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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mirrors, stances and a little leap

When practicing on my own, there is not a whole lot I can do so mostly I just do Kata.  But I'll also do punches (打ち込み?) and I always think that I should be doing knee ups (100 ups) too, but I don't.

Over lunch I did one set instead of 5 of my rehab stretches and then I did a set of pull ups and grabbed some cables and did some body twists and then I found an empty studio with a big mirror and practiced kata in front of the mirror.  Our local public gym here in Japan has a martial arts gym, a regular gym where you can play ball sports etc, a strength training gym and a room that is set up as a dance studio.

Doing them in front of the mirror was useful.  I would recommend doing your kata in front of a mirror if you can.  Otherwise, you might want to take some video of yourself practicing and review the video.  I was able to see just how shallow my stances were.  I'm still having a hard time with my stances.  They don't feel all that stable to me, especially when turning during kata.

Heian Yondan

I was browsing over a website that was linked to from the Shotokan entry on Wikipedia and noticed something I hadn't before.  They said there was a "leap" in Heian Yondan.  A leap?  I immediately imagined where the leap would be but is it really a leap?  I checked my PDF of the kata and it didn't say to leap.  Then I checked an old, old video of the kata and..... there was a little leap in there.  More like a big step done with verve.

I also noticed some more details here today that I hadn't before when reading The Kata Book by Rob Redmond of  At this movement, movement 8, your left hand is open palm down at waist high and your right fist comes up somewhat over your (behind?) your head as you bring it down in a back fist strike simultaneously pulling your left hand back (hikite?) and making it into a fist.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Augmented block in front stance

I don't know why I've been calling it "class" all this time.  From now on I'll be calling it practice instead.

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


We didn't do those combination block / counter strikes this time.  Bummer.  I still need the practice.  I can always practice on my own, somewhere, somehow.


The sparring drills seemed to go on forever this time.  I wish we had some free time to work on whatever we thought we needed to or wanted to work on within each section of practice.  Like, free time to practice any basic drills that we wanted to or free time to practice any sparring drills that we wanted to.


We did kata with Kon-sensei this time and Muto-sensei worked with the brown/black/purple belts.  We did just the Heian Kata.  I need to continue to go over those and practice them in my free time because I forget if all of the morote uke are in back stance or if some of them are in front stance.  In particular, I am suspicious that one of the morote uke in Heian Godan is in front stance and not in back stance.  Let's see, ...... Ah yes, here it is. Just as I suspected.  It's an augmented block (morote uke) done in FRONT STANCE.  I knew it!

So there you have it.  This is, I think, the only augmented block done in front stance in the Heian kata series. This reminds me that I need to also memorize the official number of movements(?) for each kata for the black belt test so I might as well start memorizing them now.

Before practice and after practice I also practiced the Jitte Kata.  I couldn't figure it out but I had Crown help me out a few times and now I think I'll be able to do it mostly correct from now on.  I need to take the time to watch the video I have of it on the recorder.

Heian Nidan  -  Kon-sensei said that, probably, when doing the first movement and consequently it's mirror movement on the right side, that the upper level inside block (jodan uchi uke??) should be done with the palm facing in as it is when doing Jitte or Heian Sandan when you have both fists up in an upper level block.  It doesn't look like that is correct.  I just checked two different references that I have and it looks like the fist it turned the the knuckles facing back and the palm facing forward (North).

DeepMoon asked if the movement done in Heian Yondan where you are in kosa dachi is done in hanmi or not.  I think it is a strike and not a block, which would mean it would be done shoulders square facing forward (north) and not done with the body turned in hanmi.  Then in Heian Godan, the movement done in the same position on the embusen is a block, the mid-level augmented block (morote uke) and should be done with the body twisted in hanmi.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei


We did the basic drills we usually do with the combination blocks and counter strikes. I am so uncoordinated I can barely do these and it makes me feel self conscious and frustrated.
Some of the combinations we practiced I have listed below.

While retreating:
  • Age-uke > gyaku-zuki (rising upper block to counter punch)
  • Soto-uke > gyaku-zuki 
  • Shuto-uke > Nukite (Knife hand block to Spear hand strike)
I have a hard enough time coordinating stepping forward with good form while trying to do these arm movements at the same time.    This poorness of coordination of mine is the same reason why I can't dance.  

