Monday, December 29, 2014

I'm just a believer

I'm just a believer that things will get better. Some can take it or leave it but I don't wanna let it go!

A and H and I all had a great practice. For the last two practices A has done well but H had not.  My wife talked to A, and the other members and parents all encouraged him and I guess he was having a good day and so he had a couple of good practices.  Practices where he didn't look unhappy.  He made a pinky promise with one of the black belts that if he practiced hard, that they would play together later.

For H, at the start of the last practice she started floating around in her bubble again.  This time, instead of ignoring her so that I could get my own workout in, I stopped and worked with her.  She had sat down on the mat. With a little bit of hands on work, I was able to get her smiling and enjoying the practice again.

Things are going to get better.

Considering how expensive this all is I don't know why I am so insistent on them sticking to this. I know the value of quitting, but I want them to learn the value of hard work and persistence.  You might say that they could learn the value of hard work and persistence doing something else, something that they enjoy more.  And you might be right in thinking so.  Learning karate, and sticking with it until one gets a black belt or even a 2nd, 3rd, 4th level black belt, might not help them in school and it might not help them in life after they out in the world.  In my own experience, I wrestled for around 10 years and it is a part of me now.  I still long for it.  I loved it.  I didn't always loved it, but it gave me goals and challenges and good friends.  I gave me the confidence to challenge new things.  Running long distance had done the same thing for me.  I never thought I'd be able to run more than 30 minutes, let along 42.195 kilometers.  But I have run a full marathon, as a matter of fact, many.  I even finished a 100 kilometer ultra marathon once.  Knowing that you can do the work and make the commitment to prepare for and finish something like that is a real confidence booster.

Ah, but I babble.  A and H are having good positive feelings toward karate now and I know that it will be hard work on my part to keep them that way until they start to take off on their own.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

1872 Hours of Training?

Once again I come to the topic of the number of hours it takes to reach a black belt and I have come to the conclusion that the 1872 hour number is completely arbitrary. Obviously the more you practice, assuming you have good instruction or good resources, the better you will be.  However, it is also obvious that everyone learns at different rates.  Furthermore, someone beginning as an adult, or even as 12-year-old, will progress at a different rate than say a 6-year-old.

Thus I have readjusted my graph.  While I want to get a black belt, and possibly 2-dan or 3-dan in the future, I'm making my graph top out at 500 hours for the time being.

Over the past year I have about 150 hours of training.   Not all of those hours have been in the dojo with an instructor.  After two years, I should have about 300 hours of training if not more. Most of those hours are in the dojo.  After three years I might have close to 500 hours if I can find a way to increase the number of hours I am training now.

Our instructor comes to us from a larger city.  In that city, students at his "dojo" can train 7 days a week if they want.  His club has classes at different venues throughout the week.

We live 30 minutes away from the next city. While our club only meets twice a week, there are other karate dojos in this area, even ones in the same style, that have practices more than twice a week in the city.  If money was no option, I would love to take the kids to another club, in addition to the one we are at now, so we can get more practice and instruction.  But this shit is expensive.  Our monthly fees are apparently not very expensive but it seems expensive to me.  We pay for the two kids, 3000 yen per kid per month.  Plus there is an extra charge of 6000 yen twice a year for club operating fees.  The instructor doesn't charge me, the only adult.  He says he wants me to work hard and get my black belt so that I can become an instructor in the future.

If the kids did a sport at school, it would cost a lot less, however, there is no karate club at  school.  There is a Track and Field club though!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Last official practice of the year.

We had our last practice today and then a nokai afterwards.  In Japanese that's 納会. It's kind of an end of the year meeting/party.  We just had lunch together and chatted for a two hours.

Okeiko Practice

Practice Kumite Match
Practice Kata Match

We worked through the basics quickly and even did downward blocks for practice instead of lunge punches.  A was doing fine on his own today and so my target was H.  I wanted her to go through the practice and do everything that she could do and I was going to make sure she was going to do it.  Although, I didn't know how I was going to do that. She started out like she has been, kind of standing and biting her fingers and walking back and forth while everyone else does the basic drills.  Then she sat down on the judo mat.  I went over to her right away and, instead of just ignoring her and doing drills with everyone else, I tried to convince her to do the drills.  She wouldn't.  She wouldn't stand up.  She kept refusing.  After a few minutes of trying I finally got her to her feet and held on to her and kind of forcefully moved her through the motions.  She must of thought  that was fun and started to smile and laugh and enjoy the drills.  Muto-sensei ended the drills quickly and it was time to do kumite.  By then, she was in a good mood and I had no problem getting her into her sparring gear.  A too was in a good mood and got into his gear quickly enough.  From then on, H worked through the kumite on her own without me until we got to the point where it was too dangerous for her to continue and Muto-sensei sent her out of line.

Advice:  Step down hard and fast when stepping in for a punch and try to make a sound with your feet when you do it.  This noisy stepping is part of the "appeal" to the judges that you are making contact.
Try sweeping with your hands instead of blocking with our fists and forearms.  It's faster.
Timing.  Try and get your timing so that your counter punch matches your opponent's movements.  He is stepping in or coming down from a move and your come in for the kill.

Kankudai / Heian Godan - when reaching down for the hakama grab, shoot your arm out straight and don't swing your arm up to position as if you were scooping.  A straight shoot and grab.

It is better to pick a few kata, say three, and practice them hard so that you can do them very well, than to try and master 10 or more. - Muto Tadashi

It is a good idea to choose a kata that matches your body style.

The person who finishes first in a kata match often looses.

When doing your kata, for example, a typical I shaped embusen, it is better to step further on your way out than not because you can see your starting point as you go back and can adjust so that you end where you started (or are supposed to end).  This is because you will surely lose if you don't end up where you are supposed to.

Eyes and facial expression and kiai are important as power, speed and accuracy are when doing your kata.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Eve practice - Empi, Bassai-Dai



Kon-sensei and his two kids were missing, as were a few other members so it was a small contingent for Christmas Eve practice.  I was wondering if we really WOULD have a practice.  Muto-sensei said it would be a short practice but, either because he lost track of time, or because he really WAS impressed with our effort, it ended up being a regular length practice.  He said it was his Christmas present to us.

We finished Kihon quickly and moved into Kumite practice.  A went through Kihon and Kumite well and was praised several times throughout the practice.  H said her throat hurt at the start and sat off at the side and didn't do anything. She did however play pretty hard for the 45 minutes before official practice started. My wife says I'm a push-over and that I should take the effort to MAKE her practice . I want to, but I don't know how to do it without getting angry.  I don't have the finesse my wife possesses.

It was the first time that I had done kumite in a while.  A and H have been quitting after kihon or we have had to miss several practices.  It really got my heart rate up.  The Abe brothers are really improving quickly, with the older brother really doing well.  He is flexible and can really kick well.  He will do well when he starts going to tournaments. My kicking is not improving so quickly, but it IS improving. Little by little.

 I learned this year after going through 6 months of rehab for a torn muscle in my left hamstring that my hips are falling apart.  We found many other problems. In particular, the bones around my hip sockets are jagged and worn which makes kicking, especially the powerful round-house kicks and side kicks, very painful and difficult to do.

Kata - Since Kon-sensei was gone, we all did Kata together and Muto-sensei led.  He had us do one Heian Kata, and then one other kata.  So we did Heian Shodan, and then Kanku-dai. Then we did Heian Nidan, and then Bassai-dai, then Heian Yondan and Jion, etc. Muto-sensei gave us extra instruction on some of the Heian Kata where it was needed and on Bassai-dai.  He said we all had Kanku-dai learned fairly well.

Among that we also did Empi.  Only the black belts and brown belts have learned and practiced Empi so far so the rest of us really had no idea.  We didn't do it step-by-step so I still have hardly any idea of how to do it.  I need to study some videos and diagrams and take some time to learn it on my own.  Generally, I can learn the basic steps in a kata after three or four sessions of studying it on my own.  And then I forget it a little and relearn it a little and forget it a little and so on.

Heian Yondan - I have a hard time returning to the starting spot doing Heian Yondan but I am getting better.  Kon-sensei game me some advice that seemed to conflict with the traditional way to do it so I took it with a grain of salt.  Then Muto-sensei said that I just needed to take a bigger step during the first Kiai.  I have been trying to do that and it is working well.  I am much closer if not right on the spot now.

I always try and find a spot on the floor that I can use a visual marker when I practice kata.  When I practice outside in the street I try to do the same.  A crack in the road or a manhole or something.  By the way, when practicing outside on the street, I practice at around 5:00 am when it is still dark and there is nobody around.  I  practice kata as a full body warm-up done before I go on for a run.

