Friday, 31 July 2009

Block or Flinch in martial arts?

In my karate classes I have been trained to respond to an incoming strike or kick with an evasion or block (or both simultaneously). The same principle applies in my kobudo training and in the very small amount of ju-jitsu that I have done. Evade and/or block seems to be a universal tactic in martial arts in response to an incoming attack.

To perform this tactic I need to perfect distancing and timing, and to make some quick judgements about what type of punch or kick is coming towards me so that I can choose the appropriate direction to evade and the correct block to use. That's a lot of information for my poor brain to process in a split second! If I get it wrong I will get hit! I have no idea whether I could successfully evade or block a strike in real life because no-one has ever tried to hit me for real.

However, what I do know is that if anyone did suddenly throw a surprise attack at me I would flinch very quickly to block the attack. I know this because the flinch response is hardwired into my brain - it's instinctive, I wouldn't be able to not do it! This is true for all of us.

So what exactly is the flinch response? The flinch response is an unconscious response to a perceived threat. Basically, when the human body perceives a threat, the body responds to ward off the threat through a series of reflex actions. The flinch response is not a true reflex which involves a reflex arc operating purely at the level of the spinal cord and bypassing the brain altogether e.g. the withdrawal reflex where your hand would automatically pull away if it touches a hot object like an iron. The flinch response involves a whole set of autonomic and somatic pathways that pass through the amygdala part of the brain. However it still bypasses the conscious part of the brain and thus occurs much more quickly than if we were consciously aware of it.

Apparently there are three different types of flinch:

1. Push away danger - You may have experienced this flinch as a front seat passenger in a car when you don't perceive the driver to be braking hard enough to prevent hitting the car in front!
2. Head Shield - The hands, forearms and elbows come up to protect the face and head, the shoulders rise, and head retracts.

3. Shield and Turn - This form of the flinch is associated with a threat that is picked up with the peripheral vision. This involves an arm, forearm and elbow shield that is raised to the side of threat with a circular/angular movement down and away from the line of the threat.

These three types of flinch have a few things in common: They generally lower and widen the centre of balance; the arms are placed into defensive positions that cover the mid line of the body and help defend vital points; the eyes focus intently on the threat; the breath is exhaled quickly which is a component of both absorbing shock from an incoming blow and delivering a blow with power, and the fingers are webbed and spread for additional coverage and protection.

The other important thing about the flinch response is that because it is a series of reflex actions that pass through the brain (rather than bypassing it) it can be consciously modified and therefore utilised by martial artists as part of their defense strategy. It occurs almost instantaneously in response to a threat even preceding the adrenaline induced fright/flight response.

So why don't we use it more in martial arts? Relying on our own genetically hardwired self-defense responses has got to be quicker and more effective than training to evade and block an attack in umpteen different ways and then hoping you've chosen the right one!

In fact there are some new and developing self-defense systems that are based around the flinch response. The person who has led the way in this is Tony Blauer who has conducted over 20 years of scientific and empirical research into the flinch response and then developed a new close quarter combat (CQC) system based on this research called SPEAR (Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response). In the UK a Martial Arts school in Northumbria has developed a new self-defense system called DFM (Directional Fighting Method) which is also based on the flinch response. You can find out more about SPEAR and DFM by clicking on the links below.

Here's Tony Blauer talking about the flinch response:

So where do you stand on the use of the flinch response - do you utilise it in your martial arts practice?

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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Pine winds and the King's crown

I am learning a new kata called Matsukazi, though in some styles the kata is still known under the older name of Wankan. However, you mustn't confuse this kata with the Shotokan version of Wankan, which is completely different.

I decided to try and research the origins and meaning of Matsukazi/Wankan. This is what I have managed to piece together:

Apparantly Wankan is one of the oldest kata still practised today. It comes from the Tomari-te style of karate and is preserved in Shito-ryu, Matsubayashi-ryu (Shorin-ryu) and some other styles. Tomari-Te was developed during the 19th century out of the Shuri-Te style of karate. Tomari was a small fishing village near Shuri, though it is now in the district of Naha on the island of Okinawa. The differences between the two styles is slight. However, there were several Chinese visitors to the Tomari region that did not reach Shuri so their teachings did not originally influence Shuri-Te, though later an exchange in ideas and katas did take place. Many kata became part of both styles but there are several kata that are unique to Tomari-Te. These include Wankan.

