Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Belt Test Results

Here are the results from my last belt test. They call it shokyu shinsa, which I guess translates as "advancement examination".  Shokyu 昇級 Shinsa 審査, together as 昇級審査. The test and the event are the same.

I was promoted to 3-kyu, that's a brown belt in our club, and A was promoted to kari 8-kyu.


I need to work on

  • chaku-gan (need to "look" at your invisible opponents)
  • zenkutsu-dachi (front stance, width, depth)
  • kiba-dachi (I know I can do better)
  • waki no shime (I guess, keeping your elbows close to your sides in hiki te?)
  • hiki ashi (Guessing, bringing foot down after a kick or step??)
  • soku to (this has to do with how your foot is when you do yoko-geri etc)
  • chikara zuyosa (powerfullness)


I need to work on

  • There are times when you need to be powerful and times when you need to relax.
  • Rhythm?  Times when you need to move quickly, and times when you need to move slowly. 
  • 立ち足 tachi ashi?? Stance? 前屈立ち、後屈立ち、騎馬立ち?
  • 足首の締め Still a mystery.
Update: I talked to the black belts last night and they said that 足首の締め probably means "leg stability."  Are you wobbling when you step?  Maybe I should just ask the instructor directly. 


I need to work on

  • 気合 Kiai
  • 力強さ powerfulness
  • 手首の締め ??? 
  • 正確な受け accurate blocking
  • 決め Kime (I think I know what this is, but not 100 % sure). 


-Overall, need to get lower in your stances
-Master the Heian Kata


Running along the river at 5 am
My wife and I and two of our four kids went to the big city to visit my wife's sister and do some shopping.  I brought my running gear (forgot my headphones) and was able to stick to my schedule and get a speed session done along the river.  Here was the plan:

  • 1 mile warm-up
  • 7 x 800 m fast at about 5:00 to 5:15 per km pace.
  • 1 mile cool-down.

I got up early and it didn't take as long as I thought it would.  I didn't want to go back too early and wake everyone up so I went to the park, which was accessible as most of the snow had melted, and did Kata.  Mostly I worked on Bassai-dai.

I kinda had it learned but wasn't sure on a lot of points.  It is unfortunately, hard to get personal instruction or ask questions.  No one does.  Sometimes I ask questions but no one else does.  They just do whatever we are doing the best they can and hope if they are doing it wrong that the instructor will correct them.  I'm not saying that he doesn't, but there is just one of him and lots of use making lots of mistakes.  He can't stop us for every little thing.

1) step forward into cross-stance and perform a sort of a morote uke uchi uke.
2) turn 180 and uchi-uke
3) uchi-uke in gyaku-hanmi
4) turn 180 and soto uke in gyaku-hanmi
5) uchi-uke
6) turn right 90 degrees, bending your knees, bring your right fist in a down sweeping motion and up into position for soto-uke.
7) Soto-uke, uchi-uke in gyaku-hanmi
8) turn 90 deg. to the left (facing front again), keeping your right hand in hikite position on your hip and bring your left hand to same (right) hip while turning to the front.
block, punch, block, punch, knife hand, knife hand, knife hand, step back knife hand, left hand on right wrist, pull and downward kick and KIAI, turn 180 and knife hand, knife hand, step back, morote-jodan-uke, hasami uchi, oitsuki
25) perform a move like in Heian Godan, front stance, right hand open palm facing up lower level hakama grab, then pull up into backhanded upper level block (like manji uke?)
26) turn 180 downward block in kiba-stance,
27) like in Heian Godan, after downward block in kiba-dachi, right hand hikite, left hand slow out with palm open,
28) mikazuki kick to open palm, empi
29) funky gedan barai, one, two-three, (move 30,31)
32) hands to left hip preparing for
33) yama zuki
34 thru 37 repeat 32-33
And then there is 38 and 39.  I'm not sure how these work.  I think it's like sweeping a leg and striking with uraken.
40) knife hand
41) knife hand 45 degrees back and to the right while looking to the front
42) knife hand 45 degrees front left and KIAI.

