Archives for posts with tag: Karate

Hello whozits!

So 4 months, and several missed classes into Systema, and my most recent class was a near-complete debacle. I was distracted, and tense, and was only mildly comforted at how much cleaner the mats were from my being wiped all across them. I’m also fairly certain I got partnered with Snake Pliskin:

(That first guy in the beginning; that’s how I felt)

Anyways, despite my freshly humbled self, I’d like to compare and contrast some aspects of Karate and Systema. Now, while I will try to be as general as possible, do keep in mind this is from my experience in both. This is by no means a comprehensive survey of the two martial arts.

For God’s sake, don’t cite this in your thesis!

With that said, thusly we proceed.

First of all, I’ve noticed that they both seem to be complete martial arts, at their highest level, and by that I mean that if you train sufficiently long in both martial arts then you’ll be proficient in all aspects of hand to hand fighting, including, but not limited to striking with hands, elbows, knees, and feet, stand-up grappling (applying locks, chokes, and takedowns from standing), and ground-fighting. I’ve seen balance points, finger locks, and pressure points in both arts. They are both sufficiently complex systems that their mastery involves enormous physical, intellectual, and spiritual investment.

However, there are some important differences in focus, and perhaps more importantly pedagogy that can helpfully distinguish the two.

Karate originated as a method of self-defence. It has origins in family styles of kung fu, and in regional fighting styles of Okinawa. It has many tenets, but two of relevance are: “There is no first strike in Karate,” which can be interpreted as a karate-ka only responding to an aggressor, never instigating an attack; and “One strike, one kill,” which emphasizes the importance placed on ending a confrontation immediately. Thus, karate is strongly rooted as a civilian martial art, and while it has been adopted by military and law enforcement, that was not its primary purpose.

Systema, on the other hand, developed directly out of the Russian military, and Ryabko Systema is specifically designed by Mikhail Ryabko who is heavily involved in the Russian military. While the class work is definitely not of an aggressive nature, there is definitely a military focus. Deception and the ability to completely end and control an encounter are emphasized. Whereas some martial arts (karate included) advocate running away from a conflict (not a bad plan), so far I haven’t seen this at all in Systema, which suggests its designed for encounters where running away isn’t an option. To my way of thinking, this seems decidedly military. So the first important difference would be that Karate emphasizes civilian self-defence, whereas Systema emphasizes a more military approach.

The next difference is in the expected progression for a student. While a karate-ka will begin very tense and static in their movements, they will eventually become proficient at fighting in this way, and then move towards developing a more comfortable, soft way of fighting. This is a reflection of it being designed to quickly enable somebody to survive basic violent encounters. Systema, on the other hand, maintains its softness from the start. Tension is the enemy right from the beginning. In my opinion, this makes the beginner Karate-ka a more effective fighter than the beginner Systema student. However, as the Karate-ka becomes proficient at fighting in a hard way, the Systema student becomes a better fighter through softness, and at this point any advantage held by the Karate-ka may no longer exist.

The last (important) difference is pedagogy. While Karate is taught through practising techniques and kata, and sparring, Systema is taught almost exclusively through partner drills. This, I believe is a more effective way of teaching (though it doesn’t conform so easily to a nice, orderly line-up of students, which I suspect would have offended traditional Japanese sensibilities on some level). Working with a partner immediately gives you feedback on the technique you’re working on, and how it needs to be modified, or perhaps that it won’t work with a particular person. It also keeps you aware of the other aspects of using the technique (in a standing armbar, for example, it’s easy to forget that the person has another arm). In fairness, however, partner work would not be an effective way to learn a kata, and being able to practice kata without a partner is a significant boon (as surely some practitioners were practising in secret, and therefore had no partner). As well, my particular dojo emphasizes a lot of partner work in the advanced program (I’m sure, due in no small part to my Sensei’s having trained in a number of other martial arts as well).

So, to summarize, Karate is a civilian-oriented, initially hard, and solitary martial art, while Systema is a military-oriented, consistently soft, and social martial art.

But now for the important question-

Which is better?

And the answer:

Don’t ask dumb questions.

Cheers

Good Yester-morrow!

