Thursday, 17 December 2009

My 100th post - a review

This is my 100th post! I'm amazed I have found 100 different things to write about but then that's the thing about martial arts - it has unlimited potential to provide us with interesting things to research, analyse, discuss and share with each other.
I have decided to use this post to review both my blogging and martial arts experience since I started this blog back in February 09. My initial reason for starting a blog was that I wanted an outlet for my creative writing efforts - poems and stories that I have written over the years but never attempted to publish. However, I was worried that I wouldn't have enough material to keep a blog running for very long so I decided to test out the waters with a martial arts blog.

I love writing this blog! I had no idea what kind of things I would end up writing about but books, your blogs, training experiences and talking to other martial artists provides constant sources of inspiration, ideas and questions to answer through blogging. I now consider this blog to be part of my martial arts training. It is the place where I think about my training, analyse what I am learning and look outside of my own small martial arts world to put things into a bigger, broader context. One thing you start to realise is that there are more similarities than differences between different martial arts and people often just take different paths to achieve common goals.

I decided quite early on that this blog would be more than just a training log. Documenting your training schedule is fine but I think people's training schedules don't differ too much from each other so I think there is limited mileage in blogging about it over a period of time. How your training
affects/enhances/damages/changes you is much more interesting than a list of what you actually did. It reveals more about your art and more about you as a person/martial artist. I also like to explore broader themes such as cultural and historical influences in martial arts. Here is a brief review of the subjects I have posted on in the last 10 months:

Japanese culture: I have looked at several different Japanese Ways, including Chado (tea ceremony); Shado (calligraphy); Kodo (Way of fragrance) and Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging). What I learnt from this is that in Japan budo is just another Way of life - no more or less important than the others. Each Way offers a path of focused and progressive training in the respective art and is about self-improvement and seeking perfection. In Japan you would be no more revered as a master of martial arts than you would as a master of flower arranging or calligraphy. I think this puts things into perspective!

History: I have researched and written about the history of the style of karate that I do, which is Shukokai and I have traced its lineage and the main senseis responsible for its evolution and development. This has helped me to see how my art fits into the broader context of martial arts. I have also started to write about the history of the katas that are practiced in shukokai karate. This has proved to be a very difficult process and has involved piecing together snippets of information found from a wide variety of sources. It has also surprised me that there are so many variations of some katas, so ensuring that I have put the correct history with the appropriate version of the kata for me has also been problematic.

Budo culture: I have been quite intrigued by some of the 'traditions' that are observed in traditional dojos, some of which we just take for granted and don't really question why we do it! This is why I started my little series on Why do we......... So far I have looked at sitting in seiza, practising barefoot and the wearing of gis. I also wrote an article about the power of the kiai. These little articles have covered the history and purpose of the tradition. I appreciate these traditions much more for learning about their purpose. I have a couple more ideas for my Why do we...... series for next year so you will have to wait for them!

Training aspects: I find it difficult to write too much about specific martial art techniques and self-defence strategies. This is because I am still a student in the kyu grades and so don't have the knowledge or experience to tell others how to do it - that would be patronising in the extreme and I have no desire to take that approach. Instead, I have tried to discuss technical aspects of martial arts from a learners point of view, sharing with you my observations, personal difficulties, research and personal opinions. I have been particularly interested in problems that women face in martial arts training and have written several posts on the subject. These views have come about as a result of reflecting on my own training and observing the training efforts of other women in my dojo or on courses I have attended. Of course my views may change as my training progresses or as a result of comments you make to me so my views only represent me as I am now.

I haven't actually written much about my own personal progress in karate or kobudo since I started blogging, so here's an update: In karate I have graded twice since I started blogging, moving from 4th kyu (purple belt) to 2nd Kyu (brown belt with 2 white tabs). All being well I expect to grade for 1st Kyu (brown belt with 3 white tabs) around June/July next year and for black belt about 9 months after that. I have also seen my club transfer from one organisation (SKU) to another (SSK). This has meant we have all had to get to grips with a much more comprehensive syllabus. I have also attended a few courses and participated in both kata and kumite competitions. I took up kobudo with a jutitsu/kobudo club about 6 months ago and have just graded in level 1 tonfa. I intend to study the bo as my second level 1 weapon after Christmas and also continue my study of the bokken. It has been quite a busy year!

