Martial Arts Blogs A Journey to Shodan: 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My First Seminar.

Two weeks ago I travelled to Bellevue Washington with my Sensei’s and three other students to attend my first ever Shotokan Karate seminar, which was taught by Sensei Kyle Funakoshi and Shihan Funakoshi.

On Friday night we went as a group and watched a Shodan and Nidan grading, and on Saturday morning I went to the Dojo early to watch the advanced class Seminar. Although I wasn’t participating, I find that as much as I love being on the floor practicing, I also enjoy sitting on the sidelines to observe; watching other students and paying attention to what the Sensei is teaching, improves my own technique by reminding myself what I should or should not be doing.

When it came time for the Brown and Black Belt Seminar, the five of us took the floor amongst all of the other local students – I think 20 of us in all. We started with a typical warm-up session, followed by basics and then Kata: my two favourite parts of Karate. I had heard that we may be learning advanced sparring techniques, but I was glad there wasn’t time for that – I’m not a huge fan of sparring and the more time spent on basics and Kata the better. That’s just me being selfish. Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Empi and Unsu. This was my first time doing Unsu so I’m sure I was a hot mess trying to follow along, but we repeated the double kick from the floor and practiced getting up into proper stance over, and over, and over and over. I am confident that when it comes time for me to fully learn this Kata, I’ll know what I am doing in that regard. It is very difficult, but it is now committed to my memory – I’ll just need my body to actually do it! The session lasted and hour and a half, and I wish it could have been longer. I learned so many new things, mostly small adjustments to Kata and tweaks to stances, but I definitely left the Seminar a better Karateka.

Highlight of the day: I was told by Shihan Funakoshi that my sidekicks are ‘Good, good, good’, there simply is no higher compliment than that in Shotokan Karate.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Slippery Slope.

Lately, Karate has been taking a back seat to my increasingly busy schedule.
Before my Shodan grading, training was priority #1 for obvious reasons. I was at the Dojo four days a week, staying late after class and committed to polishing every technique. After it was over, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Perhaps I'm still breathing that sigh of relief. Without a grading looming over me and consuming every thought, feeding my need for perfection, I find it much easier to talk myself out of class - and it's a slippery slope. I need to stain the fence, I need to do yardwork, I need to just take a night off, I need to... there are so many things on my to-do list that every moment of my life could easily be consumed.

What I really need to do though, is go to Karate, it is my me time. It is how I have always cleared my mind. When I'm in class I don't think of that list and I don't think of work, all I think about is my technique and training. Above being physically beneficial, I also find it mentally beneficial.

Lately I've been learning a lot of new Kata - Kanku Sho, Bassai Sho, Jitte, Chinte, Tekki San Dan - and to keep them top of mind, I need to go to class consistently. Maybe I don't have to go four days a week anymore, but I can at least commit to two or three. I don't want to lose what I have, I've done that once before and the uphill climb was extremely difficult. 

I will not allow myself to slip down that slope, no matter how bad the lawn needs to be mowed.

Friday, May 4, 2012

How does it feel?

I was recently asked how it feels to be a Shodan – does it feel any different?

It does feel a bit different, now that I’m in the front row. But still I look back.
I look back on the days when I first started at this Dojo as a Brown Belt (3rd Kyu), after having taken such a long break. I was frustrated because I didn’t remember Karate to be particularly difficult, but so many things had changed: the stances were different than I was used to; I was now required to learn Japanese commands; basics were no longer in full stance, they were in High Kamae; Katas wouldn’t stick and YouTube was a constant source of information. I was trying to regain the knowledge I once had, and learning that Karate is a skill one acquires over a very long period of time; some make it look easy, but it certainly takes a lot of hard work to make it appear that way.

It took months before I felt any degree of confidence, and a year before the movements started to feel natural. Later still, Gradings would come and go and I wasn’t on the list; every class was frustrating for me and there were times I considered finding a better way to spend my time.

Gradually things were coming back to me, and I began to remember why I had once loved this sport so much. My name started to appear on grading lists (and I passed!), I stopped doubting myself and looking at others to see if I my technique was correct, or if I was in the right stance in a Kata (by the way, never do that – it causes doubt and you’re surely going to mess up). My fear of being alone on the floor with everyone watching began to fade, and finally I felt like I deserved to be standing in a senior position as 1st Kyu.

When my Shodan Grading was announced I immediately felt anxious, which soon turned into feelings of ‘lets just get this over with and move on!’ By the time my Grading night arrived I was ready, and when I entered the building I was a 1st Kyu who had trained her butt off for the opportunity to grade for Shodan and loved (almost) every minute of it.

