I apologise for the lack of additional material on the site.  Since I last wrote I have acquired a black and tan Jack Russell, moved house and subsequently not found the time to fit everything that I wanted to do in to my schedule, including the updates to this site/ blog.

Incase you’re a dog fan, here she is…

Image of Lucy Jack Russell Terrier

In the same period of time; I have recently purchased my 3rd laptop charger as the dog has found it somewhat a caviar addition to her other food including socks, shoes and tshirts.  I do write again however in good spirit and pleased to say that my karate training and desire to increase my knowledge remains strong.  Anyone who thinks I’m making up the laptop charger issue I’ve also enclosed this for your viewing pleasure…

image of laptop charger

You may or may not have read my previous blog post from last year regarding a seminar with Sean Roberts Sensei, but Sunday 16th August gave me the opportunity to once again train with this Shotokan karate legend.  Sensei Roberts who now lives in Hawaii has spent a lot of time with Minakami Sensei who again during a 4 hour session based at both Cocksmoor Woods and Tudor Grange gave me the opportunity to work on karate back to it’s basics.

If i were to try and summarise the objective of the lesson in a brief sentence it would be:

To attack and defend using the body core (torso) by retracting, extending and retracting back to the original position.  This might seem like gobbledeegook so I’ll try and elaborate further….

If you have space and are alone (or in front of others and you won’t get embarassed) then stand up.

Now, If we were to think of the core of our body it would be the torso, the centre of us.  Now remember that our limbs are just extensions of our torso.  When we relax our arms they dangle to the side of us.  Now I want you to twist your body violently left to right and back again multiple times in quick succession.  What happens?

If your arms fling out in mad directions then congratulations you’re doing it right and you’re human!

Image of Sean Roberts Sensei explaining the body mechanics

So what does this all have to do with karate?  Well what if there were a way to control the limbs from the torso when it was engaged correctly?  What if the arm position on engagement of the torso were able to utilise the limb to perform blocks and strikes?

In karate, most karateka would be taught to twist the hips to utilise the power before punching out.  Imagine that but a step backwards.  Our arm not using energy to punch, but our arm merely being an extension of our torso and once that is engaged correctly it will fling out to attack or defend as one with our whole body.

I’m not kidding anyone now when I say this is hard.  Whether it is because we’ve been taught for so long to engage our body in a certain way that unlearning makes it more difficult I don’t know.  We then have to factor in that this isn’t just for one block/attack…  If we recoil the body correctly it will snap back the limb and a swift engagement the other way with our torso will be able to send the other arm or leg into action.

Image of Sean Roberts Sensei Seminar August 2015

After two hours what had we learnt?  I believe everybody in the seminar understood the explanation, but when it came down to applying practically the words in to motion it became difficult.  My determination was undeterred by one sentence from Sean Roberts Sensei,

“You’re getting the hang of it.”

This isn’t something that is learnt over night.  This is something that I can take away and continue to try and engage in my karate.  For some it will work, others it won’t.  It’s up to us as karateka to listen first and foremost to the knowledge and take on board what we can use whilst discarding the rest.

Image of Sean Roberts and Ronnnie Christoper Sensei

I went home with so many questions I wanted to ask and reaffirm my understanding of the concept, but had not asked at the time.  I then found my answer in the most unlikely sources like a light bulb shattering from a power surge through the mains electricity board…

Mr. Miyagi and the karate kid!  If you’ve seen it then no doubt you’ll know what I’m talking about but if not he once spoke about a drum, the small hand held drum with two pieces of string either side no more than 3cm-4cm and attached to the end of these pieces of string were a wooden ball.

So this was Mr. Miyagi’s family secret and at the time it made no sense.

If we were to twist from the drum handle left to right and back again, the string whips round and hit the balls on to the drum.  So, can it be that the drum is the body’s torso equivalent and the string are representative of the limbs?

To me it seems that this “drum technique” actually has real life value and wasn’t just wish wash for entertainment purposes after all.  Have a look below and judge for yourself.

And if that doesn’t convince you, this bloke is showing showing it how it’s supposed to be!

Please note the Miyagi explanation to Sensei Roberts’ teaching is my interpretation solely.  I’d welcome your thoughts on

this.  Happy karate-ing all!

Don’t be scared of the bigger fish..

Today’s post is inspired from a squad training session I had last week.  It’s always good to do a different kind of session outside of your normal karate training as it can help to teach you new techniques, help face new opponents and generally just help to take you out of that comfort zone.

In my opinion there are issues you can find facing the same people week in week out, the predominant ones to me are that you get to learn your opponents fighting style and because of this, there’s a possibility of adapting to fight just one style of opponent.  This as you well know won’t work well in the real world!  The problem I have had, (as I found out last week) was not one of complacency or laziness as you were, but one of learning bad habits.  I differentiate between the two because to an outsider they could be viewed as one or the other, but only the individual training will  really know the answer.

After doing the squad session last week fighting my instructor, I found myself on the receiving end of a good double step gyaju tsuki jodan (reverse punch, head height).  I’d anticipated the move forward, moved back, but not enough as the punch was coming and found myself leaning back to avoid the attack.  This adopted style by myself can only have been greeted with sheer delight as a further step was taken by my instructor  giving me not a cat in hell’s chance of getting out of the way. As rightly pointed out to me; When you lean back and all your weight is sitting on your back foot then moving any more doesn’t become an option.  The result?  Me standing there like a sitting duck with a punch coming that I have no way of moving away from and a nice split lip for my efforts.  (And that’s not to mention the dry cleaning bill)  A friend said to me the next day that he thought karate was all semi-contact, failing to understand how the injury had managed to arrive in the first place.  I politely reminded him that that WAS semi- contact and if it had of been full contact without mitts then the situation would have been a lot worse for me!

A week on and the damage has almost healed, eating certain foods, especially those containing salt tend to bring back sudden reminders of my mistake, but the point is I do not regret what happened.  By venturing out of a comfort zone and training against more knowledgeable karate opponents allows you to learn from your mistakes in a controlled setting so you’re equipped for the real world.  Best to know your mistakes during training than when it’s too late if you know what I mean.

If I go back to my earlier laziness or bad habit comment; This exercise showed me that I’d learnt something incorrectly.  At all of my previous training sessions with the same old opponents I’d been able to get away with leaning slightly as an evasive action and thus by doing this thought it was correct.  Now I know I have to go back to the drawing board and unlearn something I previously thought was right.  It may be a pain in the backside, but I’d rather know now and spend the time working on my technique in the safety of the dojo than to not have known at all and coming unstuck when I need my training the most!

This lip will serve as a gentle reminder for the next few days at least to keep working hard and that there’s always a bigger fish.  Embrace the situation, learn from it and it will make you a lot better for it.  The journey is most definitely a marathon, not a sprint!