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.