I feel like I’ve crossed a threshold of sorts. I’m on the other side and can relax, learn new Katas and enjoy this wonderful sport without constantly thinking of the next grading.

So in short, yes it feels different. But I think that feeling has been slowly evolving over the years and didn’t just change on February 24 at 8:20pm.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More International Study.

While still in South Africa I took time to visit a second Dojo and participate in class. This was not the same Dojo I went to two weeks prior and I must say, I did notice a vast difference in teaching style between the two.

Sensei Jon Williams was very helpful with directions, as our first attempt to find the Dojo location was a bust and we ended up in Cape Town, circling the bus depot and taxi stand for half an hour before giving up and going back to Stellenbosch. The last thing I wanted to do was show up late for class, especially as a guest in this Dojo, so I resolved to try again the following week.

Upon arrival I immediately recognized two of the students from the previous Dojo I attended. Once they saw me, they greeted me and took the time to ask my thoughts on the other class. I was honest and told them I felt a bit out of place, and was trying to follow along as best I could in an unfamiliar environment. I then asked if I could expect the same structure in the upcoming class, or if this one is a bit more relaxed. Both students looked at each other and laughed, telling me this is far from a relaxed class, and they have seen students visit from local Dojo's and leave very shocked at how hard the class is compared to what they are used to.

I'd be lying if I said this didn't concern me just a bit. I thought the previous class was quite difficult ... not in an 'I can't handle this' sort of way, but just the approach of the instructor and the way the class was run. I did find it hard to keep up - there was a routine and it was clear I was not familiar with it. Now I was beginning to wonder if I hadn't made a mistake coming to this class, after all, I was on vacation, and I should have been taking it easy and instead I found myself at Dojo number two worried that the next hour and a half would be embarrassing and if I would be able to keep up.

Class started with a typical warm up and basics and then moved into offensive and defensive techniques which were fun. All students in the class gave 100% and the instructor was very attentive and gave many examples of how these techniques could be utilized. A bit of sparring ensued, but remained focused on one individual being on the offensive and the other on the defensive, and then we switched, giving everyone a chance to try each combination of techniques. Class ended with my favourite Kata - Empi, which we did in small groups while the other students and instructor watched.

Perhaps I used the wrong word when I had asked if this would be a more 'relaxed' class. When all was done, I felt like I had just taken a class at my home Dojo - not relaxed perse, but I guess the style of instruction made the difference. This class was not as rigid, and while the students were still very focused, they also seemed to enjoy themselves.

Overall I found the class to be well structured, and the instructor keen to share his knowledge and experience. Students asked questions and were really keen to understand and execute the various techniques correctly.
Now this is a Dojo I could fit into, if I ever move back to South Africa this is surely where I would end up. What a great experience.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

International Study.

I'm currently in South Africa and prior to arriving, my Sensei had contacted a few local Dojo's to request permission for me to participate in some classes.

Last night was my first of these two classes. I went in expecting high calibre Karate, simply from the profile online, and was looking forward to a new experience. Well, for better or worse, I got what I was looking for in this Brown/Black belt class - 13 black belts and 3 brown belts.

I am used to the martial arts community being very welcoming and friendly, however at this location, not one student approached me, looked my way or greeted me in any fashion. In preparation for the class I began to stretch and roll up my sleeves, but after a quick glance around the room, I noticed nobody had rolled up their sleeves... so I casually rolled mine down; as they say - When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Their bow-in procedure is one I am not familiar with. Everyone lines up on one side of the room, shoulder to shoulder, and not knowing the various students and their Dan ranks I'm not entirely sure I was in rank order, but again nobody said anything to me, so I guess I'll never know.

Once class started, I immediately knew I was in for  a good one. This Sensei accepted nothing less than 100% from his students, was very firm in his instruction and his expectations. When in ready positon, one is NOT to move, and eyes are to face front at all times.
All students loudly yelled 'Oss Sensei' throughout the class in response to his every instruction.
After warm up, we began with the repetition of one combination for about 15 minutes and when we finished the Sensei admitted that what we were doing would have no practical application in the 'real world' but the exercise was all about muscle memory - repetition of these things will come in handy should we ever encounter a situation where we are required to defend ourselves.

