Thursday, 22 August 2013

End of summer training.....

We’re getting towards the end of summer training now – just one more week to go…

Summer training was a concept my instructor introduced to our club a few years ago to help deal with the drop in student numbers over the summer holiday period.  Basically, the junior and senior classes are merged into one all summer. For the senior students this means starting classes an hour earlier than usual and for junior students its means they get 1.5 hour classes instead of just 1 hour.

There are obviously pros and cons to merging the classes this way. Sensei has to design lessons that suit the entire spectrum of students from white to black belts and from 6 year olds to middle-aged people. This is almost an impossible task and there are generally winners and losers. The main winners are probably the mid-graders, particularly the older children and adults as the classes are pitched much more to their level. The main losers are probably those at the extremes of the class – the youngest lower grades and the older senior grades.

It has been a challenge for sensei to get the right balance for these classes to ensure everyone gets something out of them. In previous years (in my opinion) the balance has been too much in favour of the children with lots of drills, sparring and games to keep the kids interested. However, this year sensei managed to pick a formula that has worked better for adults too.

We have spent the entire summer focussing on basic kihon and its relationship to the pinan katas, including bunkai. All of us benefit from really drilling the kihon and I mean really drilling the kihon – until you’re dripping with sweat and your legs feel like lead! Our younger or more junior members are particularly benefiting from this as there is plenty of scope for improvement in their basics but we  more senior students are also getting some insights into how to improve our body alignment and correct some simple mistakes or bad habits in our execution of kihon.  I particularly appreciate the opportunity to do this as I was pulled up on some fundamental errors in my basic kihon at my pre-dan course a couple of months ago. I’ve particularly been working on my spinal alignment and hip positioning over the summer and it’s all starting to feel much more natural now to tuck my pelvis under more during stance transitions.

We have also spent every lesson going through all the pinan kata in detail to improve both our performance of the kata but also the understanding of the applications of the kata in the form of ‘pinan drills’. This has been particularly suitable for the more senior students who value the opportunity to work on applications and benefit the most from doing so.

The classes have been very physically demanding all summer.  The warm-ups have been more like demanding work-outs and some of us oldies could have done with a warm-up before the warm-up! We have then gone straight into a demanding kihon session for about 20 minutes before being allowed a drink – and it’s been unusually hot weather here for a change. Then we’ve done all the kata several times each which, as you know, can be a workout in itself. This high-paced, physically demanding karate has suited the teenagers and older children best, though having said that the only students who have had to sit down because they felt ill have been teenage boys. We oldies stoically endure the discomfort so as not to be upstaged by some young pretenders (but we’ve been quietly feeling like death inside).

As Abraham Lincoln said: “You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”  This has been true of these summer classes. On a personal level I am fairly easy to please most of the time so although these summer classes have been a bit of a beasting, on the whole I have enjoyed them and have got a lot out of them. Other students have found them less enjoyable and some students have avoided them altogether. I have missed not being able to work on the stuff that is more relevant to my forthcoming dan grading so I have had to work on that on my own at home but the classes are not all about me and I know that I will be getting plenty of attention as the grading draws closer.

We have one more week of the summer classes and then we will be back to our usual schedule and hopefully back to more application based karate and less fitness based karate.  The kids and junior grades will have gained a lot from working with the seniors and will have gleamed some insight into what to expect as they move up the ranks but will ultimately be better off returning to their normal classes where the pace is a little easier for little ones. Likewise the seniors should all be a lot fitter and sharper with their basics and understanding of the pinan katas but will be grateful to return to their usual training patterns.  

Does the style of your training change over the summer months? What do you think about it?

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The Strongest Karate said...

Our dojo doesn't change at any time during the year. We are a mixture of young children, teens, adults, and "oldies", as you put it.

If I am going to be honest, I really dont like having the young children in our class. Sensei has to spend a lot of time coaxing them to do something right - even when they clearly know how to do it and are just being lazy!


Journeyman said...

Summer training is always a challenge. Ours peaks with a major training event and then the doors are shut for a short while. Sad but refreshing at the same time.

It's tough to strike a balance with mixed ages in training. Personally, I'm not a huge fan, but as you pointed out, there are always things to learn, whether through introspection or from others.

Charles James said...

I have/had a dream, a dream that I would find four practitioners who would realize true budo spirit and find themselves dedicated to training regularly and diligently and consistently regardless of the time of year, holidays, or other such interruptions. Maybe this is why I train alone :-) now.

Sue C said...

Brett, I sometimes wish we had at least one adult only class a week just to focus on more adult style stuff...

Journeyman, I always like to think positively about everything as there are always gains to be made if you have a positive mindset.

Charles, you make it sound like a sad story...I admire your ability to keep going it alone though, I'm not sure I could do that.

Baby Boomer Sensei said...

Years ago, when I trained Shoriji-Ryu in San Francisco Chinatown’s YMCA, under the well-respected and late Richard “Biggie” Kim, we had workouts that lasted four hours long consisting of kihon, kata, kumite, weapons, jiujutsu, qigong and taichi that included beginners, intermediates and advanced students. At times we’d have as many as 75 to 100 students packed in this old dilapidated gym with about 10 senior black belts whacking us with their bo when our stances were weak or our concentration waning. Master Kim would provide short breaks by introducing his philosophies on bushido, one I remember on the subject of “mushin” or “no mind.” He said that in order to reach a state of zen, we must attempt perfection by not concentrating on the movements or techniques, but by allowing ourself to be part of the movements through mushin or no mind; hence, the many hours of repetition. Hard work and repetition were part of the ancient tradition of achieving mushin and in a small way self-actualization or zen.

So the message behind long hour work outs is to open up the opportunity of reaching a different level of consciousness and at the same time improve your techniques. I remembered him saying, “Don’t worry about techniques. If you do it enough under the right teaching, it will come. Develop the mind and the body will follow, for without this relationship, the person’s only reason to exist is to die.”

Wow deep.

I really miss his teachings, talking in his Hawaiian accent but yet filled with so much knowledge. The following is a rare footage of one of the “breaks” he provided between all those kihon and kata repetition. Hope you not only enjoy it, but it provides some deeper meaning to your quest.

Sensei Dominador Tomate

Charles James said...

Sue, not a sad story. Rather the way of things today.

Sue C said...

Baby Boomer Sensei, thank you for sharing your experiences so eloquently with me. I have read about such training and its purpose but not really experienced it. I'm not sure our summer training is hard enough to achieve the mental shift that you talk about but sometimes I have felt so tired and exhausted that my arms and legs just seem to be moving themselves after a while - so maybe that's the beginning of such a mind shift.

Charles, ....sadly

Unknown said...

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Greetings from:

Matt Klein said...

Lincoln's saying was so true, especially in that situation. There will always be someone not content with the status quo.

We never combine age groups. The few times we tried it in the past just did not work.

We tend to shut things down over the summer and let kids take it easy, with just a minimum of classes running. It is challenging indeed to handle mixed classes.

Sue C said...

Hi Matt, mixed age/ability classes have there pros and cons. On the whole they work ok but I'd love it if we had a black belt class once a week as well to focus on some higher level application stuff. I can dream!

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