Have You Hit Something This Week?

Baseball season has begun and this is not what our Sensei was on fire about. Karate is the way of the empty hand. This means we are striking, or hitting, or in some way using our hands to defend ourselves and well, I can say, attack others after they attack us. Gichin Funakoshi has on his gravestone this quote, “Karate ni sente nashi” or “There is no first strike (attack) in karate.”

As karate practitioners, we hit things! It is what we do. That was the point Sensei was making for us all in class on Tuesday.  We started with a simple reverse punch and moved to a front punch. We did combination strikes front and reverse punch. It was a lot of fun after a long day of working to punch a bag. We did have a go at my favorite, back fist. It felt good to do back fist drills.

Sensei Glen with a back fist as part of the ten strikes for the day.


This is the first class this year that I recall us focusing on striking. Our Sensei shared with us that we are a karate dojo and we hit. He then listed some of the other martial arts:

  • Taekwondo emphasis is on kicking
  • Judo is designed to grapple and throw
  • Aikido has an emphasis on throwing

Sensei Glen hitting the bag. Have you hit yours today?

The point for all us on Tuesday was that we needed to go back to the bag and ensure we were hitting and striking daily. He gave us the 10 hit a day challenge: each day punch a bag or other object ten times with each hand to improve our strikes. I am happy to report that so far I have participated every day and met this challenge.

In studying for our black belt test we had a series of over 100 strikes to perform both standing still and moving. It was a challenge to master all of the different strikes. It is interesting how many of them we use in our various katas. The next point that was made on Tuesday was that our katas all have strikes in them. Not just blocks. We need to work on both. Even with no first strike in karate we need to know how to strike properly.

Have you noticed that katas begin with a block? Take a look at the kata you like the best and let us know if you see that as well. I am sure our Sensei would also like us to make good punches in our kata. Block, punch is a basic winning formula for a good kata. Yes, we have the occasional kick as well. When we teach striking, we use our bodies, not just our fists. Throwing our hips and weight into a punch makes it land better.

At our dojo, we incorporate the best of martial arts into our teaching. We are a karate dojo and we also teach kicking, grappling, throwing and weapons. Our teacher is real. He worked as a bouncer at a bar and tried out the material he teaches us to ensure it worked. Besides the confidence that comes from learning a new technique or drill, we want to ensure that it works. What if, like the Music Man, you used the “think system” to learn any drill. In the movie, the boys to learn to play via the “think system,” in which they simply have to think of a tune over and over and will know how to play it without ever touching their instruments. That is not what I want for me and my family. We want the real deal.

I know that I am practicing my strikes and here is our challenge for all of you. How are you doing on your strikes? Could you make 10 strikes a day for the next ten days beginning the day you read this? Follow us on twitter and you will hear how we are doing #10strikestoday. Put a comment on Facebook or on this blog post. We are interested in how you are doing.

See you in class soon.

Getting out of a Slump. Sensei Mae’s Five Steps to Happiness

Hi! How’s your week going?

Sensei Mae here. I want to talk about getting out of a slump.

Even though I love karate, sometimes life just takes me away from the dojo.  And when that happens I fall into a slump.

Come on Sensei Mae. Lets get up and kick

Sensei Mae in a slump!

So now I’m getting out. And here’s how you can too.

1) Do something.  My teacher always says “to do something is better than to do nothing”

So get up and do something. Even if it’s just a few kicks, one kata or a few punches, something is always better than nothing.  So right now as you’re reading this get up and do something. I’ll wait. The more you move the better you will feel.

Lets keep kicking

Sensei Mae loves to kick. Just get up and do one thing!

2) I just did some punches and kicks and I feel better. Don’t you?

Remember why you got into karate in the first place. I got into it for self-defense, so that’s what I’m practicing next.

3) Call your karate buddy. Who do you look forward to seeing at karate? Give them a call. Even if you haven’t trained in years just reach out. Just talking about karate is great.  Talking about the fun you had together can rekindle the love you have for this great art.

4) Everyone gets slump. But not everyone overcomes it. The difference between a white belt and a black belt is that a black belt never gave up.  The Black belt comes to class, respects the teaching and diligently practices.  At my dojo, some black belts take breaks and that’s ok.  They come back refreshed and ready for more.  They are some of the most technically accurate and caring black belts.

