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Sloppy

Sloppy. That’s the best word to describe how my karate feels these days. I look down and I’m wearing a black belt, but it doesn’t feel like my performance is at a black belt level. If there was a “Sloppy” rank in our system, I’d probably have it! 

Seems like I can’t hold a good stance for long, don’t kick high enough or hard enough, and sometimes forget the kata or self-defense moves. Tonight was one of those nights. My kicks weren’t snappy, I mixed up moves in our mid-level kata, AND my timing just felt off. Awesome.

I know that’s to be expected with my extended absence and my rehab work, but it’s still frustrating. I’m afraid of falling into bad habits that I’ll have to replace or break later. I’ve lost some ground and I’m fighting to regain it, but it’s not very fun. My mind’s ready to be back at it on a black belt level, yet my body’s being a slow poke in coming to the same decision.

I know there’s only one way to fix Sloppy – work, work, work! Workouts take more mental concentration than they did before I broke my toe, since now I’m having to compensate for the injury. And I’m gasping for breath more often. 😉 I need to pay really close attention to my techniques, slowing them down when necessary so I don’t keep this Sloppy rank forever, or even worse – trade it for a Bad Habit rank.

I think the timing will come back. I’m pretty sure the stances and kicks will improve. And hopefully, not too long from now, I won’t check to see if I really am wearing a black belt!

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Blocking…with my face

“You’re gonna eat a punch!”

That Sensei — he’s one smart ninja! And he’s right – I have eaten a punch or two.

I have a terrible habit of stepping into a punch. Maybe I’m just excited to get to the block. Maybe I think my attacker needs help. I don’t know why I do it! Stepping in wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I was stepping in with an upward block or even a parry block. But unfortunately, I block with my face.

Yep, my face! I can’t tell you how many times someone’s told me I’m lucky they pulled their punch. And they’re right – I am!

Just for the record, I don’t recommend blocking with your face; there are much better ways to meet a punch. I suggest you use the conventional methods of blocking – with your hands and arms.

I don’t realize I’m leaning in, so when people point it out I’m usually surprised. I’m also surprised when, on occasion, I get popped in the face! Funny how leaning in and forgetting to block can lead to that, right?

I’m trying not to be so helpful to my attacker, and I’m working on blocking with my arms for a change. Or moving out of the way. Or waiting for the punch to come to me, instead of me rushing towards the attack. I didn’t say I’m being successful, only that I’m working on it.

In the meantime, if you need to increase your self-esteem and feel like a bad-ass, work with me – you’ll get a punch in every time. Maybe two…

I’m Not Bob!

Someone recently asked why I don’t do jujitsu. I replied with my usual litany of reasons, or excuses if you will, and got a reply I didn’t expect: “Bob does it.”

That’s correct! Bob does practice jujitsu. But I’m not Bob.

Bob and I are similar in age and train under the same instructors, so does that mean we’re the same? Of course not!  

Just as I don’t expect my writers at work to perform at the same level just because they have the same job title, neither can each karateka be expected to be at the same skill level at each rank.

I hire intelligent people and then provide them all the same training when they start. But each writer comes with their own set of skills, aptitudes, and drive that is unlike any other. It’s these differences that I, as a manager, have to account for when training and assigning work.

Everyone brings different things to the mat, just as we do to the workplace. Some students have prior martial arts training; some are natural athletes; some have little physical skill; and some have been sitting on the couch for years. Some are interested in weapons, some are not; some love kata, others sparring.

Just as my mom spent my elementary years asking teachers not to compare her children, we should keep in mind that comparing employees or students to each other isn’t fair or appropriate.

Sure, there are certain expectations at each level, and instructors or managers have a right to expect a certain level of proficiency. But sometimes even those expectations aren’t met, while other times expectations are exceeded.

Can comparison be used to motivate a student or employee? Absolutely! But only if you know the people well and it’s an appropriate pairing. Otherwise, you’ll be comparing pickles to motorcycles.

As for my jujitsu training, I will return to classes after Friday’s Shodan test. But even then, please keep one thing in mind: I’m not Bob.

Kick Sets & Street Techniques

Twice a week I work out with my club at the office, and once a week I try to go to the hombu for a Brown/Black Belt Class. Brown/Black Belt Class is an advanced class typically taught by Hanshi, and sometimes by a senior black belt. We get to work things that challenge my thinking and my skills. In addition to learning kata or self-defense techniques, the instructor may go a bit deeper into alternate ways to do things or the bunkai behind the kata.  

First Sensei had us work kick sets, which are my favorite! I love to kick, so these combinations are particularly fun for me. The object of the drill is to practice our distance, to be able to put a kick on target with full extension of the leg. For some reason we’re not supposed to kick through the uke and break their ribs with the extension, we’re just supposed to make contact. Actually, that’s a good thing, since half the time I’m the uke and I’d like to keep my ribs intact!

I’m not the best at spinning sidekicks, so that was something I concentrated on. I tend to forget to keep my knees bent, and I don’t always remember to turn my head before I spin, so I easily get off balance. Sometimes I look like a dizzy girl instead of a spinning top!  

Sensei tweaked the placement of my front foot after the kicks. I was stepping too far into the uke, and leaving myself in a bad position. Now I know to go toe-to-toe with the attacker, where there is less chance of getting my feet swept from under me.

After kick sets, it was Hanshi’s turn to tweak our techniques, and we worked Set 7, Street Techniques. The entry to this is a parry block with one hand that’s followed by a shuto and a wrist grab with the other hand. I always have trouble with this set because, well, my wrist has bones in it. It doesn’t turn in all directions! It would be easier if I slid a bit to the side and rotated my hips, but I usually forget to do that and I’m left trying to grab my uke’s wrist in an awkward manner. These are particularly hard for me if I’m working with a big attacker.

Hanshi showed us a better way. Instead of grabbing the wrist at chest or shoulder height, he showed us to use the shuto to guide the attacker’s hand downward, where it is easier and more natural to grip their wrist. Well what do you know – I could make it work that way!

I learned something from both of the sets we worked and I’m looking forward to working them again. I think the Street Techniques will continue to challenge me, but I’ll keep practicing and eventually they’ll flow more smoothly!

The Highest Skill

To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.


~ Sun-Tsu