Next came the sparring. Now, in our class at home we very rarely spar - maybe only once every few months or so. Here it seems very common and everyone was well prepared and ready to rumble. I had not packed my sparring gear for my trip to the other side of the planet, so I was less prepared - add to the fact that I still have a swollen and injured knuckle from my grading, which I was made to tuck behind me into my belt and spar with one hand - things weren't shaping up to go very well for me.
The first person I sparred was a female and she was very serious - ready to clean take my head off. None of this "I see you're new, lets feel it out and gauge your level" it was more like "You're a black belt? It's ON!" Thank goodness kicks are my strong suit in sparring because I feel I fared pretty well in that department and managed to stand my own. The next few partners were a little less aggressive, but again, not there to make friends.

Finally we moved on to Kata and focused on Jion. Again, to compare: in our dojo, we are taught that during group Kata, one should pause if you see another student too close to you, just let them move through until they are out of range, and then continue with your Kata. Apparently that isn't an international courtesy. People were stepping on my feet, hitting name it, it was every Karateka for him/herself and 'get out of my way' all around.
I was corrected a few times on some of my movements, so there were slight differences in form between the way I have been taught, and the way this Sensei teaches the same Kata, which is to be expected.

It is clear some Dojo's are much more serious than others. Don't get me wrong, ours is serious and I am personally very serious about my training and progression, but I also enjoy every minute of it, otherwise for me there is no point. This Dojo seemed like any non-serious Karateka had been weeded out long ago and only the strong have survived.

Once the class was over, I was glad I had taken the opportunity to have this experience, but it has certainly made me appreciate my fellow Karateka in how they greet and welcome new students, and also my Sensei even more for his serious yet kind approach to teaching.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Shodan Grading.

When I left my house I admit I was nervous, but as soon as I walked in the door and bowed into the Dojo, my nerves seemed to disappear. It felt like any other night; the space looked the same, smelled the same, felt the same and I managed to push aside any feelings of anxiety I'd been suffering from during the preceding weeks. I looked at the clock and reasoned with myself that in two hours, this would all be over, I just needed to get myself through it in the best way I know how. I knew my Basics, I knew my Kata and my Bunkai was prepared. I knew I would make mistakes and was at peace with that.

At 7pm myself, my three Sensei’s and Sempai lined up and I bowed us all in – and then it began. Basics lasted about 25 minutes and thankfully I was allowed to omit my back kicks due to my lingering groin injury. I was so concerned about the injury (or making it worse that night) that I completely forgot about the kick combination I would be expected to do, which had a back kick in it – and when I was called to do the combination I froze... I hadn't thought of what I would replace that kick with, so on a whim I threw a set of four kicks together and went with it. Not the shining moment of the evening, but I was allowed to move on, so perhaps it wasn't all bad.

Next came Kata. I was asked to start with Heian Shodan and continue through Tekki Shodan. I had to start each one at a new 90 degree angle, so I was really happy that I had practiced all of my Kata facing different directions. It certainly came in handy and I didn’t blank out or become disoriented due to the change of direction. One of my biggest concerns about the test was that I would draw a blank in a Kata I had done hundreds of times. I’m happy to report that didn’t happen.

For a change of pace, the Katas were stopped and out came the boards. I was told to break boards however I chose, so I started with a Gyaku Zuki. Now, we never practice breaking boards – ever – and my feeling is that without being properly taught how to break boards, it is an injury waiting to happen, and case in point I was in the hospital on Sunday getting my still-swollen hand X-Rayed for a possible fracture.
However, this being my Shodan grading I didn’t want to object in front of a crowd so I broke four boards, one by punch, two by hammer fist and one with a side-kick. My right hand has certainly seen better days.

Then it came time to spar. I was expecting to spar with a fellow student, however one of my Sensei’s stood up and put his gear on. He definitely got the best of me, but I did manage to get in a few good kicks and punches to the head and body which felt fantastic. By the time it was over I was relieved and out of breath, so I removed my gear very slowly in order to catch my breath in preparation for what was to come next.

My pre-shodan and Shodan Katas were next, still facing different directions. Again, I’m happy for the practice because this second set of Kata didn’t disorient me either. Mixed in amongst the Kata were my Bunkai – which I admit could have gone a bit better. I did draw a few blanks but I won’t beat myself up over that, I was simply asked to start again and each time I was able to recover and get through it.

My cardio was decent as well - but I took the time to breathe between sets which I'm sure helped. I was so worried after last Sunday's pre-test that I think I really slowed down and paced myself - I didn't want to be gasping for air through the whole test.

