Archives for the month of: October, 2011

Hello, fellow humans!

Not much has gone on this week. I’m starting to get used to my new schedule of having no free time and I think my previously “smashed foot” may in fact be a broken foot, but only time and a trip to the doctor will tell. So instead of giving a play by play of my life this week, I’d like to talk about what a black belt means, and what it means to me. This will also serve as a preliminary draft for my eventual essay, “What Karate Means to Me.”

First off, I’d like to explain my black belt status. When I trained at Dynamic Arts, I did complete a black belt grading. I believe I was 13 at the time, and at the black belt presentation ceremony, I received a solid black belt with a white stripe running down it’s length. This is a junior black belt and the belt I currently wear. The policy at dynamic arts was that for students under 16, they could not receive a full black belt. They completed the same grading, but were officially junior black belts. I was preparing for my second degree black belt when I left dynamic arts, so I do refer to myself as a black belt.

Once I received my black belt, however, I was hit with a bad case of black belt envy. This is a condition that predominates in the West, as telling somebody you’re a black belt in such and such a martial art will invariably be met with “So I better not mess with you, eh?” or some variant thereof. We expect a black belt to be a master of their martial art, and many act as though they are. However when a student feels that a black belt should symbolize mastery, but they don’t feel they are a master yet, they begin to question whether their belt actually means anything at all. The original designation of black belt, however, did not mean mastery, rather it meant mastery of the basics. So a black belt knows how to kick and punch properly, and their training can now advance further. They can begin to learn subtleties and nuance which are much more powerful than kicks and punches. They can begin to understand the true philosophy of martial arts; ideas that can topple empires and raise people from the brink of defeat.

Alas, I spent a great deal of time feeling that my belt wasn’t worth very much and that my training was in many ways deficient up to that point. This is part of what made it so easy to quit Karate when I was younger. Ironically, it wasn’t until training for another black belt that I realized the value my first held. It symbolized perseverance and discipline. It symbolized four years of training to get it and two years of training with it. It symbolized a strength of character that, when I began to compare my belt to others’, I lost. It did not signify I was a master of Karate, and truly no belt ever will. Gichin Funakoshi (the founder of Shotokan Karate) said, “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.” To me, a black belt means one has developed the skill and discipline to begin training seriously. That is the only, even remotely standard aspect of a black belt. All else is up to the practitioner. If you had to climb a mountain to get your black belt then it symoblizes everything that went into climbing that mountain. If you had to dedicate years of your life to your black belt then it symbolizes those years of your life. My belt in Goju-Ryu will symbolize my entire journey as a Karate-ka.

It will symbolize my first class where I could barely do a push up, my first grading where I advanced to a new belt and my first failed grading where I remained at the same belt three times longer than my peers.

It sill symbolize the day I was asked to join the demo team, the day I began learning to teach younger students, and my preparation and grading for my first black belt.

It will symbolize landing a kick wrong and damaging my knee, a year of physiotherapy, and learning to do that kick better than I did before.

It will symbolize the day I left Karate.

It will symbolize having the courage to start over at a new dojo under a new Sensei, learning to become a better teacher, and learning to see more in Karate than techniques.

It will symbolize millions of punches, hundreds of thousands of push ups sit ups and squats, tens of thousands of hours of training, thousands of repetitions of kata and sparring matches, hundreds of Karate-ka training with and being trained by me, and every that time my body said no and some stronger part of me said yes.

That stronger part: that’s what makes a black belt!

Now that my self-and-small-readership pep talk is over, my weekly recap:

Monday:

  • 160 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 8 acts of kindness
  • 5 km Jogging

Tuesday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 9 acts of kindness

Wednesday:

  • 260 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes of meditation
  • 8 acts of kindness
  • 5 km Jogging

Thursday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 40 minutes of meditation
  • 11 acts of kidness
  • 17 rounds of sparring

Friday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 40 minutes of meditation
  • 9 acts of kindness

Saturday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 6 acts of Kindness

Sunday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes meditation
  • 4 acts of Kindness

So for Week 3 I did: 1120 Push ups, 980 Sit ups, 98 repetitions of Seipai, 55 acts of kindness, 120 minutes of meditation, 17 rounds of sparring, and 10 km of jogging. I’m low by 20 minutes on my meditation, so I plan to do 40 tonight (but we all know about the best laid plans).

Cumulatively, I have: 2660 Push ups, 2520 Sit ups, 253 repetitions of Seipai, 45 rounds of sparring, 20 km of jogging, and 91 acts of kindness. Since this is Week 3 of approximately 10 weeks (little more than that) I should be about 30% done everything. Let’s see how I’m doing:

30% of Push ups = 3000

30% of Sit ups = 3000

30% of Seipai = 300

30% of Sparring = 30 rounds

30% of jogging = 30 km

30 % of acts of kindness = 150

So for everything except acts of kindness and jogging I’m right around where I need to be. The jogging I’ll try to catch up on this week (I really don’t like jogging) and the acts of kindness I should be on track with if I keep doing at least an average of 8 per day (8*7 = 56, so I was short 1 this week).

