underdeveloped.  Shiko will help.  My kicks don't come back faster than they go out - which is imperative.  Like hikite, a focus on hikiashi causes your mind to move ahead - leaving this moment behind and preparing for the next.

I will emphasize Sochin this month and Tenshin next.  Important not to rest in the stances.  Make them deep and stress your legs.  Stress is the point - dealing with it.  Feel the burden and center your mind at the Stillpoint.

I'm proud to say: I failed today.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I'm proud to say...I failed today!

"The reality is that success, while useful in the present to determine where you are, can never be as helpful to driving future growth as failure.  All the satisfaction that comes from success is always temporary.  Whereas all the growth that comes from failure is enduring.  Take two people.  One is strong and the other is weak.  You ask them both to do five pullups.  The strong one does five pullups.  He is a success and he feels like a success.  He smiles. 
The other makes his attempt and try as he might, manages to do three pullups.  He is sweating and red-faced.  He is panting and doubled-over.  His muscles ache and he didn’t accomplish the task.  He is a failure and he feels like a failure.  He frowns, and the feeling of failure weighs on him. But one of these two people will wake up stronger tomorrow and the other will not. 
If someone gives you a test, and you pass the test, did it really test you?  A true test should reveal your limits, not reinforce your ego.  What, then, is more fulfilling, the temporary satisfaction of success or the enduring reward of failure...?"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Challenge: 31.50-32.50

Morning karate.  Practicing weighting legs in kosa dachi and neko-ashi dachi.  It's important to have full mobility in the unweighted leg and use toboku-ho when redistributing your weight.  It also happens to be a great leg workout.  You get a clear sense of how absorbing weight by your main leg can propel you like a spring i.e. kusshin (屈伸).

Kata can be both exercise and insight.  The key is to do it enough so that you move from exertion to meditation.  It is a mistake to look for only the meditative side when you can't stand properly, when your muscles are ill-conditioned, when your breath fails you.  The meditative has to grow as your physical and technical capacity grows.  As Ushiro said, you must fill the buckets together.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Challenge: 30.50-31.50

Start of practice for handstands.  Alternate handstand with cartwheel. Simply do 1 after any kata; hold handstand for a count of five and release.

Zenshin kotai.  Sabaki work.  Sabaki 5 to the head doesn't work in irikumi with the opposite hand - it has to be a same hand soto motion.  But what is the attack and how does it control the opposite arm?  (nb. te barai consider arm lock with same side hand attacking elbow)

Finished off with side leg lifts.  Practice how you practice.  What is important to work on: everyday? every other day? Twice a week?  Once a week?  Master the art of practicing...keep it distinct from studying.  Differentiate between work and play.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Challenge: 30.50-31.50

Afternoon karate.  Seisan is coming along.  The priorities are kokyu, hikite, metsuke and toboku.  Breathing is still uneven.  The hips and pulling action are out of sync.  The eyes sometimes lag and there's still way too much tension - I start to sweat to easily.  I'm still fighting myself.

Working on Sabaki 6 and 3.  For 6, I was playing with the idea of a second attacker to the rear.  Just out of nowhere, I pivoted and turned attacking the first attacker with a rear kick at the same time punching the second one with a superman punch.  It felt so natural.  The other expression was from shi-ho-hai.  The final two turns involve metsuke, soto uke and tsuki.  If your turn and block is followed by an oi-shiko-tsuki you complete a revolution into a mawari-ushiro geri.  It happens so fast that you feel like a hurricane - a hurricane looking for a Stillpoint.  The shiko-tsuki should be chokusen to control your rotation and make the shift to the kick easier.  Have to play with alternating between spin-lunge-rearkick and lunge-spin-frontkick.  Keep the attacker off balance.

For 3, have to add a variation that I'd forgotten.  From Shuto uke, a transition to osae-uke pushes the weapon downward and backward (especially if the attacker is closing).  You can attack the head directly with empi or uraken - or stepping the back kosa leg forward to the outside you can continue pushing the weapon back until pivoting 180 into a mawari elbow to the face.  It is basically a combination of sabaki 3 with sabaki 8 - the forward cross step.  I suppose if you hold the weapon hand you could just pull the attacker down as in Te-hodoki 7.  It was fun talking to the class.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Challenge: 29.50-30.50

I'm still using power that my body can't handle.  I'm sweating like a pig on the bus, 30 minutes and a cold shower after stopping.  I have to breath and increase the power gradually.  I also have to cut the jog or cardio to 15-20 minutes.  I think I'll alternate sprints, with interval runs.  Skipping and cycling in the afternoon.