Over the last couple of months, on weekends, I’ve been working with two of the students at my dojo, Scott and Hayden, on developing some demo routines. The first we decided to tackle was expanding and refining a sequence of knife defences that they put together one class. It brought me back to the days when I was just starting on the demo team at Dynamic Arts, and reminded me of how far I’ve come (in a less prideful way than that sounds). My first practices were spent sitting and watching as the students who were already on the team practised their routines and got more help from Sensei Lachapelle than the rest of the school. Eventually the other newbies and I got to join in on the fun, starting off learning their foundational routines in which places would be found for us, to eventually being integral parts of an exciting new routine, to finally performing individually, or at the front of a group. It was quite a journey, and its sad that it ended the way it did.

But maybe I shouldn’t say ended, since now I’m getting to pass on what I learned there, and what I’ve learned other places to a new generation, and maybe build a demo team that’s as good as what we had there- or even better!

So, with that in mind, here’s a slightly outdated video of Scott and Hayden performing their knife routine:

Looking at it now (a few weeks after actually filming it) little things are starting to bother me, many of which we’ve already fixed or improved. I’ll post an updated one next week, showing where they’re at now.

Hello webbies!

Yesterday, I read every article on mnmlist.com. It’s a good blog, and was a good read. Leo (the blogger) is a minimalist, which for him involves owning few possessions, simplifying his work schedule, and following a vegan diet. Minimalism is an aesthetic movement that seeks to find the essence of something by removing everything unnecessary. An example of this would be an architect using flat clean surfaces to create a particular shape. Much of Apple’s products also have  a minimalist aesthetic. As a philosophy, though, minimalism seems to be about simplifying to find greater happiness and contentment. For example, Leo owns a minimum of clothing (it sounded like about a drawer’s worth!), has no car, a small house and no icons on his desktop. He also has a wife and 6 kids (Ha! Not very minimalist in the child-department, are we, Leo? Just kidding; he addressed this in his blog…).

So far, the philosophy has inspired me to clear out my facebook. I’m now down to about 70 friends (all of whom I actually care to keep up with), down from 200+. What I like about this philosophy is that it is extremely well-defined. In considering any choice, it is usually very easy to apply minimalism to help make it.

(LOLNote: I had this entire next paragraph written out in math-ese, to show how well-defined the philosophy was. Then I realized that’s ridiculous.)

Simply ask, “Will my life be simpler, or at least not any more complex, by making this choice?” If the answer is yes, then it’s a good choice; otherwise, it’s not. But, presumably, given the choice between a simple life, or a more complex one, we all would make the choice to have it be simpler. The problem, then, is that we don’t ask the question, and thus never frame the question that way. It’s a constant process of evaluation, and re-evaluation, looking for things that you don’t need or that are unimportant and getting rid of them, thereby discovering what’s truly important.  It was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” (but presumably in Greek).

As a way of life, it’s a very interesting, albeit simple, philosophy that I think deserves merit. What I’d like to consider, however, is applying this philosophy to Karate (and to a lesser extent, all martial arts). Is there a way that our training can benefit from minimalism? I think there is, especially when we consider the origins of Karate, and Karate for self-defence. Most modern Karate-ka will learn at least 5 or 6 kata before their black belt, and I’ve heard of curricula with upwards of 10 kata. As far as individual techniques go, at my old dojo we had:

  • high block
  • low block
  • inward block
  • outward block
  • head block
  • leg check
  • reverse punch
  • jab
  • cross
  • hook
  • vertical punch
  • ridge hand
  • spear hand
  • back fist
  • hammer fist
  • half fist
  • throat strike
  • eagle’s talon
  • chop
  • palm heel strike
  • reverse crane
  • crane’s beak
  • middle knuckle
  • tai-chi palm
  • eye strike
  • tiger’s claw
  • front kick
  • lift front kick
  • round house kick
  • power-roundhouse kick
  • side kick
  • pumping side kick
  • spinning side kick
  • jump-spinning side kick
  • back kick
  • spinning back kick
  • jump-spinning back kick
  • knee strike
  • hook kick
  • spinning hook kick
  • inward crescent kick
  • outward crescent kick
  • wheel kick
  • axe kick
  • tornado kick
  • front fall
  • back fall
  • side fall
  • front roll
  • back roll

And don’t even get me started on self-defences. For my first black belt grading, I had to know upwards of 50 self-defences for things like “double wrist grab from behind” or “hair grab from behind” or “bear hug from behind”… huh, apparently all of my attackers are cowards…

I’m not the first person to suggest that this sort of “feature-bloat” is ultimately detrimental to a martial artist’s development, but what then should be done? We want to be prepared for all situations, and each of those techniques has a situation in which it is extremely useful.

