Wednesday, 14 October 2009

New Dojo

On Monday September 21st 2009, I opened my own dojo club at Cold Harbour school. This is an amazing milestone in my karate journey.

To be honest with you, my main motivation for opening the club was to be able to raise enough money to fund my own training. I'm living on a tight budget and I could not justify spending money on my training when there are other priorities to take care of within a family of 6!

However, something unexpected happened. After the first night at my club, I was absolutely buzzing. I never expected to get such a feeling of happiness and excitement. It was totally unexpected - but, a major bonus. I have had this buzz after every single lesson. When I told my own Sensei about it, he smiled and was really happy for me. I could tell he still gets the buzz himself.

I often feel really happy after a good hard training session. I feel better for having gone. Refreshed. But, the feeling of running your own club - well, it's just something else!!!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Improving yoko-geri kekomi kick

Whilst practicing Nijushiho kata, I have been disappointed with my kekomi kicks. The fundamental issue can be traced back to my knee injury 2.5 years ago. However, I'm not going to use this as an excuse. I am determined to overcome this and make my kekomi kicks awesome (again - because they once were)!

I have gone back to the beginning. Practicing from Kiba Dachi moving sideways. I video'd this to try to isolate what was going wrong. By running the video's back on my digital camera in slow motion I realised that the first part of the kick, raising the knee into position, was OK. The problem was in the kick out.

I was not thrusting with the hips.
I was not kicking from the hips.
I was stopping my leg from extending fully.

All of the above 3 points were caused by an internal psychological barrier which didn't want me to thrust and extend my leg. Probably because my knee injury was caused by stamping down into fumikomi (Jion).

As a result of not practicing the kick properly, I have lost quite a bit of flexibility in my legs too.

So, going back to basics, I am training by doing gedan kekomi kicks. But, by doing this, I force myself to thrust the hips in; to kick from the hips; and, make sure my leg is fully extended!

I have also started using my old ankle weights. I put both weights on 1 leg (= ~2.2 kg) and do 3 sets of 20 knee raises. Then switch legs and do the same. I also do 3 sets of 10 leg extensions from a chair (because I can't afford a Gym membership and my wife won't let me put a home multi-gym in the house :-O).

I have been doing this training for 1 week and today I noticed an improvement in my kekomi kick during Nijushiho kata practice. Fantastic!

However, I must maintain the discipline to keep this practice up because it's not perfect. Just because I have seen a slight improvement does not mean I should slacken off this training programme.

Today, I am better than I was yesterday. Tomorrow I will be better than I am today.

Determination Matters

During my 2 weeks break I kept up my running.

But, towards the end of the 2 weeks I had a really bad run. I started walking much earlier than usual. And from that first walk, it was stop/start all the way home. This poor run made me feel a bit despondent.

So, the next day I set my mind to do the run again but, do it better. I also had karate training for 2 hours beforehand. However, by setting my determination, I was able to go for a good run. It wasn't 100% all the way home but, it was much better than the previous day! The determination in my mind made all the difference.

Today, I went for my run-karate-run routine and was able to complete both run sections without walking! Yes! Interesting, the feeling of determination was still there today. The determination to try a bit harder.

Mantra: Today I will be better than yesterday. Spoken with determination.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Run Martin, Run

Did 2 hours karate training at the dojo today. Then went for a 2.5 mile run - which I completed without walking any of it. Even the evil school hill towards the end. Good progress - twice this week despite a crap diet.

I watched my son going through some katas during the training today. I thought, "Hmmm, he needs a few pointers.". Then, towards the end of the lesson, he did Heian Sandan in his own time & speed - and it was very good.

The other night I worked on some of the problems I noticed with Nijushiho on the video. I wish I could fit more sessions in - but it's a bit of a domestic rollercoaster at the moment.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Frustrating progress

I'm one third of my way through my vacation time. It's a bit up and down.

My work on Nijushiho is coming along quite well. I got my son to video me doing Nijushiho on Saturday at the Loughton dojo. I then analysed the video to see where I needed to improve. Boy, oh boy, do I need to improve!!! The kata was slow and dull. It needs to be faster and sharper. Faster transition between the moves. More kime to create the sharpness. The kicks are awful so I've set up a routine using ankle weights to increase my leg strength and get those kekomi kicks looking much more stable (idea put both ankle weights on one ankle to increase the resistance!). There's a number of other things too.

