Monday, 29 August 2011

A quick thought

Let an opponent graze your skin and you smash into his flesh; let an opponent smash into your flesh and you fracture his bone; let an opponent fracture your bone and you take his life! Do not be concerned with your escaping safely; lay your life before him!”
Bruce Lee.

What this quotation from a modern master of the martial arts means to me:

Don't be worried about what other people can do, or are capable of doing.  Do not be taken in by things not in your control.

But do be prepared to go that extra mile when necessary to dig in and never let anything overwhelm you mentally in your training.

Think along these lines & I believe we will never be too far wrong.

Another 3miles today & yesterday.  Fitness is starting to pick up.

Got big determination.


Saturday, 27 August 2011

What you put in, you get out!

We're really getting down to business in the dojo now, 2 tough nights this week, shodan syllabus kihon & kumite.  I've also been running in my own time, another 3miles last night, and 1.6miles before training each day & skipping & Kata as my warm up.

We're not going to get anything out of karate without putting in the effort & the groundwork first.  Basics need to be drilled, not just blindly but with understanding as to what we're doing & why we're doing it.  We won't be able to ever advance if we don't pay the required attention to our basics & put the time and effort in!!

Look at all the top sensei' in the world.  If you look at most of them they all got 1Dan more or less within 3years of starting karate.  That will tell you the effort & training that they put in while they advanced up through the kyu grades. 
Unfortunately some associations are a little too "laid back", to put it mildly, about the standards they keep to.  It just seems to be a case of pay your membership, turn up for training, pay your grading fee, and collect your belt. 

Horrible isn't it? Wheres the learning? The effort?  The self-discovery?  The sense of achievement?  All gone & what we have is people just holding belts & throwing shapes and have no understanding of the discipline or essence of karate at all.  We have people who cannot even hold a basic stance for the best part of 20sec without standing up out of it.  Disgraceful really.

I'd like people to think about exactly what they want to get out of karate.  What are you prepared to do to get it?  If you end up teaching in a club in the future what kind of message will you be sending to young students about this great art if you, yourself are 1 of those people who can't hold a stance or have just bought your belts? 

Think about what you want. 


Put in the effort, you're letting your art down.  If you feel that your club don't instruct correctly, don't use it as an excuse for your poor standard - LEAVE, take responsibility for your karate & find a club that will train you and help you develop.

Remember, you only get out of something, what you put into it.

Put nothing in? You'll get nothing out!


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Starting to Focus

Been running consistently now and the leg injury seems to have healed up.  (Mostly anyway).  First time kicking in class last night for a couple of months.  All roads now leading to December where I'll be grading for 2kyu.  Biggest grading so far, huge jump up in standard & requirements.  Which I think is very far ahead of a lot of associations I've been able to nosey in on ha ha.  I wont be publishing any grading syllabus from my association as its not my place, but lets just say its double the size of my previous gradings. 

Hard class last night of dan grade kihon basics and absolutely loved it.  My mawashi-geri's need major work, its something I've kinda got away with as mawashi is not asked in grading besides the kumite section up to purple belt.  Now I have had people compliment my kicks before I was injured so the month off may have made me slightly rusty but I know myself that especially my left side is not at all good.  Now hitting a target is different & a lot easier, Kihon basics require a close to perfect technique as we're hitting "thin air" & to do this at full speed & power is tough, while trying to hold your technique together.  That's the beauty of how we train, any cracks will appear massive under the slightest scrutiny.  At least the way things are done for us, we wont get away with half-doing things.  Which is best for us in the long-run.  We know if Sensei puts his name to a grade we have definitely reached that level so we can have every confidence in our grades, no matter where we train (provided we continue in the same honest vain).  I feel really lucky with the training I'm receiving and I know I've said it before but, this association is a real high standard. 

Maybe the end of September I will be starting up my gym programme leading up to my grading with 8/9 weeks of solid training, sprint sessions and extra work on Kata and basics at home, (on top of what I already do).  This way my physical fitness should be high, my last grading I let it slide & suffered for it.  Some cardio sessions, will include LSD (long, slow, distance running. 45mins approx.), sprint sessions, (20 mins approx).  Bag work (boxing, no technique, just endurance.  10 x 3mins, 30sec break), and some "kickboxing" type of rounds, again working endurance (10x3)..  kihon basics & Kata at full speed & power Every kata I know, TWICE (this will be at the end of my session after my running/bag work, when I'm exhausted) perfect simulation for my grading environment and even real life combat where adrenaline dump can leave you "exhausted" in seconds. 