Well, my Sensei has told me that before Karate spread from Okinawa, the old masters would know 1 or maybe 2 kata. They would practise these kata exclusively, and guard them closely. By doing this, they gained insight into the kata, not just understanding its practical applications, but understanding the subtle variations required for different body types; the flow from one movement to the next; where to breathe and how to breathe; when to be tense, and when to be relaxed. By reducing the breadth of their practice, they were able to increase the depth. During my preparatory period for my grading, I found the same thing, that by focusing on Seipai almost exclusively, I made more progress in understanding that kata than in all the rest put together. This is minimalism; narrowing your focus, to appreciate something to a greater degree.

By understanding these techniques better, their training became simply to get to a position to apply one of these techniques.

We must then decide what our goal is in training in a martial art. Are we looking to be devastating fighters? Or are we looking to be impressive athletes and acrobats? Or perhaps (as is my case) some combination of the two? I believe that in the former case, adopting a minimalist philosophy is wise, and having a small set of tools you’re extremely proficient with, will serve you much better than having a whole toolbox that you only kind of, sorta, “I-saw-this-guy-use-it” know how to use. In the athletic case, I think that training all of the movements is a perfectly legitimate path, will give you variety and will allow for more exciting performances. In the latter case, I think a combination of both methods is necessary. Train all movements, but focus on a particular set to develop proficiency for practical purposes.

Yes, I can do a butterfly kick, but I’ll stick to Seipai when my attacker gets a choke on me…

from behind.

Good day, all!

So I’ve been living in Vaughan, Ontario for the last three months on a co-op term. That means I’ve been working full-time, approximately 90 km away from the dojo I train at. Since I’m also car-less in the interim, I haven’t been to a single week-night class. I have, however, been back on weekends to teach classes on Saturday mornings.

The second thing that my co-op in Vaughan means, is that I’m in a completely new martial environment, one which just happens to include Vladimir Vasiliev’s Systema school.

Yup.

I’ve been cheating on Karate.

But with videos like this, who could possible resist that sexy little nymph of a martial art:

Systema (also known as Russian Martial Art) was founded by Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev (Mikhail’s top student). A quick google (lol, verbing nouns) reveals that Mikhail and Vladimir are both accomplished in the russian military and secret service (read: Spetsnaz). Supposedly both were involved to varying degrees with Russian counter terrorism and black ops, and Mikhail is even cited as having literally written the book on hostage negotiations. Vladimir’s school in Thornhill (which is either part of Vaughan, or right next to Vaughan; I still don’t really know. Supposedly I actually live in a place called Concord right now…) is the Systema headquarters for the western world. So, naturally, living a mere twenty minute bike ride away, I made an effort to try out a few classes.

Okay, so I “tried out” classes the way a bear “tries out” your processed cheese slices; with no intention of ever going back to roots and berries again.  When I stopped in one day, before trying a class, I saw Vladimir hitting some of the students with a big leather whip. It looked painful (it also is painful). Coming from my pressure point work with Sensei Paul Simoes, any class with that level of masochism was immediately attractive.

(Side Note: The purpose of the whip was not punishment. It was an exercise to teach you where the tension is in your body. If you’re completely relaxed, then you’ll allow the energy from the whip to pass through your body effectively. If you’re not, then it will get blocked, which will be interpreted as pain. Big pain.)

