Welcome to our conversation on karate. Please join in!
A journey without a destination is pointless. Why begin? If you can cruise down the interstate at 70 MPH and are going west when your destination is east, it is efficient (look at how quick we are traveling!) and not effective. We all know the difference between efficient, done quickly, and effective, done well. How often do we apply that to our karate? Last week we discussed journey and destinations; take a look and think about your personal enjoyment.
In practicing kata recently, I forgot the opening sequence to one of my new katas. I was not at home and did not have my notes or any recording of the sequence. I could still run the second half of the kata, I just could not remember how I got there. So, I ran the second half a few times and moved onto the next kata. Later that day I did recall, thankfully, the beginning sequence. Of course I had to drop what I was doing to run the entire sequence, and then write it down. This was not efficient; it was effective for me and I now know that kata better as a result.
1: Effective journeys require a clear destination.
- Without a destination, any journey will do.
- If we do not have a reason to do something, we will not improve or we may just abandon the journey all together.
- When we succeed at arriving at our destination (or achieving a goal), it is generally because we have a focus on only one destination.
- When the car is going down the highway can you travel both east and west?
- Therefore, the effective journey flows toward one clear destination.
- We are in favor of trying new things, like taking up karate.
- Initially we may start with a friend or just because.
- We agree that it is a great destination. Do you have other destinations that you can think of along the way?
2: Effective journeys require a time element or a “when” statement. Eventually, if we are to have a successful karate career, we will need some time pressure to reach our destination.
- For many, the destination is black belt.
- This destination, paired with a when statement, will improve the focus along with the enjoyment of the journey.
- It could be “in 5 years, I will have successfully passed the black belt test.” That statement is measureable and will lead to action on your part. Do you have an actionable “when” in your destination?
3: Effective journeys require execution on a plan.
- Knowledge of kata or karate is useless if we are not growing and translating these activities into deeds. But before springing into action, the effective martial artist needs to plan his course. I am not talking about getting into random fights…We are looking for a growth in the sport plan.
- We are likely to have side journeys on the way to the main destination as we get interested in the main topic. These are great and we need them, as long as we look back at our destination and “when” statement and ensure it is getting us in the right direction, to our destination.
- We all need to think about desired results (learn a kata), future revisions (class and lessons with Sensei), check-in points (belt tests along the way to black belt), and implications for how we will practice on the journey.
- The action plan is a statement of intentions rather than a commitment. It must not become a straitjacket. It should be revised often, because every success creates new opportunities. So does every failure.
Please let us know how your journey is going and where you are on that journey. I am happy to have passed the second degree black belt test and am now working with Sensei Mae on that same goal. See you in the dojo soon!
You can follow Sensei Mae @letstalkkarate on Twitter.
We just returned from Boston and had a great time. We did not go to see the city; although it is very nice…we went to see people as a part of our journey. While the destination let us know that we had arrived, it was the journey visiting with friends along the way that made the visit special.
I am amazed at movies like Rocky where they show a person who is new, or lacking the training to take on the champ, and then they get into a practice routine, focus on only one thing and the journey that takes months or years is condensed into a scene that takes about 3 minutes. I appreciate the hard work that it takes to become a champion and of course the championship fight in Rocky is fun to watch. A movie, like Rocky, focuses on the championship fight to ensure we will watch the movie. The destination is the title fight. We breeze through the training journey on the way to the fight and walk away with the impression that in 3 or so minutes, or possibly days, we, too, could take on the heavy weight boxing champion.
You likely know all about the Boston tea party. A few men dressed up and protested a tea tax by dumping sea into Boston Harbor. Over 100 participated in dumping tea after a meeting with over 5,000 who met to protest the tax on the tea. We remember the destination, the party, and not the journey.
- As a part of the journey, the almost bankrupt tea company owned by the British government needed some help against smugglers who were undercutting the monopoly tea price.
- I have no sympathy for the tea company, and my ancestors may have been among the 5,000 who met to protest as they served in the war that followed.
- Each action along the journey, some mentioned here, takes us to the tea party destination.
- If we just look at the tea party heroes who began to fan the flames of revolutionary fervor, we start to see the journey and not just the destination. The destination makes for a good story, the journey engages us daily.
Are you ready to take a journey for your karate?
We discussed Rocky and the Tea Party as both destinations and events. While the fight in Rocky (one) was great, Rocky did not win the fight, nor was the Revolutionary War decided by the tea party. They were a part of the journey. This is the same kind of thought process we need to have in order to fulfill the goals we have as we train. The journey can be fun and full of adventure, sometimes more so than the destination.