But, this is the name of the game - self improvement. Today I will aim to be better than I was yesterday. I am a bit hard on myself in terms of slow progress, I really should make an allowance for being ill (multiple bilatateral PE). It frustrates me that I am further away from the standard I was at 6 months after becoming shodan.

However, things are moving forward. I ran 2.5 miles the other day - that's a good break through. I have also got my micro improvements for Nijushiho that I am working on. So, don't be too hard on myself!

Friday, 31 July 2009

I lost 2lbs in weight this past week. Excellent! However, I have 2 weeks vacation ahead of me. - hope I don't put 4 lbs on!

Went for a run, karate, run session this lunch time. I surprised myself by completing the first run. Surprised myself even more by running through Nijushiho 5 times. Then did OK on the run back, particularly at the end where I went through 2 katas naming each move in Japanese to get me to the end of my run.

I have been a bit down this week, and this has affected my training motivation. However, it helped that I researched some stuff on Ohshima Sensei this week. Today's run + my weight loss will hopefully give me a boost going in to my 2 week vacation ...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Recently, I have been analysing the Bunkai for Nijushiho. I am in the process of "internalising" a set of Bunkai whilst performing the kata.

There are some Bunkai moves to Nijushiho which I really like. For example, after doing kakiwake-uke, you can modify the age-uke + tate enpi in to an arm break. This is probably my favourite Bunkai for the whole kata. But it doesn't allow for a proper age-uke technique when performing the kata. So I stick with a more simpler set of Bunkai which allows me to perform the techniques correctly (block a Jodan punch with the age-uke and counter with the tate-enpi).

I picked up 10 stones and lined them up. Then I practiced Nijushiho whilst focusing on visualing the Bunkai. After each completion of the kata, I threw away a stone.

I often wonder whether it would be more productive to teach students kata by first teaching them the Bunkai of key moves, and then after they have had some fun learning the applications, we put it all together in to the kata. I think that some students need to understand the kata before they can "get it" and this would be a way of achieving this. However, I am also aware that different students have different learning styles so this would not suit everyone. Maybe one day, when I have my own club I will be able to try this theory out.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

We went to the Loughton school dojo today and it was fantastic.

It was a traditional lesson, just like the ones when I was a low-mid kyu grade. We did basics in the first hour and all the Heian katas except Heian Sandan. I was sweating cobs by the end of that first hour. During the break I ran through a few bits of Nijushiho that I am trying to perfect (the kicks mostly). In the second hour we went through Heian Sandan in detail. Including the japanese for all the moves and stances. Also bunkai for most of the moves. We ended on some techniques to improve everyone's Miki-Zuki Geri.

I really enjoyed the lesson. It is at just the right level for my recovery period.

My boy did well and he said it was "alright". However, I know that karate will help him so I'm not going to let him give up on this. In years to come he will be grateful for this training.
My karate training is starting to work for me. I can tell this because I was able to handle an argument with my wife much better than usual. And, as a result life turned out better than normal.

I missed training on Wednesday but, made up for it on Friday when I was able to run both legs of my lunchtime training (run-karate-run). During the kata part of this training, I tried to perform Nijushiho holding mushin at all times - I couldn't do it. So, I went back to the beginning & performed Taikyoku Shodan whilst being fully present in the moment & holding Ki. It was better than when I tried to do it with Nijushiho, so I will train like this for a few weeks.

Today my youngest son is returning to Karate because I believe it will help him to iron out some behavioural issues he has. I am very excited - couldn't sleep the other night when he said he wanted to train again! He's currently yellow belt.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Break-through!!! The sokumen kekomi technique in Nijushiho clicked for me today. The key is to simply lift the kicking leg from kiba-dachi, leave it relaxed, then thrust and twist the hips. It is all in how you twist the hips. I also got the first few techniques smoother - much better. NB, there are 2 forward steps at the start of the kata. At yesterday's tournament, I saw it performed without these 2 steps - I checked some old videos and one should definitely be moving forward.

Yesterday I was a judge at the local Shotokan Karate Association tournament. I had to be careful to still take it easy (Doctor's orders) - so no referee'ing, just judging for kata & kumite. The day went very well. Sensei made the decision at lunchtime to close 2 mats and do every event on the centre mat. This was a good idea because it helped to create an atmosphere. Also because we were light on judges and volunteers.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

I have just measured my run on Google Pedometer as 1.3 miles (and back = 2.6 miles)

See my route here :-
The training session at the dojo was good yesterday. Did quite a lot of instructing though as we were getting the students ready for the tournament this Sunday. Was able to run through Nijushiho in my Gi for a change :-) Much nicer doing a kata in ones Gi but, most of my practice is in joggers & t-shirt. Did some sit ups, press ups & leg raises after the dojo.