The classes involve a multitude of drills unlike anything I’d ever done before. There’s a big emphasis on partner work, ranging from walking over your partners body using your fists, to rolling with your partner on the ground, to walking towards and punching each other, and all sorts of things in between. Some of the conditioning exercises are pretty brutal too. One involves using your fists against a concrete wall, walking down the wall as you walk your feet further and further out until you’re in a superman position, supported by the friction between your fists and the wall, and then going back up. Others involve holding your breath (on exhale, which is much much harder, I’ve learned) while doing push ups or sit ups (or squats or leg raises or running or that wall walking drill or just lying down or…).

I’ve been trying to understand the idea behind Systema (I think all arts are grounded in ideas), and here are the two I’ve learned so far:

  1. Be tensionless

    This is perhaps the most base concept of Systema: all pain comes from tension. No tension, no pain. There are stories of drunks falling over bridges and walking away with just a few scratches because they were relaxed when they hit the ground. Its the same concept here. When you get hit, breathe out and relax. When you hit, stay relaxed. When you move, stay relaxed. If you let tension develop in yourself, then it gives your opponent a method of recourse- a counter. A good way to test and train yourself in this regard is to do push ups while being aware of the tension in your body. If you can do a push up while staying completely relaxed, then you’ve got a good shot at being tensionless in your training. I’m just starting to be able to feel the tension in myself, and it is disconcerting. When I strike, I’m noticing that there are different parts of my body where the energy doesn’t move smoothly, and these areas would be especially susceptible to counters. The other place I’ve noticed tension is psychologically. In Karate, it’s become such a routine that its easy to focus on what I’m doing and clear outside worries, but with Systema, there is much less ritual and routine, so I don’t have the same ease. I often find my mind wandering to other things in my life, and it takes conscious effort to regain my focus.

  2. Do your own work

    In Karate, I’d learned (often from personal experience) that in sparring matches, the person who’s able to play his own game and make his opponent also play his game would usually be the winner. For example if one person had a very aggressive, quick style and was able to make his opponent (who supposedly doesn’t have the same style) spar in the same way, he’d probably win. But Systema takes it further. In everything you do, don’t allow yourself to get bogged down by what other people are doing. If you’re moving, move for yourself, not for your opponent. Similarly, when you take a stance, either to strike or for some other purpose, its important that you’ve taken the stance you want. You should be stable and centred. It’s the only way to deliver power effectively and, more importantly, consistently. I think I’ve improved the most in this regard. I’ve stopped worrying so much about what my partner’s doing, and focused on what I’m doing and what my goals are for the exercise. If I want to focus on taking a proper stance before striking, then I’ll make sure I’ve got that stance before I perform my strike, even if that means my strike misses, or is too late. It’s also good for the ego, being a beginner again.

Systema: it is not a magic system for destroying any attacker, but it is a legitimate martial art in its own right, and its instructors are highly skilled, leading people to alternately claim it as superior to other martial arts, or completely fraudulent. One thing I can say with regard to the sceptics out there: every demonstration Vladimir does looks just like the videos on YouTube, and nobody in that room is trying to make him look good; they’re just trying to learn from him.

I see this training, not as a betrayal of my beloved Karate; oh no! But instead as a complement, so that I can better understand the weaknesses in myself, and properly direct my training. It’s also given me some great drills to torture teach my students with!

P.S. I just learned that in the Japanese penal system, seiza position is an integral part of “correcting” prisoners’ faulty attitudes: http://amblerangel.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/hell-raising-teenagers-in-asia/

What Karate Means to Me

Jared Windover

Karate, literally translated means empty hand, and is thus a way of defending oneself when one’s hands are empty; a means of unarmed combat. Karate is a lone Okinawan defending his home and family, standing tall against a Samurai horde. Karate is a man striking a makiwara late at night while his family sleeps, with the threat of death hanging over his head if he is found out. Karate is the softness of yin and the hardness of yang. Karate is all of these things and much more, however, this is not what Karate means to me. To me, the meaning of Karate can be found in three things; a staff, a belt, and a pair of shoes. These are what Karate means to me.

