Fantasy writing

There is a few books that I have been reading at the moment, by Karen miller, and I have accidentally found it a great mental exercise in discovering how to write great characters and political intrigue.

Her greatest strengths are also her greatest weakness, she is so good at creating this vibrant characters and political/cultural edge that she overemphasis it and after the first 400 pages starts to drag (into the second book as well).

What I love about her characterisation is that they will have one major trait about them that both affects them in positive and negative ways, it is such a refreshing approach and makes them seem so much more real and vibrant. That these characters who might do the right thing get in their own way because that is what their nature dictates.


Pullups the key to Martial Arts pt1

In my view pullups should be a key component to any martial artists training regime. This post will be me giving a detailed explanation focusing in all key areas of mind, body and spirit and giving examples on why this relates to martial arts both modern and traditional.

Let’s start with the easiest section the body, pullups will help both a budding and serious martial artist develop a strong more athletic body, it stimulates virtually all the muscles in the torso, with a great emphasis on the back muscles and core.

Some people may think that training for your body is a vanity thing, but we as martial artists focus so much on our front muscles that we are endanger of causing imbalances which often leads to injury. By doing pullups or variations both much easier and much harder we can help make us stronger fighters with a healthier body.

It makes our backs stronger and much more powerful, in my few months in China my sifu in the white crane style was of the view that the secret to his style was a strong back, that his power generation over the inch punch or any short distance was developed from a strong back. People who studied his style at length doing sanzhan for at least an hour a day developed very large lats as a result of this training.
I have noticed from my experience that it is the same for me, my power or explosiveness in my strikes as increased because of this. Katas like sanchin or tensho equally help develop the lat muscles.
Think of the sportmen today compared to years ago, they are so much stronger, faster and much more explosive thanks to their aim of training to get stronger.

Your grip strength increases tremendously as your hands and forearms have to carry all your weight (or more if you add weight) which aids in alot of joint, strangulation, holds, throws and groundwork.
Alot of the white crane kung fu and alot of okinawan martial arts focus alot on grip work, which is also useful for styles like judo, bjj etc.

When someone kicks you in the ribs, there is alot of muscle there to protect your ribs from the power of the impact.
But with bigger stronger lats, whilst they don’t protect the ribs, twisting your body at the right moment can mean that they obsorbed some of the impact helping to protect your ribs.

They engage your core, and as we know the core is the key to everything from striking in boxing and taekwondo to throwing in judo they all say the same thing a stronger core gives you more power and protects your spine.

No matter how good or bad you are at pullups, they are always a mental challenge as it is not something we do every in our daily lives. (we probably did thousands of years ago) and so you have to focus your mind on completing a pullup, matching or beating your previous goal and trying not to cheat. Unlike with most exercises it is so much easier to cheat yourself on pullups, a focused mind is the key to pullups and a focused mind is the key to martial arts.

The battle of the mind and body both help to cultivate a stronger spirit which is at the heart of many martial arts like goju ryu karate, like in its key kata Sanchin (sanzhan).

In my opinion I think either all dojos should get a pullup bars, or better encourage their students to get one and incorporate pullups as part of their training, to make them more rounded stronger healthier fighter, who have strong grips and powerful strikes. In fact I change my view slightly they should only encourage the students to get a pullup bar. Like karate it can be a personal and everyone will have different limitations on pullups, ideally everyone’s limitations can be worked through so everyone can make progress.

Pullups to me are a key component of my martial arts training, there are other reasons why I do them, one being if I ever fell off a high ledge, would I have the strength and ability to pull myself up. When I realised I couldn’t all those years ago I have been heavily focused on pullups. Like karate not that I am to fall of an edge or fight someone in the street, but to prepare myself if I have to save myself or someone I hold dear to my heart.

In part 2 I will give examples of how to progress to different kinds of pullups, ones where anyone can do, to more challenging ones and how to train differently like focusing on grip work, more muscle or how to stimulate them so your able to do them.

Never give up, never back down, Osu.

In honour of a Dkk warrior

Yesterday I found out about the death of a fellow Dkk karateka, his long battle with leukaemia ended with pneumonia over the weekend. It is shocking news that will affect the club (his martial arts family) but most importantly his own family and close friends so much more.

It’s hard to imagine what they are going through, although cancer is closer to home than you think it would be,we all know someone who has been affected by it. 11 years ago when I was 16 I lost a close family member to the evilness that is cancer. It can make or break families, and while it tore my larger family apart it strengthened the bonds of those closest to us.

But this isn’t about me, it’s about a man called John who despite having leukaemia still dreamed of coming back to the club and train. Despite cancer of the blood he wanted to come back, now that takes spirit and guts to still dream of fighting when your already having the biggest fight of your life. I don’t know how many people in any walk of life would have that kind of spirit. His family must of been so proud of his inner strength to keep going.