Cycled in to work today. Did run-karate-run at lunchtime. Very good today. Felt like I had a lot more energy. 1st run completed OK. Ran through 6 katas (Meikyo, Kanku-sho, Bassai-sho, Tekki Nidan & Nijushiho (twice)). The final kata was Nijushiho and I was determined to do it full power full strength. I find this difficult to do outside of the dojo, without my Gi. But I had a very good stab at it and it felt good. The 2nd run was OK. Managed to get to the 2nd bridge before the running broke down. Then it was stop/start all the way back. However, given my current condition and everything, I think this is good progress. Just hope I have enough energy to cycle home.

I took delivery of a new back tyre for my bike today. It needs changing as it is threadbare, so I thought I would buy a more expensive one that should protect against punctures. Looking forward to putting this on before I cycle home. I'm very excited about it!!!! :-)

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Cycled to work & home yesterday (ordered a new back tyre for my bike - going for an expensive one (£28) to reduce the risk of punctures). Went for a run-karate-run yesterday. I ran all the way there; did Nujishiho, Bassai Dai, Nijushiho; ran back (walked quite a bit though).

I have re-energised my diet. I re-read the whole of the Beck Diet book on Sunday & made notes. I think I can manage to stick to 3 meals per day without snacking. Yesterday I did this but had 2 extra biscuits (peer pressure - didn't want to offend my mate - a fake excuse!).

Going to the dojo tonight but, only for 1 hour because my sons football coach wants to speak to me and him after his training tonight. My sons football training takes place at the same school that I do my karate at. i wasn't able to cycle in today because a) my tyre is bald & threadbare, b) I had a doctor's appointment to have some blood taken, c) need to go to bank, d) need to take my sons phone to car phone warehouse to be un-blocked. :-O

Friday, 26 June 2009

Had a good session at the dojo on Tuesday. We had a large class and Sensei divided the room up interestingly. Across the short left wall of the dojo, the green belt children lined up. About 8. Opposite them, across the short right wall, the adults lines up. Also about 8 students. Across the back of the dojo, the remainder of the students (white - yellow) lined up. Then to practice basics, each line took it in turn to do 5 techniques forward & back. It worked very effectively. Every student could see Sensei demonstrating - an issue you sometimes have with multiple lines. Also, the 2 side ends had the longer length of the dojo to go up & down. That's one for the back pocket me thinks.

I went for my old work run-karate-run routine. I run about 1 mile to a nice quiet area next to the Caldecotte lake. I practice my tokui kata, Nijushiho. Then run back. The running wasn't so good (some walking) but, that's to be expected of me coming back after my illness. So long as I'm out there and doing something then my body will be getting fitter and moving forward towards my goal. I can't push myself like I had to for my Shodan because of the Warfarin. My goal is to gradually get back to doing this work-out without walking.

I'm about to go for a run now. I would like to do my run-karate-run routine but there has been a heavy rainfall. The place where I practice kata is on grass so it will be too slippery and muddy. I think I'll just go for a jog around the south lake (~2.5 miles) instead. Bye for now...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

I have been doing more training at home. Managed a 1.5 mile run yesterday, followed by some kata practice. I have been practicing my kekomi kick - as that really needs some work!

I watched Keith Geyer's Kumite DVD yesterday and there are some plyometric exercises in that DVD that I need to incorporate into my work out. Specifically, squatting down, come up & mae-geri, repeat other leg - keep going for as many as you can do! :-)

Situps & press-ups going well.

I will be going to the dojo at Caroline Haslett Primary School tonight. I am really looking forward to that. Last week when I went to the dojo, I found myself entranced by the sound of my Gi trousers rustling as I put them on. It really made me stop and smile. It was sooooo good to hear that sound again!!! :-)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Looking forward to going to the dojo tonight!!!

Monday, 15 June 2009

On Sunday, I went for another 1.5 mile run. This time I made it round without stopping or walking!!! Progress.

Today I cycled in to work (5 miles). Also had to pop to the local town center at lunchtime (another 3 mile round trip).

I emailed my Sensei today to ask if it would be OK to go back and train "lightly" with him on Tuesday's. He said he would be very pleased to see me back at the dojo. So, tomorrow I will return to the dojo and do some "light" / "no contact" training. I'm very pleased about that!