I can't recall which one it was now, but one of the other Katas we did I found that I was way off the mark at the end.  I don't think it was one of the Heian kata.  Bassai-dai maybe.

Bassai-Dai - I am finally starting to get the hang of it.  Muto-sensei keeps giving me/us little tips that make it easier to remember.  One of the Y boys gave me lots of help and advice during Kata practice too.  Soto uke, uchi uke, soto uke, uchi uke.  Sweep the leg and then do Uraken.  That move is one that I think I could do during Kumite.  I have never seen anyone do Uraken at the two tournaments I've been to but it looks possible. I wonder if the refs would catch it and actually give me a point for it??

So much stuff to learn.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Struggling with motivation

Personally, I'm still motivated to continue learning more about this sport and to continue to improve my skills in it.

A still has some kind of psychological block. One of my hopes when starting Karate with the kids was that it would give us something to do together, father and son, father and daughter.  And that somehow, through doing this activity together and spending more time together, that it would bring us closer and magically help to smooth out the wrinkles in our relationship.

So far that is not working.  Or is it?  It is hard to say.  "A" has been having a string of bad practices. He seems to like Karate.  He practices Kata at home on his own everyday.  However he doesn't like to get advice. Not from me, not from the Karate instructor, who is an 8th level black belt, by the way!  I would venture to bet, that if the instructor were female, then he would do better.

At any rate, I've come to realise that I we will have to work out our relationship problems at home and that dragging them to Karate because I want them to do it is NOT going to help.

We will still go to Karate.  But I know that I have to work harder to be a better father at home.  Parenting is so difficult.  When A is being mean and unfair to his younger sister, should I step in?  Or should I just let them work it out on their own?  My wife is saying that, unless it looks like someone is going to get hurt, that we should let them work things out for themselves.  But what kind of message does it send to them if we just stand by and do nothing when one suffers an injustice to the other?  Non-interference is best?  So they can learn to turn a blind eye when other people are getting bullied or suffering some injury at the hands of others?

Coming back to the title of this post: struggling with motivation.  Mostly I was thinking about the difficulty I've had lately getting the kids to practice when at practice.  My two are the only ones who go, but don't practice.  I wonder if they would practice if I were not there?  Is it MY presence that is the problem?  I've been trying to get their mother to come to practice but she won't.  She values having time with fewer children in the house as does my oldest daughter.

I will admit that my level of motivation has gone.  It has been a year since we started and I have thought a lot about what Karate means.  I have come to the conclusion that it is nothing more than a hobby, an interest and a sport.  It is good exercise and something that we can do with others.  It is a sport, although the rules are not yet uniform across tournaments and styles. It has a long history, though probably not as long as wrestling, my first love.  Other than this, it has no meaning.  The reason I wanted the kids to do it in the first place is that I wanted them to learn a traditional art from Japan.  Judo was an option but I didn't really want them to do that and get cauliflower ears.  Sumo?  No thanks.  What's left that we can learn in our community?  Japanese calligraphy, but that is about it.  So, karate is what I chose.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei

Kihon - basic form drills
Kumite - sparring practice
Kata - Kata practice


We did the downward block (gedan barai) during Kihon today, for the first time I might add.  I once again felt foolish as I tried to do the combinations while moving backwards.  Ageuke -> chudan gyakuzuki, Shuto uke -> Nukite from rear stance, Shuto uke -> Nukite while changing to front stance, Soto uke ->gyakuzuki, Uchi uke -> gyakuzuki?  H didn't do any of the kihon except for the first two sets of straight punches.


H joined us for kumite and Muto-sensei worked with her until we started what he calls kaeshi waza.  A got all dressed up for kumite and then decided he didn't want to do it.  But I got him out there and he did it.  We had an odd number and everyone had to take turns waiting to get back in the line.  While he was waiting, he was practicing kata and Muto-sensei praised him heavily for this.  That made him feel good.  ;-)

Once again Crown, NY and YY, all tried to give me advice. Once I was told not to hit hard, and to try and just barely touch with my strikes.  I was also encouraged to try and sweep the punches out of the way instead of trying to do a full Soto uke etc as trying to doge and sweep would be faster.  I can do it sometimes but I'm just not that light on my feet just yet (will I ever be?).


Kon-sensei worked with us on the kata taking us through the Heian kata and then we worked on Jion.

How many calories does an hour of Karate practice burn?

For me, a 77 kg male, it's about 1100 calories.  That's about 550 kcal per hour.  Not as much as a running, but still a pretty good amount.  I put the heart rate monitor on during practice last night to get an idea of how many calories were being burned.  It's a rough estimate for sure.  I was just curious.  My max heart rate was 165 and the average was 128.  Some people have mentioned that I look like I've lost weight and I think they are right.  I do look like I've lost weight, but I haven't.  I the full body exercise I'm getting from doing Karate is helping my get leaner.  At least, I hope it is.  We use pretty much all of the muscles when doing it.  You are pushing and pulling and swinging your arms in all different planes of movement.  It uses your shoulders, your triceps, your biceps, your forearms, your legs in the deep shotokan stances, jumps, lunges and kicks, and our core muscles as you twist and turn your body and quickly as you can.  The warm-ups get your heart rate up as well as the sparring and the kata.  It IS good exercise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Painfully obvious

It is painfully obvious to me, that it is not going to take 1872 hours to get a black belt.  It seems as if I might be able to get my brown belt, level 3, before Christmas, which would a little more than a year after starting and would be after about 150+ hours of class/training. That amount of training should get one to Level 10 or 9, perhaps (Level 1 being the highest before shodan black belt).  I know my sensei really wants me to take the test and get my brown belt as soon as possible because he says, it takes a long time after getting your brown belt to get shodan.  He is 80 years-old and wants to see me get my black belt before he has to stop teaching.  I want to get it too, but I want to feel worthy of it, like I earned it.  I got my ass kicked so easily at the last (and only) tournament that I entered recently.  It made me feel a bit embarrassed that I was wearing a purple belt. If I remember correctly, there were a few white belts in my division (high school and up) but all the others were black belts. As the belt color doesn't matter for the tournaments, I might put on my old judo white belt for the next tournament.

When we have our belt tests, there are three or more instructors conducting and scoring the performance of the testees.  So my sensei says that it is not up to him whether or not we pass the test or what level we are given.  But I wonder, really, how much influence he has.  Is he pushing them to give me ranks I don't deserve or do they really feel I deserve it?  Or is there a separate standard for new adult learners?  Or perhaps for foreigners?

Sadly, the site is down for good.  It was closed.  But the owner made the site available for download, which I did, and here is a quote from that site.  The article title was Practical Karate Tests, by Rob Redmond. I like the idea here but it could take 10 years for me to get a black belt under his system if he required the 2000 hours of in dojo training.  The list of requirements, like for getting Boyscout badges, however could be used to allow a fast learner to rank up based on skill and not total hours only.
"Belt tests are loaded with all sorts of problems. I think in the future, should I choose to function as the lead instructor of a karate club, I would avoid testing students all together. Instead, I would prefer to set down a list of requirements that students must complete in order to qualify for their promotions instead of holding an examination. These requirements would include things like a particular number of hours training since the last promotion. I feel that the minimum number of hours spent in the dojo training for a shodan (black belt) is 2000. This means that each kyu rank would require around 125 hours of training before the student is allowed to receive the next rank. I prefer counting the hours of actual time spent training over the method of requiring three months of elapsed time because during a required interval of time between exams, some students hardly show up to train at all until the few days before the test. I would also institute other requirements, such as having the student demonstrate this skill or that skill to my satisfaction, and I would allow them to complete these requirements one at a time after class when they preferred. One of my requirements for them might be a day in which they were put under pressure and required to spar other students and succeed to some minimum standard. Once the requirements had all been signed off as complete, the student would be qualified to receive the rank."
I would think that the 2000 hour rule is too arbitrary and is likely just a way to get money from tests.  If the student has the skill, they should be allowed to move up in rank.  It seems that is what our dojo is like at the moment.  At least that is how sensei says it is.  If you work hard then you'll get the skill that will allow you to do well on the test and move up in rank.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kankudai, Jion, Kumite pointers

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei


There were few members this practice.  I don't know why. Maybe they were studying for tests.  Maybe they were sick.

H didn't do anything at all because she had gotten a flu shot earlier in the day and she said her arm hurt.  A did well up until the very end of Kumite when he got hit a little hard in the back of the neck.  I think it scared him more than hurt him.  He sat down at the side and didn't do any Kata practice.  He has a hard time recovering from mistakes or embarrassing situations or having gotten yelled at.  He will usually just quit and sit at the side.  I can understand the embarrassing situation part.  He cried.  He was embarrassed and didn't want to do any more.  I hope he can learn, sooner than later, that it is more embarrassing to quit because of the incident than to struggle on through it.  Although I think his reaction is not too odd for a young boy his age.

