Today’s post is a bit of a potpourri. I had a bit of trouble finding a cohesive theme. I’m not sure how I can link my impressions and takeaways. Oh well, this is, after all, a blog. Informal writing is OK for a blog 🙂
Even kicks that are “lousy” by karate standards could hurt someone. If everyone at the second seminar had been taking a 10th kyu test (for the very first rank one earns in karate) I’d have flunked every single person in that room including the instructors AND myself. That said, some of the ladies were able to generate enough force to hurt family jewels. I was surprised at how much force I myself was able to generate with “lousy” kicks. Teaching “proper” karate kick dynamics isn’t necessary for self defense seminars. Attendees are not karateka, they are ladies who want some tools they can easily use. Key word: easily.
I observed that with other techniques some of the women made the very same mistake that a lot of beginning and intermediate karateka make. Heck, I still struggle sometimes after five years. They are trying to “muscle through” a technique. Think about pushing or lifting a heavy object – that feeling is exactly what you don’t want in karate. “Muscling through” just slows you down, which is detrimental to any given technique.
Force equals mass times acceleration. I can’t accelerate my fist if my own tense muscles are holding me back. My fist isn’t massive, but accelerate it, and – ouch. Pressure is force divided by surface area, which is why we hit with the itty bitty first two knuckles of the fist. It’s simple physics. That said, biology might be working against people who are new to the concept of fast is loose/loose is fast. It takes conscious, consistent effort and time to develop fast-twitch muscle fibers. One must learn coordination in order to get the right muscles to tighten and release at the exact right time. The techniques offered in this class did not need this level of coordination.
I’m conducting an experiment in psychology. I have not identified myself as a martial artist to my classmates. The instructors know. One question on the paperwork we filled out on Day 1 asked about martial arts experience. So far the instructors have respected my wishes to keep silent about the fact that I am a karateka. I have been keeping silent so as to observe the class and the instructors better.
I should have anticipated that my skill and spirit influences the class. My sensei(s) have many times remarked on the phenomenon of how even just one person’s good attitude can lift a class. With the self defense instructors’ encouragement I executed the techniques full speed and power, and yeah, it was pretty impressive. Because my classmates don’t know I’m a martial artist, they think, “Well, if that’s how it’s supposed to be done, I’d better up my game,” and “If she can do it, I can too.” The instructors encourage us to be quite loud, so I have no problem being an example of how to kiai (yell) the word “NO!” If the other women find out that I am a karateka, they might think, “Oh, she’s good at that only because she’s in karate.” That’s not what I want to see happen.
At the end of the 2nd session of the women’s self defense class, the instructors handed attendees a letter for our Significant Others. This letter asks the Significant Others to please refrain from asking us students for demonstrations of what we’re learning. The idea behind this is the instructors teach us to use full speed and power. They don’t want us to get into the habit of doing anything less because they fear that if us students get used to that via demonstrating what we’ve learned, we’ll be ineffective when push comes to shove.
I get that – I’ve
had recurring nightmares of being in a fight for my life and pulling
my punches just like I would in sparring. This program is designed
for women who don’t want to study a martial art (it even says that in
the book), so there’s no need to teach control. But I haven’t had
those nightmares since I re-started Karate five years ago. I know my
abilities. I know I can spar with children without hurting them, and
I know I can send an adult to the hospital. It takes far longer than
nine hours to develop both control and power. I could demonstrate
what I’m learning to my husband without compromising my abilities.
However, my husband
will abide by the letter. He will not ask me to demonstrate what I’m
learning in the self defense class. Not because he fears that my
abilities will be diminished. Oh no, it’s because he doesn’t want to
be treated to a nerdy, lengthy analysis of each technique, how it
compares to my training, the philosophies behind karate and the
self-defense organization (R. A. D.), the differences in teaching
beginning karateka and teaching women you might not ever see again…
Yeah, he just wants to avoid my geek fest.
Takeaway for My Karate
I can adapt even if my muscle memory is screaming at me to execute the kicks “properly.” I still have a bad habit of dropping my hands when kicking – ARGH!
Thank you for your patience. I’m not sure when I will get back to regular posting. There are still too many things going on right now. Maybe some day I’ll post about sticking with karate through tough times. But for now, I give you the first of three posts about what I’m up to these days.
Long time readers of this blog will know I’m interested in some day teaching self defense seminars. I’ve attended a few in order to learn what is taught, how it is taught, and about the students themselves. I’m wrapping up my first long-format seminar on Wednesday. I must say I do see a lot of advantages to a total of nine hours of instruction. As always, I have takeaways for my own art.