When I first saw Rocky, I saw an overnight success. He was a top fighter on the way to success, assisted by the champion.
- Sometimes, we only notice Rocky because he participated in a destination event—the championship fight.
- We do see the training in the movie where he runs by several who do not know him and we experience the days when inevitably he does not want to train.
- The great part of the Rocky story that we often overlook is the one of the Coach or Sensei who trains Rocky for the championship fight.
No matter what we are about in our training journey, it always appears to me that our Sensei has already been down the road we are on. He reached the destination and is reaching back to us to help us train and practice to get to the same spot. This is why we should seek out the great masters and ask them to train us on our journey. Who knows, we may even find a different destination than the one we set out to tackle when we began as white belts.
Mastery requires us to focus on where we are going on our journey and pay attention to the details. We are unlikely to be a professional fighter or be the one to fan the flames to a revolution. The journey to mastery of technique in either tea parties or karate does not take us along the same paths and we should end up in different destinations.
How about you, are you only thinking about the destination and not the journey? Our journey to Boston was a lot of fun and we enjoyed the time in Massachusetts. Keep going on the journey. See you at the dojo soon.
I am enjoying the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. She makes the case for grit as the determining factor in success in several areas. I believe her book applies to karate and life at the dojo as well. In the second chapter the author addresses one of my misconceptions in a chapter called “distracted by talent.” Have you ever been lured into thinking someone had “talent” and that was the only reason they were good? And I am sure, like me, you went on to say, I do not have the talent, therefore, I will never be that good.
As we progressed in karate we learned that talent is not a defining differentiator between who becomes a black belt, or even a yellow belt (the next step up in rank from white belt in our dojo) for that matter. It is something more.
- None of us joined karate only to have the dojo stand back and say, “Where have you been? You have talent.”
- I initially looked to talent as the easiest explanation for someone’s good performance.
- Now that I am practiced I know that it is not just the effort or practice that produces a black belt candidate.
- We have shared a few times that success was not talent on my part, rather, it was that intangible desire to see myself completing the course I began when my son asked me to join him in karate.
- When I was a white belt, I looked at people who were black belts (now, like me and Sensei Mae) and thought that they are good. They have talent. I hope I have enough talent to get to their level.
- I may have some talent, but after reading this book I likely have only grit and some practice time.
Our sensei says that obtaining a yellow belt in our dojo is much harder than obtaining a black belt. What he means is that coming to the second
class is often an act of courage. Working on a new process, such as karate, later in life was initially hard for me as the movements were so foreign to my daily movements. I likely made it to black belt as a result of grit or determination to succeed as my goal was firmly set on that accomplishment. I even participated in several sparring rounds to get better as part of the test is fighting.
This drive to succeed applies to everything we do.
- In Grit, chapter three is titled “effort counts twice.” The author demonstrates that talent does not equal improvement. She indicates that the end result is not extraordinary but is the accumulation of actions performed consistently and correctly.
- So, in karate, when we become a black belt, it is a result of the small accumulated actions we practice and perform daily or weekly.
- In our dojo, we have a rigorous test for black belt. It is only available after you pass through several belts and have the accumulation of effort that it takes to pass those belts as well.
- We count execution on the test, not effort. However, it is the effort prior to the test, the years of training, that count on the black belt test and all others.
The talented do not always learn the lessons like I have. I had to ask a lot of questions and be shown techniques several times. Other, who were “naturals,” did not get the same repetition or understanding and did not have the same depth of knowledge. In her book, Duckworth announces a theory to explain the process. I liked the theory: “Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.”
Coming to the dojo a second time requires grit. It is when you do not show back up that your skills stop improving and we stop producing anything with the skills we have learned up to that point. It is the consistency of the effort that counts. I was the only one of four second degree candidates who saw the program straight through. My consistency of effort made the learning of the material simpler. The other three had stopped the training at various times after becoming a black belt and as a result worked harder to re-learn the skills that my consistent effort already knew. It was about the only thing in my favor on the day of the test.
You can follow Sensei Mae @letstalkkarate on Twitter.
It was the last Saturday class at the temporary dojo and our Sensei pulled out a technique made famous from the movie the Karate Kid. He called the technique “ura,” a technique that deviates an incoming strike, or as the movie called it: “wax on, wax off.”