As he mainly trained in Portishead (me in Bristol university) I didn’t know him as well as those in the Portishead club, but I had trained there quite a bit when he was around, and he made an impact to me, I can’t imagine how others are feeling who knew him better.

He often showed great spirit during training, nothing could keep him down, he would simply get stuck into the thick of it all. It’s his smile I’ll never forget, it was infectious and was always well timed when you were at the most hellish part of the session.

He may of only went up a few grades in our association (although he spent many years training in various martial arts), but to me he was already a blackbelt in spirit, and people like that are rare to find.

To a man named John,
That would never back down,
To a man named John,
Who would smile through the grit of it,
To a man named John,
Who had the karate warrior spirit,
To a man named John,
You’ll never be forgotten.

My thoughts go to those that you hold dear, your friends, your family.

I salute to you in silence my Dkk brother.

Teaching Shisochin bunkai

So I was going through shisochin bunkai with my best friend, as he will need it for hos shodan next year.

I was impressed on how well he learnt it, and how well I was able to teach it. It has been by far the easiest bunkai to learn simply because many of its applications are applicable to sparring, which I’m already using, from the sneaky slips to strike, to confusing them with hidden strikes, it has a definite fighters mindset to it.

I didn’t realise how much I knew about it, as I was already describing mechanically why I prefer to do certain applications, it’s like my sub conscious has been digesting it and it’s come to the front of my mind, I knew it without realising I knew it.

My mate had a similar approach to learning it that I did, I like some people’s bunkai but adapted it to suit what works for me. He did it with one of mine, and it’ll be something I’ll have to drill (and I was meant to be teaching! Ha)

I’ve been thinking more and more how parts of bunkai/kata can be used in sparring, I have been focusing on certain kata as I think they suit me more in my ideal fighting style, but I’ve also discovered today how each bunkai I’ve drilled in for shisochin builds from the previous one.

He did well today, definitely maturing as a martial artist, and there was no fear in teaching him bunkai, unlike a two years back when he was going for brown and we practiced together in a park, how I knew he could injure me ar any moment.

Of course I still got a few surprised shots, but I just found them too funny.

Never give up, never back down, Osu.

Training with my girlfriend

I went running with my girlfriend yesterday and I found it a both a really good workout and a great way to teach.

We started with 3 sets of a basic circuit to warmup the body (and for me to get her to strengthen her body) squats, pressups and ab exercises just kept it light, basic and simple. Then we jogged to the park.

We both have different mindsets and different levels of fitness so the first part I would run fast to a point and then do fist pressups, doing them slowly and keeping my core locked and engaged (using sanchin) I try to do 10 or more before she caught up, then I would do another fast run and try to do at least 5 good burpees before she would catch up, on the third set she would run to catch up then we would walk together for recovery, after a few times we increased it to four/five.

I was pleasantly surprised cardio wise of the challenge as I couldn’t always hit my target despite her jogging at a much slower pace. It was a great way for both of us to get what we needed out of the run.

Last lap we jogged then would do a exercise together for a break, then jog again. We finished off by a park gym exercising the back briefly before stretching.

I enjoyed it alot, I obviously loved spending more time with my girlfriend and sharing something of enjoy (exercise), I found it a great teaching exercise tailoring the exercises to her level and pushed her when I needed to, and didn’t push when I knew she had enough.

It was simple but effect and not too strenuous as she hadn’t run in a while, and I didn’t want to push her too hard, success in anything is done in small steps.

It was her idea for us to go running and me be her own personal trainer, as long as I get to play (I consider exercise a form of adults playing) with my girlfriend I’m happy.

Wilderness training

I went training with my mate, over the fields and far away. It was a really good karate workout, first we did sanchin, first normal then extremely tensed, then relaxed, then normal but a focus of tension then relaxation.

Straight away we went into three punch drill, three kick drill, three strike drill and rotated through until we did 6 punch drill, six kick drill and six strike drill. Then light sparring focusing on using sanchin principles.

We discovered a bar for pullups and inverted rows and I taught him the correct form, and how to change it for explosiveness or endurance or muscle building.

After this we worked on San Dan gi 1 and 2, drilling this in. After this we did sparring again focusing on our guards.

Then I showed him some Kakie with some games me Adam and mike had created from it, only touched upon Kakie and sparred a bit more with a focus on reading our opponents movements.

We finished off with inverted rows for him and pullups for me. It was a very fun session, we got drill some advanced stuff we don’t do enough in the dojo and sparred inbetween to bring it’s relevance to the fight. It was also the first time in a long time I taught a karate session, I have things to work on but I think the tempo was very go-ju.

We are hoping to do this extra training once a week depending on our work schedules but already I have new ideas how this can help us both grow and develop into more well rounded martial artists.