Re-learning Tensho, Teaching Quickflame and some Kicking Fun

Warmup

Mike and I decided to train in a beautiful park on Saturday morning, I missed a brownbelt/blackbelt course which mainly focused on tensho and he wanted me to go over some of the Jo staff forms and mainly Quickflame.

We both warmed up slightly differently, me using Sanzhan and Shisochin and mike doing pressup’s/situps/squats. Then we did Sanchin a few times first loose then normal and we both felt really loose and ready to train and not exhausted to the state that we couldn’t train and learn on what we needed to learn for that session.

Tensho

I won’t go into too many details, and as I told mike I took what he said with a pinch of salt, he had already just re-learnt the form we had missed so much from the first time we were shown it, the arms are much closer into the body (a lot like White cranes 1st three forms) and the tension is completely different to the body then Sanchin is, I found it a lot harder and a more of a full body workout whilst the movements themselves were so much more like tai chi. It really did tire me out.

The details of how we even start the kata were really shocking and it was weird to feel my butt clench so much. It really changes the way I do Sanchin and the other katas (including Sanzhan) and the kata is far more beautiful and devastating than I first realised.

Mike also noticed that I turned into the movements on my left side during tensho just as Cameron did when I was weight training with him on Friday. My right Lat is huge while my left is small (all my other muscles are well balanced) which started when I first did pullups nearly 10 years ago, the bar is slightly angled and I never realised until 2 years ago but obviously my right Lat compensates for my left, meaning my jab from my right is much more powerful than my left, it will be something I have to continue to balance out as to me Lats are the power through everything in punches (something I learnt in White Crane) and is an big weakness.

I was surprised how much like the wing chun form and 2nd/3rd form of White that this kata was from what I have observed (and I have tried out the Wing Chun form on two occasions), just the way the elbows are locked in, tension in the arms, the angles of attack they use, it was really exciting there was much that i had missed out when I first learnt it back in January, I can now see why it is a mid-higher level kata.

Jo staff

We Progressed to the Jo staff, I went over the geksai versions and showed him what I knew of Saifa, and with his fresh eyes was able to point out a problem I had with it, then I polished up on his Quickflame which he will need next year which wasn’t too bad he just needed to be more flowing with his legs and know what to do with his hands at key junctions.

Sanzhan

Then looking at how tensho reminded me off Sanzhan so much I decided to show him the first part of Sanzhan but I told him only the first part. He was surprised at how much more difficult and tense it is compared to Sanchin and tensho and how much more relaxed the power is when you explode the arms. He didn’t quite get it but he got the idea and it tripled his punch power (ow). I was showing him how the tension was like a build-up of energy but not the power in itself, you must release that power with a hint of relaxation and turn it into a bullet from a gun. A main principle of White Crane is not to telegraph which means you don’t raise the shoulders or move the hips it all comes from the core and Lats.

 

Kicking

Then I got into discussing with him the various versions of Sanzhan/Sanchin on how some develop one key aspect and have a certain weakness that Uechi Ryu’s version would be the closest version to a good balance and how I had heard rumours that there is one version with kicks (which would be devastating.

Before the session started I was on about a drill I do I call long range combo, I use it to drill my kicks because I am a close quarters fighter and I need to start introducing more kicks into the style I fight in. I have also been doing a lot of jumping kicks which I know is what is the next step in white crane that they use to get their kicks in closer, I just worked on it by accident (I really need to go back to China and visit my Sifu). Mike was showing me how to incorporate Jump kicks to close the gaps, I asked him to look at my roundhouses and he asked me to compare to my front kicks.

I have been drilling my front kicks a lot recently and I was surprised to see Mike drop from them (I didn’t add power. He asked me to aim for a front kick and then change at the last moment to a roundhouse and with little power it made a huge difference. He believes that all kicks come from the core and knee that we telegraph too much where it should so much more simple.

He watched my stance and because in my mind I have incorporated kicking I have lengthen it and turned my body at an angle which means there is so much distance that even if I don’t telegraph  they will see the kick coming from the distance. It means getting my footwork back to Sanzhan which is a nice balance of Neko ashi, zenkutsu dachi and Sanchin dachi.