Muto-sensei is again having us do more combination punches during our kihon practice.  We never do combinations that include both punches and kicks.  Hmm...  I had actually practiced twice before practice and was able to do them without too much embarrassment.   I need to continue to practice combination punches moving forward and when moving backward.   I still haven't decided if we will go to the upcoming belt test, but if we do, then I think I'll need to be able to do these combinations well in order to move up to the next level. I think the next level will give me a brown belt.  Muto-sensei says that you might as well hurry up and get your brown belt because it won't be so easy after that to get your black belt. There are in our system, I believe, three levels of brown belt.  Muto-sensei is really encouraging me to take the test and I get the feeling that he is tailoring the practices somewhat to help me personally.  But then again, I'm not the only purple belt.  There are others, but most of them are a level or half-level below me.


Most of the kids, the ones that started before me, are giving me advice during kumite.  They give me a lot of advice, sometimes the same advice over and over because I am not getting it done correctly.  I can feel that I am starting to improve during kumite.  I still don't think that I'll ever be able to win any matches if I compete and am likely to get my head knocked off.  Let's hope that never happens.

Tips: Don't hit too hard or you'll get a penalty.  But, if you can hit him hard enough to make him quit, then you win the match.  So, remember, this is not a "fight", it's a game of touché.  You are trying to get points so that you can win the match.  So reach in there quickly, touch and snap your whole arm and elbow back and even twist your body while you kiai loudly to appeal to the judges that you made a hit.  I got some other tips too, but to tell you the truth, they speak quietly and I have  a very hard time understanding them.

I stepped on the feet of two of the members last night.  Is this because I am clumsy and inexperienced? Or is it because they didn't get out of the way fast enough.  I can tell you something, though, after having run eight and a half km that morning and then after warm up and kihon, I wasn't feeling very light on my feet.  The kids are telling me to bounce around and keep moving to make it harder for your opponent to know where you'll be or from where or when you'll strike, but I'm too heavy and tired to do that.  I am no butterfly.  If I could loose the extra weight that I have and get down to around 70 kg, I wonder how much lighter on my feet I would get?   keep thinking that jumping rope would be good exercise for karate-ka.  Running is good, I'm sure, but jumping rope seems like it would help prepare you for the constant bouncing done during kumite.

We did the Heain Kata and then Kanku Dai and Jion.  I had forgotten them both a little bit.  It's not that I have forgotten Kankudai, but I have a hard time doing it with everyone.  I blank-out.  I guess it is a bit of performance fear.  I have about 10 Kata now that I need to find time to practice so I can keep polishing them.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Kanku Dai, Bassai Dai and Jion

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei


I have been too busy to write down what we have done in practice lately. I think we have had two practices since I last wrote.  Muto-sensei has moved me into the other group to practice Kata with Kon-sensei.  There are two black belts, two brown belts and two purple belts.  Muto-sensei is pretty confident that I can get my brown belt soon.  I'm not so confident.  At the very least, I don't think I deserve a brown belt yet.  I'm not even sure I deserve a purple belt.  Recently I feel as if I have been falling behind.  That young blue belt is going to pass me up soon if I'm not careful.  He kicks fairly well.  Especially his front kick.  He really gets his hips into it and thus his kick has reach.  He is very flexible too and could already do an upper level roundhouse kick when he started.  I am getting better with my kicks but am still far away from being effective with anything I do.


At the last practice we did a lot of combinations.  I really need to try and recreate and practice these at home.  A needs instruction on the basic motions for the basic moves like downward block, upward rising block, knife hand block, inside block, outside block.  It wouldn't hurt to have one practice where we spent a third of the time going over how to perform these basic blocks.

三本突?? (sanbon zuki) 追い突きの連突き - If I remember correctly, 上段突き, 中段逆突き、中段突き
後進、手刀受けから貫手(逆突きの貫手 や 前屈立ちの貫手)

*下段払い、前屈立ちヨリ、前進、上段突き、逆突き、中段突き (I'm guessing the timing would be 1,23.

I can't remember exactly what we did for Kihon.  But, with a belt test available in December, I'm looking at what might be on the test for me.  It might look something like the two columns below. I'm not sure what 三本突 is.  It is so hard to find information on the Internet because there are so many different styles of karate, and even those in the same "style", still teach things differently.  It's crazy un-centralized.  Back to Sanbonzuki.  I know it is a three punch combination.  But what are those three punches?  Upper-level chasing punch, followed by a mid-level chasing punch?, or is that a on the spot mid-level punch?, finished off with a reverse punch.  I found a link but I have no guarantee that it is the same as what I'll be asked to do. See the link here:

  1. 前屈立下段払ヨリ 
  2. 廻って下段払
  3. 下段払ヨリ
  4. 前屈立,下段払ヨリ
  5. 廻って下段払
  6. 騎馬立ヨリ
  7. 騎馬立ヨリ
  8. 前屈立ヨリ


  1. 前屈立,下段払ヨリ
  2. 廻って下段払
  3. 下段払ヨリ
  4. 手刀受、逆突
  5. 前屈立下段払ヨリ
  6. 廻って下段払
  7. 騎馬立ヨリ


I have many things I need to work on as I will always.  One of those many things is Hikite.  I need to pull my limbs back dramatically and quickly and even in a bit of an over-exaggerated way if I want to get the points.  Make contact with a 上段突きじょうだんづき? Make sure you pull your fist back hard and fast to your hip and turn your body into hanmi and pull you elbow back far so it sticks out behind you far. Or something like that.


There is something that just doesn't click with Kihon kicks and real-life kicks done during sparring (kumite).  The just don't seem like the same thing.  For one, either I'm understanding how do to the kihon kicks wrong (probably) or I'm just not physically flexible nor strong enough to do them (also of high probability).


I am still working with the upper level belts.  We are working with Kon-sensei (sandan).  We worked on Kankudai the last time and this time we worked on Bassai Dai and Jion.

I got the feeling that none of the members have Bassai Dai memorized well.  I tried to get help from one of them but he kind of gave me a quick half-answer and then skirted away.  That's OK.  I've got materials that I can refer to and THE INTERNET!  I just don't have the freedom or the space and time to practice.

I caught a glimpse of the other members practicing with Muto-sensei.  They had one last Kata to do and A had wandered off to the side because he wanted to stop doing kata when Muto-sensei called him back over and told him there was only one more to do and to buck up and finish it out.

I am having a hard time deciding what to do about the next test.  Do we take it or not?  If we don't and the others do, then it is likely that many people will move up a belt and A and I won't.  If we DO take it, then there is the chance that I will move up a level to become a brown belt (3-kyu).  After the last tournament (my very first tournament), I really don't want to put on a brown belt and enter into a tournament.  I don't feel I am at that level.

My new plan, assuming I can make myself do it, is to get up early most mornings and walk or run to the ski slope and then practice karate in the parking lot there.  I need to improve my speed, strength and coordination and a 40-year-old man like  myself is not going to be able to do that with two practices a week.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Working on Kankudai

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei


Nothing new with Kihon.
Same old Kumite.  Everyone is getting better.  The AB brothers are improving quickly, especially the older brother.  He seems to be holding back recently when working with me.  A decided he had a headache and would skip Kumite, but he said he would do Kata.  H did a little Kumite and and don't know if she did any kata.  A did Kata but tried to leave the formation and hide behind a pillar. Muto-sensei got him to join the group again.

This time, Muto-sensei told Kon-sensei to take me with him so I could work with the brown and black belts.  We worked on Kanku Dai, only.

We only worked on Kanku Dai.  Which was great, because we usually don't spend a lot of time on one thing so it is hard to learn the details.

There are, depending on how you count them, 65 separate movements in Kanku Dai.

Advice I was given:
Keep your body upright, don't lean forward.  (This is a constant problem of mine.
I don't realize that I am bending forward so it is hard for me to fix the problem).

Somewhere around movement 44, the lower level knife hand block, when you do the mid-level knife hand block, I was doing it at a 45 degree angle, and it should be done straight ahead, directly to the back (south).

Be careful to keep in mind the half-way-point when moving from one movement to the next.  For example, when moving from the elbow strike into the knife hand block, keep in mind to first get your body pointed in the right direction, to get your mark hand out and then to perform the block.

Make sure your rear stance (kokutsu dachi) looks good and make sure your other stances (rear, front, horse stances) are good and low. This is SHOTOKAN Karate, not some other style. Make it look like Shotokan.