Lots of plyometrics and squats and lunges built into the kata.  I have to work my sidekicks more.  Just because I wouldn't kick high doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to.  Karate is life-protection as well as human potential.  Concentrate on the supination and pronation action.

Something I thought of on the bus:  Karate is problem solving; Karate-do is problem preventing.

Was reading some of Choki Motobu's thinking.  It was frightening how much of his quotes are in the Afterthoughts volume in some form or another.  Esp. the part about stopping combinations of attacks - the same line from Ushiro-Sensei.  No doubt Motobu was a harsh bastard - he probably had no respect for people who talked more than practiced.  He seemed to be what a master karateka would be like without karate-do.  And in some way, that is part of why no one knows about him despite his obvious skill.  Such a shame.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Challenge: 29.00-29.50

Morning karate. Need to work in Gan more. Look without looking. Did some makiwara work. Not enough, but some. Also practised some musubi transitions. Ura-mawashi needs a lot of work.

Tenshin teaches kosa-dachi. Stepping back to kosa, you can kick with the retreating leg, step in again to throw or pivot and pull.  Tenshin reminds you that the pull on one side is a push on the other. You can pivot and enter strongly with a shiko punch or an oi-punch.  It depends on the opponent. If they enter deeply you should pivot and pull. But if not, you should employ the kick, step in, or pivot to enter.l

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Challenge: 28.00-29.00

Ugh...I look at the time in that title and I know it should be around 50 hours by now, but I just can't bring myself to estimate.  If I wanted to take credit for all the time I do, I should write it down!

Working last night on some kicks.  Inspired by Edson Barboza's KO on Etim, I had a light bulb moment.  He delivered it by posting the rear leg and swinging the leg around.  I don't know why Etim couldn't react - Barboza did catch him coming forward slightly but Etim brought his hands slightly low expecting something to the body.  Big mistake.

Mawari-ura-mawashi should have that factor of uncertainty in it though.  You should be able to deliver it as a low sweep, a high kick or transition it to a thrust mawari ushiro to the body without any sign of which level it is going to.  Rather than posting out the leg though, which I think really signals something is up, it can be delivered with a feeling of sabaki 2, stepping in and pivoting, coming to a musubi dachi position.

The benefits of musubi as a launching pad and transition are threefold.  First, rather than signalling the turn by posting the back leg in kumite kamae, the step-up to musubi suggests forward motion.  This should cause the opponent's mind and guard to stay forward rather than expecting an attack from the side.

Second, indeed the step to musubi can launch a forward attack high or middle with the front leg or middle and low with the back leg in a savate oblique kick style.  Depending on whether you think the turn will be successful you can still attack head on.

Finally the step to musubi allows you to feint the spin and come back with the front leg.  This isn't possible with the spread leg delivery as you haven't covered enough distance to hit the opponent.  You would be reaching to strike with the front leg without the inward motion of the back leg.  In contrast, by coming to musubi, you close distance allowing you to pivot at the waist.  If the opponent braces for the leg coming from the outside you can shift weight to the back leg and drive the front leg in a yoko or ushiro manner.

The key to using musubi is simply making the stance look the same regardless of any and all the techniques that you might deliver.  The secret to using musubi however, is metsuke.  If you can keep an eye on your opponent long enough (even while spinning) to determine whether his hands go up or down, whether he turns or faces forward, you can transition seamlessly from the frontal approach to the pivot and back again.  If he steps back, you can lunge off the spot with a punch, driving with the back leg.  If he closes, the sabaki of the motion should give you a shot at stepping offline.

I have to practice it more, both stepping up and stepping back.  Obviously the flip side of stepping up in Sabaki 2 is stepping back in sabaki 6, which is a great variation on the mawari ushiro geri in case the opponent does close.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Challenge: 27.00-28.00

5:45 - 6:45.  I didn't make my bed :-(

Started with some kata and moved onto sabaki.  Worked mostly on Sabaki 2, the lateral step and pivot to musubi dachi.  Epiphany after epiphany, Zaha Sensei says...

I had been limiting the blocks that I do out of each sabaki.  There are no limits, only circumstances - I see that now.

<light bulb1> Uchi uke can be done with the inside hand in Okutsu.  You wouldn't move to the outside of the attacking hand but you would strike from the inside position and cover yourself from the second attack.  

<light bulb2> Jodan uke from Okutsu is basically Hen-Shu-Ho 8, which is the same motion and feel as Okutsu-Soto-Zuki.

