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.