I noticed after looking at an illustration of the kata, that I had my hands in fists, when preparing for the ridge hand strike to the neck when they should have been open. For move 16 and 36, it's an open hand, for move 18 and 25, it's a closed fist.  For 16 and 36 you are preparing for the ridge hand strike to the neck.

For 18 and 25 you are blocking after grabbing the hakama between your opponent's legs and pulling hard and possibly flipping him?  At least that's my interpretation.  Is that right?

Also notice the angle of the back arm in these two prep-motions.  When in the fist as a block, the fist should not be leaning in towards your head, but should be pointing straight up to the ceiling.  When in an open hand when getting ready for the strike to the neck, the forearm is leaning forward toward the head.

When doing the back fist strike, hammer fist strike, elbow strike combination around move 55~57, keep in good horse stance and shuffle your feet towards your opponent 6 inches for back fist strike (uraken) and then perform a hammer fist strike (tessui). There should be no pause between the two strikes. Perform an elbow strike into the left hand, bring the two hands down to the left waist in a cup and saucer position, then look to the right and perform a downward block to the right with your right hand while still in horse stance.  

Hmm, I'm trying to remember all the things that I learned during this last practice.

I'm planning on getting a new video camera and a tripod so that I can take video of myself and the kids practicing and at tournaments and tests.  It will be a useful tool for evaluating our form.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei


A, for some reason, decided just before we left for practice, that he wanted to quit Karate?  We half forced him to get into the car, and before we had reached the dojo, he was already in a good mood.  And he had a good time during practice and came home happy and in a good mood.   Strange.  During practice Muto-sensei praised him for his improvement in kumite.

H did really well at the last practice and I was able to watch her because I had to watch over our 3-year-old and couldn't practice myself.  I wasn't able to watch her this time because I was practicing myself, but, I think she does a better job when I'm not going around with her.  She tried to talk to me several times during yaku soku kumite, but I kind of half ignored her, and she just kept at it.  She often tries to tell me that she is hot, or sweaty, or itchy, or wants to take off her menho. Then when I stop to hear her say, she inevitably uses that to quit.  She ducked out halfway through kumite practice and that's OK.  Just as long as she goes through 3 bon kumite at least, I'm happy with that.    She can't follow us through kata practice.  She needs special attention but she wont take it.  I guess I'll just have to wait until she is ready, or think of a creative way to get her to practice.

Kata - we went through the Heian kata and then did Wankan, Kankudai and Bassai Dai.  It's about time I find some time and space to go through Bassai Dai on my own.  I also need to practice Kankudai more so I can do it without counting.   Actually, all of my kata suck and they all need to be worked on constantly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our first tournament

Training for anything hasn't been going well. Bad weather, bad colds, busy schedules.  

The last couple of practices I had to bring our littlest one and so couldn't practice much. I did do a bit of Kata practice with everyone, though.  

H on the other hand, did really well during the last practice.  She did san-bon kumite really well.  She keeps asking me when she will get a colored belt and I keep telling her "When you can do san-bon-kumite and when you have learned Heian Shodan, then you can get a colored belt."  In reality, she probably could get one now, but I'd like to be a bit more strict with their advancement.   I'd love to give A and H individualized practice but I can't figure out how to get them to do it.  I can't hold their attention long enough to do it.  The other kids in the club, too, aren't very serious about practice.  

A and I participated in our first tournament over the weekend.  H came along, too. Kata was done in the morning and Kumite after lunch. A and I both did terribly on our Kata.  A could have a chance if he would practice, but he won't.  I blanked out half way through and even if I wouldn't have, I was so far outclassed it wasn't even funny.  I'm sure it must have been painful to watch.  It's painful to recall, for sure.

A won his first match, winning, I think, 3 to 0, with lunge punches.  Mr. Y cheered him on well, and was a good example for me.  His cheering seemed to spur A on and give him confidence. His success, probably gave him confidence as well. He lost his second match quickly, receiving two swift kicks to the head and losing 6 - 0. I had to wait all day for my match and thus had plenty of time to be nervous.   I lost my first match 6 - 0 to a guy whose black belt was faded and worn.  It was my first match ever against an adult.  Again, I was so outclassed it wasn't even funny.  I can't kick.  I probably look like white belt first grader when I do.  It was so embarrassing.  I was told by a ref before the match, in English, "No contact."  I knew the rules already.  You are supposed to pull your punches.  I'm not sure if my opponent was pulling his punches and kicks or not, but he hit me pretty hard several times.  It was a shock.  I lost a lot of confidence, not that I had any to begin with.  My division was for High School, College and Adult men.  There were only two adult men, I think, me and my first and last opponent.  They were all big and tall and fast.  I can't imagine I'll ever be that fast.  

Lookin on the brighter side of this experience, I got to sit at the edge of the matt after loosing in Kata and loosing in Kumite and thus got to watch, at very close range, the big boys do their stuff.  It was eye-opening.  

For Kata, I did Heian Nidan.  It is the one I feel the most comfortable with, and I blew it.  Everyone looked at me with disbelief when I pronounced it.   All the others were doing Jion, Kankudai, Bassaidai, Empi and other kata I hadn't even heard of.  No one did Jitte, which was what I was thinking of doing in the first place.  Now I'm thinking that I will have to practice Jitte more and perhaps try it at a tournament sometime in the future.  Definitely not in the near future.  No one did Wankan or Chinte either.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bassai Dai?!

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei


The same old stuff.  We do the same old stuff most of the time.  I guess Muto-sensei feels it is the best use of our limited time.  And he is probably right in thinking so.

A and H and I were all tired from the day before.  The day before was a holiday and we spent the whole day outside on an adventure and hadn't yet recovered. A was grumpy from the start. H was doing OK, but could get started on Kumite drills and didn't hardly do anything but stand around during basic drills.  She was just asking me earlier that day when HER belt was going to change. I told her, that once she learned Heian Shodan and could do 3-bon kumite, then she could get a new belt.

A, again, didn't do the kata practice.  He did Heian Shodan and then got confused with Heian Nidan and quit kata practice all together.  He doesn't want to practice, but he doesn't want to look bad by not being able to do it, either.  A bundle of contradictions.

Bassai Dai.

For some reason, Muto-sensei started to teach us Bassai Dai.  He started.  But he didn't finish.  He seemed confused.  I worry about him. He turns Eighty this year, and while most of the time he is lucid, strong and healthy looking, and has a fine memory, sometimes he gets confused.  We haven't quite internalised Kanku Dai yet.  I can do it if I am allowed to count on my own, but I get confused when I have to follow his count.  I need to practice it more so that I can do it without counting.  On this day, I got mixed up doing Heian Godan.  So embarrassing.  I just so wish I had space and time to practice.  I think with winter coming on, I won't have to worry about mozzies anymore and I might just go outside and practice in the yard, in the dark, in the snow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kata practice, practice, practice

We have had three practices since my last post.  Muto-sensei introduced Tekki Shodan to us lower level belts for the first time.  He is eager to have me get my black belt and I feel that is part of the reason he is introducing it to us.  It is a short Kata and it looks like it should be easy to memorize all the steps/moves.  I tried twice to go over it the last three days but have been interrupted and have not had enough time to go over it on my own yet.  It looks like there are two kicks in there that I couldn't see Muto-sensei doing from behind.

We keep learning new kata, which is interesting, but I have yet had time to polish any one of them.  We always go over the Heian kata, which is good because I don't feel confident doing any of them.  I have all the steps memorized, I just don't feel that I am doing them well.  I am really eager to get a tri-pod and a new video camera so I can start video taping myself and Aspen so we can analyze our performances.

Since the Gasshuku, I have once again tried to get started doing push-ups everyday and I really need to get back into doing my rehab stretches and strength training too.  They just take so much time and our apartment is so small there is no place for me to do them.  I should stop complaining and just start doing them! I will never be able to do well at Karate if I don't drastically improve my flexibility and loose weight.  I know I don't have a lot of weight to loose, but if I could loose around 5 kg, I'm sure it would make a big difference.  I need to get running more often.  That will surely help me to loose some weight.   I have also been thinking about jumping rope.  That should help me loose weight as well as help strengthen my calves/etc for the constant bouncing done when sparring.

I am bribing the kids.  I sometimes give them candy or buy them snacks after practice as a reward.   At this point, considering how young they are, I just want them to look forward to and to associate good feelings with going to karate.