I'm still trying to memorize and perfect the kata that people have taken the time to teach me and I keep putting Tekki Shodan on the shelf.    The above is from Tuesday.  Today, Wednesday, I went over the Heian Kata and then did Gankaku, Kanku-dai, Jion and worked a little on Tekki Shodan.  I didn't have enough time to get all the way through it.   It's a start though.   The place where I practiced during lunch is surrounded by cherry trees.  It would be nice to be able to do it again while they are in bloom.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sat, March 28, 2015 Practice


Practice menu (SAA: Same As Always)

  1. Kihon
  2. Kumite
  3. Kata

Do you call it "practice"? Do you call it "lessons?" Or do you call it "keiko?"   Whatever you call it, I'd like some different structure.  There is nothing wrong with doing the three K's.  But it would be nice to have, for example, 30 minutes more time and to have time within each of the three K's to allow each person to work on what they want within that time.  For example, I would like to spend more time working on and getting instruction on yokogeri and mawashi-geri.

This is still one of my weakest spots. Kumite.  I'm terrible.  I'm too heavy and too slow.  Most of the kids can score on me and I have a hard time getting any points at all.  The last time I sparred against that really good JHS kid, I couldn't even touch him and couldn't even see what was going on when he hit me, several times, in the head.  I do seem to remember that it was in counter to my attacks.

I will add more later.  I'd like to review my last belt test since I got the exam paper back.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

191 Kilometers

My running is going well I think.  My body is falling apart and I really should go see the doctor about my knee....  I have signed up for an early summer full marathon and am following a sub-four hour marathon training plan.  It has me doing 4 runs a week.  I have been able to follow the plan fairly well and so in the last 30 days I have run a total of 191 km, according to Runkeeper.

I am wondering..... is this fast enough to finish the marathon in under 4 hours?  Is this slow enough so I wont crash and burn and end up finishing in a death shuffle or worse?  Will my body be able to hold up for a full 41.195 kilometers?  The pace that the plan has me running at for my "marathon pace runs," what the plan calls "steady state runs," has been fairly easy to maintain.  Actually I haven't had any problems  with it at all. I want to go faster, but at the same time I'm afraid my left leg will protest.

I was doing my pace runs on a flat out-and-back course because it has markers every kilometer and I can use my Timex Ironman watch to check my pace.  Why not use Runkeeper for pacing?  There are many times when it seems to me that the pace Runkeeper tells me I am running at through audio cues is completely off.  The other day it seemed right on.  There are many settings and I don't understand them very well.  For pace there is Average pace, Current Pace and Split Pace.  Average pace seems to be the most accurate.  Current pace can be all over the place, and I am guessing this is controlled by GPS signal strength and possible by the speed of your phone.  Mine is a bit old.  I did use it for the last pace run because I wanted to run on a hilly course that would better mimic the race course and that course has no km markers.  I should go out and make my own.

Same as always, pretty much. The three K's.


I think we went through Kihon pretty fast.  H went through Kihon with a little bit of fun encouragement.  As always, I have a terrible time doing mawashi geri and yoko geri. I need to spend extra time just working on those so I don't look like such a fool.

Same as always, except I felt as if most of the members were doing it a bit faster with a bit more concentration than usual.  I for one was recalling when the KD brothers came and how they did it and was trying to emulate them.   There was one highlight of the practice for me.  I got an ippon!  Maybe it was my first ever, or maybe the first in a long time.  Somehow I got a big toe on Crown's plastic face protector and made that nice sound that it does just moments before the ref says "ippon" and gives you 3 points.    He is still much, much, much better than I, as are most of the kids.
A was getting some extra instruction from some of the other members and we is improving.  He still doesn't put his hands up.  He does it all with his hands down at his sides until he punches.  I think this is mostly because no one ever hits him and so he never feels the need to block.  The whole point of half of the exercises is to practice not getting hit but since he is so much shorter and smaller than everyone, he never has to move or block.  I am going to encourage the other members to actually hit him more so he feels the need to block and get out of the way.  What we really need is more people his size.

