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Mirrors, Mirrors on the Wall…

Mirrors, Mirrors on the Wall

How the heck do I use you??

 

The hombu has some really nice mirrors. They’re great for making sure my obi is tied evenly and my “Suck it up Cupcake” headband is on straight. They’re even great for checking to see how red my face is during a workout.

But as a workout tool, I’m having mixed results.

For 6+ years I learned without mirrors, except for my visits to the hombu. Dodgeball courts don’t normally have mirrors. We mostly learned things by feel – stances, blocks, strikes were corrected and we learned what feels right, as opposed to what looks right.

Occasionally I could use a window with a darkened hallway behind it as a mirror. But for the most part, we learned kata by following behind Kyoshi while he was leading, and then he would have to turn around and show us any intricate moves he was doing that we couldn’t see.

I wished we had mirrors in the dodgeball court. I thought it would be easier to learn moves with them, and for some things, I still believe that. I like ghosting an opponent, using my reflection in the mirror to see where my punches and blocks might land. I like checking my stances in the mirror, seeing if my feet and hips are in the correct position. And I like being able to see what my training partner is doing when one of us is learning self-defense techniques.

Mirrors can also be useful when learning kata. I can see what Kyoshi or another student is doing even if they aren’t in front of me. But recently I was learning Chinto and trying to follow Kyoshi using both Real Kyoshi and Mirror Kyoshi, and the mirrors were really distracting! I wasn’t sure which Kyoshi I should watch. My mistake was in going back and forth between the two. I was so confused I waffled between frustration and laughter.

Me: “I always thought it would be great to have mirrors. But now that I have them, I don’t know how to use them!”

Kyoshi: “They’re messing you up, aren’t they?”

They were! I didn’t know where to look. It was funny and not funny at the same time.

But wait! I may have figured it out! If I’m a total rookie on a new kata, trying to match my movements to the figure in the mirror throws me off. I need to go back to the way I learned for 6+ years and follow Real Kyoshi. But if I know the kata a little bit, I can follow Mirror Kyoshi because the mirrors are just a prompt to the movements.

Familiar Kata = Mirror

New Kata = No Mirror

 I’ll give that a try.  Do you use mirrors? Do you find them helpful or distracting?

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Brown Belt in Okinawan Kobujitsu!

Brown Belt in Weapons!

Kyoshi awarding my certificate.

Last night I earned my 3rd brown belt in Okinawan Kobujitsu (Weapons). Yea!

I did OK but I didn’t do great. I have lots to work on before I test for black! I could use some time in front of a mirror so I can see where my weapons are when I manipulate them, so I’ll be spending some time at the hombu for that. We don’t have mirrors where we train. Or mats, but that’s a different story.  😉

A couple of weeks ago Kyoshi asked me if I thought I was ready to test. I wasn’t sure and said so, then asked what he thought. Kyoshi said he needed to see me run through my weapons again before deciding.

In my opinion my tonfa kata was fine and my sai kata was fine – up to a point close to the end which confused me for some dumb reason. I was having trouble keeping the bo katas straight, though, and couldn’t remember the name of any of the katas for the life of me!

After my talk with Kyoshi I spent the weekend studying. I worked the bo katas in my basement using my broken bo. I stabbed myself a couple of times and scraped up my arms with the broken end, so I might have to sand that down if I’m going to do that more often!

I worked one kata repeatedly until I thought I had it, then I moved on to the next one. I attached the names of the kata to the actual katas. I even made a cheat sheet of a few moves in two of the katas where I was mixing up the moves. Amazing how much that cheat sheet helped!

While I was studying that weekend I discovered that for the most part, I knew the katas. I’d done them many, many times in class. I just needed to focus on them one at a time, with no distractions, and do them again and again. The names just needed to be refreshed in my brain and that didn’t take long.

And on Monday I went to class and showed Kyoshi my kata. I surprised him by knowing the names of all of them! And then I waited for his decision on whether I was going to test or not. I was very excited to hear my practice paid off! I would test!

So last night was my test. I remembered my kata, I remembered the names, and I passed! Whee!!! OK, celebration over. Time to get back to work!

I’m Tired! ;-)

It was Kata night and we did a LOT of kata! Kata’s a great cardio workout, isn’t it? It uses EVERY part of your body!

First we did kata in Kenpo, with little rest between each. Tired!

And then in Weapons class we did more kata, this time with the bo. (I love the bo!) Again…tired!

Suck it up, Cupcake headband

I would have posted my tiredness to my Facebook page but I could just hear Alex, who is barely older than my youngest child, saying, “Suck it up, Cupcake!” (He says that to me a lot, and I usually reply with, “Bite me.”) So instead I’ll post it here, on my blog that I doubt he reads. I’m tired.  🙂

After class I asked Alex if he wanted to take the elevator up. I couldn’t shame myself and ride up while he walked! I knew I still had a 30 minute dog walk to do when I got home and was feeling a tad bit lazy. But of course he wanted to walk, as part of his workout. Darn his youth!!