Muto-sensei said the other day that after the next exam, I should be a brown belt but that after becoming a brown belt, it might take a while before I can get my black belt, which is fine with me.  But then he said, that for adults, he usually doesn't make them wait so long.  ???  It looks like the next exam is in December.  I think we will skip that one and wait until the next one in March.  A needs the motivation the exams provide, but I don't and I really want to be worthy of a brown belt before I get it.  I can learn the stuff, well enough quickly enough, but things like speed, timing and flexibility take time and experience to develop. I don't want to be a brown belt who gets his ass kicked by some lower belt.    *Sigh*  I still have yet to practice with, let along spar against adult karateka, and to tell you the truth, the thought of it scares me a bit.  I don't want to get hurt.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My First Gasshuku

Just some notes.

First Gasshuku for me and A.

Muto-sensei, Iida-sensei, Kon-sensei, Yanai-sensei, and others. Actually, I'm not sure if the adult black belts are instructors, or just adult black belts.  I think they are most likely just parents.  Regardless, they are black belts and they are adults, which is great for me.

Practice was about 4 hours on the first day and about 3 hours on the second day.

Front Kicks
Iida-sensei was the main instructor.  He gave us pointers on how to work on improving our front kicks (mae geri)
He outlined 5 points.
1, 100-ups, practice with one foot raised slightly off the floor,m bring your knee up sharply and return to starting position without touching the floor. Do ten reps then switch feet.
2, from front stance, when you raise your back foot/knee, raise it so your foot comes flat off of the floor (raise from the toe?) and not by raising your heel first.
I can't remember the other three at the moment.  I'll have to find my notebook.  Even then, I could only remember 4.

I mentioned to one of the black belts that I never see anyone do front kicks in a kumite match.  He said maybe the is because the front kicks are too slow.  But I'm thinking that the front kick, while certainly not as powerful as a round house kick, might be faster and definitely an option to explore for me, especially since I am so handicapped by my poor flexibility.  I can imagine that a good front kick to the gut might slow someone down but that probably, I'd only have one chance to do it.

Kumite drills

Gyaku, Gyaku - start with a revers punch (gyaku zuki), then step forward with the back leg and do another reverse punch with the other arm
One, two - jab (kizami zuki) to a reverse punch
Step matching - try to step in for a counter (gyaku zuki) at the same moment your opponent starts to step in for a jab.  Ideally, your foot hits the floor as you step in at the same time as your opponent's (near impossible if your speed and reaction times are similar)
Advice, duck down? at the same time for a body blow. Can block with the left hand and strike with the right etc.
Grab and jab - grab your opponents front wrist and pull as you step in for a strike. A boy named Ryo did this to me several times during our kumite matches.  Good move.
Advice, practice keeping your guard up.  If you are going into a kumite match with other adults, the WILL try and knock you out with a roundhouse to the head.

At the last belt test the guest instructor from Asahikawa told us to try and reach as far as we could when practicing our strikes.  He said that every little bit of distance you can get out of your strike counts.  I was really able to see this play out during the kumite bouts.  Watching the really good kids and even sparring with one of them, and even during the kumite drills, I could see how they really reached out as far as they could to try and get a point.  Your opponent is trying to get out of the way, trying not to get hit and so you have to get as much distance out of your strikes as possible.  The Grab and Jab is a good example, too.  I watched, indeed experienced first hand, as Ryo reached out and grabbed my front most wrist and pulled on it to try and close the distance between his fist and my body.

Be dramatic! - I suppose this would go for Kata too, but it was a point made.  When you get a strike in, you have to dramatically pull your arm back (hikite) and dramatically do your Kiai in a loud voice, if you want to get the points.  It would seem that Shotokan Karate tournaments are part show where the expression of your skill is as important as their effectiveness.

Get em' while their down!  We practiced dramatically punching an opponent while they are down on the ground.  Iida-sensei said to grab the collar of their sleeve, draw your striking elbow way back, do the punch (without actually hitting the person), and then draw our fist way back again and at the same time kiai and stand completely up while still holding your opponent's sleeve. He didn't specifically say it, but his intention was to impart the importance of dramatics in getting points from judges.


+Heian Yondan, what's the meaning of the hand movements before the Uraken strike. your Left Hand is blocking or pushing a opponent's hand down out of the way before a strike.
+Around step 13, after empi, your left hand is doing a downward (lower level) block (uke).

Remember, the blocks should be done in HANMI.

Heian Godan, step 10, after downward x block, and the upper x block (uke), the the next move, where you twist your hands and bring them down together, has two meanings.  One is to grab a hand and bring it down, the next meaning is the left hand is blocking so you don't need to bring it to your hip, just bring it straight down.

How to enter the kata competition area

We got instruction on how to enter the area for a Kata competition.

  1. Be ready at the edge of the area on the color/side you are assigned to (red or blue). 
  2. Your name will be called, answer with "Osu!" and walk out in line with your color line, red or blue, 
  3. turn and face the front, bow to the front, 
  4. turn and face your opponent, bow to your opponent,
  5.  turn again and face the front, 
  6. walk out to your line, stopping with your toes just in front of the line, don't step on the line. 
  7. The conducting official will call out Aka, Kata! At which point the red opponent would call out the kata they were going to perform.  Then Ao, kata! And then the blue opponent will do the same. 
  8. ??? Does the official say hajime?
  9. You do your kata and return to your line.
  10. ???When both opponents are finished????/ do you return to the back line on your own timing to wait for to see who won?  
  11. The official announces who won.
  12. You bow to each other
  13. You bow to the front,
  14. You turn and leave the area.
  15. ???Do you stop and bow at the edge of the area?? 

Hmm, there are still some points I am not sure about.  I'll have to look for videos on YouTube and review the video I took during Gasshuku.  I only took a few videos of the Kata.

A final note

I am still writing and thinking about this.  Mostly I learned a lot about kumite.  I also got very sore.  It is Wednesday and I am still sore here and there from the 6+ hours of practice done over last Saturday and Sunday.  My shins and calves are sore, my glutes are sore (???), my shoulders and upper back are sore and my forearm is sore.  I noticed my wrist not being able to keep straight and being forced over when hitting the other members, for example, when we both moved forward at the same time and I punched them with a body blow.  This tells me I need to do something to strengthen my wrists.  Hitting something like a punching bag would be ideal but I don't have access to one.  In the mean time I'll start doing my push-ups up on my firsts instead of on my palms.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Slipping up

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei

Kihon drills

Punches in neutral stance
Punches from the horse stance
Lunge punches
Rising blocks
Outside blocks
Inside blocks
Front kicks mid level
Front kicks high level
Front snap kicks mid level
Front snap kicks high level
Round house kicks mid level
Round house kicks high level
Side kicks (yoko geri) mid / high/ snap / mid / high
4 way kicks? Shihappo geri?
Nidan geri
Empi (jump spin backwards)

I have a hard time doing the round house kicks and the 4 way kicks.  I should practice those at home.  The round house kicks, we are supposed to kick as if we would hit with the ball of the foot? The meaty part of the foot at the base of the toes, while not breaking your toes.  I also feel that I need to work at doing each of the drills faster. Kick faster, punch faster, step faster.

Today I fell.  Muto-sensei was telling us to kick more and I tried to kick Crown and he is a bit taller than the others, but not as tall as me, and when I tried to kick him in the head with a round house with my left leg, my right leg came off of the ground and I ended up face down on the floor.  I was so embarrassed! I'm not sure how I can keep that from happening again but I hope it never does. Did this happen because m right foot was up on the ball of the foot? And this is why I need to keep my feet flat on the floor when kicking????  Did this happen because I'm just not flexible enough to kick that high?  I think so.  Crown tried to give me some advice but I'n not sure what he was trying to tell me.  Bend my knees? Get lower?

Flower didn't do all of the kumite but surprisingly, she did all of the Kata practice.  A on  the other hand didn't do any Kata practice at all. What's wrong with him?  What is he thinking?  Was he tired? Is just that he doesn't like Kata practice? Was he unhappy that I hadn't brought us something to drink?  I don't know.

Heian Shodan through Heian Godan

I got confused doing Wankan and was a bit embarrassed by that.  I almost have KankuDai memorized.  I need to work on that a little more.  Next I need to start studying the timing of all the kata I have learned the moves for so far.  Where do you pause for a second, where do you pause for two? Where do you go quickly, where do you go slowly?

I ran in a half marathon race on Sunday and my hamstrings are still stiff and sore.  I was careful not to kick to hard in the beginning and the seem to have held up.  I'll try going for a run tomorrow and see how they feel.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Practicing Kankudai

I have been trying just to remember all the moves in the proper sequence for Kankudai.

At first I remembered the first 15 steps.  Then, the next time I worked on it I remembered up to step 20. And this morning I worked on it and made it all the way to step 51.  I'm sure I will forget what I learned by tonight.

