Visualising Karate

This morning I had to sit in an office and be an exam invigilator for a few hours. Mentally this could have gone one of two ways. First way, boredom, and sheer dread at how slow time was dragging. Or I could occupy my mind. So naturally I chose karate.

Using visualisation I went through my Karate syllabus and was quite surprised with how in-depth my Karate imagination was. First I went though all my bunkai (kata’s self defence), even a few later kata one’s that I was experimenting with inside my head. Bunkai have always been my strongest foundation within karate.

Next I went through throws, happy to know 15 off by heart with the right names. Then seeing which set of kata’s bunkai had those throws (I counted about 9). Even though we are not a throwing based system, it’s nice to know that we have about 12-15 strong throws that we rely upon.

Then I went through weapons, drills I know, quickflame with the jo staff. I realised that I need to refocus on my weapons, as I was less confident with them. Going through basic weapon defence, wrist locks etc.

Then I went through my kata, something I’ve been really trying to focus on outside of fight club. What is interesting is that shisochin kata and bunkai I seem to find the most natural, and went through them quicker than the others.

When I went through the San kata’s ( Sanchin ichi, ni, tensho and Sanzhan) I felt like I was mediating, the same feeling I’ve only had before from a really good yoga instructor, my inner mind was very calm and peaceful.

Next I went through kihon and kihon ido, recalling all the correct terminology. I couldn’t believe that I memorized them well, despite rarely reading them.

Then I touched upon basic grappling, and what each kata’s names mean.

To someone outside of the martial arts world this would seem tedious, but to me I felt my mind engage in a way it hasn’t done in a long time. I was thinking non stop about karate for nearly two hours. You should try it sometime.


Adieu my Love, Adieu

They say eyes are windows to the soul,

I found the most beautiful soul of them all, 

Heart so pure,

Yet shrouded in darkness,

I thought my burning bright light could heal you,

I thought our love was meant forever,

I was your shield,

And you gave me peace,

Our souls fitting like two halves,

I had finally found my paradise, 

It was all so magical,

With you by my side I could face anything, 

You came to my crowning moment, dragged your family across the land just to support me,

They welcomed me with open arms,

You were my paradise

We have been through so much,

The great storms of life, battling against the indomitable ocean,

Wave after wave crashing over us,

I lifted you up in your darkness moment,

Prepared to sacrifice myself for you to survive,

My love for you is so strong,

My connection to you so pure,

We survived for a time,

Drifting on that great blue ocean,

Finding small islands of paradise,

I lived for those small moments,

They were all I needed,

When you let me in,

There was nothing on this world compared to that kind of joy,

Alas one day you needed to visit a paradise on your own, 

We reconnected so strongly,

Our love so pure,

I knew that you were coming back,

But our love would stay out on the horizon,

I realise for you to save yourself,

I had no choice but to let you go,

Perhaps one day, 

When you are whole,

And the tide of time heals all wounds,

We can journey to the horizon to find our love,

Adieu my love, 


It’s time we both grow stronger,

Adieu my friend,


I will always care for you,



Maybe one day we will find each other again.

A moment of reflection

Last year I became a caveman to karate, I decided to train for the 30 man kumite. I trained with an obsession like no other, it was my chance to train at least in my mind like a professional fighter, diet lifestyle everything was focused on that one goal.

Not only did I achieve an impossible dream, apparently mine was one of the best performances they had ever seen. Which is something I’m still coming to terms with.

Next week I turn 30, and I often wonder what have I achieved in life. I tend to be negative about myself. There have been some dark moments, I failed university and that period nearly destroyed me.

But through that dark period, I have in my own mind gone through my hell and become a stronger person. I refocused on karate, worked in an abattoir (literally like hell), and managed to chase a dream and train kung fu in China (my heaven).

After China I had to go through another period of darkness in unemployment where I felt worthless, karate was the only thing keeping me going.

I learnt I had a talent teaching kids, specifically in swimming which gave me a new lease on life. I love helping others, making people laugh and making a difference in someone else’s life.

I achieved a blackbelt which was impossible to me before. I was a wreck, nerves and fear ruined me. I met a girl who gave me confidence, but tried to change me and mentally scarred me by saying no woman would ever want to be with me long term.

She tried to take me away from my dad and karate, which are really important to my foundations.

I trained like a caveman (with a caveman beard), achieving my nidan and the coverted black gi.

Along the way I fell in love to the woman that gives me happiness, who excepts me for me and who trains in karate as well. She is also a badass. (What an awesome bonus!)