If you are not familiar with original Karate Kid movie, the main characters Daniel (a/k/a the karate kid) asks Mr. Miyagi to become his karate teacher. He agrees and puts Daniel to work at his house. After four days of performing seemingly irrelevant and arduous tasks, such as waxing the car, sanding the floor, and, painting the fence, Daniel loses his temper and confronts Mr. Miyagi. Mr. Miyagi responds simply, “Not everything thing is as it seems.” To which Daniel replies, “Show me.”
Mr. Miyagi positions himself in front of Daniel and asks him to demonstrate “wax on, wax off.” Daniel performs the circular arm movements. This is the same technique we learned in class. As Daniel demonstrates wax on, wax off, Mr. Miyagi unexpectedly moves to the attack using straight punches that are harmlessly deflected away. When we performed this in class, it worked just as it did for Daniel in the movie. Fun!
As one of the students in class, I was impressed by the knowledge and the detail that went into the teaching of this technique as well as the teaching for our class. This is teaching from Okinawa, and the circular nature of the technique was effective. Sensei went on to demonstrate other techniques from the sequence and showed the moves in various katas as well.
I will be practicing the ura technique with circular motions. As we had several students at the class, we all took turns attacking and defending.
- One aspect the students liked best was when we hooked the punch and then pulled down our attacker.
- We also appreciated how the technique blocked a follow-up punch from the attacker.
- It was tricky to mirror the hands and we were encouraged, just like Daniel in the movie, to go slow at the beginning and perfect the technique.
This movie was well done in teaching this unconventional way.
- It is much easier for me to stop into the dojo rather than practice waxing several cars in one day.
- Of course, I do not have a bad guy from Cobra Kai stalking me.
- The karate kid, original cast is coming back on the small screen. Youtube is starting a new series titled “Cobra Kai,” the fall of 2017. It will be interesting to see where it lands.
- Will they use the ura technique in the sequel? Stay tuned…
Have you learned this technique? Are you interested in learning similar fun drills? I know I will look to use this technique in my next fight.
- Sensei knows us well enough not to throw too much at us at one time.
- Later in the movie Daniel wants to learn the kick he sees his teacher performing. A wise teacher knows when the timing is right for the teaching, and in the movie the kick is learned after a foundation of knowledge is passed along.
- In the dojo we see upper belts performing fun kicks or kata and have to learn patience that we, too, will learn that technique when the time is right –when we have the foundational skills or muscle development. We can harm ourselves without the right foundation.
- Daniel learned the virtue of patience and life lessons in karate along with sprucing up the house for Mr. Miyagi.
Please let us know in the comment section below. We are interested in your feedback. See you in class soon.
Have you ever come back to class a week later and asked your classmate how to do that new skill we all thought was so fun from last week and found out that neither of you knew? How do you best practice a new skill or something you have learned? We are always receiving new material in class; do you have a set time to practice that new thing you just learned? Today, I will reveal the secret of the best time for practicing.
I try to always attend class on Tuesday. It is where I learn the most new material and have the most entries in my karate notebook. Even though I learn a lot while teaching, I receive new material on Tuesdays.
- Often on Tuesday when I get home I am able to share with my black belt wife the lessons from the class and go over the basics we learned that evening.
- On Wednesday, I make a point of going to the gym and practicing the same techniques we learned the evening prior.
- At that point I can see the gaps in my knowledge that were “cemented” the evening prior.
- Going home, I check my notes and then at the next class opportunity, ask for clarification on the points that I stumbled over when practicing on Wednesday at the gym.
Here is the secret formula for the best time to practice a new skill:
- Try out the new skill when taught. This is one of the main class activities.
- Make hand written notes as soon as possible after the teaching and practice.
- Read the notes and practice prior to leaving the dojo; this is the best time to clarify and cement your understanding. Your classmates may be able to fill in any gaps and your Sensei may be available to assist as well.
- Here is where the test for understanding comes in—practice at home or the next morning when the information is fresh in your mind.
- Have an established practice time specifically to review the last class. Scheduling the practice session is just as important as going to class.
- It needs to fit in with your schedule.
- You see mine is set already as I am committed to the class and practice schedule.
How well are you retaining your new karate knowledge? Our challenge to you is to record and reflect on the class immediately after the class is concluded. Yes, it is great to talk with your karate family, and this is the perfect topic for the discussion. Please let us know in the comment section below how well you are doing.
The time to record and reflect is an important after class activity. Practicing the new skill will keep your mind on what you just learned. Practicing immediately at home or the next morning will make a difference in how well you retain the knowledge from class to class. See you in class soon.