The black belts did their thing and the rest of us did the Heian kata and then Jion and Kankudai.  I STILL am forgetting kankudai!!!  And its making me feel senile!

My left leg has been bothering me a lot lately.  My knee has developed a sharp pain that shoots out at inconvenient times and almost makes me fall.  My left hip is very painful when kicking with either leg.  My left hamstring is very sore all the time.

I have plenty of time when I have nothing pressing to do, but I still can't use that time as I want to.  I am a slave to the time clock.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Half a Gasshuku and Belt Test

On Saturday, A and I went to Spring Gasshuku.

The plan was for near 8 hours of practice on Saturday and another 4 on Sunday morning.  I thought that would be too much for A so I decided to leave after the first 6 hours, before dinner, on Saturday.  

I am going to try and recall any advice or things that I learned during that time.  I have been too busy to write anything up until now.

Niida-sensei was the main instructor and there were two other adults who were assisting.  


  • Gedan barai
  • れいてんご を大事に (He said to keep the "halfway point" in mind when practicing the basic moves.  Where are your hands and feet halfway through a downward block? Start out doing the movement slowly, keeping your form in mind and gradually work up to full speed.
  • Keep in mind the width apart of your feet when in stances (front stance etc)
  • Same as above when stepping back into front stance for yakusoku kumite.
  • He said we need to work on improving our leg strength so we can jump higher.  He had us practice jumping over a partner for this. This reminds me of a part in Karate Baka Ichidai, where the main character plants fast growing grass and jumps over it every day(?) to improve his jumping ability.


I could have received instruction on new kata or even on how to improve kata that I've not yet remembered well, but no, instead I had to spend an hour practicing one kata, Heian Yondan, over and over again, with no instruction or advice.  I can't say that it was worthless practice, because it wasn't without benefit, but the time could have been used better.

So what advice did I get for Heian Yondan?  Ah yes, I remember now.
Around step 6, after the first morote uke, you do a side snap kick and punch.  The advice I was given was to do the side snap kick and punch, bring the foot down, and THEN, after your foot lands, twist your hips and perform the empi elbow strike.  Mental note: make sure you are in proper front stance with your feet shoulder width apart.  
Advice 2: snap kick.  Make sure to do the side snap kick with a snap!  And bring your kicking leg back quickly and then moving into front stance (zenkutsu dachi).
Advice 3: bring your hands up smoothly, as if following along a pillar on the first two moves.
Advice 4: It's an open handed downward block. So don't just put your hand out, sweep it out and down like a downward block! (move 9 ish)
Advice 5: When reaching out to grab the invisible head for the knee smash, have your hands perpendicular, with your thumbs pointing up.  (I guess I got more advice than I thought.  But I was doing it with my thumbs pointing in, as if I had the opponents shoulders, after watching Paul Walker's instructional video on Heian Yondan. He makes a point of saying "hands at a 45 degree angle," which I hadn't heard before, and which makes sense enough.).
Advice 6: Shutouke.  Bring your arm down from your elbow.  Lead from your elbow. 


Niida-sensei had us break up into two main groups.  Those that wanted to work on Kata, and those that wanted to work on kumite.  So I didn't get any kumite practice at all with the exception of the two minutes sparring where an all Japan junior high school champion beat me soundly.  I got nothing from that but a beating.   


I have to say it wasn't a very fruitful day.  Niida-sensei seemed to have not done much thinking in what he wanted us to do.  I was a unhappy with his lack of planning.  Encouraging the kids to do extra things to improve their fitness, such as running, stretching and strength training is great.  But spending time during gasshuku to do that is a waste of my time and the money I paid.  We can do this sort of training on our own.  It is not that type of thing we need to do at gasshuku.  One day's worth of physical training will not make a difference in our conditioning.  Consistent physical training done over a long period will make a difference.  It seemed to me that he was just using the physical training as way of killing time because he had not come with a plan for what he wanted us to work on.

