Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Learning something new

Last night I went to a Kempo class in Burlington. It was a very interesting experience and I plan on returning. The class was centered around self-defense combinations, a part of the MA where I have the most trouble. The trouble is self-confidence and not looking completely out of control with my moves. I have this tendency to go too fast, mostly due to nerves. Don't get me wrong, 9 times out of 10 there are no issues, just every once in a while. The class was all men (which I am already used to) and the Sensei was very low-key. We did not line-up by rank and used no formalities except bowing to each other during the exercises. This is something I am not used to. We often kneel when Sensei is speaking and say "osu" and "origato, sensei". The relaxed atmosphere was very strange to me, but it was a different dojo with different rules of conduct. I do not put this dojo down or pass any judgement. There was much to be learned and I was so glad for the self-defense practice. So much so that I'm going to continue training with this dojo once a week and see where it takes me. It's worth it to try new directions, something that I haven't really done except for one class in kung fu many years ago. This particular style of kempo comes from the Chinese Hawaiian lineage. Unfortunately there are no karate dojos in Burlington, only kempo, BJJ (which I also plan on checking out) and many Tae Kwon Do. Perhaps I'll just have to open my own karate dojo someday...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I nearly burst into tears at yesterday's upper belt class. I'm not sure what it was that was making me such a weepy puppy. We started class hitting the mits, moving around, working on stances and body placement while punching with the heavy gloves. This is not my favorite thing to do. I would much rather be practicing self-defense techniques. But, this is where Sensei is going right now. It made me incredibly frustrated, mostly because I was so out of breath most of the time. There is this shodan who recently came back to train who intimidates me. He has this air about him that makes me nervous. It think most of it is just now knowing who he is and what he's all about. He seems like a nice man, but to have him correct me really puts up my defenses. When I'm corrected I do not have a problem as long as I know where the person is coming from. Sensei is one thing, a senpai is one thing, but this person, who is senpai to me, has not been training for a while and kept correcting my movements before I had the chance to work on them. Yeah, I know, it's a petty thing, but it was bothering me. At least give me the chance to work and keep your mouth closed. That's how I try to teach. Instead of constantly correcting someone I say a few things and then let it sink in. If after a few attempts the same mistakes are being made I'll say something again. But not over and over and over. That just leads to frustration and nothing is learned. Maybe that was the start of my teary, bleary moment. I could not tell the guy to keep his mouth shut, but did say something to the effect of just let me work this, please. Anyway, not to complain, but it was on my mind. Then we went into seiunchin kata. Sensei came up to me at one point to correct my unbendable arm application in the kata and said some wise words, at which point I nearly lost it. He has this ability to get to the core of you and really see who you are and how you work. What a wonderful teacher to have! I get weepy just thinking about it. Of course there are other factors in my life right now contributing to this weepiness, but I write about those on another blog. My martial arts path right now is working on my balance when sparring, not staying planted to the spot. Though there are times I just feel like I'm chasing the other person down. There is so much time to work on this, but I will get frustrated, it's just my nature. The key is to relax and just let it go.

Friday, October 19, 2007

So, I've managed to do at least 60 side kicks each side since my last post. Could this be my new favorite kick? Right now it's mawashi geri. I can put a lot of power behind it since I'm short and my leg doesn't have far to travel. Plus it's just an amazing kick. Yoko geri still, after eight years of training, feels awkward. I know, I'm still a baby in the MA world....

Yesterday in class sensei had me working the pads with 12 oz. gloves. Hard! Mostly because I'm so lacking in cardiovascular strength right now. So, I've decided to pursue heavy bag training on a regular basis. It's so frustrating for me to run out of breath after five strikes and five kicks. It takes so much cardiovascular focus when boxing like that. You can have all the technique in the world, all the right moves from hara, but if you can't breathe...well, it's difficult. My work schedule gives me a little more "breathing" room starting next week so I will be able to hop over to the dojo (which also includes a gym) to train on the bag at least three days a week. I have a bag at home, but I can only use it outdoors right now so weather is an issue, and if you've ever been to Vermont our weather is never predictable. Anyway, I've also started a weight regimen, too. What we do to stay healthy, hmm?

I'm hoping this Monday to check out a kenpo class in Burlington. A good friend of mine is a shodan in that dojo and he is always doing amazing things. I have no idea what it's like, so I guess it's time for a little google.

One aspect that is lacking in my dojo is weapons training. We only have bo right now, and two sword forms. What I really want to learn is sai. I guess I will have to search out a weapons teacher. Yeah, in all my free time!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I must not rush

There is this person inside of me who wants it all now, perfected and set to memory. That is my impatience. There is this other person who savors the slowness of learning martial arts correctly, to go back again and again to kihones and do them over and over. To be mindful always until there is no-mind. Take for example yesterdays upper belt class. No more mister nice sensei. We went over and over yoko geri, slowly and with extreme mindfulness. And also much losing of balance. The homework was to do 100 yoko geris on each side before next class. Well, that's tomorrow and I have no idea where I'm going to fit in slow, focused side-kicks. Where does my time go? Where do I have time to train outside of class? I do have half an hour inbetween each massage client today, but here I am writing a blog and eating instead of the side-kicks....hmm. There is time to do them outside after work, or perhaps before dinner. That is, if my little one does not run over and say to me, "No mommy, no karate now." Where does it all fit in. I desire to train everyday, but mostly I do it in my head, which does me only very little good. I did a few side kicks after a shower and a few after an early client. I guess you have to look at the quality instead of the quantity. No rushing to do 100 of them, just do them correctly and with purpose. A HA!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Black Belts in the house

