Friday, September 28, 2007

Shodan videos

Here I am, all sweaty and proud. I had just put on my black belt. Yay me!!! I honestly can't believe that it's all over, but am so glad that I did it. The test was fantastic...

Okay, here are the youtube links for my vids:


Thursday, September 27, 2007


It was hot, wicked hot. No fans, not much air except from what was coming in from the open doors. The shodan shiai, of course, had to happen on a record breaking temperature day in southern Vermont (in late September!). The spirit, however, was flying everywhere. What a fantastic shiai we had. Lots of sweat, I mean A LOT. It was great. The six of us found our zones and just stayed there the entire time. The dojo was also packed with onlookers (our shiais are open to the public), which of course made the place even stuffier. I felt so good, very nervous, but very good. I'm uploading some videos onto youtube and will let you know where they are so that you can give them a gander. The last part was total, full-on sparring. We each had to spar with three people right in a row. This was very tough, and it's what made me very nauseous. Needless to say I ended up vomiting on the way home. My stomach still doesn't feel quite right today, by my mind and spirit are flying! What an experience, what an accomplishment. I'm so glad that I made it this far and look forward to many, many, many more years of learning in the martial arts. This is only the beginning...

A note about my shodan paper. I know that there were errors, it wasn't the final copy. I made some changes and corrections before I handed it in. I just wanted you to see what it was all about, but a hearty thank you for those of you who gave me great suggestions!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shodan paper

Well, here's the completed shodan paper for tomorrow night. We were to pick a topic to write about, and I chose ego and self-esteem and how they relate to the martial arts.

The butterflies have landed....I'm nervous, but I'm ready. I'll post as soon as I can about how the test went. Yay!!!

We know the warrior by his presence and the healing he automatically gives to everyone he meets. ~ Erle Montaigue
“There are many people who, even when studying the Way of the Martial Arts, think that these skills will not be useful in real situations. In fact, the true Way of the Martial Arts is to train so that these skills are useful at any time, and to teach these skills so that they will be useful in all things.” Miyamoto Musashi, “The Book of Five Rings”
When we meet someone else who does Karate differently than we do, we seem to have a knee jerk reaction and immediately begin attempting to dominate the other person instead of listening to what they have to say and thinking about it with due consideration. Rob Redmond, 24 Fighting Chickens blog

Ego, Self Esteem and the Martial Arts
By Karrie
What do you think of when someone asks you about the martial arts? If you were to ask a person who does not do martial arts, they might mention Chuck Norris, Steven Segal or even Jackie Chan. All of those men encompass what is known, in my eyes, as the “movie martial arts”. The egos involved tend to be inflated and evolved to the point where the practitioners may feel as if they are indestructible. This, however, is only my opinion. The martial arts you see in movies are very far removed from what the actual martial arts represent. Ego and self-esteem play a very large role in the evolution of a martial artist, and I write about those two aspects of our personality because they have played a very important role in my martial arts practice and my growth as a person involved in the martial arts. All of the opinions expressed in this paper are my own, and they are far from being the norm with all karateka. The three quotes at the top speak to me about ego and self esteem and how they pertain to the martial arts and I will touch on all of them within this paper.

How does the ego pertain to martial arts and where, exactly, does self-esteem fit in? When talking about the ego you need to look into how a person reacts to having gained a significant amount of knowledge in martial arts technique. Martial arts provide a very powerful source of self-protection and can therefore lead to a very powerful increase in a person’s ego. This is not necessarily a hindrance, if the ego evolves slowly and does not gain control. The opposite of that is an ego which becomes so inflated that the martial arts practitioner feels as if he or she “know it all” and proceed to show this knowledge off to all who will watch. Self-esteem, on the other hand, can only increase in such a way as to compliment the ego. When you feel confident about yourself, your ego will inevitably grow stronger since you have more confidence in yourself and what you know. That being said, what happens to the self-esteem if the ego takes over? Does it become weaker in the sense that the person has now “become” the ego? This is a very interesting question, and I feel that if the ego becomes too strong, then self-esteem becomes weaker. Ego is a very strong trait, and can quickly take over all other personality traits if left unchecked. To be all ego is to be weak, which is not something karatekas want to be. Self-esteem is a much stronger trait to have, a much more reliable source of courage. Courage with too much ego becomes carelessness.