Belt Test

A and I had our belt tests at the end of the day before dinner.  Just the two of us.  Muto-sensei did the test himself.  He grabbed two kids from practice to help.  He said Aspen did well and would be given a blue belt.  He said I would be given a brown belt. I assume that means I'll be at 3-kyu.  A made a few mistakes.  Both from lack of practice and experience.  I didn't make a fist when doing hikite for shuto-uke to gyaku nukite. I also failed to keep my feet should-width apart when stepping back into gedan berai.  I am looking forward to receiving the grading sheet but don't feel I am ready for brown belt.

Kihon for the test, if I remember correctly
San-bon-zuki, (jodan, chudan, chudan, moving forward)
age uke
age uke to gyakuzuki
shuto uke to gyakuzuki in back stance
from front stance, gedan barai, mae geri kekomi
Mawashi geri
from kiba dachi, yoko geri kekomi

ippon yakusoku kumite,   (jodan, chudan, maegeri )

Heian Yondan, plus one more from Heian of your choice.  I choose Heian Nidan.  I think I could probably do any Heian kata better than I can do Heian Yondan.  Maybe I should have done Heain Godan?  It doesn't matter.  I feel the most comfortable with Heian Nidan.

Things to work on.
Physically, I need to continue to concentrate on improving my flexibility and hip strength.  I need to especially work on building strength for side snap kicks and roundhouse kicks (yoko geri, mawashi geri). 

After almost 6 hours of hard physical exercise I was totally exhausted.  The next day, I still got up early to do my marathon pace steady long run (20k) and after getting home, taking a shower and making breakfast for A and I and doing the laundry, I laid down and slept until noon.  Then I got up and finished the doing the laundry and picking up the house and we went for McD's.   I'm still tired today (Monday) and sore all over.  Shoulders, legs, feet, hands.... all over.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The KD brothers visit - Yakusoku Kumite like you mean it!



Kihon was a bit short and kumite was a bit long.  We had two visitors today.  The KD brothers from the big city of KR.  Muto-sensei's base in is KR and he makes the two-hour drive (4 hours here and back) twice a week as a favor to our small club.  They train six days a week over there for an hour at a time. We train twice a week for 90 minutes each.

The KD brothers added some new tension to the practice.  They did things just slightly differently.  The older brother is a 2nd degree black belt.  He was very good.  When we were doing Yakusoku Kumite, he came at me in such a way that I thought he would hit me if I didn't block well and fast.  It was an eye opener and refreshing at the same time. I'm very slow.  I don't think there is much I can do about that.  How much faster can a forty-year-old get?  But none of the other kids in our club come at me that fast and I'm so much larger and clumsier than they, that I'm a little afraid of going at them that fast.  I often step on their toes.  They often don't move out of the way or don't take large enough steps to compensate for my large steps and it is awkward.  Both of these kids, however, adjusted their distance well to match my stride and reach.  I feel if the older kids would come at me faster, it would help me improve.  Wednesday is my last and only chance to practice yakusoku kumite before our belt test on Saturday.  By "our", I mean A and mine.  Since A will be gone the weekend of the next belt test, we have asked to take ours a week early. I digress. So, I am hoping to practice yakusoku kumite with Crown and/or SA on Wednesday and I will ask them to help me practice it at a faster speed.

I need to review the last belt test results and look at the old requirements sheet for each level test that Muto-sensei gave me.  I suppose it will give me some idea.  The last time the contents of the test were different from what I was told they would be.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review, Practice, Review, Practice


The three "K"s.


First some good news. Did I tell you already?  A, after the last tournament, is interested in Karate again.  He doesn't want to miss a practice!  With his renewed enthusiasm, his mother has agreed to let us continue!  Yippee!  It's interesting for me and is helping me get in shape.  It would be hard to get the same level of full body exercise if we quit. And now on to more regular logging...

