Sunday, 28 August 2011


by William Ernest Henley; 1849-1903

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Training with my new Sensei

In my post from the other day, I mentioned about how my original Sensei taught details.

This made me more observant of my current Sensei and how he teaches.

Interestingly he also teaches in detail - just a different set of details. This is probably the details that their Sensei's drilled in to each of them.

So I consider myself to be in a lcuky position of having my details "broadened" - not replaced!!! I now think it's so important to have multiple Sensei's from different associations.

That's good because my job takes me to different places so I can make the most of this in the future :-)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Lift up the self by the Self
And don't let the self droop down,
For the Self is the self's only friend
And the self is the Self's only foe.

Training with my original Sensei

Today I had the opportunity to train with my original Sensei - Sensei Gareth Richards (and Sensei Phil Culley). I have trained with Sensei Gareth since white belt in 2003. Before today, I haven't trained with him for over a year.

What struck me most was that I was missing detail from my current training. For example, we went through 1 kata in the main class, Tekki Shodan. There was plentiful supply of detailed information about the kata and about the individual techniques. We also covered Bunkai. I found this much more interesting than just going over the Heian katas (over and over again). I also found it a stark reminder of how lazy I have become - to not know the bunkai for the lower grade katas.

Similarly in doing basics, there would be lots of reminders about the detail of different techniques.

However, one thing inspired me more than that. Watching Sensei demonstrating the bunkai, I could really see how it would work, effectively. This is different to my own implementation of karate, probably because I don't fully believe that my karate would be very effective in a real situation. I think I need to believe more in my own karate. I think that when I'm training, I should aim more for perfection of each technique and believe that it would be effective. I also think that I should do more tournaments in order to prove to myself that my karate can be effective.

Friday, 1 July 2011


Another aspect that I have been working on this week is "feeling" my techniques. Empty my mind, be present, and feel my body as it is moving through the techniques. Thereby removing any time wasting conscious thought processes. It's still work in progress.

Just Relax

I am currently re-reading "Waking Dragons" by Goran Powell. It's an excellent book, I find it very inspiring.

There was a part of the book where he talks about relaxing during your technique. This is something that I thought I already understood. However, he explained it in a way that made me wonder if I was getting the most out of it. Goran says that your technique should be like a bullet being fired from a gun. If the barrel of the gun was too tight for the bullet, it would slow it down and make it less powerful and less effective.

Likewise, if you tense your muscles to get your fist from the hip to your target, then that muscle tension is in itself a resistance to the full force of the technique.

This stuff I knew already but I also applied my understanding of Ki energy - as the gunpowder starting from the hara - and let the technique do its work with as much relaxation as I could give it after the initial blast.

I took this principle to my class on Wednesday and I got a big step change in my techniques! I really focused on being relaxed doing an oi-zuki or mae-geri. Not only were my techniques faster but my Sensei even commented on how good the techniques looked.

I was really looking forward to taking this in to my kata training but, my knee took a knock and I had to take it easy for the rest of the lesson :-( I can't wait until it's better to try this out some more within the kata.

Last night I read some more of Waking Dragons. Goran was talking about doing a kata "soft"- and how it had helped him refine his techniques and he felt it moved him on. Looking back on my blog, that's exactly what I was doing in my previous blog post! Although the next time I get an opportunity to practice a kata softly, I will be more focused on making it absolutely perfect in every minor detail.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Back to basics

Tonight we had 2 new adult beginners at the club so, Sensei went over the basics.

What a great lesson for a Black Belt, going back over the basic moves and refining them.
  • Ensuring that I am using the ball of my feet when moving;
  • ensuring my hips are turning correctly and delivering power;
  • feeling the harmony of one arm moving forward as the other is moving back;
  • getting into good low stances (although the carpet floor was a bit slippery);
  • using my hara to lead my moves; and, most of all,
  • allowing myself to be in the moment, become conscious and set my mind free!
A very good lesson for me.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

More Kenji Ushiro

I am currently reading Kata: Essence of Bujutsu Karate by Kenji Ushiro. This is more personal research in to Ki and utilising it in martial arts. Of particular interest to me is the concept of "penetrating your opponents mind".

Unfortunately, the book falls a bit short of really explaining how to do this and says that you need to have a teacher who knows how to do it, to show you and pass it on to you. Is this a trick to make me buy a Ushiro seminar ticket? Hmmm, I don't know.

I can certainly say that I am working on using a unified mind+body with consciousness during my kata - and it feels good.

This is my journey towards being in the moment during kumite and letting the techniques happen rather than thinking about them.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

New training club

Now that I am working away from home during the week, I have joined a karate club in Bracknell - The Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association. It's a great club. It is quite small but the teaching and training is very high quality.

I have learnt quite a few new basics, particularly ones which include a half step - something I never used to train in but I am glad I picked this up!!! Also, Sensei has helped me with my Ushiro Geri - it's coming along nicely since he told me to step in to the reverse position with my standing leg. Rather than twist my foot on the spot whilst doing the kick. Obviously a good opponent would spot this but, it makes me feel good doing an ushiro geri - feels much better (& looks it too).

Musashi book

Finished it.

It was a very good read. It gave a very good insight in to the possible life and culture of a samurai.

However, I really liked it because it talked about Takuan as well. Takuan is the Zen Master who wrote the letters in the book "The Unfettered Mind" (I think - my mind is a bit fettered).