The first quote at the beginning of this paper is first for a reason. To me it represents the humbleness the martial arts can bring to all those who practice it. Being a healer requires a great deal of self-confidence and self-esteem. If you do not have those aspects of your character in a solid place within yourself you cannot provide healing to others. When training in the martial arts a certain amount of healing happens within you, which slowly builds a solid sense of self-esteem. Too have too much ego in this sense would not only be detrimental to yourself, but also to those around you who recognize your healing capabilities. Being a massage therapist gives me a unique perspective into this idea. There are many massage therapists who allow their egos to become too strong, which degrade their healing capabilities. Receiving a massage from someone who’s ego has become too inflated is not a pleasant experience and you often leave the session feeling more stressed than when you felt at the beginning. Ego must be contained; self-esteem must be stronger than ego. The martial artist who has strong self-esteem is capable of great healing and great martial arts. To me it’s all about allowing this to happen within yourself and not letting your ego get the best of you. There will always be someone stronger, faster, and more capable of striking from hara. It’s a wise thing to remember.
Miyamoto Musashi’s quote touches on believing and trusting in your techniques. This has been the toughest battle for me throughout my eight years of training. Trusting in yourself and the believing that the techniques you know will work boosts self-esteem in amazing ways. To not trust the technique means you are not trusting in yourself. This can be the “death” of a karateka’s self-esteem. The more you fail at performing, the more you mistrust what you know, both about yourself and your techniques.
I put in the last quote because I’ve seen this happen in our own dojo. There are often times when Sensei Bottomms teaches us one thing and either after class or during application of what was just taught others from another dojo interject what they feel is the “right” way to do the technique. This bothers me to no end. When entering another’s dojo, their “way” is to be respected and learned, not critiqued and criticized. That is not respectful and is purely coming from ego’s point of view. A dissolving of the ego must occur when entering the dojo, whether it is where you train or not. If you do not agree with the Sensei, speak with them after class, not during the time he or she is teaching. In my eyes there is nothing ruder than someone who speaks out against what Sensei teaches. Everyone has the capacity to learn, no matter how much training they have had. Having respect for other’s teachings shows not only humbleness, but a strong sense of self (self-esteem). To not respect someone else’s teachings shows only the ego is present, one that is far too large to allow for any further learning.
When I think of self-esteem and how it relates to the martial arts the picture inside of my head is of an elderly Asian man slowly performing kata with a serene smile on his face. He is sure in his stances; sure of how the moves work. You realize that the serene smile also goes much deeper than what you see on his face. I also think of this same man with his students, with the same serene look on his face, allowing himself to learn from his students as he teaches them all he knows about martial arts. The most important part of my learning thus far has been how to control the ego and allow your self-esteem to rule your inner battle. There is a never-ending battle between ego and self-esteem, the trick is to find that delicate balance where they both work together. I work towards finding and honing that serene smile on my face, and have already learned from those that I have taught. I feel that my ego is in check, and I am so grateful that Koro Ken has taught me to believe in myself and to trust what I know. I have never learned so much about myself as I have while being a martial artist and I look forward to learning for the rest of my life.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Karate dreams

Do you ever have karate dreams? I often have this dream where I'm in class and we're usually in shiai. They are always fun and full of movement. There was even this once dream where me and a fellow female dojo mate were making up an entirely new kata. But last night I had my first fight dream. I was in this video store looking at the children's videos when this woman comes over and starts to turn the videos in her direction (they are on a turnstyle type of thing) completely disregarding the fact that I, too, am looking. At first I just pull them back, but she keeps doing it. I then tell her that I am still looking at this particular section and she needs to be aware that someone else was here first and to be patient. Then we just start getting into it. She comes at me and I evade her and give her a "gentle" mawashi geri to her stomach, just to let her know that I know some techniques and it might not be wise to continue. But she does. I don't remember the rest and I woke up in the middle of it. It was so weird! Usually when I have a dream where I'm hitting someone I barely have any strength and am not effective at all. This one was different. There was power in my moves. Hmmm, could I be believing in what I know?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Teaching Flight