However, none of this tells you what I am good or bad at so here are my personal reflections of my karate ability. My upper body techniques are better than my lower body techniques - I punch better than I kick! For a woman my punching and blocking is quite hard though I still sometimes punch the pad with the wrong knuckles suggesting that my wrist is not always straight. My stances are generally accurate and strong as are most of my movements, however, I don't yet have the speed needed to execute moves powerfully. Kicks are my weakest thing; my mae geri doesn't snap back enough; my mawashi geri is okay against the pad but useless in sparring; my yoko geri is laboured and has the wrong foot position and my urisho geri would only be useful if I was aiming for your knee - I cannot get height on it at all! As for anything spinning? That brings me to my other weakness - balance. If I turn too quickly I lose balance and I'm not too hot at standing on one leg either. However, I'm good at break falling and can do many self-defence techniques quite strongly. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. I think identifying and acknowledging them is a step towards making progress.

Well I hope you have enjoyed this review of my blogging and martial arts experiences over the last 10 months. Of course there would be little point in writing a public blog if no-one was interested in reading it so I would like to thank all my readers for their comments. Receiving comments is one of the best parts of blogging for me - I love the interaction with other people and welcome all styles of comments, whether you are agreeing with my post or not! I will always endeavour to reflect on your comment and reply to it so please keep them coming.

In the new year I am hoping to give my blog a face lift, possibly even a slight name change, not sure yet. Well, whatever happens I'm looking forward to writing my next 100 blog posts!


Felicia said...

Let me be the first to congratulate you on your 100th post! Quite a milestone it is! Enjoy reading your blog so much - it's always cool to hear from other female martial artists - but that our styles are closely related and that you discuss a bit of Japanese culture (and Tonfa, which I'm dying to have someone teach me - know that I'm jealous!) is TOO cool. I appreciate the time you put into your research and your willingness to share it with the masses :-)

Funny about your kicks - because I had problems with mine, too, for a looooong time. What really helped me was drilling them over and over - especially on non-dojo days. Still having issues with my spinning hook kick (my sensei says I throw it like a small person but I'm 6'2") and am convinced it will be the bane of my existence - but it is getting better. For balance, it helped me to try one leg stances (like an iron wall for instance) with my eyes closed for 10 to 30 seconds. When the time has elapsed, add a slow mae, yoko, ushiro or mawashi geri to the mix before bringing your foot back down while thinking like the Little Engine That Could ("I think I can! I think I can!").

Can't wait to read your next 100 posts :-)

Michele said...

Congratulations on your 100th post!

Thank you for writing and sharing. I look forward to reading your next 100.

Man of the West said...

I've enjoyed your blogging.

FWIW, here's a little post I wrote up on a kicking exercise--"Kicking Exercise #1"--that is especially good for balance. If you find it useful, great.

There is also a "Kicking Exercise #2." I will probably be writing up a description of that one shortly.

Indomitable Spirit said...

Happy 100th Sue, here's to 100 more!


Sue C said...

Hi Michele, Avril - thanks for your kind words.

Hi Felicia - I'm glad you like reading my blog. We seem to share similar attitudes and problems so it's good to share :-). Your balance exercise sound interesting - I will give it a go (and chant the mantra that goes with it!)Thanks.

Man-of-the-West: I followed your link to your kicking exercise, it sounds as though it could help me -is it okay to print it off so I can have the instructions in front of me in the gym ?(I'll never remember it!). I've also put this request on your blog in case you don't read this comment. Thanks

Neal Martin said...

Hey Sue. Many congratulations on your 100th post. That's no mean feat. I should know because I'm almost at 100 posts myself. Keep up the good work and here's to the next 100.

Sue C said...

Hi Neal: Thanks for that! I hope you're planning to celebrate your 100th in some way :-)

Mathieu said...


"One thing you start to realise is that there are more similarities than differences between different martial arts and people often just take different paths to achieve common goals."

Exactly. Spot on. Precisely.
I wouldn't have said it better. Various ways, various talents, various spirits, same goal.

For me, it is to unite mind and body. Movement allows for this unisson.

I wish you a great 2010 and another 900 posts.

Be well

Sue C said...

Hi Mat, thanks for dropping by again. Glad we share some insights.


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