Back to Sabaki 2.  In the high line (Jodan), you have 1) teisho-tsukami with the near hand (uchi-uke) and haishu-tsukami with the rear hand (soto-uke) while Juji-uke with both hands can transition to either of them.  The responses are obvious going forward or backwards from musubi, though they vary slightly whether you've taken inside or outside position.  

<light bulb3> But it is important to note that from either position a Soto-uke with the front hand or an uchi-uke with the rear hand would both cause you to push the attacking hand in the same direction your head is moving - I find this problematic. It definitely feels strange from the outside position. 

<light bulb4> However moving inside of Tori's feet with a near hand Soto-uke crosses the attacking hand which can be transitioned to nage.  I have to work with it more.

In the middle line (Chudan) you have a bunch of options depending on Tori's target.  With the near hand, Teisho-Osae and Uchi-Uke both attack the elbow and Tsukami attacks the wrist.  The rear hand can also take Tsukami form to support Uchi-uke and make a joint lock (kagi-zuki) but, alone...

<light bulb5> the rear hand takes on a Soto-uke motion like Haishu-tsukami in the high line.  Normally you would block with the near (uchi) hand and grasp with the far (soto) hand. 

<light bulb 6> However if you reverse this application, grasping first with haishu-tsukami, the uchi uke become a dangerous tate-empi to the elbow.   

<light bulb 7> The rear hand soto-uke on the inside should happen in time with a front arm elbow, pulling Tori into you.  With Uchi-uke, scooping down into the elbow hollow as you pull and twist is the typical way of downing Tori. 

<light bulb 9> However if you pull straight backwards it should cause Tori to take an additional step which can be used to apply a hip throw  (I think...)

Directing the strike low (Gedan) hadn't occured to me at all.  

<light bulb 7>However a near hand gedan barai, by moving the strike outside is the first part of the tora-kuchi-kamae aka the 'can-opener'.  

<light bulb 8> The rear hand gedan barai combined with a forward step and shiko zuki forms a naifaichin-nage that looks suspiciously like sayu-zuki!  

<light bulb 9> The rear hand gedan-sukui can fold the attacking arm like NiSeiShi bunkai 5 (which is basically tora-kuchi kamae).  

<light bulb 10> In the inside position, gedan-sukui from the near hand steps forward to nage.  

<light bulb 11> And from the rear hand like soto-uke, gedan-barai should happen in time with a front arm elbow, pulling Tori into you.

Lots to practice and think about.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Challenge: 25.50-27.00

I've been working on my lateral sabaki and I've distilled them for various reasons to 6.  I try to work on them every day - try to internalize the shift & pivot, visualize the attacker in space, synchronize with him and control the attacking limb.

Today a revelation for Okutsu dachi.  Nage no kata 15 is a pivot (sabaki 6) and a windmill motion - almost a sun-salutation - of the arms up, turning to a throw.  Hen-shu-ho 2 also has this synergy - the second hand is blocked (gedan-tsukami) and the arm is driven up into the attacker's ear to the throw.  Stepping out to Okutsu, if the two hands come up at the same time, the closer arm will act as an Age-uke.  Upon pivoting back towards Tori the inside arm would fold to control the elbow while the outside arm can rotate into a Shuto strike to the neck or temple.  This block-strike pivot will look like the kamae from Chinto (which is also a transition from Juji-uke - more later).

That makes a total of 10 natural receptions (so far) from Sabaki 4.  Okutsu-Shuto.  Okutsu-Zuki.  Okutsu-Mawashi.  Okutsu-Gedan-Osae.  Okutsu-Gedan-Sukui-Oi-Nage.  Okutsu-Soto-Zuki.  Okutsu-Uchi-Shuto.  Ura-Okutsu-HaitoSukui-Musubi-Nage.  Okutsu-Age-KyuseiKamae-Shuto.  Okutsu-JodanAge-Zuki.

Monday, May 14, 2012


- difference between assault, fighting and self-protection
- germany invasion of france
- war of aggression = assault
- one way offensive dynamic
- one side has operational objective, the other is just protecting themselves

- wars of the balance of power system in Europe and Cold War
- checks, balances and alliances

- battles between france and germany, U.S. and Soviet Union: both equally committed to the engagement
- rules to the engagement
- war declaration, terms offered afterwards, a business arrangement
- creates a game system
- war contests = fight

- 1940: imagine if france repelled germany
- goal is to stop assault, not reverse it
- this is the context for karate training - offense in response to assault that reestablishes the original condition
- if france pushed to berlin and burned berlin to the ground, they wouldn't be the protectors, they'd be the aggressors (reverse of the original dynamic)

- "karate stops at the border" between germany and france - offense stops when both parties are safe from the other