When we got upstairs I told Kyoshi that Alex wanted to take the elevator but I said we should walk instead. Hee hee!

Kyoshi’s reply: Are you sure you don’t have that turned around?

I know, I know. Suck it up, Cupcake!

What a difference…

I went to the Hombu for Hanshi’s classes tonight. I’m happy to report my bad attitude did not attend with me. 🙂

I led warm-ups for the Family Open class and, oh gee – I must have forgotten to have everyone do push-ups!  <wink! wink!>

I learned a new kata in Brown & Black Belt class, which was encouraging, then got some focused attention from Hanshi on my newest bo kata in Weapons class.

Overall, it was a great night of classes and I’m feeling pretty good.

What a difference a day makes!

Frustration

I was almost in tears after tonight’s class. Not good. Really not good when I felt the same after last Thursday’s class.

I’m so frustrated. I feel like I haven’t learned anything in the past several weapons classes. Like I’m not making progress, or worse – going backwards. We’ve been doing weapons almost a year, and I cannot believe how slowly I’m learning! Maybe my brain has built a brick wall and it’s not going to let any more kata slip through. Who knows.

But if I’m not learning anything, what’s the point? Why bother to go to class? For all the learning I’m doing, I might as well stay at home and practice by myself. The results would be about the same, but maybe with less frustration.

I hate this feeling! I’m going to be grumpy and unpleasant a bit longer. I’ll wonder why I’m trying to learn karate, whether I should give up on weapons, whether I’d hate myself if I didn’t keep working at it. And I expect that, like after last Thursday’s Kenpo class, I’ll eventually realize I did something right or learned something tonight. And I’ll shut up, change my attitude, and get back to it for the next class.

The ups and downs of being a student. *sigh*

What does Nidan look like?

Defense Sets at Black Belt Test

Sets with Sensei Dave, my fantastic uke for my black belt test.

One year ago I tested for my Shodan rank. If all goes well, I will test for Nidan in another year.

Through kyu ranks to Shodan, there is a lot of material to learn and memorize: basics, drills, self-defense sets and kata. With so much to learn in four short years, I couldn’t say I was a master of any of it. I was just putting the building blocks in place. With my Shodan rank earned, I am still not a master of anything – except putting my gi on correctly, and there are days I’m not so sure I’ve mastered that!

The path from Shodan to Nidan is different from the path to Shodan.

The requirements to Shodan are laid out very clearly. The path to Nidan? Not so much, as far as I was concerned. I wasn’t really sure what Nidan looked like, and that made me a bit uncomfortable. When I’m uncomfortable, frustration isn’t too far behind – and that’s never pretty. I can’t hit a target I can’t see, and can’t chase a goal when I don’t know what it is.

I spent my first four years learning 10+ kata and eight sets, one after another. To advance to Nidan, I have to demonstrate two additional kata and one more self-defense set. That’s not a lot of material to learn in two years, so obviously memorizing kata and adding to my repertoire is not the point. So what is it?

It took me a while (longer than it should have, I’m sure!) but I’ve come to realize the time between Shodan and Nidan requires a shift in thinking.  My path is no longer about memorizing material. It’s about what I can do with the material I’ve already learned.

With relatively little new material to pick-up, I have time to really focus on my basics. To make them crisper, faster, and smoother. To work towards mastering them.

I can explore what I’ve learned so far, looking at things with a more experienced eye.

I’m learning what my go-to moves are and what works – or doesn’t work – for me.

I’m learning what I would really do at the end of a self-defense move, as opposed to what has been scripted for me.

So what does Nidan look like? It looks like a better Shodan.

How different will I look as a Nidan? I really don’t know. I’m sure I will not have mastered all my material. That’s a longer journey than this short two years. But I will be on my way, now that I have a better understanding of my goal and what to focus on to get there.

When the kata doesn’t come easily…

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.

~Abigail Adams

I’m learning a new bo kata and it’s not coming easily. For whatever reason, I had to have Renshi slow down and show me small chunks of the moves – and he’s had to show me several times. At one point I was so frustrated with myself that I stomped my feet like a child.

But after I rolled my eyes, threw my head back, and stomped my feet, I got back to work. With some focused instruction from Renshi and some additional coaching from another student (thanks, Alex!), I finally have a portion of the kata down. But just a portion.

As I was reminded, not everything is going to be easy. I know that and I’m OK with that. Part of the fun of learning is tackling challenges; in fact, if everything was easy, I’m sure I’d get bored quickly!

Over time I’ve learned those things which present the biggest challenges also have the potential for the biggest rewards. This is one of those things. So I’m working on my kata in class. I’m doing an extra run-through or two after class. And I’m mentally doing the kata while I’m walking the dog or holding myself in a plank position.

I’m looking forward to getting this kata down. To having all the pieces in place and being able to run through the whole thing without prompting. At that point, my reward will be the satisfaction of accomplishing something that didn’t come easy. Of knowing I worked hard, put in the extra time and effort, and worked through my frustration.

Now…back to work. I’ve got a kata to learn!