I should use the same principle’s for kicking that I do for punching, it’s not back to the drawing board I have the ideas already I just have to simplify it, focus more on tensho and Sanzhan and adapt my kicking drills to include a better stance for me to use.

A beautiful day, training with my best mate and we both came away with loads of ideas and new perspectives it felt like we been on a course but could of trained longer if we wanted to. All we needed was a beer afterwards.

Keep Training, Never Give Up, OSU.

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Weight Training for Goju Ryu

It was really fun training with my mate Cameron from work; he is a bodybuilder and strongman and really knows how to train his body depending on his mood for that time. I decided to test out earlier that week and was surprised to see that despite focusing on bodyweight training for two years my weight lifting strength hasn’t changed that much (obviously weaker because I haven’t trained my nervous system like that in years).

Explosiveness and tempo for martial arts

As I told him I wanted to train for my martial arts, rather than two separate hobbies where my body tries to do two different things and get injured often as a result. He completely agreed recommended speed training for explosiveness and he also noticed that my temp was different to his almost double his speed. Cameron is focused on squeezing the muscles feeling a pump, where my natural mindset it to blast through that exercise which he said was great for the power that I need in martial arts. I wasn’t doing speed for the sake of it, largely my form was clean, I have to get lower on my dips etc.

Volume

I learnt why I never put on sheer mass, except for bodyweight exercises I had never done that many sets for one or two muscle groups, I was surprised to see myself keep going at these points, it shows how remarkable the body really is. Today I am surprised how loose my body is showing that lifting weights the correct way stretches your body.

Weaknesses

Cameron was surprised that for a naturally strong man some exercises I was really weak and he was looking at my muscles in shock, and he started to analyse why that was. On the bench my right side is far stronger which means it takes up more of the load on the bar thereby looking weaker. Cameron couldn’t understand at the time because sometimes my left would kick in. He worked on my form on some key exercises and told me to lower the weight to where the problems starts and build up slowly from there, he reckons three months they will go away.

I noticed on one exercise and he noticed on another that on my left side I turn my body into the exercise meaning I am using more of my body and joints into the exercise. This is probably how I use to injure myself in weight training, that my right side would take the load and that I damage my joints by not letting the muscles bear that weight.

This is the first time I really weight trained with someone and it is really eye opening on what I have been doing wrong.

Then I was tempted to do Single Arm Rows (SAR) my former speciality I really wanted to see if I could use a 50 kg dumbbell again, and so with Cameron watching I blasted through my right side and struggled with my left side. He noticed I didn’t go so deep on my left and that my body would twist to make it easier. I was ecstatic that I could lift that heavy a weight, and relieved that I knew where I was going wrong, I need to fix my left side for martial arts. He said I had a really strong chest, strong lats but need to work on my traps.

Next time we will work on squats and deadlifts which when I perform the correctly will be so beneficial to karate, especially if I keep that explosiveness mentality I’m not a bodybuilder I am a martial artist.

Comparing bench-press to Sanchin

Not an exercise that I really used as I use to train on my own, but the way to drive force and power in the bench (and probably for squat and deadlift) reminds me of Sanchin/Sanzhan) is to breath into your abdominal muscles (or dante/tanden) squeezing the lats and feel like you’re bending the bar. Doing it correctly felt very much like doing a hard version of Sanchin.

Keep Training, Never Give Up, OSU.

Sanzhan/Sanchin and Squat Kicks

I have noticed some key weaknesses in Sanzhan fighter, it has many strengths and I do love it, but I have a habit of not telegraphing my punches to the extent of not delivering the power that I can from it, (a balance I must fight) so I have been working more on Sanchin, Shisochin  and tensho to help me gain power in both arms (in Sanzhan you strike with both arms at the same time, in sparring you do one at a time) but I didn’t want to get into the habit of not kicking, my kicks need a lot of work especially front kick as I rarely use it in sparring. So I have been doing squat kicks the last couple of weeks with a high open handed guard whilst looking at a mirror.