However, Wankan is probably older than 19th century. It is thought to have been introduced to Kudaka Island before reaching Tomari by a Chinese kempo pratitioner who may have used the name Wankan as his own. Wankan's Chinese origins lie in the Hakkyoku ken system of Kempo.

It is suggested that the kata became a family kata of the Ryukyu royal family handed down for many centuries from generation to generation. In fact, the name of the Kata literally means "King's Crown" or "King's Victory", which may be a reference to the royal significance of the Kata.

An actual lineage for Wankan may be something like this (at least for its inclusion in the Shito-ryu style):

Chinese kempo > Okinawa-te > Tomari-te > Matsumara Kosoku (one of the founders of Tomari-te style) > Itosu Yasutsune > Mabuni Kenwa (founder of Shito-ryu)

When it also became known under the name Matsukaze (meaning "pine tree wind" or "wind through the pine") is unclear but may be when the kata was brought to Japan.

So, what does the kata mean? Matsukaze is considered to be an intermediate kata in Shito-ryu and in Shukokai. It contains both offensive and defensive techniques done together in one motion at various points. It is said that the meaning "pine tree wind" suggests strength but flexibility in the face of adversity, like a pine tree on top of a mountain facing fierce winds. Thus, all movement is in the forward direction, driving the opponent backwards or standing ones ground.

A slightly more pragmatic interpretation is suggested by the alternative translation of the word Matsukazi which apparantly is "jugular vein region of the throat", one of the body's most vital points. In fact, all attacks in this kata are focused on the body's three most vital points - the jugular vien (matsukaze), the solar plexus (suigetsu) and the groin (kinteki).

Both of these interpretations offer useful insights into the meaning of the kata. Thinking about the steps in the kata there is an emphasis on moving forwards a lot, either moving several steps forward in cat stance or with an alternating kick, strike sequence. The neck is also attacked at several points i.e. a cross-block is performed suggesting a strangulation technique where the crossed arms form a 'v' around the throat and the collar of the clothing is grabbed and pulled sharply together to assist the strangle. Several shuto blocks are performed which could represent strikes to the throat. Several punches are thrown at both chudan and jodan level and the kick sequence could certainly be aimed at the groin. All this fits in with the tomari-te style which emphasises defending and attacking the mid-line.

There are also two points in the kata where you stand still and use a sequence of side-evasion, blocks and counter strikes which fit in with the idea that this kata uses both defensive and offensive moves simultaneously.

Wankan kata was the absolute favourite kata of the famous master and founder of Matsubayashi-ryu - Shushin Nagamine (1907 - 1997). Here is a video of him performing the kata in 1992.

Here is the Shito-ryu version of Matsukaze - performed a little quicker!


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Martial Arts World Record Attempt - help needed

On Saturday August 1st there will be an attempt to break the world record for the highest number of martial artists training at one time. 1000 martial artists are needed for this attempt - training with their own club on Seaburn Beach , Seaburn, County Durham.

They have not yet got enough people to break the record and need support from more clubs. If your club can help out and you fancy training on a beach with 1000 other martial artists please phone Brian Ford on 07794 411447 to book your club a place. This is also a sponsored event to raise money for Cancer Research UK and is supported by Martial News.

To summarise the details:

Date: Saturday August 1st
Time: 8-10am (while the tide is out)
Venue: Seaburn Beach, Seaburn, County Durham. (Near Sunderland)
Who: Any style martial arts club
Why: To be part of a world record attempt, have fun and raise money for charity.

Brian ford said: "This will help to put martial arts firmly in the regional and national media in a positive light. But more importantly, it will help to raise money for Cancer Research UK"

So if you can help just phone Brian Ford on 07794 411447

I wish I could go but unfortunately my sensei is unable to take our club up to Seaburn on that day due to other commitments. But I'll be there is spirit!