If you actually made it to the end of this post, then here’s a reward:

Possibly my favorite combat scene from any movie ever, the knife fight at the end of The Hunted.

Until next week, Cheers!

Hello, new or returning reader!

A couple of noteworthy things happened this week: I nearly landed a btwist, smashed my foot into the ground, climbed the CN tower, and participated in the October Crispin Shiai in Acton. The btwist, for those of you who don’t know, is an advanced kick in martial arts and a beginner’s kick in “tricking” (combination of gymnastics and martial arts that while having elements of both winds up really being neither). The body rotates 360° while parallel with the ground, landing on the leg that was jumped off of. It looks like this:

So my goal is to land the kick by the end of the week. Unfortunately, since I’m still not landing the kick, and am practicing on fairly firm mats, some scratches and bruises are unavoidable, including, but not limited to landing on the outside edge of my foot while spinning in the air. This resulted in my foot swelling up and me not being able to walk properly for two days. So I’m going to contact Dynamo and Kips to find out about their respective open gym programs, as they have things like soft mats, and foam pits which would be a big help. Also, since I want to eventually teach the demo team how to do this kick, it would be good to have some better options than telling them to throw the kick until they figure out how to land it. On a somewhat more positive note than the sorry state of my foot, I’ve been working on the triple kick (jump, side kick, split kick, roundhouse kick, land) which is coming along nicely. I can basically do jump, side kick, split kick, land, and jump, split kick, roundhouse kick, land, so it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to get the whole kick. As well I can do a sort of crappy sideswipe, which looks like this:

So I have a gainer and a doubleleg left which I’ve made no progress on at all, and once I have them all individually, I’ll be putting them into combinations. I’ll then be able to make my video and complete that part of my preparation. I’m still a couple of weeks away on that at least.

As well, yesterday I participated in the Enbridge CN Tower Climb for the United Way. This was the corporate climb which I did with a group from work. It’s a fundraiser in which you raise at least $60.00 and then go climb all 1,776 steps of the tower (from the base level up to the main observation area). We got there at 6:30 AM, finished climbing around 8:00 AM, and my official time up the stairs was 18:01 (minutes:seconds). I was pretty winded. After this, I drove to Acton for the October Crispin Shiai, which is a small open level tournament. I spent a good 4 hours judging younger and lower belt competitors before they began the adult black belt divisions (always at the end of the day so they keep their judges). It wasn’t a great showing on my part, and the other competitors did very well in all of the events (weapons, kata, sparring, self defense). I had forgotten a pair of nunchucks at home, so I did my sai kata for the weapons division, receiving 2nd place, did Seipai for the kata division, receiving 4th place, and the sparring division was small (only 3 of us); I won my first match and lost my second, receiving 2nd place. So not an awful showing (I’ve definitely had worse) but not as well as I had hoped. I was pretty tired by the end of that day, and as a result of throwing a few jumping kicks in my sai kata onto the hard gymnasium floor, both feet hurt now.

So, let’s get to the weekly recap:

Monday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 40 minutes meditation
  • 2 acts of kindness

Tuesday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes meditation
  • 1 act of kindness

Wednesday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 1 round of Seipai
  • 14 acts of kindness
  • 2 rounds of sparring

Thursday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 28 rounds of Seipai
  • 40 minutes meditation
  • 3 acts of kindness
  • 16 rounds of sparring

Friday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes meditation
  • 4 acts of kindness

Saturday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes meditation
  • 5 acts of kindness

Sunday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Seipai
  • 20 minutes meditation
  • 6 acts of kindness

So for Week 2 I did: 980 Push ups, 980 Sit ups, 99 rounds of Seipai, 140 minutes of meditation, 18 rounds of sparring, and 36 acts of kindness. I didn’t get my jogging in this week, so that’s the plan for tonight.

Cumulatively, I have: 1,540 Push ups, 1,540 Sit ups, 155 rounds of Seipai, 200 minutes of meditation, 28 rounds of sparring, 10 km jogging, and 36 acts of kindness. I’m still low on my acts of kindness by 41, which means with 11 days down and 61 to go I need to be doing about 8 acts per day if I’m going to catch up by the end. I’m not sure if I’m just the Grinch, or if I just don’t remember most of the things I do. I’d suspect it’s the latter, which is why I downloaded a tally app to my phone so I can keep a running total through the day. It’s only 9:19 as of writing this and I already have 2, so I may not be the Grinch. On the other hand those Whos are very annoying…

Until next week, Cheers!

Hello, very interested reader!

