martial art

SEMINAR: KARATE KID MR. MIYAGI’S DRUM TECHNIQUE EXPLAINED!

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!

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New Year, New Beginning

I’ve finally managed to find a few moments to get some much needed writing down on my blog.  I hope everybody had a great Christmas (if you celebrate it) and New year.  It’s been 6 weeks of major changes personally for myself.  Early December saw me hit the big 30 and since then everything seems to have changed.  They say life begins at 30 and if that saying was written for anybody it seems quite fitting when I look at my own life.

I only mention this as I feel it has a link to my karate (so bear with me!)

Without getting too detailed I made a big decision which in essence has cost me what I consider to be my best friend.  I had a choice to make and that was to either continue existing in a relationship that was just comfortable or dare to dream that there was something more out there waiting for me.  In short this decision would take me out of my comfort zone and lead me in to an insecurity of the unknown, some may say exciting, but nevertheless scary.  This decision was so hard to make, I wanted to have my cake and eat it.  To have somebody in my life that I loved, but in the capacity of a friend and I knew that I couldn’t have both.  Either way, I took the plunge and made myself vulnerable. Now call it coincidence, luck, fate or whatever but I now find myself in a position with so many opportunities opening up.  I feel for the first time in a long time a sense of purpose of what I want to achieve, more importantly a plan and support to achieve my goals.  I’m not looking back and continue to ask myself how is this possible?  Is it luck?  And then I realise, it’s not luck, it’s because of me.  It’s  because I made a choice to be brave and to trust my instincts. So what has this got to do with karate?   Well it has got me thinking about my karate training as a whole.  If I can reap benefits by pushing to better myself in one aspect then why am I not following this through with my karate?  Sure I’ve done it to a certain degree, but if I take a step back and ask myself honestly now if I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone with new combinations then I don’t think I can answer that with a positive yes.  I always give my all when training, pushing my fitness levels and heart rate to its’ limit, that for me has never been in question, moreover it is during times that I face up to a partner for Kumite.  Deep down I feel as though I confine myself to an (albeit large) artillery of attacks, they nevertheless remain the same.  It’s time for me to try new things and to add new tools to the shed.  Attacks I’d never have dreamed about previously, reverse ashi barai for example after let’s say a mawashi geri.  It might work, it might not, it might have potential and I’ll practise it some more.  I could fall over flat on my backside but so what? I ask myself,

“What am I going to lose, my pride?”

Not possible as my training is to develop me, not impress someone else.

“My ego?”

I can’t lose what I don’t have, even if I did have one Sensei would tell me to leave it outside the dojo anyway. If we don’t put ourselves in the vulnerable position to find out then we’ll never know.  In years to come I’ll end up regretting it and I don’t want to live a life filled with regrets and what ifs.

My karate new year’s resolution?  To try at least one audacious new combination when given the opportunity during jiyu kumite.  I’d like to hear some of your resolutions.  Knowledge is power, let’s get learning!