As expected it did seem to go by fast and at some points I was thinking - "wow, I'm done that Kata already...I barely remember doing it!" I just really hope I didn't rush things and miss the details, I practiced so hard for this and the point is to 'show what you know', not rush through it.

After my last Kata was complete, I thought the test was over, but I was asked to perform one final Kata of my choice for the audience and to make it the best I'd ever done. I chose Empi – my favourite. I felt like I really rocked that one out, knowing that I was only moments away from receiving my black belt. I finished, kneeled down and closed my eyes.

Then came the moment where I stood up and accepted my certificate, and next my belt. Only the belt was being presented to me in a beautiful leather case - which I'd never seen happen with other students receiving their Shodan. As my Sensei was removing it from the case he told me that this was a gift from my husband, and he presented me with a Satin black belt with an embroidered Shotokan label. It is beautiful! Certainly an unexpected surprise.

I was SO relaxed come Saturday I couldn't stop smiling. I actually spent a day NOT thinking about February 24, the list of grading requirements, breaking boards, sparring, my cardio, kata, bunkai, combinations, basics....

What's next? Well, I'll give my hand another few days rest and then I'll be back at it - it's time to learn a new Kata.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Shodan Achieved.

What Karate means to me. My Shodan assignment.

I look back to the start of my journey, where I’ve been and where I am now, and realize that along the way Shotokan Karate has taught me something very special. It has taught me to be kind to myself.

Karate is not a team sport, I cannot defer blame if my stance is too narrow, or if I forget where I am in a Kata; every mistake I make lands squarely on my shoulders and weighs heavily. I am my harshest critic, my own worst enemy and I will always strive for perfection, that’s who I am – I wear this trait on my sleeve.

Somewhere along the way, a wise man told me “Mistakes are a part of learning”, and although I’m sure I’ve heard that phrase many times in the past, this time I finally listened. I started accepting my mistakes instead of beating myself up over them. I learned it’s OK not to get things right the first time, or the second, or even the third. It’s OK not to be perfect – I now accept this, forgive myself and move on. Dwelling and obsessing over my imperfections only held me back.

To put it simply, Karate has enhanced my life.
It has provided me with many years filled with personal goals and challenges.
It has tested my patience (and as it turns out, I do have some - very deep down, who knew!?!)
It has also given me a real sense of pride in the commitment I made to myself to make it this far in my journey.


Tonight is my grading.

Well, this is it. The day I have been focused on for months. The day I secretly wished would disappear from the calendar. The day I didn’t want to come, but knew was inevitable. February 24, 2012 has indeed arrived.

What am I?
I’m nervous. If I wasn’t nervous I’d be nervous so this is, I believe, a natural feeling to have at this point.
I’m excited. Excited to finally take my place on the floor and prove I have earned and deserve the rank of Shodan.
I’m nostalgic. I received my Brown Belt SO long ago, and it is as a Brown Belt that I feel I really began to learn Karate and appreciate the sport. Anything before that time, I look back and consider myself to have been a different person. I’ve grown a lot from the day I was given the rank of 3rd Kyu Brown.
I’m Proud. So very proud of myself for sticking with Karate and not letting my own frustration or busy schedule take away from that which I truly enjoy.

What am I not?
I’m not perfect. If I remember that throughout, I’ll do just fine.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


One more day until my grading.

Something dawned on me today. I realized that I have been so consumed with the date and practicing for the test, that I really haven’t given much thought to what it actually means or the belt itself. I’ve tossed the words Shodan Grading around very loosely thinking only of the process and not the fact that soon I will remove my Brown Belt for the last time, and join the ranks of the people I have looked up to throughout my journey.

Tomorrow night I will be a Black Belt. I’ll let that sink in when it is finally around my waist, but for now the test is still a hurdle I must first clear - and with this nagging groin pull I'm not sure how high I will be able to jump over the hurdle, but I'll claw my way over it somehow.

When this is all over, my mind will certainly appreciate the rest. Tomorrow will be just another day – not ‘another day closer’.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Two more days until my grading.

Time has gone by so fast. I remember when it was three months away, 96 days seemed like loads of time and now my counter says I have one day and XX hours. Makes my stomach hurt just looking at it.

I am not going to class tomorrow night so I can let my body have some rest before the test. I pulled another muscle doing those darned back kicks - I knew they were trouble!  So, ice and heat have been my friend for the past 24 hours - so far its not been helping, but hopefully within the next day it will ease off. I'm guessing on Friday a few extra strength Tylenol will be on the pre-grading menu.