There's nothing quite like wearing your Gi in a proper dojo; with a nice wooden floor; and throwing your arms and legs around for a couple of hours :-)

Friday, 12 June 2009

Yesterday I went for my first run (1 month after being diagnosed). The run was good. I had no breathing problems. I stopped and walked a little bit but that's not unusual on this run for me returning to training from a period off. It's interesting how determined I feel to go on a run when I decide that I should do. I have the same feeling with sit ups but, press ups are a different matter. I really procrastinate when I set myself some press ups to do.

I must do more kata training, somehow now. There's no contact in kata training so in theory I could do a lot of kata training whilst I'm on warfarin.

Now that I'm back to running, I could do my lunchtime thing. I jog about 3/4 mile to a quiet place by Caldecotte Lake. Do some kata there. Then jog back. Sounds like a good plan to me! I will instigate it from next week.

Monday, 8 June 2009

There is loads of free cake on a desk nearby - I haven't had a single piece!
My simple exercises are going OK. Up to 100 situps and 3x20 press ups in an evening. I can feel my upper body taking shape.

My biggest fight however, has always been my fat belly! Even when I went for my Shodan my belly stuck out. I was fit. I was very fit. I could run for 5 miles. It's just that my body was fit enough to carry the weight around with me. I can only lose weight (around my middle) when I get my diet under control.

This is the training I must now pursue - controlling my diet.

The restaurant at work is doing a great Salad bar for £1 a bowl. It seems to be working for me. I've been eating salads at lunch time and I've not craved chocolate in the afternoon anymore. My weight is just under 15 stone, and dropping ever so slightly.

I need a bit more discipline now.

1, Weigh once per week only.
2, Find a good weekend lunchtime meal/routine.
3, Stick to toast for breakfast (not Shreddies!).
4, Keep up the walking and gentle exercise.

Friday, 5 June 2009

In case you're wondering why I'm not talking about training ultra-hard as a Black Belt (I am a shodan black belt in shotkan karate), it is because I was recently treated in hospital for multiple bilateral pulmanory embolisms (blood clots in both lungs).

My breathing was severealy compromised - I could not walk 50 yards down the road without getting out of breath! Normally, I cycle 10 mile round-trip a day for work; I run 2.5 miles twice a week; I train at least 2 times per week in the dojo and more than that on my own; Do situps and pushups every day.

So, to suddenly start getting out of breath was a major sign that something was wrong.

The Doctor's think that the blood clot occurred in my leg after I received a very wayward kicked (which should have been a sweep!). The clots broke away, travelled through my body, through 1 half of my heart, and got stuck in my lungs.

So, 1 month later, I'm getting back in to the fitness routine slowly and carefully - I'm sure that most of you sports people out there know how that feels - it's soooooooooo frustrating. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to do any contact sports until I finish on Warfarin (another 5 months to go).
I didn't get to do my walk around the Lake yesterday. I had to deal with a production problem on a computer system and missed my entire lunch. But, I used the principles of karate during that time.

I was completely honest about the problem and honest about the fact I'd made a mistake earlier in the week. Telling the truth, no matter what, is very liberating. All you have to do then is take a slap on the wrists - which for a Black Belt - is easily absorbable! ;-)

Today I have a high priority personal matter to deal with which has prevented me from going for a walk but, my wife will be out this evening so I hope to fit it in then.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The sun is shining so I'm looking forward to another walk around the Lake today.

That reminds me to checkout a few kata videos before I go. There were a few bits of Jutte and Hangetsu that I wasn't sure about yesterday.

I have a free evening tonight so I hope I'm going to be able to get some time to go through my basics - depends what the missus has in mind. If I tell her my plans I'm sure she would find something else for me to do. You see, my wife isn't keen on me doing karate, never has been. She sometimes says she "supports" me doing it but, her actions say the opposite.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

I popped in to the dojo at Caroline Haslett Primary School, last night. It was good to see my Sensei and the other Karateka. It felt good seeing everyone again. It made me want to train some more.

Today I went for a walk around Caldecotte Lake. As I was walking, my thoughts were just rambling all over the place. So, I decided to go through every kata that I know in my head. Perfect. I completed all 22 katas in my head by the time I had got around the Lake (about 30 minutes).

Focusing your mind on this type of visualisation training is piowerful because it helps to "tighten your mind". I.e. stop your mind from just rambling all over the place and make it focus on something specific.