Knife-hand block and Spear-hand strike combination

In particular doing Shuto-uke and then Nukite while retreating was new to me.  I think this time was the second time that I had done this during practice.  You do Shuto-uke (Knife-hand block) while retreating and keeping your feet lined up with heels on the same line, and then step into front hand stance for Nukite, which means you have to bring your front foot out to the side a bit so that you are in good front stance form with your feet wide enough apart that you don't fall over, whatever that means for you.  The sensei usually says to have them shoulder-width apart but really this should be whatever works for you and our sensei wouldn't complain if your feet were not exactly shoulder-width apart. 保育認識
Kon-sensei says that I need to relax more when sparring. He says that I am too tense and that being so will wear me out.  I understand what he is saying.  I doubt that any match will last long enough to wear me out, though. 

A needs to keep his heel flat on the floor when kicking Muto-sensei says. This is about the third time he was told us this.  I wonder if it really makes a difference and if keeping your heel on the floor really is better?  He says it helps to keep you stable when kicking.  

H did the basic kicking and punching drills well and was even doing the sparring practice well when she stopped to go rest and then subsequently fell asleep on her gym bag. I told her she could stop after she we finished doing 3-bon-kumite.  She was ready to keep going and maybe I should have let her.  For her, maybe it is better to have her stop while she is still enjoying it.

We did Heian Shodan through Heian Godan,  Jitte and Wankan the last two of which I have almost memorized. The black/brown belts did something else.  A didn't do any of the kata practice and then at the end Muto-sensei had us do a mock Kata test, for which once again, A was not ready for and for which once again he got scolded for not doing better.  I need to find some way to motivate him to practice kata.  If he keeps getting scolded, then there is a danger he'll stop enjoying it and want to quit.  He doesn't enjoy it as much as soccer, although he could if practices were a little more interesting and/or fun.


Crown said to try and finish the first hand movements and leg movements at the same time.  He said to start the hands moving before you start your legs moving so that they finish at the same time.  I'll have to watch some more video on it.   


- Nk told me that there is more than one way to do Wankan.  I must investigate that. 


- Crown said that I can use a feinted front kick to make the opponent move and then attack them while they are retreating.    Yzki got in a good kick which hit me right on the left shoulder and made a loud smacking sound.  She is only about as tall as my solar plexus so this is quit a feat.  Her kicks are fast and she can kick high.  Several of the kids can kick fast and high.  Some of them cannot.  I cannot kick neither fast nor high.  My highest kick while on the ground would hit someone in the chest, but my leg wouldn't be fully extended because my hamstrings are still too short (tight).

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014/07/09 It's ok to hit the kids

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei


Muto-sensei told me today, it's ok to hit the kids.  Just try to hit them lightly.  ;-)

Flower did the basic drills again this time like she did last time and then sat out the rest of the practice.  A did the basic drills and the sparring drills and then all of a sudden decided he wasn't going to do kata.  It is so weird to me.  No one else decides NOT to DO one part of the practice.  I don't want to get angry with him.  But no matter what I say he just makes some weird high pitched whining sound and won't say anything.  I don't know why because he wont tell me why. Frustrating.

We did Heian Shodan and then Jitte for Kata practice.  We didn't do any other.  I guess we must have spent extra time on sparring drills???  He also stopped us a few times to explain a few things like how to do knife hand block or how to do high level rising reception (rising block / age uke).

Very tired.  Calling it a night.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

2014/07/05 Choose your kata wisely

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei

We got there an hour early and most of the club was already there.  It turns out they had all planned to come early to practice for the upcoming summer festival. My kids and I can't go because we have a family event we have to attend, one that we do every year.  Well, then, why is the club preparing for a summer festival?  They are going to do a demonstration at the festival in hopes that it will get more people interested in joining our club.  Muto-sensei really wanted me and my kids to be there for the demonstration because he believes that I, being a big foreigner, would have a positive effect on their efforts to get more members.  I don't know about that.

Some of the kids are going to do synchronized kata for the demonstration in two or three groups.  I think three groups, with each group doing a different kata.  Then they will break some boards and I think, Kon-sensei will break a baseball bat.  That would be cool to see.  It is too bad that we can't go.  It seems that there are always many different events on the same days and it is hard to choose which to go to.  However, this family event is one we can't miss, nor would we want to miss it.  I am feeling a bit frustrated that we haven't been able to join in any competitions yet.  I think having a competition up on the calendar would help to motivate the kids to train harder because they would have a goal to work for.  A always thinks that he is doing the moves right, when he is not, and he doesn't like me telling him that he's wrong.  I have to be very careful with how I give him advice. I will have to talk with my wife and see what we can do.  Maybe, at least, I can get a belt test up on the calendar.  Ah, but alas, even that may be difficult.  With any luck, my wife will finish being so busy this summer and we'll hopefully be able to get to some karate events in the fall or the winter.