Our karate and kata style comes from Okinawa. The Okinawa main island has over 100 beaches. Karate started with the notion that defenders needed a solid footing to repel invaders. If you lived on an island, you would have plenty of beaches and need to learn how to defend in the sand.
We just came back from our travels out to San Francisco. Even though we may not generally associate the beach with San Francisco they do have a few. Practicing kata on the beach while on vacation is always a joy. We do get a few looks and people tend to move away from your area. In San Francisco where it was likely in the mid 60’s while we were at the beach, not too many were just lying down and sunning themselves.
The sand and water offer their own unique challenges.
- The fresh air and bird songs are good for your emotional well-being.
- Sand is constantly shifting and changing, demanding various muscles in the body to come into play that might not normally engage on a dojo floor workout.
- The sand is on different levels, and you have to adjust to that difference, which brings a new element to our kata and really checks the balance.
- Jumping is much easier on our joints in the sand.
- I loved the spray of sand when I kicked as it kept my focus on good technique.
- The water was cold and kept filling in my marks.
- Grounding is a theory that electrical energy from the earth can be absorbed through your feet when you walk barefoot leading to multiple health benefits. We have between 3,000–7,000 nerve endings in each of our feet so let them loose every now and then.
One big visible benefit of the beach is that the sand leaves a pattern of our kata for us to review. We reference our feet when performing kata. The sand impressions let us know how well we are doing. In wet sand you need a little more pressure to leave your mark and in the dry sand, with no wind, you can easily see the referencing.
Our challenge this week is to take some time off and find a local beach, any sand will do for the sensation. Practice your kata on the sand and find what else your kata can teach you while you are enjoying a relaxing time on the sand. I know that my practice session on the beach helped me with my kata.
Going to the beach this summer? Please let us know in the comment section below. See you in class soon.
This week a sensei at our dojo celebrated 25 years in karate. She related to us a powerful story about journaling after class. The journey began with her mom taking martial arts training together. They came home after every class and wrote the class details into a spiral note book. A few benefits were apparent at the time, namely the time spent together after class as well as the training and the clarification that comes when you try to recreate an event after the fact with another person.
It turned out that a few years ago as the sensei’s mother was moving, she came across the notebooks and shared them with her daughter. From that notebook we resurrected several drills and we were able to perform them this week to assist in the celebration. Kicking paper is much better than eating cake! The drills were fun and the training was on point for the class.
Today we have activity trackers and phones as well as other electronic recording devices. The best item, in my opinion, is the notebook as our celebrating sensei found out. Studies have shown that hand writing is better than electronic recording. Our minds see the pictures created by the notes we make on the page. It is not the same when we type.
Like me, many of you probably wear activity trackers of some sort. I like my watch for tracking activities, but I know that it does a poor job of remembering what happened in class. That is where a good journal or notebook comes into play.
I have a Garmin watch that records my activity. I am not using the watch to keeping a running journal of my day.
- At the end of the day it tells me how many, how far and how long.
- It does not record the sequence of items like in a kata.
- It does not help me to keep my focus during training as I do not wear it when training.
- It is a great reminder to get up and take a walk when I sit too much writing a blog!
When I was training for my second degree black belt test, I found that the activity tracker was actually doing more harm than good for me. I had it on at the gym where I was daily practicing kata. During the practice sessions, my hand would hit the wrist with the tracker and I developed a habit that was hard to break of not having my shuto hand glide down my arm to finish a move. One of the other senseis pointed out my move in class and remarked that I was not finishing properly. It took me a while to figure out that my lack of finishing went back to my Garmin watch. Now I practice at the gym without it. Is it time to drop yours during training as well?
I am sure that like me, you are already hearing the ads for back to school. When you are out shopping for school supplies or just out shopping, please consider the purchase of an extra notebook for karate class. Take a look at Sensei Mae’s post on the importance of taking notes.
- In class we often say that we are likely not to see unique or special drills for years so it should be documented.
- We have often documented some of the fun drills in our notebooks and were able to teach them to others.
- When we have an opportunity to share drills we have in our notebooks with others, it is a treat to see students new to the drill taken up with excitement.
Here are some positive reasons to take notes:
- Overview of day
- Topic and reminder of lessons learned
- Record lessons learned and sequences
- Document fundamental skills
Please let me know how your journal from class is going. Maybe I will see you out shopping for a new notebook for our next class. See you in class soon.