I’ve long since known about the signs around the police station that encourage people taking classes or attending meetings to park on the streets and at the community center rather than fill up the very small parking lot near the station. As I jogged to class from my car, I thought wryly that remote parking isn’t as safe as parking near the class, particularly during the dark evening hours in late fall, winter, and early spring. Fortunately, we were told in class that parking in the little lot by the station is OK. I’ll leave those spaces to the other women.
Right away, instructors gave participants a thin book chock full of information and pictures. I appreciate the wide margins for taking notes. Included in the RAD book is a form certifying that I have participated and guaranteeing me a spot in any future RAD class nationwide free of cost. That is an interesting offer that I should consider for my own future seminars. I could do a substantial discount – I would still like to get some money. Mainly I want to teach self defense seminars as a fundraiser for karate athletes, coaches, and officials who attend national and international competitions. Also I think I’d very much enjoy enjoy teaching self defense seminars.
One of the things I ask myself when I attend self defense seminars is if I want to someday earn certification with a self defense organization or if I simply want to create my own curriculum. American Women’s Self Defense Association is one organization I’ve heard of, and now I’m getting a look at Rape Aggression Defense Systems. I’m not worrying overmuch about certification yet because first I feel like I need to earn my Shodan (first degree black belt) before I start getting serious about teaching seminars!
I know full well that there are differences between martial arts and self defense seminars. I appreciated Day 1’s introduction to the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) system. The RAD philosophy is to create openings to get away and to give women options on what to do. I’m sure that has been mentioned in previous self defense seminars I’ve taken, but it’s nice to have that formally acknowledge in print. I’ve heard similar sentiments from my sensei(s) (instructors) on occasion, but I do know we train for prolonged and/or multiple-opponent fights just in case it takes us awhile to break free. It’s there even in our most basic kata (forms).
There’s also a difference in attendees. Karate students are in class because they want to dedicate themselves to a martial art, or their parents made them go, or they couldn’t get into any other college physical education class. Women who go to self defense seminars might be afraid of what could happen or what has happened to them. They want techniques and confidence. The very first tool we were taught to use was our voices.
Having participants introduce themselves was an exercise in speaking up. The instructor encouraged us to project (a theater term) so the whole room could hear. This led into exercises shouting “NO!” and “GET BACK!” Some of the women had trouble raising their voices even while talking about something pleasant. I was surprised at how few could shout “NO!” in a way that would be sure to intimidate an attacker and draw attention from bystanders.
Most of the first seminar was dedicated to paperwork, an introduction to RAD, and some facts and statistics about assault and rape. I very much appreciated the instructors pointing us to actual state laws about self defense (Washington State RCW 9A.16.020) Before we got to learn physical stuff, the instructors established ground rules. Among those ground rules was if we were working with one another, we were to use only 80% power. I made a mental note to use only 10% of my power. I know my capabilities.
We learned three stances very similar to kamae dachi (fighting stance) – and actually the feet were the same but the arms differed. One stance was for just standing alertly, casually observing, and two were for responding to increasing escalation of the situation. We also learned two uke (receivers) and I was pleased to hear the instructors say that “block” is a misleading term. These two uke were pretty much identical to “abbreviated” uke(s) karateka use during kumite (sparring).
Takaway for my Karate: I’m used to lightning-fast straight punches. When the instructor threw a haymaker (padded forearm), I was playing chicken, waiting for the last instant to block. The instructor said that was the fastest haymaker she could throw, and even the fastest haymaker is pretty darned slow, so there was no need for me to play chicken. What she wanted me to do instead of playing chicken was to receive the haymaker – to execute a true uke (receiver) instead of a block.
Three hours seems like a long time, but it just flew by.
students in the Personal Fitness Trainer program at the college where
I work need practical experience for their certificates and degrees.
In other words, they need people to train. Usually the email to
faculty and staff from the Personal Fitness Trainer program manager
comes either in the afternoon, when I’m not at work, or right when
I’m in the middle of something and can’t respond. The time slots
are usually claimed within the hour. Assuming that I get the email
at a time when I can respond immediately, I haven’t had the time to
take advantage of the opportunity. Finally, in April, the stars
aligned just right. I signed up to be a lab rat.