- in war of aggression, 2 considerations secure victory, surprise and blitzkrieg, not signalling the action and being overwhelmingly offensive
- in war contests, again two considerations dominate, intelligence and strategy, knowledge of the enemy and exploitation of that knowledge
- in war of protection (self-protection), only one quality matters, retaking the offensive from the aggressor
- retaking the offensive can be done straight away through tactics or after a delay using strategy (fabian: delay tactical action until you have secured tactical advantage)

- in karate too this idea of the offensive initiative is the most important consideration in combative self-protection, called sen.
- where sen starts lies at the heart of what karate is and what it isn't
- in assault/self-protection: sen first lies with the aggressor and the defender must retake sen
- in fight/contest: sen is for the taking, can be exchanged multiple times between the contestants and whoever does more damage while they have it wins
- if neither side in either type of conflict can consistently secure sen, the result is a stalemate = war of attrition

- karate is neither war of attrition, nor contest.  it is a commitment to sen for the moral and philosophical purpose of ending violence quickly

The Challenge: 23.50-25.50

Woke up at 5:15.  Felt good.  It's uncanny: If I wake up earlier and practice it feels like my day was already a success.  Same thing with making my bed - it makes you feel alive, like what you do matters.

Practised posture mainly along with lateral sabaki.  Important to note, most of these sabaki are expecting strikes to the solar plexus and lower. Strikes to the head require strong handiwork combined with sabaki to control the striking weapons.

The lateral sabaki have stances, blocks, strikes and deflections that work naturally with them.  The lateral shuffle works best with seisan, neko and kokutsu dachi paired with soto uke, shuto uke, gyaku zuki and mae ashi geri.

The Pivot step moves naturally to musubi dachi.  Tsukami, teisho and uchi uke work well with uraken and nage.

The outside drop step falls naturally into okutsu dachi.  It works well with gedan barai and soto uke as well as shuto uchi to the temple and neck.

The pivot drop step falls naturally to seisan dachi and pairs well with teisho and uchi uke with uraken as follow up.

The cross step behind is a kosa dachi, a shorter version of the 90 degree turn in seiken no migi/hidari.  It works well with haishu and shuto uke that can transition to a nukite to the eyes or neck.

The cross step in front is a kosa dachi that works well with shuto uke and shuto to the neck.  When spinning it can be joined with reverse elbows and yoko geri.

Finally the spin to musubi dachi has no block associated with its sabaki but is well suited to jodan uke, haishu uke and shuto or tetsui uchi when turning to the opponent.

When practising it is important to get a sense of moving effortlessly off embusen, as small a distance as possible and accurately visualizing the vector along which the attack must be intercepted.  From there you must move swiftly, smoothly and always balanced, returning to kamae again and again.  See different attacks approaching, and move through the different patterns of footwork.  Consider the strikes, pulls, pushes and throws which follow naturally from the uke and sabaki.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Challenge: 21.50-23.50

Woke up naturally at 4. Got out of bed, did a light warm up, and worked on posture and stances, interspersed with daily body weight reps.  Notes-

Tai Sabaki: 7 lateral shifts
a. Lateral slide (soto)
b. Reverse drop step (uchi uke)
c. Lateral lunge/drop step (okutsu)
d. Cross step in front (kosa)
e. Cross step behind (kosa)
f. Right to left and pivot (musubi)
g. Right to left in front and spin (musubi)

Uke-makiwara: practice blocks from musubi and soto.  Soto to neko - Sabaki lateral then forward = soto uke. Musubi to neko - Sabaki back diagonal = Shuto uke.

Continue to practice sabaki moving from embusen as little as possible as quickly as possible.

Knee over toe helps to evenly distribute weight over your feet. Toes should not bear weight, it should be exclusively limited by the heel and the ball. Lifting the ball should cause you to fall.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Challenge: 21.00-21.50

I'm reporting half an hour this morning when I really should report more due to all the time I haven't reported in the past month.  Taking another month off karate :-( And I made a shocking revelation...

I've been reading this book - The Power of Habit by Charles Duhig.  A lot of the book is stuff I knew intuitively and through school - the vast majority of the surface activities that people do are habits of one form or another. We generally give a lot of praise and blame to people for actions and decisions that weren't the product of conscious, deliberative thought.  Most of what we do is conditioning based on certain stimuli and with an intended outcome.

If I can be said to have a habit, my one habit is to consciously intellectualize the world around me.  When someone yells at me, I don't get defensive.  The first thing through my head is: why are they really yelling?  What is the context, the subtext?  Someone else's habit might be to retaliate, or get defensive.  Mine is to think, even when the most prudent thing would be to act.