After every class lately Sensei keeps asking me if I'm ready, and I always tell him yes. The truth is I AM actually ready, although the shodan pre-test scared me a bit. Sensei said to me today, "You're teaching Flight, of course you're ready." He means Flight of the Striking Tiger, one of the black belt katas we have to know for the test (the other is Sanseiru). I've known this kata for at least four years, but I have not performed it for that long. It's a beautiful kata that stems from some Chinese MA of which I forget the name. Sensei Morallo told me last night, but it did not stick in my brain. He's tweaked it, of course, for he said that the original is too stiff. Sensei Morallo is big on "twisting the meat" in the body, making if move softly, yet powerfully. All of our moves must come from hara and our stances must be strong yet supple. Yesterday afternoon he took us through Shisochin and Sanseiru and told us some amazing things about what to do in those katas. He told us when to use kime, how our bodies should be moving. The trunk of his body is exactly like a wall, no kidding. That's what is feels like. He has such control and when he strikes it's just like a snake. At the end of the class we all sparred for half an hour or so. My head was pounding from my injury, so I donned a sparring helmet since I had been tagged on the exact spot a few times. This is the thing, my head is such a target because I'm short and my head is right there for the taking. Ugh, I really don't feel comfortable going full-bore. We had on 16oz. gloves and just had at each other. I had the pleasure (note the sarcasm) of sparring with Sensei Morallo. You can hit him, it doesn't hurt him. I don't know who could hurt him. He did teach me some great stuff, parrying, etc. I just don't do it enough, and it's a big part of the shodan shiai. Sensei Bottomms does not like to spar heavily, he doesn't believe that it's a valuable part of karate. We do much more slow flow Ju Kumite, which teaches you timing, balance, flow. Anyway, Sensei Morallo told us that this shiai is not a "cake walk" and that he doesn't just hand out black belts. That is a very good thing. This will be very, very difficult, but I'm not scared. I'm elated.

I stayed for the kids shiai. Those shiais are always great to be a part of. I love hearing all the kiais and seeing those little people so focused. My nephew was testing for his San Kyu (he's 8) and did an amazing job of Seunchin. Apparently he had awoken that morning with butterflies and felt the stress of it all day long. Right after he was done he burst into tears of relief, literally sobbed against Sensei Bottomms. It was so amazing to see him release like that. I was so proud of him. He is truly a karateka in the making and I hope he sticks with it. His focus is so sharp and his body just knows what to do.

I will not be in class again until next Tuesday, which means practicing in my yard on the grass. I love doing that. So much to do, and so much time to do it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The universe's revenge?

Is the universe out to get me? Two weeks ago I hurt my foot and today while playing with Griffyn at the local sandbox I had the metal handle of the scoop toy drop directly onto the top of my forehead. It hit me hard enough for me to see stars and I felt it all the way down my spine. Griffyn had been sitting on the seat at the time and I think he thought he made it happen, which he didn't. When I looked to see where he was I saw him crouched behind the seat with his head in his hands. Oh, sweet boy! He wasn't crying, but clearly upset about my reaction. It fucking hurt!!! Excuse the explitive, but it's appropriate. So I was just thinking, "Okay, what's the third thing?" I then promptly told myself there is no third thing, what will happend next is the shodan shiai, period. No more getting hurt. This is ridiculous. It hurt bad enough for me to think about going to the doctor, but now I feel okay, just a little tired and throbbing. At least I'll have a good bruise...and no, it didn't come from karate...

This makes me think of self-sabotage. Is there some part of me that doesn't feel I'm really worthy of going the next step in my martial arts? Am I afraid to? That's entirely possible. Yes, I do feel afraid, but I feel ready for this. I'm ready to dive into the unkown and make it known, make it my own.

I'll have to talk more about this in another post. This afternoon is a very busy karate afternoon. I soon am off for the shodan pre-test, which is an hour and a half. Then the kid's shiai followed by the adult kyu shiai. I planned ahead and only did one massage today. It was very nice to spend the morning doing family time. I'll just have to watch out for metal backhoe thingys from now on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why I do karate