I noticed immediately that my elbows flared out too much, and tried to find a balance on where my arms should be. I disagree with some high grade at the club and that they have their guards too high, which for me causes too much tension (wrong kind) in my shoulders and slows me down, I believe that all our blocks (like our stances) are points within our guard, all are important and we should flow between them, where I disagree with a few high grades is that they believe that we contradict our bodies so much that they can take powerful blows, that our head can’t take it so me must only guard the head. I agree protecting the head is extremely important, something I really need to work on, but if we are in the street or dojo someone strikes extremely powerful and I am not tensed in time I am not arrogant enough to think that I can withstand it, a powerful clean well timed shot to the ribs or solar plexus can take anyone down, you see it in boxing and MMA all the time.

Anyway back to the topic I am working on a loose guard, higher than I usual do and elbows in, I am making sure I am getting into the habit of squatting parallel, then I noticed a problem with my front kicks, I don’t extend far enough (probably because I am subconsciously protecting me knees) and it makes me realise one reason I have been having a problem with them, so I have been focusing in front of a mirror extending that kick.

At first this was hard and a lot to focus on, but I have already found that I am landing more front kicks in sparring because I have been focusing on this drill and my guard as dramatically improved. I am trying to tie it all in together so that I can kick close quarters, I even managed to surprise myself the other day and did a Nidan Tobi Geri (well more first was a front kick, second was a Tobi Geri) and both of them landed, I was really impressed that I of all people could actually land that move.

It is good times being a Shodan, I am actually learning about myself and how I should fight, not fight to a set pattern or what people think should be the norm, adapt it to my personality, boy type strengths and weaknesses.  If I knew that it would of made such a difference, I would of done Sanchin and squat kick (with a high guard) years ago.

Keep Training, Never Give Up, OSU

Styles of fighting – Kata

Styles of fighting – kata

For the last year but particularly the last six months I have been watching people spar and analysing what mindset they fight like, as a karateka in Goju ryu I naturally link it all to Goju’s katas, Geksai ichi for linear, distance fighting to smash and destroy your opponent, Geksai dai ni similar but angles of counter attack, Saifa smash and tear so closer quarters and really focusing on angles, seiunchin for close quarters, shisochin for 4 ways of destruction thinking more of speed, kung fu and using your structure more, Sanchin using body structure to achieve power without relying on muscles that could slow you down, tensho for misdirection, confusion and the list could easily go on.

People don’t necessarily follow a particular mindset/kata and could fight a mixture of katas, some adapt it to their body structure and way of fighting, I know on Nidan who uses fast high kicks and I would say he is a Sanchin fighter.

Watching people and writing it down has helped me recognise their strengths and weaknesses, how I should approach different people and how I should fight them, it has also let me recognised that of my weaknesses and how I can improve them to make me a better fighter.

Originally I was probably a geksai fighter, naturally aggressive who tried to turn himself into a Sanchin fighter with mixed results.

Naturally through asking mates and analysing myself I have noticed I fight in several katas depending on my mentality and area of the fight. In aggressive mode I am a Sanzhan fighter training in China did me so much good for my martial arts, I appreciate more and more every year what I learnt in China, most people there were learning a flavour of the style and crammed so much in that I doubt they remember a fraction, White Crane can be boring he drilled the same stuff over and over again, I didn’t get to learn as much as some other people but it has transformed the way I fight and think about martial arts. Yen Da Shi (the White Crane master who trained me in China) as a large place in my heart.

Anyway back to the subject, after learning tensho back in January and focusing on it for three months enhanced what I learnt in Sanzhan, in defensive or counter attack mode I become very Shisochin in the way I fight, it is an amazing kata and I fell in love with it the moment I learnt it, it just seems to make so much more sense to me than other katas which then shouldn’t surprise me that I use its principals in fighting.

