Before I took my shodan grading I wrote a post called ‘Six things I’m looking forward to post black belt…’ I thought that if I knew exactly what my aims were post black belt then I could hopefully avoid the dreaded ‘black belt blues’. Well, so far so good. No signs of depression or loss of enthusiasm yet!
I thought I’d let you know what I’ve been up to in the last month and whether I’m making any headway with my aims…
1. Being liberated from grading. That feels soooo….good! I’ve not even looked at the 2nd dan syllabus yet – no point. It’s just fun to turn up to training and see what happens that session – no expectations, no hoping we are going to focus on something I particularly need to do. It’s just about training in the moment. I’m learning a new kata, Sepai, which is quite interesting but I have at least two years to learn it (along with 2 other kata I need to learn). I’ll probably research the history for Sepai soon to add to my other kata histories.
2. Consolidating the basics. The basics are never far away are they? We haven’t spent a lot of time on basic kihon in the senior class in the last month but in the junior class where I assist with teaching then, yes, I’m consolidating the basics! But more on teaching later…
3. Learning to spell! To me this is about putting things together more, thinking outside the box a little and developing a greater sense of strategy in a self-defence situation. This is not something we have particularly touched on in class recently other than we have been exploring a few ‘street’ type defences in the last couple of weeks. However, I don’t believe that all learning should take place in class so I have been reading and thinking about self-defence at home. Like I’ve mentioned before I think it is important to understand the nature of violence in society and add some context to your self-defence training. I’m currently reading ‘Facing Violence – preparing for the unexpected’ by Rory Millar and this is making me think a lot, so expect some blog posts on this theme soon!
4. Learning some ‘off’ syllabus stuff. Well the street defence stuff we’ve been doing is certainly off syllabus. It’s very different to the kind of self-defence things we do that are part of the syllabus. We’ve also been doing a little bit of aikido – some defences against knife attacks. I have to admit I find some of the aikido techniques very complicated but that may just be because I’m new to it. I think karate is much simpler and straight forward – that’s got to be an advantage in self-defence.
I’ve also returned to my kobudo classes which have taken a back seat in recent months. It’s nice to get back to swinging the tonfa again and I was surprised at how much of the syllabus I could remember, though my ability to manipulate the tonfa has somewhat deteriorated at the moment!
5. Spending more time dissecting and understanding the kata and bunkai. Apart from starting to learn Sepai and running through all the kata I know as a sort of workout we haven’t looked at kata application in the last month so no progress made here at the moment.
6. Spend more time teaching. This is where most of my energy is being focused at the moment. I’m keen to do the assistant instructors qualification so my instructor and I have increased the pace a bit with teaching. I now quite regularly start the junior class off with a formal seiza bow and warm-up and have taken the majority of the students for 20 – 30 minute sessions of kihon or kumite training.
I’ve also assisted my instructor with some ‘taster’ sessions at a local primary school during their ‘sports week’ recently. This was an all day affair where we gave 7 separate half-hour karate sessions to the different year groups. This was really fun, though exhausting, and the pupils (and teachers) joined in enthusiastically. I’d be quite happy to do this kind of teaching again.
Keeping busy and looking for new challenges seems to be a recipe for preventing the black belt blues. My next challenge is on Saturday as I help out at a kyu grading session as the ‘caller’ i.e the person who does the counting, makes sure everyone knows what they are doing and (for very junior grades) gives the odd demonstration of the technique. This will be a test of how well I know the junior syllabus! I’ll let you know how it goes…..
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