I was expecting my trainer, Marissa, to be young enough to be my daughter. She is. But what I did not anticipate was the camaraderie we developed and the easy way she and I worked with one another. That said, Marissa pushed me hard and didn’t hesitate to ratchet things up a notch or five if she saw I could handle something more or less easily. But she was so nice and sweet about it. Her encouragement and high-fives made my day and pushed me to the top of my game.
Marissa confided to me that the college’s program has students learn how to design a program while they are developing programs for their “clients.” It’s a learn-as-you go deal. There is something to be said for that approach to learning. From my end, I really wouldn’t have guessed that’s the Personal Fitness Trainer program’s methodology. Marissa did an excellent job creating my program and revising it as I progressed. She has all sorts of numbers written down about my body measurements, the pounds pressed, the miles ran, and I’m sure all her numbers point to one thing – I’m better off for having worked with her.
Certainly I’ve been pushed out of my “comfort zone” a little. One of my sensei (instructors) used to nudge me every now and then to try weight training. I ignored that nudge. Now I see why he enjoys working out in the gym. I spent a couple of seasons training hard with karateka (karate peeps) who were going to Nationals. But I didn’t maintain that level of fitness. I loathed jogging and dropped it altogether. Marissa had me jogging or on the elliptical strider a lot. Now I’m seeing a difference in my performance in the dojo (karate school). My sensei has noticed a difference too. He hasn’t actually said that he’s noticed a difference, but I can tell because he’s been pushing me harder and harder in class.
There are loads of
things I’ve gained from the time I’ve spent as a lab rat. I’ve
learned that I can make significant gains in a short period of time.
Of course I’ve learned a lot of very specific exercises, but I’ve
also learned how to structure a workout. I’ve resolved to use this
knowledge in my personal workouts outside of the dojo. Now I have a
few more fun little things to have my fellow students do whenever I
lead warm ups for Karate class. And if I want to go to the college’s
gym and track after work, I won’t be completely clueless about what
to do. I have a feeling that I’d better invite Marissa to my black
belt test, whenever that will be. If she’s still in the area!
Marissa has a dream that I hope will come true. Yes, she wants to open a gym. But not just any old gym. She wants a commercial kitchen tacked on. The idea being that after a personalized workout, Marissa can hand her clients custom-tailored meals to take home. Not only is Marissa studying to be a personal fitness trainer, she is also studying to be a nutritionist. Marissa used to be a cook at a restaurant. She jokes, “I used to make people fat, now I want to make them healthy and fit.” Whenever I tell people of Marissa’s dream, they are enthusiastic, and invariably say, “Sign me up!” I’d like to see a studio added to Marissa’s business so that there’s room for yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and gee, maybe even Karate. Marissa’s future looks bright, and I’m glad to have helped her on her journey as she has helped me on mine.
Some martial arts bloggers like to do a yearly summary around New Year’s Day. I prefer to publish mine on or just after my “Karateversary.” You can read past years’ posts by doing this: 1) look to the right of your screen, 2) scroll down a bit, 3) under “Categories,” click “Karate Anniversary”
here are the highlights of each month.
June 4 – June 30, 2018
I tested for 2nd kyu on June 9. I was not expecting to
test so soon after my 3rd kyu test 10 months prior. For
some reason, I was calm during this test. I remember just trusting
my sensei(s)’ word that I was ready. I actually had fun, and I
haven’t said that of every belt test I’ve taken.
Talk about learning and growing – my experiences at the USA-NKF National Championships were tremendously good for me. My parents and I took a road trip to Reno, Nevada for the event, so we enjoyed sightseeing before and after. I think I improved more in judging than in karate, but my parents disagree. My parents watched my next belt test (December 2018) and said that I had significantly improved since Nationals. Dad once reached an intermediate rank in Karate, and Mom once was very much into figure skating (she has a good eye for excellence in human movement), so maybe they know what they’re talking about.
Our Gasshuku (camp) was led by a few of our sensei(s). As always it was a great experience, particularly for my daughter. She was free to learn in a safe environment, and she did well. It was nice for me to let go a little bit and let her learn on her own. At camp she could function a little more like the young adult she is. Autism presents any number of challenges, so I’m grateful for the karateka who were patient and caring with her.
Looking back at my journals, I see a lot of introspection. It’s there in September’s blog posts too. In stark contrast to September’s positive blog posts, in “real life” I felt burnout for the first time. I blogged about it in October. As I wrote a few months later, it’s easier to push through growing pains than it is to live with regrets. I did not quit, and I’m glad.