I might go to practice early this Wednesday and see if I can get A and me some advice on our Kata.

This morning I also did 200 punches and 100 knee raises.  My hamstrings are too sore to run or kick from running a half marathon on Sunday, so my kicks are done only to help me remember where to kick.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

2014/09/03 Getting a leg up, first competition coming soon!

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei

I signed A and I up for our very first competition happening a month from now.  I signed us both up for kata and kumite.  A says he will do Heian Sandan.  I think I will do Heian Godan or Jitte.  Which reminds me that I need to research Jitte a little more so I can see what the hell is going on with the hands when handling the bo (stick).

Training Menu

  • Kihon - basic kicking and punching drils
  • Kumite - sparring drills & sparring
  • Kata - dancing? ;-)


We did the usual stuff.

  1. Stand in a neutral stance and do straight punches at solar plexus level.  We did about 70.  
  2. Stand in horse stance and do the above again.
  3. Swing your arms, work your knees and ankles, and do a bit of a hamstring ping????
  4. Gedan barai to Oizuki 10 times
  5. Age uke (rising block) 5 times
  6. Age uke to gyakuzuki while stepping backward 5 times
  7. outside block 5 times
  8. (Sometimes we will do outside block to gyakuzuki, or outside block to nukite (spear hand strike, but not today.)
  9. Front kick, mid-level 10 times (kekomi)
  10. Fronk kick, focus on snapping the foot back after the kick (kebanashi)
  11. Front kick kebanashi to upper level
  12. Yokogeri from horse stance (kiba dachi)
  13. Yokogeri kebanashi
  14. Yokogeri to upper level
  15. Yokogeri done like it is done in the Heian Katas.  To the side, then 45 degrees)
Then stop to get your gear on for sparring. A decided he didn't want to wear his shin and instep guards.  


The JHS kids were home studying so we were a few members short.  How we lined up meant that you faced the same person twice for each round and missed working with about half the members.  We should have shuffled the members by one to the right or left so that we could have worked with all the members.  I especially wanted to be able to work with A-kun as he is fairly aggressive and throws his punches and kicks a bit faster than the others.  

My own boy, A, will not spar with me very well.  He doesn't back up during yakusoku kumite which means I can't move forward.  He doesn't try to block at all, which is the whole reason for doing the first few drills  of kumite we do. He tries to hit me instead of just going at his own pace like is is supposed to when attacking.  One good things is that he follows through with his whole body when punching and kicking, like we were taught at the special practice we had after the last belt test. This results in him being too close for me to launch an effective counter.  But then again the same thing happens when he doesn't back up when he is supposed to.


We did all the Heian Kata while the brown and black belts worked on Gojushiho? We also did KankuDai again. I think A did all the Heian kata this practice but I'm not sure.  He stopped and went and layed down when we were doing Kanku-dai.


  1. Heian Sandan - at around move 11, where you stand up in Heisoku Dachi and bring your elbows up with your fists at your hips, make sure to keep your elbows out to the sides and not pointing back behind you.  Both A and I were making this mistake as I think most of the others were too.
  2. Also, for Heian Sandan, when you do the uraken strike after the fure-empi (??), you need to make sure your fist comes up close to your own arm so that it gets clear of your attacker's arm/fist that you just received with your elbow block.  
  3. Heian Sandan. When stepping and stomping preceding the fure-empi, Muto-sensei said to swing your body around bringing your foot around and to bring your foot in a bit once you get around before stomping it down hard.

KankuDai  - We went over this one again, for the second time.  We went through it twice with Muto-sensei and once on our own.  I couldn't remember it at all.  I can think of a better way to practice this.  I will just have to do that on my own.

Tekki - One of the black belts told me that, rather than Kankudai I should be learning Tekki, as these katas will be required when I try and get my first black belt.  Really, I don't feel I am ready for a black belt or even a brown belt and I am sure I have enough time before I get there to learn it.  I prefer to work on the kata Muto-sensei is introducing to us at the moment.  In that way I can study them on my own and then test it and confirm it during practice. But, once I have learned (not mastered) all the kata he has shown us, then I will tackle the Tekki katas, unless he shows them to us before then.

Getting a leg up!

I was surprised to find that I am able to get my leg up much higher than before.  I guess the stretching and 100-ups is paying off.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Remember the numbers of moves in Kata

I'm not sure what to call 挙動 (kyodou) in English, but it is the official (?) counts for the moves in a kata.  Each Kata has x number of moves in it.  I've found that remembering how many total moves there are in a kata makes it easier to recall the kata during practice.

For example, I've been trying to remember all the moves in Jion and there are 47 moves in it, according to the references I am using.  Move number 22 is a downward block.  Move number 30, has you standing in heisoku-dachi with your fists down to your sides in a V away from your body.  Move 37 is an outside block done right before you turn around 270 degrees to perform an inside block with your left hand.  I don't remember what every move is for every move number, but remembering the number for specific moves at points throughout the kata is helping me recall the others.

I have remembered all the moves for the Heian Kata and several other kata but I still need work on rhythm and timing and a host of other things.

I am beginning to realize that a lot of time spent training for Shotokan karate, as I guess is the same with other sports, is done in the mind.  Reading, studying, image training, recalling, wondering, ....  thinking.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014/08/27 Class



Kihon - I am still keeping in mind what I learned recently and the advice I was given.

  • Get you knees up high when you kick.  
  • Practice taking your steps quickly. 
  • Take big steps (it IS a LUNGE punch after all). 
  • Try to reach as far as you can when you punch   

Our space is a bit small and when we line up two rows deep, I almost always have to line up off-set from the other members so I don't run into them during kihon.

Not so many members were present at this practice.  The number worked out so that you had to work with the same person twice for each round during kumite practice.


We did all the Heian kata.  Muto-sensei said that I need to master all of these, especially Heian Yondan because that will mostly likely be the next one I have to do for the next belt test I take.  As we were doing it I DID feel that I needed to work on it some more.

We did Wankan and then Kanku Dai.

It was the first time, I think, that I had seen and tried Kanku Dai.  It is long but it looks like it should be easy enough to learn and remember since it has most of the elements of the Heian Kata.  Some things that are not in the Heian Kata that I remember are upper and lower knife hand blocks.  A two handed forward thrusting uppercut of some sort that ends with you "falling" to the floor.  I will have to look at my Kata book and work through it a few times.  Then I might start working on the Jiin Kata since I almost have Jion memorized.  Which reminds me, I am still not 100% sure of what to do with my hands during Jitte.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


August 23, 2014 (Saturday)
Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei

Kon-sensei didn't come till the very end.

We did the usual kihon, kumite and kata.


I tried to recall what I learned at the last belt test and practice and tried to put that into effect.
*Take bigger, faster, stronger steps, especially when doing lunge punches/kicks.
*Raise your knee high before you kick.  I was surprised at how much this made a difference. It really helps get my kicks higher.  HOWEVER, my muscles are still too short and I still can't fully extend my leg if I have it raised up higher than 90 degrees from the floor.  I need to work more consistently at stretching every day.
*Side kicking (yoko keage / yoko kekomi) Trying to implement what I learned but still feeling clumsy about it.  However, with my bad hips, I was really hurting before and I can see how the new advice I got will make a difference as it will work better with my body (and anyone's I'm sure).
For Yoko keage-Point your knee in the direction you will kick then turn your hips and finish the kick.Yoko kekomi-Raise for knee up with it pointing in the direction your body is facing, not the direction you are kicking, and then rotate your hips and finish the kick.Kon-sensei said he had just learned to do it this way that day.
To tell you the truth, regardless of where you point your knee, it seems to me like you are doing the same movement in the end.  That is, rotating your hips and finishing the kick.  I'll have to get more instruction on this, because the purpose of the two kicks is not the same, right? Keage, is to knock something up and out of the way, and kekomi is to actually hit the opponent with the kick.


Jion - heel palm strikes?  These strikes should be aimed for the solar plexus.  I guess mine were a bit too high.

A few of the members were gone so we got more time with each member during free sparring.  I tried to actually make contact more with my round house kicks.  With the helmets, they seem to be pretty harmless.  I'm not trying to hit the kids hard, but if they don't get hit at all, they won't be ready for it when they do in a tournament.  A, especially, doesn't try to block at all when working with me.  I'll have to talk to the other members in secret and get them to start hitting him lightly so he can learn to have a healthy wariness about getting hit.