My name is Jared Windover, and I’m currently training in Goju Ryu Karate, and as a part of my black belt preparation I’ll be maintaining this blog to document my progress. I suppose we’ll begin with some more background:

  • 19 years old
  • Live just south of Cambridge, Ontario
  • Studying Mathematics at the University of Waterloo
  • Currently on a Co-op term, working at the IESO in mississauga
  • Karate-ka (practicioners of karate) at Black Belt Schools in Cambridge under Sensei Paul Simoes

I began training in Kempo style Karate when I was 9, at Dynamic Arts in Cambridge under Sensei Allan Lachapelle. I trained there for 6 years achieving a black belt in Kempo Karate, and a black belt in Nunchaku-do. For several reasons I stopped training, and only practiced independently up until May of this year when I sought out a school to resume training at. I contacted Black Belt Schools to try out a class, arrived, and found that several of the students and parents looked very familiar. It turned out that when Sensei Allan stopped teaching, after several instructors, Sensei Paul took on Dynamic Arts, changed the name and moved the location, and by pure chance I arrived back where I’d started. Well, not quite. I actually arrived several pegs below where I’d left. I was the only one there for the adult class that night, so Sensei Paul began taking me through a warm up. I got about 15 minutes in before I ran to the bathroom to puke. I still maintain it was because of the burger I ate earlier… But alas, I went home, somewhat defeated, with the goal of coming back to try a second class and see if I could maintain my constitution. This I did, and after speaking to several of the parents who knew me from Dynamic Arts, Sensei Paul offered to give me a larger role in the club, learning to teach the children’s classes as well as training in my own classes. Thus began the path I am currently on.

Black Belt schools has 4 terms per year, with a belt grading after each of them. The next term will be ending in December with the grading happening in either December or early January. I have from this point until then to prepare for my black belt grading. For those of you unfamiliar with Karate, when you begin training you receive a white belt. As you progress you begin getting coloured belts, sometimes with striped gradations in between solid coloured belts, collectively called Kyu belts. This progresses to either a brown belt or junior black belt or black belt candidate belt, or through some combination of those. At this point (essentially the point I’m at) the student has a period (3 months, 6 months, a year, sometimes more) to prepare for their black belt grading. Kyu belt gradings are usually a test of technique and skills appropriate for that belt level, possibly with a small physical component. Black belt gradings are a punishment. You have managed to get to a high enough level of technique and ability that you are now ready to begin seriously training, and that was very bad of you, and if we have anything to say about it, you won’t make that mistake again. You see, a black belt grading is for most people the most physically demanding thing they will ever do. To this date my grading at Dynamic Arts holds that title. It was 5 hours of repeating techniques at the highest level of your ability, interspersed with physical requirements (x number of push ups in 30 seconds, situps in 30 seconds, etc) finishing by having us karate-ka, used to point sparring with light contact, going full contact with Sensei Allan’s kickboxers. It was hell.

And I’m getting ready to do it again.

The requirements for my preparatory period are as follows:

  1. Maintain a weekly blog (this)
  2. 100 3 minute rounds of sparring
  3. 1000 rounds of a single kata (I’ve chosen Seipai)
  4. 10 000 Push ups
  5. 10 000 Sit ups
  6. 100 km jogging
  7. 20 minutes of meditation per day
  8. 500 acts of kindness
  9. Identify and interview a “living hero”
  10. Write a 1000 word essay entitled “What Karate Means to Me”
  11. Make and submit a training video to Hyper Martial Arts
  12. Wild Card

That wild card makes me nervous. It’s an element that my Sensei may add in at any time and it can be anything at all.

So, daily, I have:

  1. 140 Push ups
  2. 140 Sit ups
  3. 14 rounds of Seipai
  4. 20 minutes of meditation
  5. 10 acts of kindness

and weekly, I have:

  1. 10 km jogging
  2. 10 rounds of sparring
  3. update blog

which while continuing my normal training (at least 2 nights per week, and saturdays) along with working an hour from where I live is going to add up to a somewhat busy schedule.

Anyways, for this week (Oct 12th- Oct 16th):

Wednesday:

  • Received grading requirements

Thursday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Sei Pai
  • 6 rounds of sparring
  • 20 minutes meditation (10 in the morning, 10 at night)

Friday:

  • 140 Push ups
  • 140 Sit ups
  • 14 rounds of Sei pai
  • 20 minutes meditation (10 in the morning, 10 at night)

Saturday:

  • Saturday I made the mistake of thinking I could fit having a life in, and did only 35 Push ups while in class
  • 4 rounds of sparring
  • 10 minutes meditation (morning)

Sunday:

Sunday I paid the price for my mistake, as I had to catch up…

  • 245 Push ups
  • 280 Sit ups
  • 28 rounds of Seipai
  • 10 minutes meditation (night)
  • 10 km jogging

So for Week 1 I did 560 Push ups, 560 Sit ups, 56 rounds of Seipai, 60 minutes of meditation (low by 20 minutes which I’ll hopefully catch up today), and 10 km jogging. I also updated my blog once… or will have once this is posted.

I need to start looking for acts of kindness in my day, as I’m down 50 now (not a great way to start). As well I need to start my hunt for a hero, start composing my essay and begin training the different tricks at Hyper Martial Arts. Considering my biggest trick is a butterfly 540, I’ve got some work to do there as well.

Until next week, cheers!

P.S. my daily and weekly numbers are inflated as I’d like to do the same number of things per day, have nice numbers, and I’m content doing more than is required. It’s not just bad math. Really. It’s not.