As of today, I'm feeling OK. I just have to get through it, that's all.
1.5 hours of my life is but a blip in time - although when I'm in the midst of it, I'm sure it is going to feel like a really, really, long blip.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Three more days until my grading.

Tonight in class I intended to work almost exclusively on Bunkai with my partner because there are a few sections that still trip me up, so I felt I needed to practice them repeatedly in order to drill them in to my head. Well, things didn’t quite go the way I’d intended, as my partner rolled his knee and ankle during warm up, spent some time on ice and then went home. It's not looking too good, and I wouldn't expect him to assist me while injured, so there is a good chance I will have no Bunkai partner on Friday night. Things will be what they will be.
I wish him the best and hope for his sake that it is only a minor injury that will heal quickly.

I instead spent some time reviewing all of my Kata just to keep everything fresh, going over the grading list, working on my combinations and tweaking the dreaded Ushiro Geri (back kick). And that’s it.

This was my last official class before my grading. No more instruction, no more tips, no more guidance - I’m now on my own.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Four more days until my grading.

Yesterday Sensei and Sempai set up a mock test and took me through the list of grading requirements in succession, without breaks. Let me tell you, my lungs felt like they were the size of walnuts (without the shell). It was all I could do to fill my lungs with air, and even then it was very uncomfortable and I felt like gasping.

I’ve been training four days a week, and admittedly it isn’t a real cardio buster. So on my off-days I have been going to the Y for spinning classes a few times a week, as well as skipping at home and sometimes for a while before class. It would seem that my efforts have failed me – which is concerning.

Now I’m no longer worried about forgetting kata, drawing blanks, or messing up my basics and bunkai, I’m worried that I will pass out!

Just when I was starting to feel like I was actually ready...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Two weeks and counting...

Well, I guess the countdown is really on now. Two weeks until my Shodan grading – how time flies. When I break it down, it would seem I don’t really have a lot of training time left to polish everything up. Part of me is eager to just get the night over with, and the other part wishes time would slow down. I hate tests.

2 weeks = 7 classes
7 classes = 11.5 hours (or more if I stay as late as I have been after class these days)

Overall I feel like I am ready. I know my basics, I know my kata, and bunkai is coming along nicely. The trick for me will be to keep my mental and physical focus in check during the test.

  • Don’t let anyone ‘yipping’ at me get under my skin
  • Be determined, not frustrated
  • Stay in the moment during bunkai

  • Slow down and focus on the rhythm of the kata
  • Take my time, don’t rush through everything
  • Breathe

Hangetsu Update:
I'm happy to say I have finally made peace with this Kata. It is still not my favourite, but I’ve learned to co-exist with it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

These are my bruises.

When training Bunkai, whether attacking or defending, necessarily one will end up with bruises. I’ve been on three Bunkai teams over the last few years and each time my forearms and wrists tell the same story – endless hours of training and dedication to be part of someone else’s success. They look terrible, hurt, and I sometimes have to explain that “No, my husband is not abusive... really he’s not!” They’ve always been the worst part of the Bunkai experience for me.

Now that I am training for my black belt, and my Bunkai partner and I routinely exchange blocks and punches, the bruises are coming back. Yes they hurt, a lot, but they’re different this time; they no longer belong to someone else, this time they belong to me. I don’t look at them and cringe anymore; I look at them with pride! I’m earning every one of these bruises and with each one I know I’m one step closer to achieving my Shodan. This time it is for me and it feels good – figuratively speaking.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Self Preservation.

One of the things I find myself really trying to work on these days is my back stance. With so many other things to focus on, some will naturally fall to the side and this is unfortunately one of them. I'm now wishing I had made it more of a priority earlier in my training, since I'm finding it hard to get it just right.

One tip that has helped me fall into a better back stance is to think of if as Self Preservation. If I'm in a front stance and someone is attacking with a straight jab I'll most certainly eat the punch, but I simply need to shift into a back stance and suddenly... I'm out of range. I don't have to lean away, or physically relocate myself, just shift my stance. Brilliant!

Weight: Back 70%, Front 30%.
Knees: Don't let them fall in.
Posture: Don't lean.
There you have it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stick it, don't flick it!

I remember in elementary school our teacher used to make us write lines if we had done something wrong. I guess this was to get it into our little heads that what we had done should not be repeated. I think this technique must have worked for me, because I don't remember writing too many lines.

I tend to execute my Ushiro Geri too quickly and not finish the full technique before returning the kick. I've been told this a number of times but for some reason I still focus too much on the spinning technique and less on the kick itself - and as a result, I flick it when I should instead stick it.
So, hopefully this will get it into my head...