I landed a front kick in one of the kids' sides and he was wincing for a while.  He seemed fine today.  I didn't hit him very hard but he moved into the kick.  I also hit one of the black belts pretty hard right on the chin of his helmet.  He came back with much more intensity after that and kicked me  in the ribs twice, both times he was too fast for me to block and exposed some of my weeks spots.  Basically, I haven't been hit enough to know where I need to pay attention to, and neither have the other newbies.  I have been given a belt that exceeds my experience and skill.  I open myself up to getting hit.  I'd really like to video tape the sessions for review.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jion and Jiin


Today was the first practice A, H and I attended after our last belt test. Everyone had their new belts or their new kyu and Muto-sensei handed out certificates to everyone who moved up a level.  He scolded one of the members as he doesn't think she works hard in practice and said that if it had been up to him, he wouldn't have let her move up a level but the other judges decided she should.  To tell you the truth, she doesn't work hard in practice but I think that is because she just doesn't have the stamina to go all out.  When tournament time comes though, she goes all out.  A was proud to get his certificate and, although he got scolded once or twice in practice, he worked hard and kept serious more than usual.  Usually he can't concentrate that long and gets bored and starts goofing off.
I am/was worried about what the other members (all children) would think of that fact that I was promoted 4 levels past some of them who have been doing this for a few years longer than I (I've only been doing it for one year).  It is hard for me to read their emotions but I guess I'll just have to work hard to make myself worthy of the level given me.

We did Jion and Jiin today for the first time.  The black belts worked on it during the last belt test and special practice.
I need to look these up and practice them on my own.
Muto-sensei told me again that I need to hit the kids or neither them nor I will get better. He says to pull my punches but to actually hit them. They need to know what it's like and they need to experience that shock of getting hit.  He said to strike and pull back my fist/leg quickly, showing them my speed.

I need to work on
Taking big fast steps
Footwork and building speed and agility
Combinations, especially age uke to gyakuzuki. Soto uke to gyakuzuki etc
Bringing my knee up high when kicking

 We missed a few practices as we had taken a week off to go camping.
A and H both did really well and worked all the way through the entire practice.  Today was the first day of school after summer break and between that and karate practice she was plum tuckered out.  She fell asleep in the car on the way home.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Belt Test and Practice

This post is unfinished.

A and I had our second belt test today.  A moved up one level from 11 to 10.  I moved up 4 levels?? from 8 to 4.

I   was surprised and a bit confused because the contents of the test where not what I had expected.  I was given a sheet with the contents of the tests for all levels up to black belt, however, it was not the same as the actual test.  I was asked to do skills which we almost never practice.

For one, and I may have heard the guy wrong, because I was having a hard time hearing this guy again, just like the last time, but it sounded like he told us to do jodan tsuki.  We never do jodan tsuki.  Did I hear that right?  Next we were told to do jodan maegeri kekomi.  We don't often do this either and doing any kick to the upper level is very difficult for me with my short muscles.  Next we were told to get into horse stance and do jodan yokogeri kekomi.  We have rarely, if ever, practiced this.  However, kekomi is easier for me to do than keage.  I may be forgetting some of what we were asked to do.  We might have also done knife hand block in back stance but I can't remember.

Kihon - In list form

  1. gedan barai -> jodan tsuki
  2. mawatte, gedan barai -> ??? age uke??
  3. mawatte, gedan barai -> jodan maegeri kekomi
  4. mawatte, gedan barai -> kiba-dachi -> jodan yoko kekomi

(all done 3 times each)

NOTE: If you are not sure of what you have been asked to do, ask! Repeat to the tester what you thought you heard.  If you still can't understand his muffled Japanese, ask him to show it to you!


Kumite was the same as the last time I took a belt test.  3-bon kumite.  However, this time I had to do it with a 5-year-old!  She's a good 5-year-old, but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to ignore her heigth and just do it as if she were my height, which would make it impossible for her to do her blocks right, or if I should try to lower my strikes so that she could actually do a soto-uke for my chudan tsuki. Muto-sensei is always telling us just to do it for your own height and let the person receiving adjust so I guess that is probably how I should have done it.

Kata - As expected we did Heian Nidan.

We had a guest instructor come from another city to help with the test and he also led us through the practice after the test.  We did a number of drills that we never do at our own practices. For one thing, we did at least 20 of everything.  Often times we did 40 or 80 of one skill/drill.

We did some combinations that I had never done before. For example we did chudan gyakuzuki, Jodan zuki, chudan zuki.

I got lots of advice that I am still trying to recall.  One was to put my hikite a little higher, to just above my belt. 

We worked on yokogeri with Kon-sensei.
For Yoko keage-
Point your knee in the direction you will kick then turn your hips and finish the kick.
Yoko kekomi-
Raise for knee up with it pointing in the direction you r body is facing, not the direction you are kicking, and then rotate your hips and finish the kick.
Kon-sensei said he had just learned to do it this way that day.

Keep your knee over your toe in front stance
Raise your knee up high when front kicking (kakae komi!)
Try hard to reach as far as you can when punching. 
Follow through with your whole body when launching an offensive as it leaves little room for your opponent to counter.
Step quickly, as quickly as you can
Take big steps
Get deep in your stances
Don't let your body bob up and down as you step etc. Keep your head at the same level as you take steps the steps.

-take wider steps when moving
-master Heian Sandan
-3本組手をしっかりする (Not sure how to translate this.  Basically, he needs to improve his 3-bon kumite).
He got marked down for

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014/08/06 Practice

Just 4 days until the next belt test and practice.

Advice: I was told (again) to make sure my back leg, when stepping, is straight and my heel is on the floor.
A was told not to drag his feet when stepping.
Heian Nidan - Nukite, make sure your left hand is under your elbow or perhaps slightly before it (forearm direction).
Heian Sandan - for some reason I keep ending up facing slightly to the right instead of straight forward.
Heain Yondan and Godan - I was unable to return exactly to the starting point.
Heain Yondan - Need to study the timing.
A was scolded again for playing with his belt (about the 10th time) and for having a bad attitude (yawing, not sitting up, picking at his toes while the instructor was talking).  He gets tired and then he starts to fidget and it looks like he is not listening, and he probably isn't listening.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

2014/08/02 Heian Nidan

I got confused on the time and we showed up almost 30 minutes late, but this turned out to be a good thing.  Since we missed the basic punching and kicking drills, we weren't tired for the sparring and kata.  Both A and H finished all of the sparring drills and H went through free sparring for the first time, which is really just play for her.  A also did most if not all of the kata, I can't remember.  The kids have always had a hard time completing a whole practice and I guess the reason was that they have just been too physically tired to do so.

Perhaps we need to do something more during the week to help build up their endurance.  A does soccer once a week, so he is doing three things each week.  I have been to many of his soccer practices.  They are not very physically demanding.   The kids have started doing early morning radio exercises, as is the custom for elementary school kids to do during summer vacation here in Japan. The exercises themselves are only good enough to serve as a light warm-up, but then in our neighborhood, after the exercises, they all run around the block once before they are finished.  They collect stamps on a stamp card and at the end of summer vacation they usually get a little paper bag of goodies for their efforts.  I wish I could keep the kids going after summer break is over. I know big N would never do it.  A might, but it is so hard to get them to do anything.  Once you get them started with any activity, they are fine, but it is so hard to get them to break their inertia (sitting on the couch reading a book etc).

I think that I may have been doing Heian Nidan wrong. I think I was doing oizuki when I should have been doing gyakuzuki.  Kon-sensei was leading us this day and he spends more time explaining the details than Muto-sensei and I think this change of pace got me goofed up. I hope that is all it was and that I haven't been practising it wrong.  We have a belt test in 6 days and I'm pretty sure Heian Nidan is the kata I will have to perform.

I asked a young instructor once for advice.  I told him I would get off balance when doing the 270 degree turns in the kata.  He suggested I do half steps and to bring my feet together first and then to step out into the stance. That is the way I have been practicing it for months now.  At the last practice, however, Kon-sensei showed us how we need to just practice stepping into the stance directly, and that we have to practice it until we get a feel for where to put our feet.  So I started reviewing videos again and sure enough, none of those guys are taking half steps.

Here's a question.  Is the uraken done with the fist vertical or horizontal? And is that a stupid question?  It looks like it is done vertical, with the thumb knuckle pointing up.  Also, I think that I might be doing the mid-level knife hand block with my hand up too high.  I must remember the mid-level means, and correct me if I'm wrong, in line with the solar plexus.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2014/07/30 Figuring out Wankan

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei

We had a fun start.  I had taken the day off and we were able to get to practice 30 minutes earlier than usual.  There were two kids there and with the addition of my two kids that made four kids and one adult for 5 members.  After speaking with some of the other parents, I ran over to initiate some splay with the kids.  I told them about the Stuck in the Mud game and they told me it was the same as the Banana Game and then quickly renamed it to Karate Tag.  If the IT tags you, you have to stand in horse stance until a free person can crawl between your legs.  This was good and fun, but would be much more fun with more members.  Two more members showed up, two new members, but for some reason, they never join us in our warm-up play.    The kids and I played this game for a while and then one of the black belts introduced some other games to play.  Crown, was a bit unwilling to play.  He seems to be getting a bit serious lately and I can see him practicing in front of the mirror.  He must have made up his mind to step up his game.