You can start to see how everything is inter-woven & it all leads to preparing for real self-defence.  Everything you learn in karate counts, everything matters, from how you make the fist to hikite, breathing hip movement.. everything you learn as a beginner is more important than anything else.  If these aren't correct you cannot advance any further.  ITS A MUST!

I must admit writing these blogs help me think in more detail about my techniques & why we do certain things we do, even as I type I continuously get realisations & I end up going off in tangents. 

Trying to get myself focused now, its just what I need.  Having all the advanced "smaller" techniques is a product of having a strong basic foundation.  So lets work on that basic foundation, lets not get ahead of ourselves and enjoy this experience.  After all its the journey that matters, not the destination.

Last night I had 1.6mile run before training, no training tonight but I'll have a little stretch, work some stances and have a 3mile run ha ha.  No rest for the wicked.

As Geoff Thompson says, "A warrior seeks discomfort"

Speak soon



Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Although you may really love what you do, whether you are a professional karate instructor/fighter or any type of fighter, regardless of style. Even any area of life could relate to this. Our priorities need to be established and never forgotten no matter how deeply involved we may get in our chosen career/hobby. Family first! Its something I've always lived by, but got a little reminder today when I had to cancel attending class due to matters at home. Its great to have an interest in something but if you don't look after your family when you're needed, what good are you? Don't leave it until its too late, they should be the most important thing to everybody, everything else secondary.
Another thing, I'm going to be very choosy with who I speak to about thoughts on martial arts and how to train in the future. Some people just aren't ready to be honest with themselves and are dangerously hibernating in a false sense of security about themselves and their abilities. I hope the hardest test they fail will be only a dojo grading and not an encounter on the street, because to be honest, they just won't cut it.
I feel really lucky, to be in a part of the country where traditional martial arts is almost non-existent and to have the standard of instruction I have is a fantastic thing.
I just wish some more people would open their eyes and strap on a pair and put themselves to the test. Its gutless.
Other than that I know where I'm heading at the moment in my karate and I've never been more excited. I think I'll just focus on my own thing and leave the people who want to live in a bubble, to it.
Apart from that busy couple of weeks at home, moving house pregnant fiance etc. haha. Although I didn't make it to the dojo tonight I still got in my 3mile run and those motherf*****g hills ;-) & some stance work and light stretches. I still can't kick unfortunately. ( I hope its not a major injury).
Until the next time.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A Quiet Week

Had a quiet 8 days, no training, been a little bit under the weather and very busy moving house.
Just after my 1st run since last week, a very tough and hilly 3miles. Felt like giving up a few times but its all about staying outside your comfort zone.
That's really the only way we improve I think. If you don't stretch yourself and your boundaries, both mental & physical we'll never get to know ourselves at all or what we're capable of doing. What good is martial arts training if we're not testing & exploring ourselves. Aside from all that if people in our association wish to last through a grading you better be doing some kind of auxiliary training otherwise you're in big trouble.
I think its a fantastic way to train to help a martial art, not just in terms of cardiovascular endurance, but mentally. In terms of preparation for any real-world altercation outside the dojo. I find after the long run when I'm exhausted - trying to do a kata like tekki shodan or bassai dai, when all your body wants to do is stop - is very very rewarding.
No breaks in a real self defence situation and knowing we can't re-create this environment in training we need to do what we can to get as close as possible. Perform your kata as hard as possible, full speed and power, technique second once again to spirit. (There's that precept number 5 again). When your body is SCREAMING at you to stop, DIG DEEP. You'll discover things about yourself when your in this situation that you can't in most other areas of life.
This I think is as close as I've come to re-creating that feeling of a real-life encounter. I found that when a self-defence situation occurs in the street, I immediately feel sapped of energy, its natural. The more it happened the more I learned to deal with it (luckily). To perform your kata in this state is going to be the toughest, most gruelling thing you can do,(if it's not, you haven't pushed yourself, either in the kata or the run, or both.). You must take yourself outside your comfort zone in order to stretch your boundaries. You are supposed to enjoy your training, but what people mean is you're supposed to enjoy the experience of discomfort & hell that you put yourself through in order to gain in abundance afterwards.
I absolutely love pushing myself physically & not worrying so much about technique because that's what your sensei' are there for. They'll correct your technique when its needed. You just give 100% and everything will fall into place.
Remember your training & how you progress is really all up to you. So whatever you want to gain from any martial art or any physical training really, you must be prepared to work your ass off for it. That way, you'll be sure to achieve it and nobody on the planet can take it away from you or doubt your achievements. That is one of the greatest feelings in any area of life. Personal achievement. Its all in our shotokan just saddens me to see an awful lot of people looking for the easy route, therefore by-passing the very core of karate, & missing the essence of the whole thing.
Remember: nothing in this life worth having comes easy.
Think of this the next time you want to give up during a training session, whether a run or in the dojo.
Rant over :-P