I almost have all the Heian kata fully memorized.  I really ought to practice them once or twice more a week.  I am trying.  Sometimes I get a kata session in during one of my morning runs.

Choosing your kata

Muto-sensei was telling us that for kata and tournaments, you have to choose a kata that matches the tournament.  If you are going to a Shotokan tournament, choose a kata from a different style and not a Shotokan kata.  This will give you a better chance at winning because, he says, they won't know if you make a mistake, if you don't show it.  Also, he said to choose a kata that matches your body type.  Some kata are better for small people and some kata are better for big people.  For example, he said, Sochin (I think) is good for bigger people while Gankaku is better for smaller people.  So, me thinks, I'll start learning Sochin.  

The kids seemed to have a good time at this practice.  Like I said, we got there early and the rest of the club was there getting ready for the festa.  Just the fact that everyone was doing something together that was different that normal was enough to make it fun plus the fact that they were practicing breaking boards made it even more exciting.

Flower did the basic drills very well, almost all the way to the end.  She kind ran out of steam on the last drill.  After that she went off to the side of the gym and played around a little and then fell asleep on my gym bag and slept until the end of the practice.  I was very happy with her although A expected her to do more.

I have been so busy lately.  I am writing this several days after the practice so it is actually hard to remember everything.  I need to sit down each night after practice, no matter how late it gets, and write down my thoughts on the practice before what I got taught slips away from me.

Muto-sensei said that I had no problems with my Heian Nidan kata but scolded A for not working harder at practice.  I was worried about it.  He said something like "Look at your father! He is doing really well.  He'll surely get a new belt at the next testing but you won't if you don't try harder."  I need to figure out some way to help him.  He'll practice at home, but only for about 5 minutes.  But 5 minutes every once and a while at home will probably make a big difference.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

2014/07/02 More Roundhouses!

Muto-sensei, Kon-sensei 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm.


Muto-sensei is having us work more on the roundhouse kick, or mawashigeri in Japanese.  His reason is that at the tournaments you can only get ..... one or two points, I can't remember exactly, for a front kick, but you get three points if you land a roundhouse kick to the head.  Also, depending on the tournament rules, for some tournaments, you are not allowed to make contact with the head with your fists, but you get three points if you land a mawashigeri to the head.

I am at a distinct disadvantage here.  I cannot get my legs up very high as I have very poor flexibility.  My son, too, has the same disadvantage.  I tell him he needs to stretch too, but he is not interested in doing any training if it is not at class.  If you could make stretching fun and active, then maybe he would do it as a part of some type of play.

Our club is going to do a demonstration during the summer festival this month but my family can't participate.  It would be really cool if we could.  My kids need some motivation and we haven't been able to go to any tournaments yet.  There have been tournaments, we just couldn't participate for one reason or another.  We DID go watch one, though.


During kicks, or during lunges, you should keep your back foot firmly planted on the ground, and not lift your heel off of the floor.  This is the advice our Shotokan teacher gives us.  However, this advice might not always hold.  Check out this advice from Dr. Lucio Maurino. -> "Dr. Lucio Maurino, world kata champion, gives a quick lesson on why the traditional heel-turn of Karate is fundamentally foolish, possibly harmful, and above all; biomechanically wrong."

Well, do what your teacher wants you to do during class and experiment on your own time.

Get Deep

More advice - He said that I need to make more effort to get deeper in my stances, especially because I have "such long legs" I need to make an extra effort to do this.  This is good.  I want to LOOK good when I do it AND the deeper stances will work my muscles harder.


We do wankan sometimes but I can never quite figure out how to do it because the teacher is always in front of us and I can't see what his hands are doing.  I should just stop him and ask questions next time.  Well, we got there early and I grabbed a purple belt and had her teach me this short kata.

From here.
It looks like I need to work on combinations like age uke to gyaku-zuki and soto-uke to gyaku-zuki while moving backwards.  I also need to work on my timing and my speed and power for the kata and I need to work on my flexibility and speed by stretching and doing speed/muscle building drills for my legs.  Think knee-ups.  I almost have all of the Heian Kata memorized.  For the most part I do but sometimes I can't remember if I need to be in a back stance or a front stance, and when I watch the others, often times their stances are vague, being more of a wide-legged squat than a front stance or a back stance.  Especially for their back stances.