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Guy Fawkes Night - November 5th

Guy Fawkes Night or, more commonly, Bonfire Night is an annual British custom held on the evening of November 5th to celebrate the thwarting of the 'gunpowder plot' - an act of treason against the British government in 1605 by Guy Fawkes and his catholic co-conspirators whereby they attempted to blow up the Houses of parliament with barrels of gunpowder secretly placed in the cellars. They were caught, tried and executed using the particularly nasty method referred to as 'hanged, drawn and quartered' to reflect the particularly serious crime of treason.

In the UK, particularly in England the 5th of November is still commemorated each year with fireworks and bonfires culminating with the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes (the guy). The 'guys' are made by children by filling old clothes with crumpled newspapers to look like a man. Tradition allows British children to display their 'guys' to passers-by and asking for " A penny for the guy".

This video outlines the Guy Fawkes tradition (it's designed for 'English as a foreign language' students - so bear with it!)

The tradition and the 'Remember, remember' rhyme serves as a warning to each new generation that treason will never be forgotten.

Remember remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should ever be forgot...

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

What factors make a martial arts instructor good?

I promised a couple of posts ago that I would tell you what factors I thought made a good instructor. Here is my list of expectations (I'm a very demanding student!):
1. I expect him/her to train me correctly in all aspects of the syllabus.

2. I expect him/her to correct me when I get it wrong and encourage me when I get it right.

3. I want him/her to push me and motivate me so that I can be the best I can.

4. I want to trust him/her to ensure my safety and know what to do if there is an accident.

5. I want the classes to be serious but fun at the same time.

6. I want to have a good grounding in the traditional stuff but have a chance to learn and experiment with more modern techniques.

7. I need my instructor to be friendly and approachable but also authoritative and in control of the class.

8. I need to respect him/her.

I don’t want much do I?

Does my instructor deliver? Yeah, he delivers pretty well on all these aspects. So how does he do it? Well, student’s eye view, but I think he does it like this:

He is very passionate about martial arts – it’s his life, his job. He trains regularly himself with other instructors and even occasionally with his own sensei. He continues to develop himself – he does aikido training and occasionally some jujitsu training as well as attending various seminars. New things he learns he brings back to class.

He plans every lesson and doesn’t just make it up on the night. He thinks about the pace of the lesson and each lesson is structured differently, there is no predictable routine. He is upbeat, injecting a lot of energy into the class -you never get bored.
He knows everybody in the club. He has over 160 members between his 3 clubs but he rarely forgets a name. He knows everybody’s skill level, their strengths and weaknesses and gives everyone a bit of personal attention in the lesson. You never feel that you are just an anonymous student in the class.

In my view he is a good instructor.

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Friday, 17 July 2009

Blog Writing Interview

Blog Writing Course Alumni

I recently did an interview for 'BlogWritingCourse' This is an online course based in the US to teach beginners the ins and outs of creating and running a blog. I am a past alumni of this course. The interview was about my experiences of blogging rather than martial arts but if you'd like to read it you can link to it from here: BlogWritingCourseInterview

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

What factors make a martial arts club good?

Here is my 'student's eye' perspective of what I think makes a martial arts club good:

I think three things make a club work well: High standards from a good instructor; a dynamic and progressive ethos; and a good mix of students.

I really fell on my feet when I chose my karate club though I didn’t really know what to look for or what to ask. I was only vaguely aware that there were different styles of karate and I certainly didn’t know the differences between them. Where I live there are two clubs nearby, a Goju ryu club and a Shukokai club. My husband suggested that Goju ryu might be ‘too rough’ for me and suggested I do Shukokai. Not knowing any different I agreed and have never looked back.

So why is my club good? Well to start with I think the standard of training I receive is high. I am reassured of this because the club is externally validated by the SKU (Shukokai Karate Union). This suggests to me that all clubs in the SKU will have to provide training to the same syllabus and standard. My instructor has to attend 3 instructors’ courses a year in order to maintain his instructors licence so his teaching standard is also externally assessed. The SKU also provides brown belt and black belt training courses which will enable me (when I get my brown belt) to train with members from other clubs and reassure me that I am being trained to the same standard as others.

