Saturday, January 30, 2016

Internal/External - Hard/Soft.

When I began Karate training I was uncertain of things, but I was also a child, yet when I took up Zenkutsu Dachi to hold the punching bag for my Dojo mates I was known to have the most solid stance among the juniors of that class.
Funny thing about it was I just kindof let it settle without even thinking about it and the force went through me into the floor... I was doing then, without thinking, what Wilder Sensei encourages Karateka to do now through Sanchin Principles outlined in his book 'The Way of Sanchin Kata.'

As a Karateka moves up through the ranks we tend to assimilate to those around us, to our Sensei and our Sempai, and things become less natural, more forced until one day the pendulum starts to swing the other way, if it is allowed to do so.
There is a reason for the way things are done in a Dojo, most times it is easier to teach everyone in a uniform manner, and this is often the best way to approach basics, if one knows what they are doing, but often no one ever moves beyond this point.

Going through some Kihon tonight, after going through some Kata, I was looking deeply at the mechanics behind what it was I was doing and was reminded of those days back in the junior children's class at the Olympic Martial Arts Center when I would just settle into the ground.
Instead of 'step then punch' I began to move in a way where the body moved just a couple seconds before the arms and the lead foot and the punches landed at the same time, sinking into the ground before drawing up from the ground again to move.

Keeping Weight Under Side involves more than tension, in fact, tension itself is counter productive to the principle and tends to take away power from technique as the mechanics become jumbled.
These also relate back to allowing things to flow through and sink - with tension things tend to become stuck, the body becomes broken, the focus, incomplete.
All is Sanchin, as the old saying goes, but more to the point, all is in timing and direction of intent, for lack of a better way of putting it.

The broken way of moving is an instructional tool to lead the way and must be left behind once a student starts to get the hang of things within the first few months.
Just as the Kata point beyond themselves to something more unified, universal, and personal, so, too, the Kihon point beyond themselves to the same thing, it all comes to a head when one point is achieved... Expressing back through the avenue of Kata makes the experience entirely different from this end of the spectrum.

Re-Establishing Roots.

In June I may be leaving Spokane for the eastern side of the Country with Charles Todd Sensei as we attend the Sho Rei Shobu Kan's 2016 National Convention at the invitation of our Teacher's Teacher, Shihan John Roseberry.
Shihan Roseberry has been a Student of Karate-Do longer than most people today have drawn breath and, before Karate-Do, he was a Champion Judoka and Boxer... He also plays a mean guitar.

My training lately had been focused on prepping for the upcoming Spartan Race in May, which is a pretty intense race if anyone has not heard of it, and this would be my first go at it.
Now my training has become refocused on attending this shin-dig as I have also been invited to test for rank, the first time in nearly twenty years, which will be no less intense considering my last one was about four hours of complete hell.

The Spartan Race, at this point, has become a back-up plan just in case I cannot get that time off from work, imagine that, a VERY intense race is now the back-up plan!
I had already been working my Kihon and everything at a pretty intense level, but now it all needs to step up a notch, or perhaps down a depth.
Either way I have something to learn, whether I am able to go or not, I am dead set to do something.

Going through some reps tonight I focused more on the internal side of things and brought myself more within the moment of each motion, rather than focusing on what something means it is best just to focus... To have intent... Then things can reveal themselves for what they are.
The last time I trained with Shihan Roseberry he lectured about deep breathing, about drawing it all the way down into the Tanden and exploding from there with full focus, full intent and, thus, full power.

It is not a matter of simply throwing out a punch, making sure everything is lined up, and flexing in just the right places at just the right moment.
Depth is the key, even within something that is terribly executed, if there is depth that a person can feel from across a room that is something they would be hard pressed to defend against... Now imagine that with good technique.
This is the depth a person should be displaying after many years of training... I may or may not be ready for a test, personally, I don't care much about testing, I just want to be able to go 'home' to my roots and bring this depth with me to show that I have not been slacking... Do I even have depth to bring? Maybe... Maybe not.... Always a work in progress.

I actually spent my time on Hookiyu Dai Ichi tonight, but the real focus was on what I have come to call 'the frame' and 'the flow' that transcends the Kata and gets to the flesh, bones, and spirit of Goju Ryu itself.
Roy Kamen Sensei, whom I have never met in person (miracle of the Internet Age) but have come to respect never the less for his insight, is fond of pointing out the Spiritual aspects of Karate, especially Kata... Kata is a living Mandala of the body... It begins and ends with prayer and requires a fully present mind in order to be truly performed as it should, truly applied as a method of spiritual cleansing (not just self defense).
His Teacher, Kayo Ong, is also a Student of Seikichi Toguchi... Go figure, a lot of similarities because we are lineage cousins.

