Tag Archive | Martial Arts

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…

Now What?

We finally did it. We earned our black belts! See? There we are – Phil, Renshi Colahan, me and Peterbilt (Paul). Woo WOO!! Look at us! 

New Shodans after the USKK Test

Phil Mosher, Renshi Mike Colahan, Michele Jarchow & Paul (Peterbilt) Castro after the 2012 USKK Black Belt Test

Aside from “Congratulations,” the thing I heard most after my test was, “Now what?” People wanted to know if I was finished. Would I return to karate? Was there anything left to accomplish?

Well, as it turns out, there’s a LOT more to learn! Our system trains in three different martial arts. In addition to Okinawan Karate, we offer Jujitsu and Kobujitsu (weapons) programs, and students can earn black belts in all three of the arts.

I’ve achieved my Shodan, my first degree black belt, in Okinawan Kenpo. In our system, there are 10 levels of black belt. I will not achieve the top ranks because I started so late, but I can move forward. By returning to class following the test, I began my journey to Nidan, my second degree black belt. That’ll take a couple of years of finesse, focus and practice, but I’m looking forward to deeper study of this art!

I’m also excited about returning to jujitsu. I used to go fairly regularly and earned my blue belt (the lowest rank in our system), but have not participated lately. To be honest, I’ve been rather clumsy recently, and the only way I should have been training in jujitsu was after being wrapped securely in bubble wrap! Now that our Shodan test has passed, I’m looking forward to once again hitting the mat (get it?) and working on those joint locks.

Colahan Martial Arts Shodan Certificates

One more thing I’m excited about is learning weapons!It took a while for me to become interested in them. Renshi Colahan said it would improve our open hand techniques and that was appealing to me, but I didn’t want to take on so much new material as I was closing in on the black belt test. I also didn’t know how I would fit it in, since the beginner class at the hombu is taught at the same time as our club classes. Lucky for us, Renshi has started teaching weapons once a week at the club, and I’m really excited about that. So far I’ve had a 30 minute class, and I’m hooked! I can’t wait to get out on the floor and learn some more!

So now that I’ve earned my Shodan, is there more for me? Is there something to draw me back to the dojo? The answer is a resounding Yes! Not only do I have more to learn in Okinawan Kenpo, but I also have the opportunity to learn more jujitsu and discover the art of Kobujitsu (weapons). The opportunities may not be quite endless, but they are plentiful, and I’m excited to be moving forward – starting now!!

Working Kata, One Movement at a Time

Last night in Brown & Black Belt Class we worked on kata step-by-step, one movement at a time.

Hanshi called out the slow cadence, with a pause after each step or block or strike. When we sped up, we paused after a short series of movements.

When kata is broken down in this way, the content of the form can be studied. One punch. One block. One kick. That’s all that matters. Not the movement that came before, and not the movement that will follow.

Moving one step at a time ensures each technique is completed before moving on. I could focus on the most important movement, the one being executed at the moment. And by putting everything into that one movement — all my power and all my speed — I was reminded that each movement should be a stopping movement, the one that would end the fight.

Working kata for content is a great way to perfect each kata movement, in sequence, at 100% power, and is an exercise suitable for any kata and any level of student.

All Aboard the Ninja Bus!

I’m getting excited! Tomorrow morning we’re loading up Renshi’s Ninja Bus and heading to Texas for the 3rd Annual ABBA Black Belt Retreat.

I’ve never been to this retreat, so I’m really looking forward to it. Master Instructors for the weekend include: Hanshi Dan Kennedy (the head of my system, the USKK), Hanshi Roger Greene, Hanshi Ken Baker, Hanshi Ron Rogers, and Hanshi Ray Montoya. Some of these 9th & 10th degree black belts will be sitting on the board at my black belt test next month, so it’ll be good for me to have more exposure to them. Hanshi Montoya is sponsoring the clinic at his dojo, Montoya’s Shorin Kempo Karate.  

Not only am I excited about the instructors and clinic sessions, but the trip should be a blast! What’s so fun about spending 12 hours — each way — trapped in a vehicle with Renshi and Captain Random? Once the energy drinks are guzzled, you never know what the topic of conversation will be!

Captain Random and I know that if we can get Renshi to laugh really, REALLY hard, he’ll laugh so hard he cries, and then he’ll have to pull the car over until he can see again.

How did we figure that out? We got him laughing so hard in Colorado Springs a couple of years ago that he had to pull over on the mountain road on the way to the Royal Gorge. Since there isn’t a shoulder to pull off on, that meant when we pulled to the side and stopped, all traffic following us had to stop, too. And that was only one of the times he had to stop driving that weekend!

I’m expecting a great weekend of both laughter and tears, along with some great instruction.

All aboard the Ninja Bus!