Life isn’t always easy, its the hard roads that have taken me to where I am. It led me to swim teaching, achieving nidan level and being with the love of my life.

My twenties don’t look so bad now in hindsight, and I look forward to my thirties with my foundations of karate and my beautiful girlfriend by my side to keep me strong and on the right path.

Finally a connection with Stances

For the last week it feels like I have had many eureka moments, where something makes sense and it’s been a constant if accidental theme, stances to generate power from the ground, stances that helps with your covering and deflecting, it is what is seemed like as kid like training of karate but is actually in the heart of its true power.

Roundhouse kicks is a kick I have often struggled on, I can kick quite hard on either leg but that is with lot of effort, and my quads often get burnt out really quickly making it hard for me to do them fast for a long time.
Andy one of our nidans is a very good fighter the amount of power he can generate is incredible but also the speed and stamina he can perform for lengths at a time. He has often discussed his type of kick, but whether it just finally made sense (large parts of it have, it’s just putting them together) to alot of us or whether his teaching style has evolved I’m not quite sure yet.
First he took out the speed and got us to focus on the technique raising the knee high, dropping it down, rolling the shin kind of corkscrewing your body into the kick, almost being side on with your bodyweight and structure and rebounding it back.
Elements of it I have been told before, from the likes of Darren etc but it’s the first time when it all clicked that I didn’t need alot of effort to generate power, my thighs weren’t burnt out and the roundhouse kicks were much more effective.
He went on about range, and different levels but a quick discussion with him at the end was his keenness that it all related to sanchin.

Power from the turn, effectively using the stance to generate power is an element I have often struggled with (unless I’m in animal mode), I have been looking into bunkai and stances for a while (mainly saifa and seiunchin) but generally my connection has been quite weak. The during Smiley’s Sandan Course the London Shihan came over and gave me some advice, that I was just turning and punching I wasn’t using my stance, legs or bodyweight into the punch.

This was the drill where our partner had a fist out by our heads and held a pad with the other, we had to turn and defect block the strike and then strike them back.

The London sensei demonstrated and the power he generated caused the pad holder to go backwards quite a bit. He pointed out that I wasn’t using the corkscrew on the turn to drive into my stance, and that I should use the stance to drive my bodyweight into that pad.
The effort was the same, intent was different and the power I achieved enabled me to send the pad holder backwards.
This changed my perspective for the whole course, the kihon ido wasn’t just something we had to do, but became a fundamental aspect of karate, and I could feel the power driving from my legs into my stance, and the turn now was transformed. Not only was i having the reaction time to deflect block and strike, the corkscrew of my legs meant power from my stance went into my block and strike and I felt drive aggression as if someone tried to attack me.

This ended up effecting me throughout the rest of the course, when it came to being surrounded by pad holders calling north, south, East or west I was using what the London Shihan said instinctively and driving through the pads. This lead to sparring where it all came together.

After the course I wanted to thank the London Shihan as it made a huge difference, and admitted my weakness in not using my stances so well when it comes to striking. He gave me some great advice on when they are so important, and why we aim not to hurt but to knockout a person. Pain isn’t enough when  you could knockout and end the conflict quicker, be it from mental, physical or spiritual consequences, but that intent is the most important aspect even if you have to internalise with a partner, with a pad you should always release it. This mindset will get you through alot of trouble and get you most of the way with your karate journey.

I asked the London Shihan does it imply to sticky hands, and he answered yes because they will lead to the final strike which will always aim to be that knockout blow. He demonstrated that a heavy hand, is nothing compared to the combined strength of the stance, corkscrew and bodyweight shift into that strike.

It made me realise that while my time in China was great and beneficial for me, with learning Sanzhan, I have been so focused on being subtle I have stopped using all the power I use to use. It’s like a yo-yo going from exaggeration to subtle, and finding the right balance. I will have to start exaggerating my movements focusing on connecting stances to strikes before I can make it subtle again.

Mindset, when it comes to striking no point in just trying to hurt someone, intention is.key, is strike especially on a pad should be a knockout punch, just giving them pain isn’t going to do much, when sparring intention is to knockout as that will bring your mechanics into it, but internalise it as you have the mindset to do knock them out, with damaging your training partner.

Gripping the ground from your stance be it Zenkutsu dachi or sanchin dachi, gripping with the feet gives you this connection with the ground that you are driving against which can make you more solid in using your stances or help driving you to and from. The Bristol Shihan was on fire last night, and this eureka moments starting from Andy last Thursday, smiley and London Shihan to the Bristol Shihan, everything seems to be slowly connecting together.