Because my one habit is to over-analyse, I have a very difficult time maintaining actual habits.  Whereas someone else might be met with a stimulus - a commercial break during a television show - and condition themselves to do something - do 10 pushups - my inexorable mind is always questioning my responses.  Shouldn't I do different pushups?  How many would be best?  Maybe I should do some situps?  After a while of this endless self-questioning, the fledgling habit usual falls by the wayside.

My work ethic has always been one about results rather than routine.  Throughout school, I've always had an ability to get to the destination, but never with a consistent method of getting there.  If I studied at one library on a certain day for test A, I could never repeat the pattern for test B.  My restless mind would wander about looking for some structure to my efforts before settling on one and making the most of it before the deadline.

Real life however, has no deadlines.  There is no set date by which you should be financially secure, act responsibly, be a good person, a good father.  Without deadlines, my restless meandering has devolved into full-blown aimless wandering.

In the book, Duhigg discusses this notion of a 'keystone habit'.  I prefer 'rosetta stone' so that's what I'll be using.  The idea is that certain habits have such a profound effect on a person or entity that any committment to the habit would necessitate committed execution of other satellite habits.  Without doing these satellite habits the rosetta stone habit could not be done.  And I think I've found mine.

I think my Rosetta stone habit is reporting.  If I could actually come to expect the act of chronicling what I do, and eventually come to like the act of writing down what I do, it would become more urgent for me to do what I know that I should.  The consistent need to do one act - logging my actions - would lead to a persistent need to do the things that need logging.

I have to start building the writing habit, both for myself and for publication.  I have to feel strange not writing something down.  And then, when writing, I'll feel strange not having done something worth writing.  And that strange feeling, the longing, the expectation of something absent - is what I need the most.


Notes from Seisan:  There is a tension generated from the rear leg front kick that can be used to power the Gyaku-zuki from the hiki-ashi.  The feeling is one of a rooted Superman punch.  In the superman punch, you punch as the same side leg kicks back.  Shifting your pelvis forward during a rear leg mae geri creates a left right tension in the body, a coiled feeling.  You simply release the coil by pulling back the leg and driving the punch as the heel plant.  It also feels a little like Ouchi-gari.

Training notes: practice uke against a post.  It allows you to develop the blocks in association with sabaki and stances.  It is important to feel resistance against the forearm on the target zones, to feel where the lines intersect, where tangents are made between lines and curves of force.  Stay close to the post, stay as close as possible.  Push-up/fall-down against the post when doing age-uke, toboku ho, fall against the weight.  When doing jodan-age uke, you should feel yourself pushing up against an arm as you fall into your opponent - falling and rising at the same time.

Toboku-ho: a side kick to the back of the leg should be a strike in training.  In reality, it should be an unstable movement, falling into the joint.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Body 3: Weak links

My hamstrings my lower back and my triceps.  By definition my posterior chain.  And I only just realized, that my posture is suspect because of it.  My tanden points downward and my center of balance is back towards my heels.  But when I engage my glutes, lower back, hams and calves, I can feel my COB move directly over my feet - it takes a lot of effort to get it there. I need to implement an aggressive scheme of posterior chain work.  For my bodywork over the next 6 weeks I'm going to focus only on the following exercises:

1. lunges  2.  handstands    3. pistols   4. wall sit  5. pull ups   6. rows   7. dips  8.  pushups.  9. support position  10. leg lifts  11. supermans  12. l-sit   13. oblique crunches   14. lat. leg lifts  15. pelvic lifts

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Been away.

The challenge hasn't gone fallow, I just haven't been recording it. I've probably added 20 hours since my last post but I've been devoting all my powers to making a greater daily commitment.  Also I've had some lingering injuries that have been bothering me.  It is important to manage these things by taking the necessary time to recover. As much as we might like to think, working through pain is only for combat. I'll start recording again today.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Challenge:19.50-21.00

Has my shugyo begun? The main problem that I can see is that I always love practicing. That's why it's so difficult to understand why I don't do it more often, more regularly.

Jog, followed by Seisan. N.B. Thumb on tekubi kake uke, relax after impact, breath, block offensively, keep your head up for other attackers, good shime before kicks.

Soto uke is a winning technique.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Challenge: 18.00-19.50

The BC gang were here again. Great people. I didn't go backwards as much against Eric as I did last time but I still couldn't get my hips to where they needed to be to change the embusen consistently. It always felt like I just couldn't trust myself to move when he committed so I was fidgeting instead of moving decisively and explosively. Which is particularly strange cause he was really tired and all those muscles he has make it really hard to conceal his initiative. I had the time but I didn't trust myself.