Friday, 29 July 2011

Spirit first, Technique second.

Just had 3mile run. Training was cancelled last night, but a couple of us had interesting debate about karate & street fighting i.e real world self defence. I think I struggled to get my point across as clear as I would have hoped. If people aren't thinking along the same line as you, you really need to be able to break down your points and explain each aspect in detail. Which I think I failed to do in enough detail, but also, I think the person needs to be willing to hear what you have to say. from the aspect of street-fighting I have ample experience & I fully understand from experience that ANYTHING GOES & you need to be prepared for that fact that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. I think the majority today are under the illusion that the "sport" karate IS the self-defence techniques that we need to apply in real-life.
I think it was Geoff Thompson who said this, when asked the old stupid question of which style is better, and I agree 100%, I'm para-phrasing here, "a street-fighter, with NO martial arts training, who faces ANY martial artist of ANY STYLE, will come out on top in a STREET-FIGHT (NO RULES, NO LIMITS), EVERY TIME! However, a martial artist who is a street fighter, is another animal".
Now we don't want to fall into the same trap here, thinking we're unbeatable, nobody is unbeatable nor should anybody think that. As soon as you think that you lose focus, then spirit will fall straight afterward, then you're back to square one. Shapes.
Street combat or street encounters, do not have any room for morals, ethics, rules & regs., a conscience, or hesitation/half-heartedness.
So where or how do you get this ruthlessness from a martial art like karate, that stresses respect, humility and compassion? Where do we get this from? Its the intent with which you practice, even your kihon basics. Whats the difference between a baby's bite and a dogs bite? INTENT!! The baby does not bite with any intent to hurt or maim, he/she is just exploring, so the bite will do very little to no damage. Now, when the dog bites, its more often than not because he feels threatened and its done to defend himself, the intent is there and that's what makes it so effective. That's what makes an attacker think again and re-evaluate their intentions towards you. ( we could go more in-depth but everybody having their own opinion i just said Id give a quick taster and food for thought). If we don't train with the intentions we should(intent in every technique, i.e each one is finishing a real opponent) when we try to call upon our training in a live situation we will find that we have absolutely nothing in the armoury. Why? Again, I'll go back to the bite analogy, what was the difference? INTENT! If you practice without intent, you are depriving yourself of the most important part of martial arts training, the mental aspect! Look at oi-tsuki, karate lunge/stepping punch. It is only the intent with which you execute this technique that makes it a punch, no real intent implies its just a 'shape' or calisthenic exercise. Practicing like this, we're in big trouble some day when we need to act for real. All you can really rely on in a real situation is the intent in which you train as a martial artist, all technique(in a manner of speaking) goes out the window in a live fight, you will inevitably lose some of that smoothness when your suddenly finding yourself in a fight for real. Its your intent, or another word for it, and more commonly used, martial art spirit. That's the difference that will give us the edge over everybody else. Coupled with the years of training (and it takes many years to perfect techniques in karate that will have a devastating effect in real, live situations) and the spirit, which the street fighter mentioned above has in abundance, obviously lacking any technical training, its his spirit that enables him to overcome, spiritless or empty fighters who do nothing but throw shapes as they train, so inevitably on the street that's all they can do AT BEST. We could discuss this for, forever and a day, but the proof is there- in abundance, I'm not highly trained in karate, I'm only learning basics at brown belt, I'm not professing to be a karate expert at all, so I want to make that clear. But when it comes to fighting outside in the real world I do have experience and I know how fear can grab a hold of you, how you MUST control it, how far things can go if you let them & how serious and deadly results can be. Having taken up karate and other sport orientated martial arts, I am beginning to see the art of fighting in a much clearer way. Karate will give us technical training but it also works more importantly I think to train the spirit & character of the student, THIS is what makes the martial artist, not the choreography.