My own Teacher, Dascenzo Sensei, made me recite a poem off the top of my head at my test for Shodan many years ago, after four hours of hell, and all that rolled off my tongue was something like 'Leopard in the leaves,' though I don't remember exactly what I said.
After that training session it was easy to bust out even a twelve hour session of training at the home of Sandifer Deer Sensei under the watchful eye of Dascenzo Sensei who was always fond of saying that one should throw oneself into training as though it were your last breath and that you never knew when that last breath would be.

Intense? Yeah... This is why the Spartan Race takes a back seat and becomes the back up plan, because you cannot get more intense than that.

Kihon Ido

Strive for nothing less than your best in everything you do and view everything as training, no excuses.
Some of the best Budo I learned was in my Sensei's kitchen at his old home in Lacey Washington, learning new recipes on the spot right before and right after Budo Shugyo Training.

Last night I was working on Kihon in my living room with weighted gloves and ankle weights, and the added weight of my youngest daughter clinging to my legs.
Even exhausted it is important to look at mechanics/form and strive for excellencein each repetition as though it were your first... and last.

This is not excluding adaptation to surroundings, and circumstance, which is an important piece of mechanics unto itself.
In this instance, space and my daughter were considerations.

One also has to take into account why they are training, their purpose.

Just some FYI.

The rest of my training was spent playing with my daughter.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Broadening Perspective - Balance in Budo.

It has been some time since my last post as I have been extremely busy with training, work, family, and I have been looking a lot into some Bush crafting and Foraging, something I plan on practicing over the Spring and Summer as I hit the woods for some good hiking, climbing, and camping.
It is always good to have multiple interests outside of Martial Arts training in order to apply it as a driving force behind every endeavor rather than letting it become a domineering presence that rules your life in every single moment.

I would like to discuss this in this Article as I have known many people within the world of Budo/Karate that have become consumed by their love of the Arts to the point that their very lives seem to become roller coasters of chaos and they all they seem to focus on is their training.
It is important to train as often as possible, but it must NEVER become a dominating force in life, there must be a balance as Budo is meant to be a driving force that sees a person apply themselves wholeheartedly to everything they do, including training, but NEVER solely to training in only one aspect.

I love Budo, but I also love writing, drawing, learning new things, and I love spending time with my family.
If my only interest were Budo then, first off, that would make for some very boring conversation and I may end up with no friends and no life whatsoever, secondly, I become a very two dimensional person with very little knowledge outside of whatever training I happen to participate in.
As it stands I have many interests, including outdoor survival, which was brought on one day when I realized I knew absolutely nothing about my surroundings while out hiking, a HUGE revelation, especially for someone whom is supposed to know how to defend himself in physical confrontations and handle himself in emergencies.
I know First Aid, I know CPR, but I knew absolutely nothing about which plants were edible, which were poisonous, which had medicinal properties, best ways to build a fire, how to build a camp utilizing what is around me, ect. (Good videos on this can be found on Youtube - I recommend Dave Canterberry of the Pathfinder School at
Maybe not important to some people, but I like to hike, and I feel I should know these things, plus it makes hiking much more interesting and MUCH MORE than a simple hobby.

As a Budoka it is simple, I take the focus I have dedicated to my training and apply it in a way that enriches life - rather than narrowing the focus I expand it and make EVERYTHING part of my Budo training and practice.
This means I focus on everything with equal intensity, which means my entire life should be spent in deep mindful focus at all times, leaving no opening for surprises... This takes real skill and intense training and is a way of being that was suggested by Swordsman Munenori Sensei, author of the Heiho-Kadensho/Life-Giving Sword, a book I have read over a dozen times and have been putting to practice for more than a few years.

My own Sensei, Michael Dascenzo, viewed everything as Kata, which is very much a Japanese way of looking at things as the Japanese have a keen sense of 'Kata,' or proper form, within every situation.
It begins in 'Shu,' where a person simply emulates, moves to 'Ha,' where they explore the deeper aspects and variations on the path to 'Ri,' true self expression of the formless within the form... In other words, to path to real freedom and fluidity of self expression within any given situation, without effort, it becomes second nature.
This is achieved by following the path of Shin-Gi-Tai, or Heart/Spirit-Technique-Body. Applying all three to profound levels in order to develop intense spirit.

If training is ONLY for fighting then a person really misses out on what their training can really bring to their lives.
Most people spend time focusing on one thing, becoming consumed by it, and these people are easily broken as they have no ability to adapt to change.

My Sensei taught me this lesson in his retirement... He no longer trains Karate and now focuses on his Massage Therapy Practice and his work as an Artist, including his recent development of skill in creating some very amazing Stained Glass pieces.
Do I wish he would continue his Karate? Yes. However... He is... In a way. The lessons are more important than the form in which they are presented.