This is not to say that clubs not externally validated or affiliated in this way do not offer a high standard of training, it’s just that as a student with little experience it can be hard to know.

My club is also very active, lively, outward looking and progressive. There is always a positive buzz about the place – it makes you want to join in, be a part of it. There is a whole range of off syllabus stuff to do. The club arranges extra weekend sessions sometimes to concentrate on just kumite or just kata or even just fitness training. These sessions are serious but fun.

Our club is very family orientated. We have several families who train together, including mine. I think this family friendly ethos encourages more women to join and more importantly - to stay. We have roughly an equal split between males and females, even at the senior coloured belts.

We also have social events such as bowling, clay pigeon shooting, meals out, family games days and even a p...up in a private brewery! (Adults only). We are also planning to join up with another Shukokai club for a joint training session soon –swap training tips, see how others do it. I think it’s important for a club not to be too insular.

Most importantly though, my club feels safe. Supervision is high, bad technique is corrected and discipline is maintained. No one is allowed to be too rough and no one is allowed to be a diva. Injuries inevitably happen from time to time but they are minimal and minor.

What do you think makes a martial arts club good?
(Next post I will give my thoughts on what I think makes a good instructor)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Why do we.........sit in Seiza?

Things don’t get more Japanese than sitting in seiza do they? Seiza (correct sitting) is the ‘sitting on knees’ position adopted in many Ways of life in traditional Japan, including chado (tea ceremony), shodo (calligraphy), ikebana (flower arranging) and many martial arts. Never has man risked showing disrespect to his seniors more than being unable to correctly get into, maintain, move and get out of the seiza position!

The degree of accuracy required in adopting a respectful seiza position varies according to the context, the occasion and the type of clothing worn. For example, the specific steps and etiquette required by a woman to sit in seiza wearing a tight kimono to perform a tea ceremony in front of important dignitaries may be a bit different to a man adopting the seiza position in a loose gi in a modern dojo on a normal club night. However, getting it right for the context you are in is important.

The precision of the steps for adopting seiza vary a lot from martial art to martial art. In the more modern ‘do’ arts such as karate-do and judo the subtleties of proper kneeling and moving have been lost. However in the more bugei arts such as kenjutsu , kendo, iaijutsu and iaido the precision of the steps and position of the feet, knee width etc, is much more prescribed. So why are there these differences?

To answer that you need to look at the original purpose of adopting seiza. As with many things Japanese, the seiza position was originally a Chinese development. It was a practical way to sit before the convention of sitting on chairs was adopted in Asian culture! It kept the feet out of the way when performing practical tasks like cooking. It was well suited to sitting on matted (tatami) floors and if you adopted the position from an early enough age – it was comfortable!

However, it soon became more than a practical way of sitting. A culture of etiquette and respect has long pervaded Japanese life and sitting correctly in seiza has been a part of that culture for centuries. But showing respect is only part of the answer. In Feudal Japan many aspects of etiquette had the dual purpose of also being linked to the practice of sword and other weapon arts, as well as self-defence strategies. So walking, moving, where to position the hands, what distance to stand or sit from others, how to sit etc, were all related to being able to instantaneously respond to being attacked.

A Samurai needed to be able to draw his sword from a sitting or standing position without hindrance or delay. If his seiza position was sloppy or inaccurate he would be a sitting duck. So Samurai were taught how to draw a sword instantly from seiza and how to parry a strike or remove an opponent’s sword from his grasp. Having the ability to rise up from seiza quickly by raising the right leg first, made drawing the sword easier and quicker. It also positioned him for further movement and bought him closer to his attacker.

This close association between sitting in seiza and drawing of the sword explains why the practice of seiza is much more precise in those martial arts that focus on sword. The true meaning of the etiquette involved still prevails. However in martial arts that don’t involve the use of sword the true meaning of sitting in seiza has been lost and in many dojos it is now not much more than a ritual for displaying respect at the beginning and end of a class.