So, what happens when you have three shodans in class and no teacher? Who teaches? Thing was, I new I had seniority over one shodan, but not the other. He was a shodan in Koro Ken Aikijitsu (another style under Sensei Morallo) and this was the first time I've met him. He's studied longer than me, but hadn't been training in Koro Ken for a while, just stuck with the aikijitsu. So, I took on the kata/kihon portion and then diverted to him for some aikijitsu fun. But.....three kids also showed up to the upper belt class, and they were all upper belts. So, I taught them rolling while the other shodans had fun doing aikijitsu Ippons. I finally had my turn to do Ippons, but did not have enough time doing them since the kid's class was starting up. Urgh. I was a little frustrated about the situation since I decided to join the upper belt class to continue my learning, but teaching is learning, too, and I can't forget that. If Sensei had been able to teach class things would have been different. He looks to me to teach; really, really wants me to teach. In fact he wants me to teach in Burlington, VT, where we will be moving to this April. I've wanted to have my own students, but really want to take more time to work on those things I find uncomfortable, like wrist grabs and throws. I'm fine with all the pugilistic applications of our kihones, but throwing and grabbing need more work. When those become comfortable I will think about taking on students. I'm just not ready to go out on my own, and don't really feel that a shodan is ready to do that alone. I've just started to sink into all of this and don't want to rush it. I have plenty of time. The key is to not get frustrated when you have to teach instead of learning new things.

Friday, October 5, 2007

New Class

I've decided that on Tuesday afternoons I'm going to take the upper belt class (and not the morning class), meant for brown and black belts. This way at least once a week I will be learning new things, such as the elbow lock routine Sensei learned from Grandmaster Chaka Zulu (I know, a little fancy? But check out his website at zujitsu.com), who's style is known as zujitsu. It's really a great form of martial arts, and Soke is quite the amazing man/teacher. He came to our dojo about five years ago for a seminar and the elbow locks are insane! Anyway, I've really been wanting to go over them and we just don't get that much of a chance in our morning classes lately since there are newbies and I end up either teaching them or teaching the other kohai their new katas (ah, the responsibilities of a shodan....), which I do not mind doing at all. I also have a new kata to learn, part of the Lin Bloom series. Sekuran Lin Bloom, and I'm not at all sure I spelled sekuran the right way. It's along the same lines as Flight of the Striking Tiger and Lin Wane Kune, very Chinese. Sensei Morallo also has this other kata, Cartier, that I'm dying to learn. It's very beautiful, and very complicated. I'm not sure if my Sensei knows it, but I haven't asked him yet. Supposedly it's a "secret" kata, whatever that means...it's still pretty. I also want to spar more and become as comfortable as I can with it since next fall is Nidan, which is a very brutal test. I will be seeing a Nidan test this November, which will give me a preview of what it will be like.

Off for a weekend of fall activities. Vermont is so incredible this time of year with the changing leaves, and the yummy apples!!! I plan on having lots of fun. Plus, it's supposed to be in the 80's. Weird weather...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

My first class as a shodan

Today was the first class I went to after last week's test. For some odd reason I was nervous to enter the dojo wearing a black belt. There is definitely a little "uncomfortableness" about this new path for me. The lower belts have a new respect and part of me is having a hard time with that. I think it's because I don't want to feel better than anyone else, don't want to, especially, look like I don't know what I'm doing. It's the old self-esteem issues coming to the surface. I talked about the self-sabotage a few posts back and this is very similar. Now that I've come this far do I deserve to lead others? It's so strange. There is absolutely no way I could ever get "shodanitis". My ego is not that big and I feel so humbled by this new addition around my waist. I want others in my dojo to know that I will never treat them like they do not know anything and I know everything. Our dojo, as Charles James Sensei puts it, is a gendai budo dojo. We train for the path, for the betterment of ourselves. There is no competition in our school in any form and Sensei does not condone it at all. The sparring you saw me do in the videos is not something we do very often, at least not with all the gear. We do more slow-flow Ju Kumite, not the full-on Kumite. I'm very happy with that. I don't have the need to go at someone with flying fists and feet. I'd much rather harness the control that would benefit me in a self-defense situation. Our dojo is serious and light-hearted at the same time. We joke around, but not when it's inappropriate. We have much respect for Sensei and his teachings and teach that to the new student who walk through our doors. There have been quite a few recently, and all of them women. I like to see women start in the martial arts, and I hope they stick with it.

So back to the weirdness of shodan. I have to grow into this like anything else. Sensei said to me the day after shiai that he would like me to test for nidan in a year. Is that enough time? I feel there is so much for me to accomplish in my training right now. I want to focus on the internal strength, the internal compression, or as Sensei Morallo puts it, "the twisting of the meat." He was doing Chen Tai Chi before the shiai last Wednesday. It was absolutely beautiful. Apparently this is the parent form of all the other tai chi forms, and he mentioned that it's a very difficult style to study. That is what I want to do. Hmm, yes, in all my free time... I've found that in my training I struggle with the internal applications of our style. I want to perfect them (as much as they can be perfected).

So, this marks the beginning of a new beginning! I will be interested to see where this blog goes now that I have attained shodan. I'm so excited!!!

Oh, I've been "promote three memed". I'll take care of that next post...