Rather than just grip the floor with your toes, which raised the arch in your foot so your not rooted and connected, therefore can’t generate power from it, you pull the ground with tour toes from in to out slowly, it acts like a suction rooting you to the ground. In sanchin kat, your drive the lead hip in, draw the other the other hip in, sink and bring the knees in and rise up almost upright but sinking with your tailbone. This is stuff us high grades have heard before, but trying to walk like that brought new insight and as I discovered new muscle groups into effect.
A similar principle is developed from zenkutsu dachi, where the lead foot gets rooted to the ground and the release enables you to drive backwards effect for sparring.

Maybe it’s just me getting older, but it’s been nearly a week of karate relevations, but the only way for me to learn them is by practice.

Smiley’s Sandan Course

It was a privilege to take part in smiley’s Sandan grading, where he had to teach a course to the association on an aspect of karate that we might sometimes over look, and so the course enables us to learn train and drill this for two hours.

I was impressed with the warmup, to most it might of been just kihon ido (moving basics) but it completely warmup up the body, preparing us for training without causing injury. What was most impressive of it was that it lead straight into what he wanted to teach, the turn.

A seemingly simple drill to turn the opposite direction and to be prepared to defend to yourself from attack from behind. Smiley noticed that many ranging from high grades to low grades often rush this to try to keep in time with everyone else and therefore we often don’t properly cover, block and strike on the turn.

So he had us slow it down take our time, the cover starts just before you start the turn, you end up covering your head and have time to block and strike with plenty of time to do everything and actually to be able to generate power from the corkscrew like action of the turn going into your stance be it zenkutsu dachi or sanchin dachi. By taking our time and not rushing our techniques we had time to fit everything into the turn, covering just before we pivot allows us to let everything flow together.

Smiley later analysed why we turn initially with the current front foot and not the current back foot, the first gives you time to react to a punch to your head and takes you off their center line putting you in a stronger position, the latter forces you to react Instantly, sometimes forces you to move your head out of the way maybe by moving your body depending on the effect of your deflect and blocking but with put you on equal footing with your attacker, which is a disadvantage as you are effectively turning into their attacks.

We drilled this with a partner holding out his fist, then he held a pad with the other arm so we could practice the turn and react into a punch, drilling in that instant reaction of seeing danger in the corner of your eye and reacting immediately. This reaction gave a new meaning to the turn and help visualise that we should have the mindset of reacting to the turn as if someone was about to attack us from behind.

We returned to kihon ido and the whole lineup looked and felt better, we were smoother and the turn itself felt very reactive which transformed everyone’s kihon ido. Moving basics suddenly felt like they made more sense, an new element was added to them.

We then got into.groups of three and trained this reaction with the first kata (geksai dai ichi) bunkai, but this time instead of just doing  bunkai, we had to react as soon as we finished off the previous bunkai as the strike would be coming when we were turned away from the second attacker.

After the excitement of the reactive bunkai we again returned to kihon ido, this time as well as turning around he would ask us to turn 90 degrees one way or another.

Smiley got us to walk around and at random we could grab someone’s shoulder or someone could grav our shoulder and we would have to react Instantly turning  correctly

We got split into groups again, and returned to kihon ido several times as his goal was to prompt us into turning into an attacker in an advantage (stronger line of attack, keeping your head clear of his fists). We were split into groups of five, depending on the angle the call was made would depend if we found it easy or hard, some people prefer one side to another. I found using the drill helped me generate power and react much quicker than I perhaps would normally do.

We again returned to kihon ido, and now I could feel the connection between my guard, stance and strikes everything was flowing in harmony.

Then he got us to do the grab the shoulder, from back or side and we would have to react into an instantaneous spar for.several moments before the next. It was exciting to feel as my stance work connected with my strikes and I was therefore more effective, I could see it happening throughout the whole group.

Smiley gave one of the most well taught lessons ever, from start to finish everything fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle, turns something that seems simple maybe even boring and an area that annoyed it’s lack of cohesion in alot of gradings not only getting fine tuned but to bring the karate spirit into, see how it transcends through to all aspects of karate, making us better at deflecting, power generation, reacting. The list could go on.

The Shihan’s speech at the end was very insightful, they didn’t necessarily agree with everything smiley went on about, but found it very thought provoking where they had to go and discuss and think about it to themselves several times in the grading. They were proud of him and so were we.

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.