It is sooooo slippery, isn't it? Zaha says you have to build enlightenment upon enlightenment. They are few and far between. I had only one real moment of insight. One moment when I was across from James that I was calm enough, sure enough, to actually look at him. I was looking at his eyes and...And for a brief moment, the briefest of moments, I looked into his heart.

I could see his wariness, his deliberation. A flicker of inner light, a spark and my body moved on it's own. My glove touched his nose.

Objectively I know I reacted to a flinch of his eyes or something. But it was more than just that. His whole body changed, the temperature in the room changed. I knew he was coming and I intercepted him just as his body began to obey his mind.

For one moment in 20 hours of training, I entered a green belt with 20 years less training than me. Kenji Ushiro does it every time he stands before some one, regardless of who they
are, how big they are, how good they are.

And I want to feel it again. But it's sooooo slippery.

Technique 3: empty hand, open mind.

Don't be predictable. If you aren't going to try new things in class, where will you? Certain things we should attempt and try to accomplish against every opponent.  Most require control of ma and embusen. They include...
1) foot sweep off balance (crescent step)/deep enter to hip throw/choke
2) gentle yoko to kidney or knee/neko front kick to head (feint) torso/roundhouse to head (feint) rib/kidney
3) muay thai push kick/oblique kick/morote push off balance
4) pull punch off balance/juji uke + yoko empi/kage zuki
5) uchi uke (breathe out) + Tai Sabaki + empi/knee
6) soto uke (breathe in) to arm pin/clinch/pull punch off balance
7) jodan uke (breathe in) + push up off balance/shiko zuki to hip throw
8) gedan barai (in or out) to oshi zuki/to uchi uke/sukui uke (catch kick)/naiwan to uraken
9) tora kuchi (Seisan, Bassai, Rohai)
10) shiko zuki
11) oi zuki
12) cross step kosa dachi sabaki mawari uchi
13) kick the punch, punch the kick

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Challenge: 15.00-18.00

Incredible day, incredible class.  Learned a lot.  First thing I learned is, my endurance is very bad for a 30 year old. I'm getting impatient with myself and these half measures.

The second thing I learned was, I still feel the urge to move backward. It's easy to fight people smaller and slower than you and invite then in and enter them. But Sensei invited these three students from BC to train. Salt of the earth - the lady was a Kindergarten teacher! The one guy, Eric, was big. Big and intense. And when he came, I could feel my spirit retreat. I couldn't enter. I was afraid. I'm not even close to solving the riddle...

The third thing I learned was how important it was to be able to roll. I sometimes feel that tinge of resentment at how happy people feel throwing me and watching me roll safely away when I absolutely can't do the same to them. But it is so essential for people to feel technique work, see it work. That's really important. That is the spark, the seed that encourages the hard work of cultivation. If I can be that seed, I will. I'll learn by watching and teaching:-)

And the final thing I learned was how blessed I was when one of the finest martial teachers in the world moved into my neighborhood. My sensei is a good and beautiful man. Kind and giving. A man of depthless ability. He thanked me for staying behind and working with the visiting students, and drove me home. We joked and talked and I suggested that we record him doing the Bunkai. He shrugged almost as if to say that no one would be interested in that. But I saw the look on the visitors faces as he moved and taught them. It was the same look I held on my face, the same look that I always have in those moments when I realize how easy it would have been never to have met him. It was awe. It was seeing the mountain top, the place where karate can take us. It was seeing how beautiful karate can be, how simple karate wants to be, how complicated we all make it.

We were working on hen shu ho and he was giving us pointers. It's so strange the dichotomy between Kata and Bunkai. You might do all sorts of things in Kata that you don't understand, but the Bunkai makes immediate sense even if you can't execute it at all. Sensei did a million little things that turned a good movement into a flawless one, a movement with no openings. He does something that makes so much sense, that you wonder why you couldn't have figured it out yourself. You scratch your head trying to figure out how he did what he did and he smiles and does it again. There are so few people in the world who fill me with wonder, and I see one of them three times a week.

Three hours that felt like thirty minutes. So much to learn. We need to record Sensei. His understanding is too valuable to be stored in just one place.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Challenge: 13.00-15.00

Didn't feel it at all today. Finger still swollen, foot still tender. Plodding around during kihon, too much extra movement, no economy, no balance.

Starting to realize something important. I'm a good teacher. I could easily teach a self-defense class without focusing on the fitness stuff. It isn't that I don't think it is important, it is just that you can run and jump and sweat anywhere. But you can only really practice goshin jutsu at the dojo. Knowing this, I have to be even more keen about getting my body where it needs to be - to fight the urge to neglect its importance.