Testing for Shodan (first degree black belt) and beyond is held yearly in October. Some sensei(s) have their other students test at this time too. This year saw a number of my friends from Washington and Oregon moving up to 1st kyu (right before 1st black), Shodan (1st black), Nidan (2nd black), Sandan (you get the idea now, right?), and Yondan.
I learned that my time helping out with the college PE class was coming to an end. As a college employee I can see class schedules before the students can, so I saw that starting in Winter Quarter, the class days and time would change. As the change was incompatible with my work schedule, Fall Quarter was my last quarter helping. The college sensei, who is also the chief instructor for Washington State in our organization, made it clear that he wants me to push harder in my own training. I now have more hours to do just that.
this month I was told I would test for i-kyu on December 1, 2018.
I-kyu is the last colored belt rank. I was stunned at testing only
six months after my ni-kyu test. It felt unreal, and I think I was
kind of like a deer in the headlights for the entire month. I had
extra help after the college class, for which I am very grateful.
threw myself headlong into training. That said, I did set aside an
hour for just plain fun. I participated in a one-off Capoeira
workshop and enjoyed it immensely.
December 1 saw me in Oregon testing for I-kyu, and I felt it was my best test ever. This was my last test for a colored belt rank. My next test will be for Shodan (1st degree black). I-kyu is a big milestone. Training after i-kyu is very tough, as the expectations get ratcheted up way more than a notch or two. There are more requirements for Shodan than for any previous test. I don’t know when I will test for Shodan – I will be told when I am ready. All I know is it will be October of some year. Regardless of whether my test is in October 2019 or a later year, I am expected to train as if it is imminent.
few days later, my daughter earned her first belt.
The last day of the Fall Quarter PE class was bittersweet. What a great experience – to help teach where the head of our karate organization got his start in establishing his life in America! I miss it. There is no doubt in my mind that teaching new beginners helps one’s own development in the art. And yet… I learned it’s OK for me to let go. I need more time for solo practice and for just plain conditioning. I am, after all, training for a very difficult test. Others are filling my shoes, so the class is in good shape.
Baraki – the first workout of the new year at our hombu dojo (the
headquarters of our organization) was fun. I feel like Oregon is my
The next day, I attended a self defense seminar taught by one of our sensei. This was my fourth seminar. My interest in someday teaching one-off seminars is still strong. It’s a good fundraiser and it might bring new students into the dojo. But most importantly, it gives people self confidence and a few tools.
My daughter and I switched dojo(s) (schools) this month. I was fed up with traffic, which has significantly worsened even on my little neighborhood streets. My daughter couldn’t take any more late nights. Her school frequently called me at work about behavior issues. We switched to another dojo within our organization so we could spend less time away from home and so my daughter could get to bed earlier. The phone calls ceased for awhile.
a sinus infection, and my family’s needs kept me from doing much
training during this month. Stuff happens. I did manage a trip to
Oregon for brown belt training (3rd, 2nd, and
1st kyu all together) at the end of the month.
Karate organization I belong to holds a tournament in Oregon every
year in March. I attended seminars and renewed my judging license on
Saturday. On Sunday, I sat in a judge’s chair for most of the day,
then competed. I was surprised to find myself in the medal round for
kata (forms) and won second place in a field of eleven. I got
thoroughly trounced in kumite (sparring) to make up for it 🙂
Later in March I attended a free one-off introduction to Tai Chi class at the local library. This was very interesting for me. I hope to have more opportunities to play with other martial arts!
One perk of working for the college is, if an employee is lucky, said employee might get to be a lab rat for a student in the Personal Fitness Training program. At the beginning of Spring quarter, the stars aligned just right for me. I started training under a wonderful young lady who loves pushing me hard. I have learned a lot about fitness from her, and I plan on using what I’ve learned after the quarter ends. I need every bit of conditioning I can get.
I also had the opportunity to take on a sensei’s responsibility. I called out movements for the lower ranks during a belt test. I’ve done this before, but this time it was for one of our Oregon dojo(s). I was nervous because I haven’t done this outside my familiar dojo “homes.” It was a great learning experience. I also was shushin (referee) for the sparring portion of the belt test. I did get a chance to play – two i-kyu candidates needed a sparring partner. I was happy to oblige!
My daughter decided to set aside her training for the time being. She has good reasons, and none of those reasons have anything to do with our dojo. Basically, her autism is getting in the way. She is burned out after school and needs hours to recharge from the strain of having to be social. This has happened before with other after-school activities we tried throughout the years. I had been getting calls from her school again even though she was getting to bed on time. Now those calls have ceased. I miss her. I must say, though, she stuck with Karate far longer than anything else.