Ultimately the aim is to arm the student with this deadly arsenal of techniques/skills and awesome fighting spirit, in order for him/her to never actively seek out or engage in any physical violence whatsoever. Physical confrontation is a LAST RESORT. But unfortunately , in these times we live in, the opportunity to walk away or avoid a mugger or attacker in the street or a bully in the school is more and more difficult. More often than not we are forced to act. Unfortunately its often too late to act when somebody has physical made the first move, like thrown a punch or grabbed you. Too close for me, if they're armed with a blade/glass I'm dead at this range.
A lot of thought needs to be put in by the student themselves. Many are of the opinion that, "we're not getting the training", or "Sensei didn't tell us/show us this". When in fact they have been shown/told these things but have failed to pay heed or take on board what is being taught.
People need to start to analyze the training, both physical & verbal guidance you'll get in the dojo, from your Sensei's. Karate is for life, not just inside the dojo, I'm sure I read that somewhere ;-). We need to take responsibility for our own training and development in Karate.
To get very spiritual about it I could say this, Sensei can only point the way, we alone can walk our path.
Like I said above, my view is that spirit & attitude will get you through the majority of encounters, above anything else. Relying solely on technique, in reality, you don't have a prayer of executing anything without the spirit or intent. Hope if anyone reads this they might get a little push in the right direction and make the most of every single day of your training regardless of what colour is around your waist.
Precept number 5 - spirit first, technique second.
I'm going to finish with this question:
What makes a snakebite, a snakebite?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Few days since my last post on here.
Knees are starting to play up on me, maybe its the road running. I'm thinking 3 1/3 miles is maybe a bit more than is needed. Some interval running/sprinting may be more appropriate for striking/dynamic martial arts like ours.
Tendinitis (still not technically diagnosed but got a great opinion I can trust) is still nagging me, no maiwashi's and no kicks above waist height whatsoever. Still training hard though and need to focus on basics for a while (both kumite and kata too).
Got my intermediate goal of 2kyu grading in Dec. Going to be tough!
I've also started some resistance tube exercises and I find it very helpful, I'm trying to cut down weight so weight training just doesn't appeal at the moment.
I'm starting to get excited about the kata & the kata applications. I'm starting to look at kata in a whole different way. Which, when I can afford to donate the time, away from basics and gradings I will definitely be going down this root of study.
I think every kata is a full on war, and when it comes to applying each kata/section of a kata, anything goes. Its a really exciting field that I certainly want to explore further when my knowledge-base and technique improves. Its fascinating, to me, all of our karate can be studied directly from the kata.
So at the moment, I'm running (body permitting) 3-4 times a week.. 2 runs of 1.6 miles, 1-2 runs of 3.33 miles. From tomorrow I'm going to start back with sum kata outside of the dojo, I'll find somewhere secluded on a run and stop in and practice. I have a really important goal set for myself & its smart.
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Realistic
T - Time bound
I'm real sore now so I'm going to relax and watch some Tony Soprano until I fall asleep. :)
See you next time.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Good run last night, 3 1/4 mile. Feeling a little fitter slowly but surely.