I have a third style, because I am a close quarters fighter, when people get into longer range I tend to feel more panicked and become far more linear than I am in close quarters, I decide at this range that I can kick but am so uncomfortable with kicking that I am out of range or am chasing them down. I need to learn to get use to this range, and blend my kicking with my other two styles of fighting, I am even toying with the idea of blending them all together but I don’t want to get too predictable like I did in the past and reveal too many of them which means it becomes drilled out of me and I don’t use them again.

Keep training, Never give up, OSU

Power- equation of Speed and Strength

To me power is a an important element of martial arts and something we should train in the dojo and out of, endurance is an important aspect if the fight lasts a long time, you are drained that day and someone jumps you need to be able to last a long time.

But to mean to make your strikes more devastating and lasting an impact we need power, but what do I mean by power. In my head (yes it is a weird scary place) power is not what I refer to as brute force, that someone can overpower you with strength size and muscle mass, only some people are blessed with that trait but the combination of speed and strength, too strong and you slow down your strikes are more heavy but have less impact and your opponent’s can read you easier. Too fast and the strikes can seem flimsy and a bigger person can just walk through them. True power or explosiveness is when these two realms are perfectly balanced like yin and yang making the strikes that much more devastating and damaging, it is a very fine balance between the two.

I have seen people who weight train (the wrong way) which makes them really strong guys, and I mean really strong. They could beat me by brute force alone, and yet despite them being bigger than me I would argue that I am more powerful because my balance of speed and strength is more central to theirs.  I know on guy who use to have devastating kicks, he is a big guy and he could time them so well that I never wanted to be within his range. But he is so focused on weightlifting the wrong way (I think it is very beneficial to martial arts, if you train with the right aspect – explosive power) that his kicks slow down too much, of course he still has that danger of brute force (combination of strength and muscle mass) and it still hurts, but it hurts far less now he has slowed down so much.

I have trained with people who just focus on speed, which is great but because their impact is so low I just keep closing the distance and they feel panicked that I am not reacting.

Now if both camps had the right balance the impact of their strikes would make them far more devastating opponents, but you have to train it right. An explosive movement should never been turned into an endurance exercise, the body doesn’t work that way and can lead to injury and very bad form. Both endurance and power should be trained but never mix the two into that same exercise.

I’m not saying endurance doesn’t have its advantages; we just need to think outside the box, what could a fight be like in a dojo, a ring, a cage or on a street, alley way in a pub. We need a balance of endurance and power, a balance of speed and strength, it all ties in with ying and yang, with Go and Ju – Goju.

Keep training, never give up, OSU

The tango of Kumite and Kata

Within the world of karate we know that kata and kumite are both integral to building a better fighter, and making them more prepared for the real word. I know that there is a debate within alot of clubs that kata is useless and that the martial world should just focus on kumite. I for one believe in the balance of two like the go and the ju (Goju – hard and soft), if you focus too much on kumite you loose out on the substance of what karate is, the pattern of techniques, mindset, the way the two are linked each kata is like a different animal. They give you new ideas, methods of attack within kumite, allow you to adapt to the situation (alot like shadow boxing but with more deadly applications) which should be tested within the realm of kumite. If you focus too much on the kata you can not test out if those techniques will work for you or not, it doesn’t allow you to test them under the fear of a fight.

I use to be scared of kumite,  use to dread it because of the fear it induced but it was a necessary evil both fun and daunting at the same time. I find now I am comfortable with the idea of needing to test my ideas mindset and techniques in kumite but find that not enough emphasis is put on it and (as well as loosing pain conditioning) I find it slows down my progress I am not able to know if these new ideas are going to work (new in the sense that they are new to me) and that to keep the spirit of kumite (enjoying and relishing in it) alive.

For karateka with need a healthy balance between the two, without kata you might as well do kickboxing, without kumite you can not truly test yourself.  It is yin and yang.

Keep training, never give up, OSU.

A poem for my dads 86th Birthday

You are like a grizzly bear,

Big and strong,

Yet soft and kind,

You are like a lion,

You are the alpha male,

And you’re the guardian of the pride,

You are like a Cheeky monkey,

Cheeky and full of Mischief,

You are like Dumbledore,

You are the foundation of our family.