Skipping to the karate beat

I used a skipping rope in two years, and I am very surprised in how much my coordination as really improved (except when people watch me), and think it shows that martial arts make a big difference in your balance and hand eye coordination.

I started skipping again because of both injury and with me trying to get lighter on my feet for sparring. I always seem to be injured on my left side, so recently I have been trying to do things south paw style, which although lets me land a faster strike, I seem to be less able to move away and end up getting hit more. Also I find it harder to get my cross hand over but that is because I am not use to it.

I presumed it was because my left leg is my faster kicking leg, and that me right leg is my slower heavier leg so my power/speed balance was turned upside down. I discovered through skipping that although I kick faster with my left leg, it is my right leg that reacts quicker. When I skip I can jump with both, but if I run and skip on the spot I have to start with my left leg, as when I start with my right leg my left leg is too slow to come up. It is the same if I hop and skip, on my right leg it is piss easy, but I have to really concentrate on my left leg as it is slightly slower.

Which means that when I spar in my normal stance I can get away from quicks quicker, but if I am in south paw my left leg doesn’t react as fast and therefore I am taking the hits.

So hopefully more skipping will equal faster fit reaction, and better hand eye coordination.

Writing about the Warden

I really like my  new warden series on my story blog, I know they need editing as they are pretty much being created as i am writing them, and that they are the first draft, but it felt amazing to write a story, and be free with it. The world of the story has been getting more grounded with each part and I have really enjoyed writing it.

One friend who read it said that it needs serious editing (I know I know lol) but he also said that it felt like a fully established world, that it was the sixth novel in a series and that he should know but didn’t know key facts. He also said he likes how I am not just sticking to fantasy character type.

Karate, it’s a mental thing

People must think that we are mad to follow the karate path, getting smashed in sparring, thrown to the ground, joints bending, I have had broken ribs, a broken tooth and two knuckles that have sunken into my hand and yet I still keep training, and still aspire to be more than I am.

Why do we keep fighting? Why do we keep wanting to improve, it is through the power of the mind that we as people can become the best versions of ourselves possible, it is through this attitude that athletes get better every year, strongmen get stronger and martial artists get more skilful. It doesn’t matter what your capabilities are, as long as you have the right attitude, the right passion for your chosen art, this could easily relate for me to strength training, but I want to talk about the karate attitude that I think we need to succeed.

My professor once told me that the moment you think that you are the best at something, that you know everything there is to know about it then move on from it, as your ego will limit you to the potential that you could achieve, these words have stuck with me ever since. The great thing about karate is that it doesn’t matter when you start the journey, we as karateka are all on the journey, the more that you are willing to learn the more you will develop from it, as a brown belt I have made kinship with grades of different colours, from my own all the way down to the novices grades. If I let the ego of my grade get in the way, I would not of made some of the best friendship that I have made in karate, as for example when I was purple belt I was shocked when this orange belt was kicking my ass. It turned out that he studied for a long time under another kickboxing/karate system. My ego could of got in the way and I could of just tried to smash him, but we became instant friends, and through that friendship I have become a much better karateka through our passion and extra training.

As you can learn from the higher grades, you can from the lower grades, there outside experience (which is one of the greatest assets of our club, because we have grades who have experience in Judo, Kickboxing, wing chun, taiji etc. which makes us a much more rounded club) and fresh perspective helps you to develop more as karateka.

Another example of this is when I was trying to teach kids the first kata, Geksai dai ichi, and I did the kata with them, they seemed to of absorbed the way I did the kata, and when they demonstrated at the end of the class, the difference was staggering to me, the techniques weren’t necessarily better, but the emphasis was there, the energy the character of the kata was brought to life! It made me very proud of them, and it will be a memory I will cherish that I enabled them to bring the kata to life.