I spoke with some of the parents and they again talked to me about A's motivation and encouraged me to get him to the next belt test in 11 days.  I was finally able to encourage the kids' mother to let him go take the test. Initially I didn't think I'd be able to take the test myself because I thought I'd have to look after the other kids, but, it looks like we'll be able to have their grandmother and aunt look after them on that day.  Lucky!  But these things are so damn expensive.  Being as old as I am, I doubt I'll ever be a Karate instructor, but it would be a good business if you can get and keep enough members.

About the training, which was basically the same as always.l

Basic Drills

I got interrupted quite a bit by little H and wasn't able to do all of the drills.  He was introducing some skills that he said were black belt level skills.  We are such a small group, we just do a little bit of everything.  What was it???  Think, think, think (Pooh).

Knife hand block to Spear hand strike combination, moving forward and moving back.

These combinations are going to require more focused practice for someone as poorly coordinated as I.

During the kicking drills, in an effort to be a good example to the white belts and little H, I kicked with my injured leg and was immediately sorry for it.  Ouch!

The same drills as usual.   Crown was giving me some advice but I had a hard time hearing/understanding him.  He said something about timing which I didn't fully understand but I understood enough to know how important it is, as is illustrated by this video clip.  He also said something about punching that I caught even less of.  I THINK he said to let your punch linger at the end of the strike because it increases the chance of it making contact.  ???

We did all the Heian Kata and then did Wankan and Jitte.  I'm pretty sure that sensei is either doing Wankan wrong, or doing a different version/style from the examples and descriptions that I can find on the intertubes.

One description I found shows this first move done in back stance.  This video, and others, shows it done in cat stance.  This diagram below, shows it being done in back stance. ( I would love to give credit to whomever made these wonderful diagrams but have been unable to find the author.  You can find these all over the Internet, some of them have the notes edited out.)
I'm not sure exactly what to do around Movement 10.  This description and the diagram says to step into right front stance and do left tate-shuto-uke and to put your right fist on your right hip.  Then, while still in right front stance, do right punch then left punch, then turn 180 degrees to the left and repeat.
Here is the description that I found at





I guess I'll just have to ask my Sensei about what stance to use but I don't want to question him on movement 10~.

I still need to practice this and figure out why I'm not returning to the starting point.  As I posted earlier, I think I know why, I just need to practice it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Motivating A and H

I need to come up with a way to motivate the kids, especially A, since H is still a bit too young.

It needs to be fun

One thing is that we need to figure out a way to make practice more fun while at the same time having some meaning and purpose towards our goals of improving their skills in karate. I have been looking for ideas for fun games and drills to do with the kids BEFORE practice starts as warm-up.  Right now the kids play tag and dodge ball, which is good fun, and good to get their bodies warm, but considering the fact that only a few kids come early, it's probably not helping them very much.  If I were to join in with them more, then it would help to increase the level of activity they do and would probably help them increase agility.

I have found some ideas though, and I will try to get the kids doing some of them.

The kids need a goal

I tried goal sheets, but they didn't work because I would forget to remind the kids to do it. So, I spoke with their mother and she agreed to allow me to put some goal sheets up for the kids on the wall where they can see them.   She still does not want to allow them to take a belt test anytime soon.  She doesn't think they are ready.  Of course they are not ready, but having a belt test on the horizon might give them the motivation to step up their training.

For the test, of course, they will need to do all the skills we regularly practice at our weekly group practices.  That is, he will have to perform the basic skill drills of doing lunge punches, front kicks, down blocks, etc.  He often does not do these seriously because he doesn't like doing them. I don't blame him.  They are boring and for him and I, difficult to do well.  Well, the kicks are difficult to do well.  Neither of us can kick very high because we are not flexible.   I would like to get him interested in stretching, too.  We will never be able to kick high, and thus never be able to do some of the kata and skills we'll need in the future, unless we can dramatically improve our flexibility.

So I guess my plan is two-fold.  Provide fun drills and games for practice (even though I'm not the instructor) and find a way to give the kids attainable goals to fuel their motivation.

I'm going to try the challenge sheets again.  I've got various ideas.  The basic idea is to have a piece of paper with spaces to fill in or mark off every time they do something towards their goal and have it give them a visual sense of working closer to that goal.  The first time I made them I let the kids choose what they wanted to work on.  A choose to do 100 punches a day, H choose to do push-ups every day etc.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

2014/07/26 Notes on Heian Yondan, Sandan and Jitte

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei
  • Basics
  • Sparring
  • Kata

There were few members this time as some of the kids were gone for a school related camp or for other reasons. This is probably why Muto-sensei had us spend extra time with each person during our sparring rotation.  It was actually pretty tough for everyone.  I can handle the work, and it looked as if the kids were working hard to not give in to their fatigue from the longer sparring bouts.  The humidity was high and the sweat was rolling off of me as if I were standing under a shower. Crazy.

Heian Yondan

Uraken - should be done in cross legged stance(?)/ kosa-dachi and while facing forward, because it is a strike, not a block. Many people do this with their body turned to the side like when doing the augmented inside block (右支え中段内受)in Heian Godan (movement 17) in the same location, which is wrong.

Wedge Block? - there is a movement in Heian Yondan and other katas (Wankan)  that simulates someone having grabbed your karate-gi collar and you prying their hands off by grabbing the hand on your left collar with your right hand and the hand on your right collar with your left hand and forcing them out and off of the collars.  Muto-sensei reminded us of the meaning in the block and of how some people, even other instructors, don't understand this and do the movement in a more stylistic way instead of a more practical way.  Basically, he said not to move your hands and arms out to wide.

Hair Grab - Another move, at the end of Heian Yondan, where, after a series of double handed blocks (augmented blocks / morote uke) down in back stance, you switch to front stance and reach out and grab your imaginary adversary's  head and then knee it and turn 180% into a knife block.  Again, here, Muto-sensei reminded ME not to have my hands too far apart because no one has a head that big!

This is movement 25, I think. One old video shows this movement being done directly from the previous  augmented block done in back stance without switching to front stance.  Another shows the man switching to front stance before performing the move.  A description of the kata does not say to move into front stance but to stand on the left leg, which would mean to go directly from the back stance to the move (grabbing the head and pulling it to your left knee. Another description says to switch to front stance and then perform the hair grab to knee strike.  So I guess, you should just do what your sensei says.  However, it makes more sense to me to go directly the the grab and strike rather than take the time to switch stances, grab, pause, and then strike.  It would also make the kata more dynamic and flowing.

DeepMoon's crescent kick in Heian Sandan and our discussion.

I had been thinking for a long time to say something to her about this because in all the videos I've seen and in all the descriptions that I've read about this, they all say to bring your knee up high to your chest before stomping down.  She said that because the purpose of the move is to trap someone's leg, that there was no reason to bring your knee up so high.  I replied that, that may be so, but the descriptions of the kata say otherwise.  As a move to use in sparring, you can practice it without lifting your knee high as a way to trap someone's leg but in the kata, you should probably do it like you are supposed to do it if you want to score high.  I suppose the next time she takes her belt test, if she has to do this kata and still keeps her knees low, she/we will find out if it matters as the jugdes may comment on it.  Or it may not matter and they won't.


I was having a hard time returning to the starting point when doing the Jitte kata.  I was always ending up half a step to the West (left) of the starting point. Why do we have to return to the start anyway? Perhaps because it makes remember it easier?  What I realised was that when doing the age uke towards the end (Movement 21, 22), that I wasn't stepping correctly when turning 180 degrees for the final two jodan age uke (23 - 24).  You start from manji uke, I think, in back stance with your left hand in an upper outside inner block (?? 左拳左側面上段内受) and your right hand in a lower level block (右拳右側面下段受)and then turn North and do a left handed upper level block (age-uke) and then step forward and do a right handed age-uke and then immediately, swing your back leg (left leg) around as you turn 180 degrees to the left (west) and perform another left handed age-uke and then step forward and do a right handed age-uke.  As you pivot 180 to turn around, you keep your right foot planted and bring your left foot over to the East.  So your body moves from West to East one step (or half a stance?).

I tried to make a picture to illustrate this.