Advertising to the masses; Quality vs Quantity

I want to talk today about what factors are the most important with regards to karate training for instructors and students.  From an instructor point of view; Is it the quantity of students or the quality? There are many reasons why students decide to take up martial arts.  These include, but are not limited to keeping fit, to gain confidence and to learn self defense.  With this in mind an instructor has a lot to consider when teaching as he must take in to consideration the individual needs of students, whilst still pushing through the ethos that (in this case) karate is first and foremost, a fighting art. In an ideal world, the instructor would train his or her students to be the best they can be.  After all, nobody can be better than reaching that self actualization.  If I talk specifically from a kumite perspective with a goal to winning competition in this scenario, then what can be considered the maximum an instructor can push his students to achieve their full potential? When we train in a controlled setting, working together with our partners to ensure safety; Does this really develop us to our maximum in order to achieve our best?  In my opinion, the struggle of the instructor is that the club is made up of its’ students and whilst pushing some to breaking point is acceptable and beneficial to one student, it could possibly lead to driving another student away.  So the question then is, what is the purpose behind a club from an instructor’s point of view? Is it to have as many students as possible that are enjoying themselves having fun that may necessarily not be as good as they could be if pushed harder?  The benefits of this approach however would be promoting karate to a wider audience.  This in turn could help to advertise karate to more potential karateka creating a snow ball effect if you will.  Or is this approach in fact doing a disservice to the art, promoting quantity over quality as the order of the day. What draws me to karate is its’ uniqueness.  It’s not like playing football or rugby or another mainstream sport.  If you were to compare practicing and working on skill, technique then yeah, you’d find similarities, but karate goes much deeper than that.  It’s a mindset outside of the art and to an extent a way of life.  The Dojo Kun principles of karate transfer in to valuable life skills.  How one presents themselves, their conduct, their attitude, their discipline, their ego (or lack of). I’m personally all for seeing the art develop and grow and would love to see as many students taking part in karate as possible.  Would I want this to happen at the expense of the overall quality of its’ students development though?  Most definitely not.  Allowing this free for all, any attitude accepted approach would in turn see black belts being given out like free sweets and the thought of this churns my stomach.  I’m sure it does happen in some clubs and organisations.  Instructor’s whose main aim is to make as much money as possible for personal financial gain, I’ve heard these referred to as McDojo’s but I cannot see this in any shape or form as being acceptable.  If a true karate instructor had learnt any moral values through the art then this practice would not come to realisation in the first place! Thankfully, all the clubs I know and have trained with have kept to the discipline whereby if you’ve earned that black belt then you’ve bloody well earned it properly.  My Shodan was awarded by the late Enoeda and Sherry Sensei.  These two aren’t giving black belts out!  If you don’t cut it, you don’t cut it and that is something i’m proud of;  To have stood up in front of some of the very best and shown that I have a good standard and thus being recognised for the work I’ve put in over the years. I talk from a completely honest and personal point of view when I write this.  If we focus on a balance of mundane, but gut busting high quality training vs quality training mixed with fun (excluding McDojo’s) then which approach is more valuable to the student?  All I can go are my own feelings.  My instructor’s are top notch.  When I say good, I mean really good.  I enjoy my training to the maximum and give 100% every lesson.  There’s always a burning question in my heart that is left unanswered though.  If I enjoyed it a little less and trained with others to the tune of a bootcamp, blood, sweat, tears and all;  Would this make me better at what I did?  Would the beatings I could potentially, in fact, inevitably take in training toughen me up further to prepare me for a real life situation?  My answer to this?  I honestly don’t know.  They always say grass is greener on the other side and for now at least my teeth, nose and other vitals are (touch wood) still in tact.  Would I be writing this with the same perspective if i were to be getting my backside kicked each week?  Who knows! From a new starters point of view; I’d suggest a happy medium between engaging, fun karate and quality teaching.  This feels like a good balance to begin with.  From there on in it is up to the student to decide the way in they want to take their training.  The only person that can decide if their club is truly beneficial to them is the student themselves.  Stick to your guns, feel with your heart, give it your all and the rest will follow.  

Ronnie Christopher: Thank you

Over the years I’ve been taught by many instructors in the art of Shotokan karate.  All of them having different teaching styles and all bring something new to offer, but one in particular will always stand out above the rest.  It was and still is his club that I train at today 22 years on and although I don’t see him as much as I used to, the techniques and advice he has given me stay with me.  What makes him so great isn’t just the number of National, European and World titles he has won, but also the down to Earth, good hearted nature within which you feel comfortable in his presence.  The fact that he is approachable is shown by the feeling that you get with the mutual respect in conversation.  There is no me and you, but a sense of equality.  If I try to explain it better I could only liken it to when you go on a night out and you see the small minority of door men or bouncers as you were giving it the big “I am.”  This attitude comes across as cocky, negative and can spoil a night out just because some idiot wants to use their job as an excuse to show off and cause trouble.  Being able to handle yourself looks a lot better and gains a lot more respect when it is kept on the quiet.  When you are at your best, you don’t need to prove anything to anybody except yourself.  This is Ronnie Christopher, a man I’m proud to call my instructor, somebody I’m proud to say that I’ve been taught by one of the best in the world.

I remember turning up for my first lesson at 7 with you standing in front of me, me with a pair of shin protectors (God knows why) telling us how karate is for self defence only and showing me how to clench a fist properly.  Over the next few weeks you started started to show me my first (Kihon) kata and more techniques, but you didn’t just teach me karate.  You taught me my left and right!  You used to say, step forward with your left leg!  I’d duly oblige before you told me you meant my other left.  I still remember years ago you saying which hand do you write with? Before I’d even lifted my hand you said to me you write with your right so the other one is your left.  I use this still today when I pass down what you have taught me through teaching and it’s amazing to think how these little mannerisms have stayed with me all these years.  These are things that will live on from generation to generation when we both inevitably draw to the end in the circle of life.

Confidence is something that I lacked as a child.  Even today I struggle to find the balance between confidence and not appearing to be cocky, airing on the side of less confident as to not offend others, but within the dojo or competition it is a different story.  You always believed in me and when you tell me I can do something, I believe you.  Sometimes I think you have more faith in me than I have in myself.  It’s really hard to explain in words what you have done for me, but for everything I am eternally grateful.

