Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Dojo they know it's Christmas?

It's been almost three months since I decided to settle down and chose Wado Ryu as my new Martial Art and it's taken those three months for me to start to feel like a karate-ka again. There are some things that haven't left me during my twenty year hiatus; I stand like a Martial Artist, I sit and kneel like one, hell I even dance like one (every disco is a dojo and you know you do that kata dancing like Elvis too!) but that feeling that you belong takes longer to return.

I'm still a bit of an odd one out at the moment - I don't want to be the black belt that doesn't know the kata or basic kihon patterns and I can get frustrated that I'm not as fit and agile as I'd like to be. Everyone at the dojo is helpful and supportive but I don't feel I'm moving forward as fast as I'd like. I'm still making basic errors which are driving me nuts. Snap me in two like a stick of blackpool rock and you'll find two words written through me; Impatient and Competitive and only having the time to train once a week (and a couple of hours of kata in the kitchen when everyone else is out) is not reaping the rewards I want to see.

It's tough to be reminded that there are no short-cuts, especially when I've been the first to slag off clubs that do take them. Nonetheless there is part of me that envies my son, (that's him on the right) who recently started karate and is a pretty good 9th kyu, winning the 'best newcomer' award in his first tournament. He really wants that next belt and that plastic trophy, and part of me does too.

With Christmas coming there will be a forced break in training and I need to build up the momentum to return as a patient learner who wants to perfect the Wado way.

Because deep down what I really want is to be really bloody good at it.

Ah well, メリークリスマス

Friday, 5 November 2010

Brain No Karate Do

Funny how a few (20) years off Martial Arts will mess with your brain. Flexibility and fitness aside I have no problem keeping up with the other dan grades in kihon. It's not perfect but generally my stances and basic techniques have survived the mothballs. Even my Japanese seems to have been retained in some hitherto unexplored lobe. But there are two fails; the part of my brain designed to react quickly when someone does a reverse roundhouse kick to my head has shrivelled up, the body has lost control of the mind again as years of learning to step into an attack (in order to let it fly harmlessly behind you and to deliver a counter attack) has been replaced by an ape-like auto-response of:

"oh no. Big heavy foot. Head. Must Step back. Clonk" as my sparring partner easily extends their range and lands a satisfying slap.  

I'm trying to take the landed blows as good-naturedly as I can despite the frustration (and embarrassment if my sparring partner is a green belt who I am meant to be helping) but for every one I get right, there are two or three where I react like a monkey.

The other brain-fart is with kata, and I've focussed a lot on kata recently because this is something I've always loved and would like to get back to competing someday. Following some success with Niseishi (it looks untidy but all the techniques are there) I wanted to nail the Pinans, Naihanchi (tekki shodan without the kicks) and Bassai. If I go really, really slowly I can perform Nidan, Shodan and Sandan the wado way and they look pretty tidy. Similarly, keeping someone else in my peripheral vision who isn't senile helps and that way I can get through almost all of them - even the dreaded Kushanku (which I think of as Kanku-dai on acid) and Seishan.

Do these same kata at full speed and I become very creative; merging katas and developing new ones. My favourite invention (and one I can't stop demonstrating) is the "get half way through Pinan Godan and finish with a bit of Bassai".

I have decided to call this new kata Machi Gaeta.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010



Like all of the Wado Ryu kata the dan grade Niseishi has its Shotokan counterpart; Nijushiho. The name in both styles translates as the rather uninspiring "Twenty Four Moves". Luckily whilst I have previously studies a range of dan grade kata; enpi, kankudai, bassai, jion, jitte, chinte etc I don't remember ever learning Nijushiho, making today's session from Sensei Rick Broughton with me and Alex (a 3rd dan) really enjoyable.

In all honesty there's nothing I can say about this kata that SueC hasn't already said eloquently in her blog, so I'll direct you there for the moment...


Sunday, 10 October 2010

Getting to grips with the Wado-Way

Today marked my fourth session with Leicester Karate Association as I re-learn karate the Wado way. As a Black Belt in Traditional Shotokan and it's offspring Tsuyoi Ryu and after a twenty year break, I toured many of Leicester's Best and Worst Martial Arts schools looking for my new Martial Arts home. I've now settled on a new club, a new association and a new style.

So far settling into Wado has been a disconcerting journey, I'm often lulled into a sense of familiarity only to have the mat pulled from under me when a technique or kata is presented with a small but crucial difference. The focus on pressure-points is particularly unusual for me (although I know some Shotokan schools do teach these to some extent). I am pretty much a beginner when it come to this. Last week I made the mistake of admitting this to Sensei Chand, who then kindly demonstrated a range of attacks on me, leaving me with some attractively coloured bruises and recurring cramp in my left calf for the next three nights!

As kata goes, my part-knowledge is more a hindrance than a help. Some sequences of movements from the basic kata are so ingrained from years of practice that I have really struggled not to revert back to them, especially when moving at speed. For the last two weeks I have been working on the Wado version of Bassai. This is similar enough for me to get through but has higher stances, more disjointed moved, and no crescent kicks. I'm hoping that when I approach kata I remember less well; jion, chinte etc, that I'll be able to adopt the Wado approach more readily.

A bit of a treat for all members of the association was that today's session was led by Sensei Kuniaki Sakagami, VII dan. I found today particularly useful then as in a 3.5 hour lesson, Sensei Sakagami spent two hours working through the early Pinan katas and demonstrating bunkai which meant I got to see each move in great detail and examine the differences between the Shoto and Wado approaches. The first striking (!) difference in the Pinan kata (other than the fact that Nidan comes before Shodan which I still don't get) is that we must say goodbye to the basic H pattern of the Shotokan Heian version where only the final moves deviate to the 45° angle. Moves 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 and 21 are now at 45°. The very first move; a gedan barai (a low block) is now a Tetsui Hizo Uchi (side fist strike) but other than that and the shorter stances the next 8 moves are the same. At the end of the kata, the shuto uke (knife hand block at head height) becomes a Shuto hizo uchi (knifehand strike to the spleen) with the cross-over very specifically taught with one hand above the other (shown in this photo).

For Pinan Shodan, the differences, other than the loss of the H shape, are also minor. After the initial haiwan uke (square side block), instead of a jun zuki, augmented jab punch (sometimes bunkai'd as an arm lock) and kizami tzuke, Wado has a side-on gyaku tzuki (not sure if it has a name) followed by an age zuki (rising punch).

I'm hopeful that the more I practice the more the "new" way of doing things will embed itself. My stances are too low and wide still, especially my kokutsu dachi (back stance - with a 70:30 weight ratio on the back leg) which in Wado is almost always a neko ashi dachi (cat stance, 90:10). I'm determined that I adopt the Wado way, as I was in front of the junior grades today and I wouldn't want them to copy me, and get it "wrong".

I really enjoyed today, working with the seniors and revisiting basics, and there were a few opportunities for some take-downs and wrist-locks which is always a bit of fun. I'm starting to feel more at home in my bright new gi and scruffy old black belt.