It should be remembered though that sitting in seiza offers the martial artist a few moments to empty the mind of daily clutter and focus on the task they are about to embark on or, at the end of class, a moment to reflect on the training that has just occurred.

wikipedia - seiza
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Sunday, 12 July 2009

Grading result

I've finally achieved my 3rd kyu grade. I know this will not seem like a big deal to experienced black belts but I am pretty pleased to be finally wrapping a brown belt around my waist!

Fortunately the weather was kind and it was not hot and humid as I thought it might be so we didn't get overly hot. There were only seven of us grading in my group which is the smallest number I've ever graded with. This meant the grading only took about 1 hour (my blue belt grading lasted nearly 3 hours because there were so many of us).

I had another chance to try out my sparring skills in competition conditions as we had to do 2 rounds of sparring. Since I was the only woman in the grading session there was no choice but to partner me with men. Don't worry, I went easy on them! I decided to pare back on the aggression a little and it seemed to work - I won one round and lost the other.

As we get scores for the individual elements of the grading (10 elements) you get immediate feedback on which things you are strong at and which ones you are weaker at - and it's never the way I expect it to be! My highest score was for the Ippon kumite and my lowest for one of the kata. I messed up a bit doing pinan sandan (which is a green belt kata). For 3rd kyu the grading officer randomly picks a pinan kata which you then have to perform there and then without any practice. I have been practising all the pinan katas recently but pinan sandan is my least favourite! At least I performed Annanku and Jurokuno to a reasonable standard.

Everything else seemed to go alright and I was happy with my total mark of 67/100. The other students also passed with good marks - so congratulations to them. Now starts the hard work for 2nd kyu!

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Friday, 10 July 2009

Grading tomorrow

It's grading time again! That probably means it will be a really hot, humid day tomorrow - just when you don't want one. I am grading for 3rd kyu (brown belt, one tab). It's seven months since my last grading so I'm feeling pretty ready to grade now. We've spent a lot of time recently on syllabus work so I think those of us who are grading tomorrow are as prepared as we can be. There's just time tonight and tomorrow morning for one last run throught the katas and combinations. I'll let you know how it goes!

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Tanabata Festival

This week the Japanese are celebrating a festival called Tanabata also called the ‘star festival’. Tanabata is based on the fusion of an ancient Chinese festival called the Festival to plead for Skills in which girls wished for better sewing and craftsmanship, and boys wished for better handwriting by writing wishes on strips of paper, with a Shinto purification ceremony in which a Shinto miko (shrine maiden) wove a special cloth on a loom, called a Tanabata, near waters and offered it to a god to pray for protection of rice crops from rain or storm and for good harvest later in autumn.

In a modern day Tanabata festival the elements of these two ancient ceremonies are still celebrated by writing wishes, sometimes in the form of poetry, on tanzaku ,small pieces of paper, and hanging them on bamboo outside houses, sometimes with other decorations in the hope that these wishes come true. The most common tanabata decorations are colourful streamers, which are said to symbolize the weaving of threads. Other tanabata decorations are toami (casting net), which means good luck for fishing and farming and kinchaku (hand bag), which means wealth. The bamboo and decorations are often set afloat on a river or burned after the festival, around midnight or on the next day.

However, as with much folklore in Japan there is also a love story behind the celebration of this festival. It is said that two gods Orihime (the Weaving Princess- daughter of the Tentei, Sky King, or the universe itself ) and Hikoboshi (Cow Herder Prince) met and fell in love. They were so besotted with each other that they neglected their duties and in anger the Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa River (Milky Way) and forbade them to meet except for one day a year – the seventh day of the seventh month. It is said that a flock of magpies form a bridge across the Amanogawa River with their wings so Orihime can cross but if it rains the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait another year. Often during the tanabata ceremony people pray that there will not be rain so that the lovers can meet.

Tanabata festivals are held all over Japan in the main cities, though some are held on August 7th rather than July 7th. Today the big festival will be in Hiratsuka. The streets will be decorated with elaborate streamers and there will be many side stalls selling food and souvenirs.