You may never end up reading this, but if you do then I’d like  to say from the bottom of my heart; Thank you for believing in me, thank you for inspiring me and it is an honour to call you a friend.

Is karate developing a soft persona?

Times seem to have changed plentiful since when I started Shotokan karate over 20 odd years ago.  Back then in the Karate Union of Great Britiain (KUGB), head guards were unheard of, let alone mitts.  Why then the change over the years to how karate looks to be heading?  Or is this the segregation and introduction of a karate sport that has driven wedges between traditional kareteka and “new wave”  practitioners of the martial art.

I cannot say that I definitely know the answer, but do have an opinion on the matter.  Over the years in my opinion we have adopted some negative traits from our American friends across the pond, one being a suing culture, which has spread to the UK like wildfire.  If you turn on the TV nowadays you have little or no chance of watching a programme without seeing some compensation no win no fee, injury lawyer advert, which I believe has had a negative impact on our culture.  The trouble is that I see a lot of these companies as driving out the very worst in our human nature.  A chance for a solicitor business to make money and hone in on individuals prompting them to act in a way that is very much money orientated and that makes me sad.  Call me an idealist, but trying to see the very best in people makes it difficult when temptation of money through false claims are so transparently advertised and splashed all across the media.  Now I’m not saying that all cases aren’t genuine, some are.  However if we genuinely feel that we need compensation for loss of earnings through ill health resulted in an accident that isn’t our own then I don’t believe we need to have such forceful advertising campaigns being pushed on to our telly sets.

What has this got to do with karate?! I hear you ask.  Well this very culture of suing has transformed the way karate instructors have to operate in order to cover their own backs.  This transformation in the sport of karate with regards to safety has come in to place to directly protect instructors teaching their pupils.  What is ironic about this is that the formation of a good teacher pupil relationship is based on that very thing, trust.  Unfortunately the safeguards being put in place almost seems as though that trust bond has immediately started on the wrong foot as every instructor is compelled to protect themselves from a financial claim.

For me personally all this health and safety has taken a negative impact on the way I feel.  I understand that times change and adaptations need to be put in place to progress with these changing times, but this change has been built entirely on the very worst in human nature.

Looking from the other side; Are these changes in fact a good idea?  Am I being too judgmental personally and seeing the very worst in people?  Maybe it is a case of safety implementations making karate more accessible to all.  The chance to give parents another option when choosing a martial art for their children to say “Hey! Look! We’ll make sure your child learns to defend themselves in a safe environment.”  This may very well be true and helps to lower the fear threshold of people looking to take up karate.  All I can say is that when I started I was still kept safe, techniques were and still are semi contact.  It has worked for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world up until now so why the need for change?  It’s not to say I’ve never been caught and injured slightly with a little bit too much lack of control with a side serving of my fault, however I can count the amount of times that has happened on one hand.  Incidentally, the three I can think of in 22 years has also taught me some of my most valuable lessons and has changed the way I do certain things in karate forever.

In conclusion there are various factors that have brought around this change.  When looking at it from one perspective it looks detrimental to the art, the other gives it a more accessible, karate for all outlook promoting inclusion.  To me though karate is, and always will be a fighting art.  That is was it is and one should take it up with the understanding that you may very, very occasionally get hurt.  If you don’t like it then there are many other sports out there to choose from.

I look forward to hearing everyone’s views on this.

 

Osu

Hats off to this cat

I read an article in the Daily Mail last week that inspired me with the bravery and courage shown to write this short piece.  A tiny wildcat took on 4 lionesses in a wildlife park in South Africa after they ganged up on the creature reportedly 30 times smaller than themselves.  Unfortunately the wildcat ended up the worse off paying with its’ life, but that didn’t stop him from getting a good scratch to the face before his inevitable end.

 

Images sourced from the Daily Mail

 

ImageA wildcat is approached by a lioness in a wildlife park South Africa

 

Image3 more lionesses surround the wildcat

 

ImageThe wildcat snarls and hisses at lionesses putting up a tremendous display of courage

 

ImageThe wildcat gets a scratch in across the face of the lioness

 

The sheer bravery this cat showed is an example to how we should be when doing karate or any other martial art for that matter.  In this “game”; bravery and determination is half the battle.  If we don’t believe in ourselves and make it easy for our opponents before we start then we may as well not show up at all.  It is important for us to not give up and to fight to the bitter end.  If we fail ourselves in this respect and don’t have the confidence to not go down without a fight, then how can we expect anybody else to respect us come the end.  As sensei Ronnie Christopher so correctly puts it:  “It’s you or me, and it’s not going to be me!”

 

Full story can be found here (opens in new window)