I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.
will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.  I will stick my Ushiro Geri.   I will stick my Ushiro Geri.

That ought to do it.
Crossing fingers.

Friday, January 13, 2012

How low can you go?

Over the last couple of months, with the help of my Sensei, I've been working hard to improve my overall form, training four days a week and staying overtime to get every everything I can out of the time left before my grading. In my opinion it has been going really well, and all of this hard work has really helped build my confidence.

Then I went to class last night and my confidence loudly crashed to the floor, rolled away and has found itself an incredibly good hiding place.
How did this happen?
My 'Other' Sensei took the Brown belts through the Shodan grading, and pulled up a chair right in front of me to monitor my preparedness. This didn't bother me at all - after all, I was feeling confident!
We went through most of the test at a decent pace, repeating things here and there. Once it was done, he shared with me his list of comments. Not a long list, but he has a way talking down to you that can suck the confidence and joy right out of you - it's a personality thing - which I don't respond well to.

  • My front stances are too narrow, I need to fix this before my test - this includes in all basics and Kata. So really, not a big deal (sarcasm dripping from that last statement)
  • Watch final hand position in Jion - don't leave thumb out
  • Something about Tekki Nidan made him want to vomit, but I'm not exactly sure what
  • My Mawashi Geri needs work. I tend to bring my knee straight up in front of me to start the kick instead of around the outside as it should be. This is how I was taught for many, many years, and has been difficult for me to change
  • I haven't memorized the grading requirement list in its exact order - apparently, shame on me and I better get it down before grading night. I guess this somehow this affects my skill level, or perhaps it will be a self guided test? Memorizing this list, isn't on the list... so I'm confused.
  • I over-think everything. This I already knew, it is who I am. I've been doing this for 30+ (no need to reveal the + here) years. It is who I am, and I'm afraid this isn't going to change come Feb 24.
I already know I don't respond well to situations where I am under pressure no matter how well prepared I am - I tend to draw complete blanks - I might even forget my own birthdate if asked. Talking down to me and making me feel like an idiot isn't helping. So I've not been looking forward to this upcoming test, actually, I'll say that I am looking forward to it just being over.

This is my low point. Hopefully my confidence reveals itself again soon.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Grading Prep

Recently I was put through my Kata paces in a scenario similar to what I will experience in my Shodan grading. The table was set up, the table cloth spread out (not ironed as usual, but my neat-freak side will have to let that go), chairs in position and my Sensei sitting on the other side with a pen and paper.

I did my 13 Kata one after the other, and only momentarily blanked on one of them - Tekki Shodan - which I acknowledge I haven not been practicing on a regular basis. The rest seemed to just come to me which was a relief. When I was finished, my Sensei shared with me his notes explaining what I did well, and not so well.

To my horror, I would have been made to repeat seven out of the 13 katas. Thankfully all for minor things that I can work on leading up to grading day, but frustrating just the same. Here is the list of notes (as far as I can remember). Now, I would be able to reference my Sensei's notes had he not immediately chewed them up and spit them out after sharing them with me...(to my own surprise I actually resisted the urge to fish it out of the GC after class).

Taikyoku Shodan - passed
Heian Shodan - passed
Heian Nidan - augmented block is in a front stance, not a back stance, all momentum moves forward (oops)
Heian Sandan - don't let my knee fall in as I make my turn for the last two moves
Heian Yondan - passed
Heian Godan - passed
Tekki Shodan - blanked momentarily, but have since practiced the H-E-C-K out of it
Basai Dai - back stance!! slow them down and make sure to complete each one properly
Jion - hmmm, trying to remember... but I know there was something I needed to fix... shoot
Kanku Dai - don't step up into the sidekicks, draw back with hips
Empi - back stance!! after the double punch, make sure I hit all back stances properly when doing the shutos
Hangetsu - passed (huge victory for me on this one, as my relationship with this kata has never been a good one)
Tekki Nidan - passed

Overall comments: 1) Remove the pauses in my kata, 2) Watch that my lead knee doesn't fall in on front stances and 3) Don't let my soto uke fall too flat, fist should be shoulder height.

So, I feel like I'm about where I should be in my training. Next big step is to focus on Bunkai, I better get that in gear. Now that I have had a countdown put on my blog, I get nervous every time I look at it. Don't know if that is a good thing, but it keeps me focused and stops me from thinking 'I have loads of time...'