5) Set new goals, and have a plan to achieve them. Goals are no good without follow up.   My goal is to test for 2nd degree. So I called my karate buddy and I have a plan of attack.


Not time for class to end yet!

What do you mean the dojo is closing? I have more kicking left!

So get out there, practice the art you love.    And then tell me what you did on twitter or Facebook!

5% More

Sempi Glen here. I am in the middle of reading 5% More: Making Small Changes to Achieve Extraordinary Results by Michael Alde.  The book has a real simple message: give or do 5% more and you will achieve more.  It got me thinking about how to apply this book to karate. Before I answer—what do you think?

Today we worked on kata. It is always a good class at the dojo when we work on kata. Kata has so many moves and applications. Thinking back, I marveled at the skills of yellow belts when I was a white belt. They knew an entire kata and could run it without stopping! I was inspired. How about you? Today one of our brown belts ran a kata for the class, and the class thought it was the best kata they had seen. Our brown belt is running all her katas four times a day and would have been disappointed with another response.

The author makes this point in the book: “There is value in momentum and consistency.”  In karate we see this in the belt system. The belt system gives us hope as we see the effort we make in learning new skills paying off in the form of earning a different colored belt. With just a little practice a white belt becomes a yellow belt. And so we progress to the darker colored belts giving more effort to achieve the new belt. My guess is we gave that 5% more effort to reach the next belt.

When I was preparing for the black belt test, I knew it would be difficult. One of the black belt qualities is never giving up. During the months leading up to the test (yes, I can be a little compulsive) I applied giving just a little more to my daily schedule. My goal was to run kata four times per day. The way to fit that in began with finding the time during football huddles and commercial breaks–to get up and practice kata and still see a few plays. I came to hate the no huddle offense. Eventually I had to stop watching football altogether (until after the black belt test) and work a little bit more. That is the message from the book, just another 5% to work on your goals.

As I am preparing for the sensei test, I am wondering as I read this book “How can I practice teaching 5% more?” “What changes can I make that will make a difference for the dojo students?” The book has challenged my thinking. I am asking the question “What else can I do for the students that will translate into having a better dojo?”

Here are my thoughts. My practice, like for the black belt test, requires me to train daily on all skills: weapons, kata, fighting, self-defense, kicking, striking, blocking, stances. I cannot practice each aspect daily due to other commitments. What I can do is to think about my skills just a little more so I am always ready to teach them.

As you look at your daily and weekly schedule, what can you do just a little more of to achieve your goals? I know that after I am done writing this blog I will update my notes from the classes today and go over what I learned. What about you? See you in class soon.

How Well Do You Know Kata?

We were in our Saturday mixed belt class practicing kata. As usual we begin with our basic white belt kata. Sensei had us all run through the kata—some in the class were thinking that as we get to the higher level katas the lower belt students in class will soon drop out and watch as we show off how many katas we know…

The class did not go in that direction. Here was the entry to a fun and challenging class for all who were participating. After running and announcing the moves of the basic kata, Sensei asked us this question:  “Who knows this kata really well?” Of course most of knew we were in trouble, even black belts, if we were being judged by Sensei’s standards for a basic kata. Again we were not going to show off and we were not being singled out for a critique in front of the class. That was not the drill for us—we were to learn the importance of practice and referencing and self-discover how well we knew the kata. Sensei did not even have to tell us—at the end of this drill we all knew.

Like all good students everywhere, we went through the kata with Sensei calling out the 16 moves in the kata. The refresher is always good. No one in class was a white belt and all were at least two belts past white belt. We could comfortably say it was an “easy” kata for us to perform. No one in the class questioned the moves, the timing or sequences.

Now for the drill…we divided the class in half (safety first) and spread out on the floor. Facing our original direction we were asked to perform the kata with our eyes shut. As expected the class did not all end the kata facing the same direction. The other half of the class then had the same experience. We did the same kata in the same way in two other directions. After that experience we learned what was lacking in our kata and how to train better. We had not even moved on to the next katas in our system.

Do you want to know the secret? Practice the kata and reference the feet and you will stay on course—no referencing of the feet and this drill is almost impossible to perform correctly.

How well do you know your kata? Can you pass the blindfold or eyes closed test? Do you practice in different directions? See you in class soon as we are sure to run this drill again in the future.


Blindfold Kata can be fun


Down block left!