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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Outcome of Kumite Competition

Well, the competition is over and what an amazing experience it was. Sensei's organisation of the event was impeccable as usual and the whole afternoon ran like clock work.

He worked incredibly hard as referee for every single sparring round - and there were dozens of them, but his concentration and fairness didn't waver once. He had help with the refereeing from some of his black belts and other senior students, his partner operated the stop clock and various people helped out keeping scores and recording the results -so it was a real club effort.

We warmed up with a team sparring event so that everyone got the chance to have a round of sparring before the individual event. This took about an hour and allowed us to loosen up and shake of some pre-competition nerves. Then we started the individual event with the children going first.

So how did I do? Well, there were three ladies in my category, two 1st kyus and me (still 4th kyu) so I didn't really expect to win. I came third out of the three of us but I think I put up a pretty good fight. I know both my opponents find me a little scary to spar with sometimes because I generally have a very attacking style, but they really shouldn't worry because their greater experience and more skillful techniques generally prevail.

I had a long think about where I went wrong when I got home. My big disadvantage is a lack of height and I haven't yet worked out how to deal with that. Both of my opponents were much taller than me, one about 3 inches the other 5 or 6 inches. This also means they have a longer reach than me and makes my head a nice target for hitting. Being smaller I tend to go for chudan punches but while I'm throwing my punch they are aiming for my head with the counter punch and their longer arms tend to make contact with my head before mine makes contact with their abdomen! The referee nearly always (correctly) awarded the point to them.

I think my aggressive style is working against me. I seem to be able to drive my opponents back with no problem but I seem unable to capitalise on this advantage. I'm too slow to spot openings but seem to be leaving myself undefended because they still manage to get a jodan punch on me. I think I must be getting too close to them as I drive them back.

It wasn't all bad - I did score some points but not as many as I gave away. One opponent landed an amazing kick on my chin, very controlled and accurate and deservedly got her 3 points. The other opponent, who has the benefit of youth ( she's only 17) , was just to quick for me, she's very graceful and light on her feet!

So the event was a great learning experience for me and hopefully I will improve with training.

I think I need to develop some more defensive tactics and perhaps be a little more patient and speed up my reaction times and improve my range of techniques and......and a million other things no doubt! This sparring thing is really difficult!

The only negative aspect of the competition (and it was quite a big negative) was that I injured one of my opponents. I attempted a jodan zuki but judged the distance wrongly and landed the punch too hard, hitting her in the orbit. She had to stop and bend down until the pain subsided and it did leave her with a small cut below the brow. I'm just hoping it doesn't leave her with a black eye. I felt really bad about it.

I'll get the chance to do some more sparring next week when I grade for 3rd kyu so hopefully I'll have improved by then! If you have any tips I'm all ears......

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Dojo Moments - Archive

To find out more about haiku click here

bare feet.......
blackened by
the dojo floor

trickles of sweat
in summer's airless heat.......
limbs heavy

he throws uke.....
straightens his gi
then pulls tight his belt

crashing to the mat.....
his arm swings out
to break the fall

the class march in shiko dachi.....
aching thighs!

blocking the strike too hard
I wince.........
forearm throbbing!

gumshields in place
hands gloved......
we stare each other down

summer's sudden downpour.....

running to the dojo
gi splashed

a loud kiai
disturbs the quietness
of the dojo

standing with feet together
she bows.....
announces kata

entering the dojo
he stops and bows.....
steps onto the mat

tops of my feet
press hard on the floor......
bowing in seiza

freshly washed gi
pressed and hanging......
waiting to be worn

standing in yoi
heart beating fast.....
waiting for my turn

the stiff brown belt.......
I tie it around my waist

losing grip of the tonfa
it falls to the ground....
and breaks!

the small girl spars
with the teenagers knees

feeling the pain
as the wrist lock tightens.......
he taps out

a patch of sweat
on the mat.......
shows where he fell

a line of students
facing forward......
standing in yoi

face cooled by the breeze......
practising kata
by the open door

his muscles quiver
with tension.....
performing Sanchin kata

face contorted
she absorbs the shockwave.....
as he strikes the pad

tugging again......
to tighten the knot
of the new stiff belt!

