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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!

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.

My Love / Hate Relationship with Black Belt Class

I have a LOVE / Hate relationship with 8 am Black Belt Class.

 

LOVE: Black Belt Class

Hate: Getting up at 6 am to be there by 8. Ugh.

 

LOVE:  Being the dumbest (aka lowest rank) in class.

Hate: Being the dumbest in class.

 

LOVE: Learning new and different concepts.

Hate: Being so slow to pick up on new things because I’m not awake yet.

 

LOVE: Getting my workout done before noon.

Hate: Trying to get my protesting, crunchy body to move before it’s ready.

 

LOVE: Having Hanshi tweak my techniques.

LOVE: Working out with the advanced belts.

LOVE: Seeing friends at the hombu.

 

The LOVE far outweighs the Hate. Guess I’ll set my alarm and go back once in awhile.  ;-D

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!

I’ve Changed My Mind

An encore post from Colahan’s Martial Arts. I’m happy to say I did survive my gauntlet, despite myself. I have not sparred much since my gauntlet due to schedule changes and a broken toe. And because I still don’t like it much. I admit I’m not heartbroken.   😉

“There’s a popular saying among trainers: If you hate an exercise, you should probably be doing it. The reason: People tend to avoid doing movements in which they’re weak…But the truth is, strengthening your weak spots is the fastest way to build more muscle. Just think of it as the low-hanging fruit of your workout: The weaker an area is, the greater its potential for growth.”  (http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/side-lunge-and-touch)

I’ve seen this theory a couple of times, and it’s hit home. While I can relate it to several areas in my life, my low-hanging fruit in martial arts is sparring.

In our system, black belt candidates go through a sparring gauntlet. I’m not looking forward to it. Sparring is the weakest area of my martial arts skills, the part of my training that intimidates me.

Recently I told Sensei that I’d probably be one of those people who go through their gauntlet and then never spar again. Well, I’ve changed my mind. I’m female, and I can do that.

I used to avoid sparring because I wasn’t comfortable doing it — partly because fighting wasn’t allowed growing up, and partly because I didn’t know how to spar. But at one point, I just had to make up my mind to do it. To force myself to go to sparring class and to learn to do what freaks me out the most. Fortunately for me, Sensei encouraged me to go to sparring class. Unfortunately for him, I showed up.  😉

I’m a very high maintenance sparring student! I require a lot of coaching and encouragement, but the Senseis are working with me and I’ve become more comfortable. Little by little I’m strengthening my weakest area and as a result, I’m not hating it anymore. I’m still not any good, but I’m making progress.

Part of my growth as a martial artist is to train in all aspects of the art — not just those I enjoy. I have a lot to learn in karate, and a LOT to learn in sparring. I am fortunate to have instructors who are willing to teach me, to share their knowledge with me, to take the time to work with me. So even though I may never love it, I will continue to spar after my gauntlet. Assuming I survive my gauntlet.  🙂

Tonfa Walking

I have new walking buddies – my tonfa! I like to walk after dark, and even though I’m in a safe neighborhood, I’m still just a delicate flower who appreciates a little extra protection.

So far I’ve had about 20 minutes of instruction and have been shown a couple of patterns. Renshi said he’ll teach us more when we get the patterns down, but until then we just need to keep practicing those over and over.Tonfa Walking

I was going to work on the patterns in the living room but it was so nice out I wanted to go for a walk. I figured I could get the feel of the tonfa while I walked and if I was coordinated enough, I might even be able to work the patterns.

I started out slowly, just trying to get used to the weapons, then started working the patterns. I was worried I might hit my knee, but surprisingly I didn’t! I did, however, hit my elbow. Once. Which was enough, because when Wooden Tonfa meets Elbow, Elbow loses.

Because I live in Podunk, I kept waiting for Deputy Barney to pull up and ask what I was doing. I tried my best to look “normal” by swinging my tonfa when I was in less-lighted spots, and just carrying them when I walked under streetlights. My buddies and I made some pretty funny shadows – I was a 15-foot giant with really long arms!

It’s not the first time I’ve practiced my karate while I walk, since I’m usually working through combinations or blocks, but it’s the first time I carried weapons. So either the neighbors are used to the “crazy karate lady” wandering the streets or they were so busy wondering who in their right mind would go out in public dressed in a red hoodie, brown t-shirt, fuschia shorts and bright pink shoes that they failed to notice my walking buddies.

Now that I know I can walk and swing a weapon at the same time without breaking a knee or falling on my face, I’m sure I’ll do it again. I’d like to walk with my sai but I probably shouldn’t; I have a feeling those might attract a bit too much attention. But do you suppose anyone would notice if I walked with my bo?

Kata — All The Way Home

Sometimes it’s a good thing I have a long drive home after class. Especially on nights like tonight, when Renshi was teaching me a new kata. Goju Shiho Ich is a long one (I probably didn’t spell it correctly!), and so far I’m only about halfway into it. I’m OK with waiting to learn the second half, though, because I’m still trying to get the first half down!

Over the years, I’ve found that if I learn something in class and don’t run through it in my mind until much later, I’ll probably forget quite a bit of it. The hour drive home after class gives me plenty of time to go through the movements in my head. It helps me work things out and get the pieces in place. Sometimes it helps me remember nuances or tweaks that were made during class. And it always solidifies the new movements in my head.

Tonight I practiced the new kata all the way home, going over it again and again and again in my mind. I haven’t physically done it too many times, so I may have mixed some things up, and I could only get so far because I need some more prompting. But with that extra “practice” I’m farther along than I would be if I had left class and driven home thinking about something else!