Learned some things in Kumite that I should work on every time out. More than anything have to look to move forward - defeat myself. NO STEPPING BACKWARDS!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Challenge: 12.33-13.00

40 minutes of Seisan. Talking it out trying to internalize some of the variants of the first sequence. It has to be a feeling, a motor pattern rather than a deliberation. It must take a lot of repetitions. Also it has to be practiced with the danger, the sensitivity to range. Really anything can be put on the end of your forearm. Seiken, uraken, hiraken, shuto, teisho...doesn't really matter. The feeling guides the motion, the target determines the tool. I think I'll spend the rest of the month studying Seisan and see what I can find.

Finger isn't as painful, but my legs are wrecked. Couldn't go to the dojo today.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Challenge: 12.00-12.33

Morning Kata - 20 minutes.  My finger is swollen up like a sausage.  My back feels better and my toe is manageable.

Sanchin work.  Tension and stance work more than posture and breathing. Tried to execute the turn smoothly and powerfully.  Tried to even out the morote uke and the tora kuchi.  It can feel great at times, like nothing at all.

With some Chinto, I practised in the Onaga philosophy adding to the stopped movements, finishing the sentence.  For example, the osae and soto uke point in the kata.  Spin to pull and push one opponent into the other. Or of course the juji uke to spinning jodan ushiro and dropping yoko empi.

If I should ever feel my body in a kata position, I hope something will come out of me to finish the sentence.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Challenge: 10.00-12.00

Didn't do Kata once today. Glad I did some this morning. Kumite drills. Nicole wanted everyone to be intense. She doesn't seem to understand that intensity only comes when you fight for something. People who don't know what they're fighting for have no reason to fight hard. You have to introduce stakes.

Still feel heavy on my feet. I think it's a combination of things. Can't control my hips and COG. I feel as though I weigh 190 and my legs can only comfortably move 165. I should weigh 170 and my legs should be able to move 200 comfortably.

I'm not seeing with my spirit. My sense of ma is growing but my sen is blind. My go no sen is weak and undependable. I have a good sense of when tori commits but I'm late. Good and bad.

My back is killing me and I stubbed my toe. I jammed my finger, the middle one (as always), making a bad fist. Some successes to be sure but none that I'll remember as long as my swollen fist.

12 hours in and I feel old.

The Challenge: 9.60-10.00

Ten hours down, 990 to go. Just do what you've done a hundred more times :-}

Morning karate.  Have to focus on internalizing simple things.  Footwork, stance and posture.  Today did Seisan without the punches and blocks.  Just feeling my muscles, my breathing and my hips.  Changing levels, intentional and unintentional.  Fighting and embracing the habitual routine.

PC coordination is strange.  Push down and your abs tighten but differently than if you'd just flexed your stomach.  Should shiko dachi be accompanied by an upward tilt of the hips?

Seisan dachi should be about sinking the PC, not flexing the glutes, to get the angle.  Likewise chokusen gets the angle by twisting the hips not locking the glutes.

Trying to coordinate punching extension, shoulder low, tenshin, bringing the hip around and staying low when moving from shiko to seisan.  Kagi zuki fits into here but I'm not sure how.

Gosh.  The secrets of karate really rest in doing things that you've done thousands of times better than the other guy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Challenge: 7.60-9.60

A day and a half off and I feel a lot better. Much decreased soreness. Sensei had me practice my rolls with James. Then he absolutely killed us. I have to learn the new black belt Kata.

My mind wanders in the Kata especially when I'm tired. I fall back into the habitual performance. I really have to focus on a few choice things and slowly build up the execution. First balance then footwork then stance then breathing, fist, hip and shoulder. Only then should I start to worry about what the extended movements are, the contingent movements, and the remaining attackers.

Sure, sharp and sound. Every step should be surefooted - establishing balance, sharp-footed - done swiftly and precisely, and sound-footed - improve rather than weaken your position in relation to the opponent.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Challenge: 5.10-7.60

My second yudansha clinic. Started with Ryusan...pretty. Kosa Dachi work as a prelude to Rohai-dai.
Nb. 1. Kosa uke - drive from opposite hip.
2. Descend into empi.
3. Stance for kyusei kamae.
4. Neko ashi: foot ready.
5. Cross deeply behind on spin.
6. Not heito, kiri.
7. Kiri, hikite, nukite - one beat.
8. Hip in pivot!!!
9. Turn of the hips in chokusen drives the knee over the toe.
10. Haishu.