Cancelled my planned run tonight before training, don't want to overdo it like I have done before, stubbornness is a failing of mine haha.

New kata tonight, Jitte, so another 1 to the list. Kata is definitely my favourite side to karate, I think it really is what its all about. Everything we do in our kihon basics, jiyu & kihon ippon kumite comes from our kata. Did some good sets tonight too, enjoyed the kumite in 3's it makes a change and adds a little bit of extra pressure. Did some kicking in the kumite & didn't feel anything major in the muscle so that's a plus at least. No kicking until Tuesday & hopefully I'll be able to work it a little harder.

A short-term goal towards Shodan is my 2kyu grading which will be this December all going to plan. After my baby arrives in November so I'm sure I wont be getting perfect nights sleep from November onwards haha.

A few things to think about from training tonight that I need to jot down and look at later, main thing from tonight is blocking. Must block softer, its not about brute strength but skill. Plus, as I think about it, to block softly and "accept" the attack, you use up ZERO energy - all the more for the counter-attack.
We need to over-ride our instinctive reaction to "bash" away an attack in order to have longevity in the art. After all, if we want to be practicing karate into our old age we're going to need something other than brute force in order to be able to perform techniques. Whether we like it or not our bodys age and slow down & we're lucky to be able to know this (no other species is aware of its inevitable death, sometimes I wonder is that a blessing or a curse, to know that we expire no matter what we do), so we need to learn how to overcome an attack without relying on physical strength. Also to be honest, it really fucking hurts bashing forearms all night - not good!! haha.

Having lots of ideas and urges to investigate a lot of bunkai applications lately, but i think Id rather focus on getting up to speed with more basic techniques at the moment and get them to a higher level. You've got to learn to walk before you run. In order to perfect a small/close range technique (we say small as in from a small or completely natural stance as opposed to a full zenkutsu dachi) you need to be able to perform and understand it "big" (kihon basics) first. So that's the idea, and that is where I'd like my karate to go, into that area, I just think its fantastic.

Must get into Bassai Dai again and really get the kata to a better standard. One of the most important katas in shotokan. I'm going to go have a rest now, running tomorrow.

I have my goal in mind and its entirely up to me whether I reach it. I think that's all the motivation I need for the moment.

To quote Sensei, "you only get out, what you put in".

To quote Gichin Funakoshi "spirit first, technique second" (precept number 5 I think?)

I'm outta here I may post something tomorrow haha.


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Getting back to fitness

Holidays are well and truly over, USA was brill, food was excellent. Sights - amazing, roller coasters - fantastic, Florida - HOT, NYC - better than I ever imagined.... 2 weeks of indulgence over. Taking jet lag and a little injury (don't know how it happened, certainly wasn't from training lol) into consideration, a month without training is a month too long.

Cardio fitness is gone for now, but ill get it back, better than before.

6 weeks ago approx I trained and graded for 3kyu in a sister club of ours in our association. I passed the grading but was plain to see my cardio fitness wasn't as was in previous gradings and Sensei let it be known, as he does, but technically everything is coming along great so that's something we're doing right. At least I know I can get the fitness up "relatively easily".

So, today is Wednesday, I'm back training 2weeks now and I'm feeling a little more mileage in the legs which is great. Running 2 miles before training each evening is going to pay off soon so I just have to suck it up and suffer through the early days.

Had a good kata class last night (love kata) and learned part of Jitte, so theres another kata to memorize, along with the other black belt katas I've been shown to date.

Sadly that injury still hasn't gone and I'm unable to kick or stretch the muscle, may be tendinitis so its frustrating at the minute, gladly though I'm able to do everything else inc running, so I have a run scheduled for tonight 3miles so i know its going to be tough but the reward is well worth the temporary discomfort.

My goal is pretty clear now, I've craved a brown belt for a long time but now after training with it for the 1st time I realise its not about what colour belt you wear in class. Its really how you approach karate and believe me you show/prove your grade (whether 7dan or 7kyu) on the dojo floor, there's nowhere to hide.
It maddens me to see some higher and lower grades than me (gladly not in my home club, where we have a strict standard and I feel very very lucky to be part of it) clearly not at the level they should be and making excuses as to why they're not. Firstly I blame there association, secondly I blame themselves, ultimately they are responsible for the standards they keep. It really is a slap in the face to people who bust their ass and aspire to be the best they can.

These people just coast along paying their money "buying" their belts and think they belong in a particular group, when in fact they don't. On the other side of things you have people claiming high dan grades and they look no higher than a 1kyu or average 1dan rank. No knowledge of their art, clearly no research done into the history and meaning of certain aspects and as far as teaching goes well if they don't know, they cant teach.

Anyway rant over ..... for the time being ... haha....

I'm trying to keep on top of the weight as well, I find as I'm getting older (and I'm only 28 now) the body does definitely slow down and I'm definitely not as fit and able as I was at 19/20 when I played football/soccer. But I know from my Muay Thai training that I can still get it to a pretty high level, but certainly some parts of me are feeling it more than previous years....KNEES!!!

So tonight I'm going for a run, trying to keep the diet as healthy as possible aswell, but not fanatically strict, no need for that. So I'll leave the first post at this, just a random rant and a little bit of background as I'm really setting my mind on a Shodan, that I really should have had years ago had I not gone off the rails, personally that's for another post/meeting haha.