For kata is the heart of karate, it is the character, the energy the power behind what we do, it is what makes us stand out from other styles of karate, of other styles of kung fu, the kata shapes us. You can’t just learn the moves just like a dance, well initially you can. You have to have a feeling for the kata, what Go and Ju means to you, what each kata’s character represents to you, it doesn’t matter if your interpretation may seem wrong to others, what matters is what it means to you, how you can bring these moves to life, because if you can’t then they are just moves the rhythm is gone and you really have lost the essence of karate.

Karate is a form of art, the best artists in the world have a passion a feeling for what they do, the beauty behind it is what drives us, and the same should be for the path of a karateka. It is because of this attitude which is Go and Ju, the go with fighting through a fight, through life through pain, and the Ju with expressing the passion and the heart of karate. The near instant friendship that I have formed were through a shared passion of not just martial arts, but for what Goju ryu itself stands for, I have a passion for martial arts, I have a bigger passion for  the art of Goju Ryu.

Karate- Recovery phase

Everytime I try to push myself to the next level in preparation for the grading at summer school the more I seem to get injured, pulling my back, and aggravating my ribs and shoulder. I should learn from the past, when I was training in China studying Kung fu for 3 months I was really progressing well after the first 2 weeks when the body goes into shock from doing super daily training, and I learnt that if I had a bad week it was from a lack of protein.

After the two month period I seemed to be getting weaker, I kept getting little niggles here and there, my speed was dropping, knees were aching and my recovery was really slowing down. Even though this period in my life laid the foundations on how I should approach both strength training and martial arts that I needed to train more with higher volume and supersets in order for me to progress. If you don’t let yourself recovery and rest it will do damage to you, I couldn’t make any new progress, which is probably why in my last week of Kung fu in china I switched to bajiquan to try out a new martial art, one that was my complete opposite that focuses on relaxed power, low stances and is extremely dynamic, the worst thing to be in this art is tense, and everyone there and here had always known me for being very tense in everything I did.

A lot of people lost weight and got a lot leaner, I wasn’t one of those, even though I didn’t look as big as I was prior to China (resulted from my depression period) my weight stayed the same.

Then when the Kung Fu period was over (it felt like I lost a huge part of myself) me and Ronny my Austrian friend I had made at the school, we went travelling to Xian, Beijing and Shanghai for three weeks. We trained maybe three times in that period, but all we focused on was living life to the full, lots and lots of site seeing, meeting up with Chinese girls, exotic foods, more sit seeing and more drinking. We walked for ages everywhere, stairs everywhere (there is a reason why most Asians are skinny!) everywhere in the big cities you had to walk ages to, and then with me and Ronny disagreeing that meant even more, with our obsession to see everything that we could.

It may seem like I have gone off in another direction but remember I said that I didn’t lose any weight and was always injured, well after my three weeks of site seeing and having mad adventures in the big cities I was at my leanest (up to that time, my leanest was for my last grading) that I had ever been in my adult life, I felt refreshed energised, and even though I had stopped running, my fitness said at a really high level for 6 + months. There was one down side, I had to rebuild the strength in my chest because of overtraining and lack of protein when I was kung fu training, but the point is the Kung Fu training did me a lot of good, but it was my three week layoff of just having fun and lots of walking that enabled me to train even harder.

I trained hard for the last summer school grading, and afterwards even though I needed to rest I ploughed on through, as I have been doing ever since. In December with my new job, with different shifts my energy levels have been drained, but I had increased my effort to get ready, which started a whole new supply of injuries.

I am my own worst enemy, I am doing myself an injustice by not being able to train 100% through all these injuries I keep getting, so from the advice of a few friends, karate ka and my dad I will have a 2 week break from strength training and karate, just let the body heal, doing gentle Sunsalutation, skipping (when it is fixed) and lots of walking. This will drive me mad, well madder than usual but I will still have 2 and a half months to train for my grading, and I need to take care of myself.