she sweeps back
the stray hairs.....
stuck to her face with sweat!

kneeling in seiza
sitting on my heels......
foot cramps!

arriving late
sensei shouts.......
"twenty press-ups!"

thrown too hard
I crash to the mats......
and bounce!

running through rain
bokken in hand......
to the safety of the dojo

stepping into cat stance.....
he pulls his arms
into a sharp shuto block

eyes closed I hear......
rythmic breath sounds
of the karateka

a lazy wasp
buzzing around me......
as I stand in yoi!

with lightening speed......
he thrusts a side kick
at his opponent

pulling up suddenly
she grimaces and hops.....
foot cramps!

looks resplendent........
in his drawing of the sword

looking at the floor
as I bow......
ten splayed toes!

flashes of white gi......
students tumbling
into break falls!

joy on her face
as she flips the tonfa....
and catches it!

bowing in seiza
she cheats.....
sitting with heals up!

a group of students.....
chatting animatedly
before start of class

bent over legs straight,
hands on floor.....
feeling the hamstrings stretch!

children giggling.....
playing racing games
in the dojo

with bokken sheathed.....
he holds his thumb protectively
over the tsuba

the pressure of finger nails
digging into my palm,
as I make a fist

tap, tap, TAP......
the lock on his wrist
grows ever tighter

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Saturday, 4 July 2009

1st Kumite competition this afternoon

I am participating in my first kumite competition this afternoon. This is our first club competition for members of Elite Karate Centres and we have finally managed to persuade 30 people to enter. This will be the first kumite competition for pretty well all of us so it should be an interesting experience!

According to the flyer this promises to be "....a fun day and a relaxed atmosphere with a competitive spirit." We kick off with an explanation of the rules followed by a mixed team kumite warm up (the fun part). Then the individual kumite event starts after that (the competitive part).

I'll let you know how it goes.

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Meanings of Shukokai Kata

I have been researching the meanings of the names of kata practised in Shukokai karate (SKU version). I managed to find the meanings of 20 out of 22 kata. I have written them in alphabetical order rather than the order the kata are learnt.

Annanku: Light From the South.

Bassai-Dai: Bassai means "To Extract or Remove an Obstruction, to block a passage way" Dai means "Major version".

Empi waza: Empi means "monkey elbow", waza means technique.
Jiin: Named after the Buddhist saint. "Temple" or "Temple of love and goodness.
Juroko-no kata: Simply means 16 steps

Kosokun Shiho: To view the sky in four directions.
Kururunfa: Forever stops, peaceful and tearing. Holding your ground.

Matsukaze: Wind flowing through the Pine trees.
Niseishi: 24 steps/techniques.

Pinan (5 katas): Way of Peace; literally “Great Peace”, sometimes translated as "Calm Mind” or “Peaceful Mind”.
Seienchin (possibly Saainchin): Lull in the storm, to control, suppress & pull.Seipai: Is the number 18 (3 X 6). The 3 represents good, bad & peace. The 6 represents colour, voice, taste, smell, touch and justice.
Shihozuki: Shihō can be translated as 'four directions', zuki means "punch"

Tomari-no bassai: Tomari version of the bassai kata.

Suparimpa. If you happen to know what this means I would love to hear from you.
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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Martial News - new edition out today

The latest edition of Martial News is out today.

In the News this month :

Women and Children Flee MMA Riot
Cage Kombat
Aikido Dan Gradings
Ross Pearson
World Thai Boxing Championship
Judo local, national and international competitions
Karate kata champs
Jackie Chan
52 Blocks – born of the ghetto and US prisons
Youngest ever Jujitsu black belt
North of England Grapping Championship
We will also be featuring…
John Agar – Wing Chun part 3
Technique of the Month: Triangle Choke
Angling knife defences
Brian Ford – a life time in martial arts
We have also added new features such as four pages of the best International Martial Arts stories drawn from publications around the globe.
There is also a National News and Briefs feature on Story seven sketching out news from around the UK.

Go to
Martial News.

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