The staff is often the first weapon a student learns, and it was the first weapon I learned. However, I was never attracted to it for its potential as a weapon. I was attracted to it for the way it moved. It combined power and grace, speed and control, and it allowed the person using it to transcend the confines of their body and become more than they were. I would sit there and watch while my Sempai practiced, hoping that one day I’d have the chance to use it. The class in which I first used the staff was the most exciting I’d ever had. I learned to strike forward, and to perform the four corner strikes. At home I started practicing those strikes on the street in front of my house, and I would practice for hours. I practiced until it was too dark to see what I was doing and I had blisters on my hands. Then one day, after a demo team practice, I was asked if I’d like to learn the more advanced staff techniques under my Sempai; an apprenticeship of sorts. Ecstatic doesn’t begin to describe how I felt at that moment. I learned everything I could about how to use the staff while I had the chance. The fervour that I had for the staff, I believe, is the spirit of Karate. It is practice and practice and practice, not because an instructor is telling you to, but simply to improve at your art.

Another symbol of Karate for me is the belt. Not just any belt, but the Karate belt. The first time I wore it I had no idea of the significance it would one day hold for me. In fact, when I first began Karate I intended to quit at black belt. At the tender age of 9, I did not realize the irony in that. Regardless, it is now something very important to me. I know very little about the origin of the belt, but one thing I do know is that when the belt went on I was a different person. I was focused, and I was there to train. When I’m wearing my belt, I’m not only representing myself, but I’m representing my dojo. Not only am I representing my dojo, but I’m representing an entire history of martial artists leading up to me; others who have worn the gi and the belt and have called themselves Karate-ka; others who have lived and died by their art, and those who have passed it on to the next generation. When I wear my belt, there is a certain protocol with which I’m supposed to act, and a certain role which I’m supposed to fill, and it must honour all of those who have gone before me. Eventually, as is the way for many things in life, the belt ceases to be the reason you act the way you do, and you take that action into the rest of your life. Similarly, I have heard mastery described as the point at which you forget all you’ve been taught. It is not forgetting in the sense that you no longer know; it is forgetting in the sense that it is no longer conscious, but subconscious; no longer what you do, but what you are. For me, this is embodied in the belt. I am a Karate-ka when I wear it, and I am a Karate-ka when I don’t, and for this reason it symbolizes all that I am as a Karate-ka.

Lastly, a pair of shoes; two shoes put side by side, evenly, against the wall, with a bunched up sock in each. This is the last thing I saw before entering the dojo on more days than I can count. It is a practical step, as training in bare feet develops strength in the feet and begins to condition them. As well it helps keep the dojo tidy, as you’re not tracking dirt and mud in. When students first begin, they remove their shoes hastily and rush into the dojo to begin their training. Sometimes students are reprimanded to tidy their shoes so that there’s room for everybody else. It takes time for this to develop independently, but it does, and it did in me. I now take a small amount of pride in making sure my shoes are put neatly in their place before beginning my training. I spent a particularly long time, however, rushing to remove my shoes and begin training, and this was evident in other parts of my life as well. I was reluctant to make my bed, do chores, or tidy my things. It all seemed like time that should be spent more effectively on other things. Eventually, however, and I feel this was due to my training, I began to examine these habits, and realized that they were not in the spirit of Karate. My previous Sensei had a saying, which I’m sure others have said before: “It is not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice.” By being haphazard with the things in my life, I was reducing the value of my life. By rushing from one thing to the next, I was losing the lessons that could be learned from those things. It is this, more than anything, which now characterizes my training. My goal is no longer to learn something new, it is, rather, to gain as much value from what I am doing as I can extract; whether it be a kata, or simply putting my shoes away.

Karate is an art, a philosophy, and a way of life. As such, its meaning to me cannot be adequately summed up in an essay, nor a book, nor an entire library. It is something that has penetrated to my core, and will be a part of me so long as I live. It has realized fervour in me, taught me responsibility, given me a sense of community and history, and taught me to look for value in all that I do. It has changed who I am, and for that I am forever indebted to my Sensei, my previous Sensei, my Sempais, all of my classmates, and an entire lineage of martial artists. To make it perfectly clear, it has made me who I am today, and I can no more define what it means to me than I can define myself. The three items are images that, for me, are indelibly linked to Karate, and while Karate is much more than the sum of those parts, Karate can also be seen in the slightest of things; a punch, a breath, or the eyes of a master. Or a pair of shoes, side by side, with a bunched up sock in each.

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.