Core strength

My ab strength as really increased recently, as well as my diamond pressup’s (for years I have been stuck on 17 for max, this year it has shot up to 36) and my close grip pullups (which shot up from 11 to 18, and generally they had been my weakest type of pullup. Last week I ended up doing more situps, with slow and control than before, despite not doing situps in weeks, and I think the reason why is that in my strength routine I have been doing diamond pressup’s with my leg high in the air, and have been doing beginner pistol squats via a chair.

These two exercises not only put more strain on one side of your chest or leg, but they also put more strain and effort on one side of your abdominals meaning that they have to work much harder, my core was always a weakness with diamond pressup’s, and the only way to do a proper pistol squat is to almost crunch your abs as you are pushing yourself up on your one leg.

I have gotten much stronger and seen more gains in the last year through experimenting with bodyweight exercises, especially with the principles of supersets and GTG and eating much more protein.

The journey from a Man into a Karateka

 

The change that I have seen in a fellow karateka in my club has actually stunned me, not because I never thought he would become skilled at karate, but because it seemed like it happened overnight. I remember when he first joined our club (2+ years ago now?), when it came to training you could tell that he never done anything like a martial art before, the main example that comes to mind is that when he sparred he had this very, very unorthodox style of what looked like old fashioned boxing (with the arms in uppercut positions) but with the elbows out. He was very easy to hit, and the main worry with him that his style was so unusual that you might get hurt by accident.

He has always been one of the nicest guys that you could ever meet, but you could tell that anything could easily hurt him, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have the heart to keep going. Then I saw the first big change at his last grading, I couldn’t attend the grading myself because of something that had happened to my mum at the time, and family comes first. I saw the photos  and I nearly had a double take, he didn’t look like the same guy he had an air of confidence about him, something about the way his jaw was set, and how brutal and efficient he looked in the photos made me wonder how come I had never seen this version of him before.

He was always the first to follow sensei’s orders, and put as much effort in, but this was the first time I had noticed such a sizeable change within him. Then last Thursday at training we were doing bunkai, and he was paired with a blackbelt who is as tough as nails and is going for his Nidan the 30 man Kumite. This basically means that he is tougher than nails and probably eats them for breakfast.  The blackbelt has always had this MMA mindset and so laid into our fellow, with strikes that make my injured ribs shiver, and I felt bad for him for a second and thought he might get hurt. But that was the old karateka, the new one now forged by the battles of the martial way absorbed the with ease and took the blows like a champ.

It made me now wonder what it would be like to spar with him again (though work and injury I haven’t sparred him in a long time, probably prior to his last grading). He is the second person that I have witnessed (my previous blog post about the path of karateka, my best mate who is now a brownbelt) whose strength of character seems to of been moulded by the mental, physical and spiritual fires of a grading. It makes me realise just how important that they can be for some people to have your inner beast fight against your inner demons and not only survive but flourish and grow.

I have always liked and respected him as a person, but now I respect him as a karateka, with the inner will that he has always had he has grown tremendously through years of hard work, which to me may of only seemed like it happened only a few months ago. It is an honour to witness this change in him, and how martial arts can benefit us all.

March strength progress

I have noticed that although the quantity of my output has gone done, the quality has gone up. It is definitely because of a mixture of sunsalutation and GTG style workouts, I have noticed that lets for instance the quality of my pressup’s   has really improved, even when I am squeezing out the last few reps. Volume training is probably something that I should of started years ago, but beggars can’t be choosers.

I also think the quality of my workouts has really increased because I am consuming much more protein than before (and keeping more of an eye on it) and that I have been focusing much more on my core strength, which has sky rocketed (I can now do pullup leg raises, and with controlled effort get my feet to touch the bar (legs slightly bent, I’m still very inflexible after all!) which I have noticed with my pressup’s really improving, and I broke a personal best with the amount of situps I can do in a one set (98). I have had to stop doing dips for a while, as it is just making things worse, and when I redesigned my version of sunsalutation to be thrice as hard just made some injuries much, much worse. I am like a bull in a china shop, I just go mad at anything I do.

It is nice to know I am improving on something with my shoulder and ribs still playing up.