Muto-sensei was a bit tired perhaps?  Or maybe it was because of the little kids, A, H and one new one who is only 4, but it seemed like it took forever to get through Kumite practice.  Kihon wasn't too long.  Doing this basic yakusoku kumite is important, I see, as it builds trust and communication between members and helps you prepare for the money making scam.  What?! Did I say that?  Woops.  I meant, it helps you prepare for the BELT TESTS.

During Kata practice I realised I need to practice more and I'm beginning to doubt my ability to remember things.  Maybe it's just remembering things in this way, moving your body and learning the steps.  Maybe that's why I could never learn to dance, or can't remember melodies.

I always am unsure of the moves in the second half of Heian Nidan.  We did Heian Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan, Godan, Kankudai, Jion and Bassaidai.  I had a hard time recalling ALL of them.  I hope this is not a sign that my brain function is decreasing.  I hope it was just because I was tired.

As soon as the roads clear of snow and ice, I'll start practicing the kata again in the mornings.  Right now, if I do, I end up slipping on the ice or tripping on chunks of frozen snow.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Free practice

Free practice, of sorts.

Since the last tournament we have had .... three? practices.  The weather has been bad and so have the roads and the instructor has not been able to make it for the last three times.  So, we have done it without him.  Basically, just playing around in a karate sort of way with a little bit of organized practice thrown in, but not too much.   On the second practice Crown showed two of the other members and I all the steps in the kata Gankaku.  It was not too long or too difficult until the very end, when you have spin around on one foot, without loosing your balance and then do a side kick/punch like in Heian Nidan/Yondan.  In the videos I watched last night of two famous instructors/athletes, both either wobbled or hopped on that move, being unable to keep their balance.  Seeing as how it is full of those side snap kicks, I'll have to say it is not a kata for me.

We have a standing kick bag and a kick mitt and we used these to practice kicking and to fool around and play some karate themed games.

On the last practice we had this week on Wednesday, we did a lot of physical training.  We did a lot of sprints, we did some races while carrying other members, while carrying the kicking bag, while carrying chairs, whatever there was there to carry.  We did a "dirty dozen," which is something that I introduced to them as a workout I did when I was in high school.  You sprint across the gym and when you get to the other side you do one pushup, sprint back and do two, sprint back and do three and so on until you reach 12 sets and have done 78 pushups.  You can do it with situps or burpees or whatever you want to do it with.   I am sore today all over from that.  I have sore legs and a sore upper body from the pushups I think.

A and H have had a good time the last three practices and Hannah has even been receptive to practicing Heian Shodan with me at home.

We did a mock Kata shiai at the last practice and afterwards Crown gave everyone advice on how to improve their kata.

Crown gave me some more advice on Heian Yondan.  Keep your head at the same height and don't make your body go up and down.  Keep your torso upright as if you had a rod going through your body.  Keep your fists straight with your arms and try not to flex your fists back.  Rotate your forearms.

*Sigh* But alas, this may all be futile.  The kids' mother is upset that we haven't quit yet.  She says she has already allocated the money for Karate into a by mail educational program that comes with a special tablet for the kids.

I told the club that we would go to the next Gasshuku and we are seeing if we can get another belt test done then just for us.  Do we go?  Do we quit?  The cost for Karate for one year for the three of us if only two of us do gasshuku and take belt tests is ¥144,000.  That's a lot of money.  At the current exchange rate that's 1200 US dollars.  The cost for the educational program depends on the year the student is in school.  For a 3rd grader it is 78,000 yen.  A little more than half that of Karate.

I have been trying to convince my club to start having an extra day of practice without the instructor so we can have three day so of practice a week.  I know they have talked about doing that before.  Maybe, just maybe, if they start that, then the kids and I can "quit" karate and just go to the extra practices or any practices when the instructor is not there.  As long as the kids are enjoying it, and we don't have to pay the instructor, then their mother won't mind.  HOWEVER, we won't be able to test to get new belts so easily and it may be difficult to go to tournaments without a club/dojo sponsoring us.