It all began after watching "The Matrix". My sister had just had her first child and I had witnessed the entire thing. While staying with her I went to see that movie and was transfixed by the martial arts moves. I said to myself, "I really, really want to learn that!" For the past year my kickboxing instructor had been bugging me to join his dojo and learn Koro Ken. After seeing the movie I went to my first class. The next day I could barely walk. I had used leg muscles that I never knew were there and it felt GREAT! I was hooked, so I kept going. A few months later I tested for yellow belt. Then went to second green. Then purple. Then first brown. Then second brown. After a year at second brown Sensei Bottomms wanted me to test for Shodan with another student. I was apprehensive, but excited. At this time it was about achieving rank, seeing how far I could go. Two weeks later I was trail running and sprained my ankle. It wasn't pretty and I was out of the running for Shodan. I was upset, but not terribly so. I continued training and then started to slack off. I can't remember why or at what point in my life I was at, but I do remember a lot of transition, break-ups, moves, etc. Karate was on the back burner because it had to be at that time. So, I went back again, then met my husband, got married and got pregnant (yeah, I REALLY wanted a baby.) I went to class a few times early in my pregnancy, but was extremely nauseous and it just didn't feel right. Then Griffyn was born and I became a mommy. I went to a few of my nephew's classes to just soak in the training, but formal training for me did not begin again until last summer. At that point I had had enough waiting. It was time to go back. So I went at it full bore, and could barely do 10 push-ups. By December I was testing for I Kyu and the feeling of martial arts was beginning to sink in. I was beginning to feel it, to make it my own. The power of hara, the power of moving so effortlessly was just fantastic to feel. For the longest time I just couldn't "get" what it was supposed to feel like. I could do all the moves, and do them well, and found that when my brain was out of the equation my moves had a different flow. This was so exciting for me. For years Sensei had been telling me to "move from hara", "just let it flow", "soften, Karrie". Now I was beginning to actually live it, and not just in martial arts training.

So why write all of that? Because I do karate for the history, for the building of the foundation. It started with a movie, and whenever I see that movie I laugh at how stiff the actors look doing karate, how staged it looks. To me karate means training, it means being true to yourself, it means pushing yourself, it means trusting yourself. Never have I felt so sure of who I am, and of what I am capable of accomplishing. The trust is the biggest part of this. When you trust your teacher and your fellow dojo mates the learning is compounded by that trust. It's fun, it's easy, and it's harder. When you trust the moves they flow better. When you don't trust the moves they don't work very well.

The hardest part of becoming a martial artist (at least for me) is believing that you are a martial artist. When I started it was to learn fancy moves, not necessarily to learn about me. I thought I had already done that in massage school (at that time I was only a year into my massage career. Massage school was very intense and you do learn a lot about yourself and your boundaries.) However, as the years of training slipped by I stared to realize that karate wasn't just about the moves; it was also about internal growth. The training was also applicable to my massage career, and to my relationships (not just paramours, but family, friends, etc.) Once you give into the flow of things, everything else just fits into place, it really does.

Whew, I think I just started my Shodan paper. One more week to go. I will be glad when it's all over. My brain has been so full of everything I must know, but my body knows it better than my brain does and I trust it to get me through. It's not just about the color of the belt for me anymore, it's about taking one more step closer to myself and closer to moving from hara. I am a martial artist, I will always be a martial artist.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two Weeks

Well, the foot is not broken and is actually very functional. The power of intention is a very powerful thing....

The shiai is two weeks away. Next Wednesday we have a shodan pre-test for an hour and a half with Sensei Morallo. Then I will most likely participate in the kyu shiai that same afternoon. Practice, practice and more practice. I feel very good about this.

For every belt test we have had to write a paper about what we have learned at each stage of testing. For the shodan test we have to delve a bit deeper. I've begun thinking about what I will write and what books I will refer to that have deepened my practice. I will have to start it soon so that time doesn't get away with me.

Class was very low key today. I taught most of it and just had everyone do the katas and bunkai that they have been working on for shiai. It sounds like Thursday will be a bit more energetic...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

He stole my heart (this is not a romance)

Today I went up to the Rutland dojo again for an I Kyu shiai. One of our Ni Kyus is leaving for boarding school and it was his turn for shiai. I joined in and it was great. Tough. Great. There was this green belt I was doing Ippons with who had an injured foot and she stepped out because it was just too much (train smart!), so I ended up working Ippons with Sensei Bottomms. He turned it on and turned it up. Needless to say he stole my heart. I became so flustered that it was almost as if I forgot all my training and did not feel like my self-defense was worthy. What an awakening!!! It's so amazing how something like being uprooted can throw everything off. I did manage to regain most of my focus back, but on one throw I did not project him far enough away from me and ended up with his knee into my foot. So I then had to bow out. I just had an x-ray and the fourth long bone (metatarsal) is not broken, but one of the smaller bones had a "questionable" appearance. Now I need to wait until tomorrow afternoon when a radiologist can read the x-ray to see if it is indeed broken. I do not plan on stopping my training, will just have to "train smart". That means no sparring or kicking anything with density with my right foot. No Kabox (lots of jumping), which means elliptical trainer in order to keep up the cardiovascular output. I can do all my upper body moves and slow Ippons. Again, I just have to train smart. This will be an adventure, and a learning experience. When isn't there a learning experience....