Tournament season is intense, particularly when I choose to both judge and compete. I’ve told myself this year it’s OK if I choose not to compete sometimes. There are some aspects of judging that I’m still struggling with, so if I feel I need the time in the chair, that’s what I do. At one local tournament in May I gained a little more experience with refereeing, which is the next step up from judging.
And now for the good Karate stuff I did on my fifth “Karateversary.”
June 3, 2019
I didn’t do much Karate today, but I did do a lot for my karate. Today was the next to the last day with my student personal fitness trainer and the first day of a two-day assessment, my third assessment this quarter. I’ve lost four pounds and gained strength and endurance. Compared to when I started in April, I did more crunches and push ups and ran 100 meters more – some measurable gains! These workouts remind me a lot about training alongside athletes going to Nationals a couple years before I myself went. My trainer pushed me hard, and was so sweet and encouraging about it! I think my sensei (karate instructor) has noticed a difference – he’s been pushing me harder!
After doing all sorts of fiendish exercises and finishing a run of 1.9 kilometers (1.2 miles) in 12 minutes, I stretched, went home, and practiced five kata (forms). Here’s the five I chose:
Rohai (Vision of the Crane) – I love this kata. I like “showing off” by balancing on one leg not once, but three times. I’ll always remember my sensei when I was a teenager telling me that the “crane kick” in the original “Karate Kid” movie wasn’t completely ridiculous, that there is a move in an advanced kata (Rohai) that is somewhat similar. Now that I’ve actually learned this kata… I still think that “crane kick” is totally ridiculous and my bunkai (interpretation) of the somewhat similar move in Rohai is that of defense. Sorry, Sensei.
Aoyanagi (Blue Willow, not taught in the system I study) – To make up for my opinion of the “crane kick,” I practiced the first advanced kata I ever learned for tournaments when I was a teenager. I stepped out with the wrong leg forward the first time I presented it in a tournament! Thanks to Sensei You Tube I re-learned this kata about three years ago. Someday I would love to learn its counterpart – Seiryu, which is not in our system either. My first sensei said that Aoyanagi was taught to women and another version was taught to men (I suspect she was referencing Seiryu). I haven’t remembered to research that.
Seiunchin (To Control and Pull) – This is currently my tournament kata. I’ve had good success with this kata recently. There’s a tournament coming up on Sunday. I’m on the fence about competing. If there’s a chance that I will compete, I’d better have this in tip top form (yes, bad pun, I know). I don’t like judging this kata because by the time the first three moves are complete, the other competitor is mostly finished. I like performing this kata because by the time I compete the first three moves, my opponent is mostly done with her kata. All that aside, I do love the contrast between slow/powerful (“soft”) and lightning-fast (“hard”) movements that typify the Goju-ryu style.
Seipai (Eighteen Hands) – Another kata from the Goju-Ryu style, and just as with Seiunchin, I love the contrast of hard and soft elements. I have to present this kata for my next belt test (Shodan – first degree black) whenever that will be. There are still a few places that frustrate me. Oh well, I’ve only been practicing this since February 2018, so I’m not as “fluent” with this kata as with others. One of the lines from our Dojo Kun (school motto) is “Be patient and not discouraged.”
Empi (Flying Swallow) – Like Seipai, I will be presenting this kata for my next belt test. Other kata from the Shotokan style that I’ve learned are brutal – a real test of endurance. This one is short and sweet, very repetitive, but fiendish. That said, I absolutely love the signature move – a jump with a full 360 degree rotation. Just as with Rohai kata, I love showing off what an old lady like me can do.
I have no idea what my sixth year will bring. My family and I are going through a tough time right now. We hope that we’ll be able to live in this same area, but we might have to move to where it’s easier for my husband and my older daughter to find jobs. I’d have to find a new dojo, adjust everything I do to fit a new style, and jump through whatever hoops I have to jump through to catch up to the equivalent of the rank I am now. Or I’d have to find a new martial art (I’m partial to Filippino Martial Arts, but I’d be willing to go with Krav Maga or Kung Fu). Oh well, the journey is more valuable than the belt color.
That said, you can help us stay in our house and get off food stamps. See that bar on the right? Somewhere along that bar is a link to my Zazzle stores. Or just click here. Buy something – I get a royalty, you get a high-quality product. Thank you!