Things in life happen that seem to be setbacks and oftentimes they affect your karate training. Just this past week I was in a vehicle accident that has left me feeling like I rowed the Kyle (famous NL ship) single-handedly in the Regatta boat races! In seeing the Dr. and then a chiropractor to get realigned, my mind drifted a little to how this would affect my training. But in thinking about this a bit I recalled Sensei Lee saying something about doing kata in a ‘Tai Chi’ kind of way. Hmmm…
So, last night, down in my rec room, I went through Jion and Kanku Dai in a deliberately slow, extended manner, drawing out every move to full extent, but without any shock or high impact. The focus was on posture and on breathing, and my kicks simply became isometric, high knee lifts. ‘This,’ I thought to myself ‘is really good training!’
I’m not sure how long it will be before I can do Jodan Roundhouses again, but I feel like I’m still training. In slowly flowing through my Kata I feel connected, and I’m actually picking up on things that I otherwise might not have.
I guess if Karate is truly in you, you always find a way…
Last night I sat and watched a video of Dan Kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa. In particular I watched Jion, Tekki Nidan and Kanku Dai. Yes, I’ve seen the video a thousand times, but every time I watch it I get something more out of it. Like every great teacher, Kanazawa Sensei imparts little pieces of refinement that every Karateka can use in their training, and he also does some excellent and creative applications for techniques in the Kata.
Now, watching videos is no substitute for training, but research in the form of reading and watching is an essential component of your karate, I believe. Seeing different teaching styles, studying different interpretations of techniques and listening to different Shotokan philosophies are all pieces of the puzzle that we call training.
So, on a regular basis I’ll sit down with my treasured Bubishi and study a few passages from it, or I’ll watch a seasoned Shotokan Master demonstrate some real karate. In both cases I am keeping my Karate warm (as Nishiyama Sensei would say).
Karate starts in the mind….
In a brief discussion with a Senpai that I respect immensely some time ago, we were discussing Karate and the reasons we train. Senpai has been training for 30 years and he offered me a piece of advice: “Train for yourself. Don’t look around you to see what others are doing. Train for yourself.”
I’ve given this some thought and I think it is sound advice. Everyone has a different take on what a Black Belt should look like in term of their skills; how an organization should be run; how gradings should go and how much time we should spend on basics. Spending time trying o figure all this out, or joining in the debate or discussion is nothing more than a distraction – it won’t help your karate. Sensei Michael Clarke of Australia said this to me: ‘Questions won’t bring you answers. Training brings the answers from within you.’ He’s right. I train and I evaluate my training and in doing so I get better. I plow though the plateaus and go back to basics when a Kata doesn’t make sense or techniques aren’t flowing properly.
In my class there are lots of Karateka to learn from, and there is no need to look for anything negative. Comparisons are silly. Karateka need to train to refine their Karate to the best of their ability – not to the standard of the guy next to them.
It’s basic really… Stop asking, doubting, judging and surmising. Just train for yourself.
“A strong storm swerved toward Japan’s heavily populated main islands Wednesday after slamming through the southern islands of Okinawa, where it dumped heavy rain, knocked out power and injured at least 32 people. The storm also elevated rainfalls in other areas of the country, leaving two people dead.”
In reading the news this week of the ravaging storms in Okinawa, I thought it fitting to take some time to do a little reading on the history of our Karate in Okinawa again – to refresh myself with it. Okinawa, the birthplace where the pieces of our Karate were assembled, is known for its resilience and determination. Not unlike our Shotokan.
Okinawa has survived invasions, wars, typhoons and all manner of storms and yet it – and its people – remains. It seems fitting then that we take the lesson of Okinawa’s resilience and apply it to our dedication to reserving the traditions of Shotokan, to our Karate training and to our everyday lives.
This blog is a shout out to the people of Okinawa, past and present. Your resilience has fostered Martial Arts that are grown out of soil that is steeped in strength and tradition. You will recover and thrive again.
Oss, Okinawa… “Nothing real is ever lost.”
In class last night Sensei Lee used an analogy that I thought I’d share. It was concerning the Kiai. The discussion was about Kiai in competition and how it isn’t simply a split-second phenomenon. In essence, Sensei Lee says, it has three vital components.
With the ancient warriors about to go into battle there was a prelude to what was to come. They would go through rituals where they moved around in a simple dance formation and murmured or recited chants. The notion here was preparation; getting into the correct mindset (which was a clear mind). They were getting in touch with their energy and igniting their will for battle. In Sensei Lee’s teaching last night he likened this to leaving the Yoi position in a fight and assuming a fighting stance. Your Kiai is already brewing; preparing for the ultimate attack.
As with the ancient warriors, the actual battle came next – the peak of energy and intention. It is the dauntless energetic cry of battle that is as mighty as the attack itself.
Finally there is the trailing off. After the peak of the Kia is drained, there is a settling, but a continued awareness (Zanshin). Perhaps the final blow has been delivered but you are still opponent-conscious, ever ready to strike again.
Jesse Enkamp says that the key to teaching karate-ka to find spirit is in focusing on the Kiai. “Learn the kiai. And don’t only learn it, but study it. Watch it. Think about it. Practice it. Re-discover it.”
If you don’t sound like a warrior, you’ve already lost.