Hen-shu-ho combines sabaki with uke.
1. Sabaki forward and upward. Feel for the moment when tori fights you forward.
2. Drive the forearm directly into tori's head and pivot. Consider control of the head generally.
3. Sabaki pivot. Empi, sinking. Feet inside (feet outside and you fall). Step outside with turn & hypersupination.
4. Sabaki shift left. Yoko geri with toes into joint.
5. Sabaki shift right. Block second punch and kick in one beat.
6. Sabaki pivot. Control wrist and shoulder. Drive yoko geri into hip.
7. Age-haishu. Shuto and nukite in same beat.
8. Age to soto. Punch to floating rib.
9. Sabaki forward left. Mawari. Step on foot .Armbar. Slice tendon with Shuto.
10. Block, uppercut under arm to collar, pulldown.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Challenge: 2.60-5.10

2 hours of Saturday karate. Moran went a little easy on us. My legs were killing before class. My abs were sore as hell, luckily we didn't do any ab work.

Did some Chinto work, some Bassai and Nage no Kata. Most sucked but at least I had a sense of what I was doing wrong.

Take it easy for yudansha clinic tomorrow.

The Challenge: 2.00-2.60

36 minutes of unpleasantness. The jog lasted 19 minutes. Consider some tempo work. The abdominal stuff is discouraging. Need a lot of work there. Won't go to karate today...class and yudansha clinic on the weekend.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mind 3 : Mindset for Kumite

Where should your mind be at?  Your focus?  What do you see and what do you perceive?  The rhythm.
At ma-ai do you enter or retreat? Sen alone, naked sen, is uncertain. It is like walking into a darkened room. You can't see what lies ahead. Taking the initiative should always be in response to something you've felt. Sen must be directed at Suki even if the suki was an illusion.
Relax your muscles. Still your mind when in motion; let it flow when still. Step cautiously and precisely. Center your hips and let them lead your movement. Attack with your defense, defend with your attack. Commit to your response...never attack or defend half-heartedly. Keep things simple. Don't overthink it. Move smoothly and swiftly staying low. Harmonize with the beat. Then enter during the off beats. Strive to make tori uncomfortable.

Build the body that does not run away. Never forget that karate is go no sen. You should invite attack and repel them. Stopping attack is more important than scoring. Once the UPA has been negated properly, scoring should be easy. Only when you have confidence that you can control strong attacks can you have the clarity to intercept intention. In training, let tori strike. Encourage their offense. Dare them to enter. Then close the door. Lose the need to win. Turn them strongly with your block. The strike is an afterthought.

The challenge: 0-2.00

So looks like I'm entering the Bogu Cup in August.  I'll pick a kata and start jogging again.  Katie and Nicole are serious as a heart attack...I'm going to have to push a little to even catch up.

Between now and next Friday, I'll start with jogging and skipping.  30 to 40 minutes to start.  Have to get my cardio up.  Cycle between cardio work, leg work, core work and plyo work. 1 week at a time.

1 week at a time is the key.  Also have to watch for injury and overtraining.  Taper towards the tourney.  Add in some Nishimura work into the plyo routine.  Need to develop those sporting karate classes from what I train.  Looks like I'll be the petri dish for my dojo.

I wonder where I'll be 1,000 hours from now.

And I have to not fear the riddle of Kenji Ushiro and Keishiro Shiroma...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Body 2: Ebb and Flow

Hurt my knuckle on New Year’s day.  Broke the skin punching the bag.  It was careless.  It discouraged me.  Then all of a sudden my back started hurting.  I went gingerly with it, cut my training.  I’ve been in this ebb ever since.

I have to remind myself that it isn’t bad.  Resting isn’t bad.  Complacency is bad.  Resting to get stronger is good.  But you should have a plan.  Your resting – the ebb – should be part of your plan.
My ebb is two weeks old now and I’m restless.  But I’m also worried about my back.  My core has never been where it needs to be.  I have to let it all go – release any notions of strength or fitness and train my core and my legs – hard!  Harder than ever before.  I have to get them to a level where I don’t have to think about it.  Need to plan it out, though.

Also there are some exercises that I’ve seen that have to be incorporated.  I need to distill all these things I’m seeing and concentrate it.  A concentrated workout, maybe an hour, and all karate based and another  routine, all gymnastics based.  But to limit it?  And to improve my diet?  And to keep the 1000 hour challenge?

Maybe I should just start simple and make it harder every week.  One day you work out ten minutes longer another you do X amount more in the same amount of time.  Alternate.  One tabata in the first week, two the second and 3 the third.