More love for the Magic Mud

Rotarua Thermal Mud Heat Rub

The Rotarua Thermal Mud (aka Magic Mud) came to my rescue (again!) this week – I’ve discussed before how it’s like a piece of awesome in liquid/paste/cream/whatever form (as recently as just over a month ago, actually!), and following this week’s training (particularly the resistance training on the stances), my knee was feeling a bit sore and inflamed. So, as per the usual, I slapped on plenty of mud and gave it a good rub in while watching a classy episode of Thundercats in bed, tried my best to relax my muscles and not sleep in a weird position, and sure enough, it was right as rain the next day.

When I finish this tube of it, I’m definitely going to grab some more (pretty sure Wifey’s found an online store that sells it) – I swear by the stuff, it always works a treat.

Although it might have been the combination of a double-awesome – Thundercats + Magic Mud. Sounds very scientific to me.

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Training in the warm weather :)

Despite the fact it’s nearly the end of October, training this week was the first time in a while where it’s actually been warm enough in the evening to bring on a crazy sweat! We did some interesting things in class this week, and there are a few things I’ve picked up on that need considerable work if I’m to grade in December, which is my plan at this stage.

Stance was a very important part of Sensei’s training this week, both the correct form and working on strengthening our base. The exercise we did that really emphasised this was a two-person drill we did. The practitioner would move forward in stance, and in our case it was going through with zenkutsu-dachi, then with koukutsu-dachi. The trick with this drill was that we took our obi and handed it to our partner, who would either stand behind us (for zenkutsu-dachi) or in front of us (koukutsu-dachi); for the former, they would hold onto our obi with the middle of our belt around our waist and try and drag us back as we moved forward; for the latter, we would both be holding the obi and the partner would be applying resistance as we moved. In moving forwards or backwards in stance, the crucial point was that Sensei wanted us to plant our feet, drop our center of balance and move forward with perfect form (or as perfect as practical) despite the resistance from our training partner. The exercise taught us the importance of a strong stance, reminded us just how strong our stances can be, and gave the legs a workout too πŸ™‚

For me, these exercises were a bit on the tricky side, especially going backwards doing koukutsu-dashi. Whilst moving using my real leg as my primary leg driving my body forward/backward, I didn’t have too much trouble overall – it hurt the muscles sometimes because it was great resistance training, but overall I was happy with how I was doing. When I was moving and it was meant to be the left leg propelling the body forward, this obviously got tricky since there isn’t a lot I can do with it in this case πŸ˜‰ When doing zenkutsu-dachi I had to resort to using my right leg to propel me forwards (which, tbh is how I do it normally), and my training partner eased off on the resistance since there wasn’t a lot that could be done. However, when doing koukutsu-dachi, I surprised myself with using my brain for a change!

I’ve previously discussed some of my techniques for performing a good mawashi when pivoting on your fake leg, so I took those same principles of utilising the upper body and your torso to make up for leg movement and applied it to this scenario… and it worked! In fact, it worked so well that I threw my training partner off balance each time I performed the technique!!

So yeah, I was very chuffed with the outcome πŸ™‚

Beyond the drills though, I’ve decided to spend more of my workouts/training between classes covering kata and my basics I’ll need to demonstrate for my next grading. While I have some of my combinations reasonably sorted, there are some that I am not happy with at all. I’m going to speak to Sensei next week to see what I need to work on in particular in the lead-up to the December grading, and will request for a bit more ippon kumite in class so I can work on a few more advanced techniques. I’ll also be demonstrating bunkai for my next grading, so I’ll need to spend time on that. Not that I’m expected to deliver an overtly complex explanation at this level, but that doesn’t mean I want to go at it half-arsed, I intend to put in dedicated effort as always.

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Examples of real-world martial arts

Matt over at Ikigai has posted a couple of interesting blogs this month, both of them showing good examples of what I would call “real-world martial arts”, or instances where previous martial arts training resulted in a swift resolution to an act (or perceived act) of physical violence. The first one concerns a home owner who is being threatened by someone chucking a wobbly outside his house:

There are a few comments I want to make on this one, though I’m sure it’s entirely arguable if I have any legitimate reason to since I’m still a young gun when it comes to martial arts training πŸ˜› I’m merely adding to the discussion πŸ™‚

First up, I was extremely surprised and impressed at the home owner’s patience with the aggressor and the restraint he demonstrated throughout the ordeal, including the moment he chose to defend himself and bring the confrontation to a conclusion. There wasn’t outward aggression, he wasn’t itching to fight back, he was calm and collected, even when the aggressor started causing damage to his property or started shoving him around. The fact he concluded the confrontation with a single punch and didn’t follow-up with excessive violence is also extremely important, as it shows the level of self control that a combination of martial arts training and personality quirks can create in a confrontation like the above. As Matt notes, he’s done all the right things from a legal perspective and it would be unlikely that any reasonable juror or judge would consider his actions unnecessary in the circumstance.

In addition, it was great reading through all the responses Matt received from his post, as there are plenty of people that join me in reading his blog with far more experience than yours truly! The common points raised in terms of warnings or criticisms are that he let the aggressor get too close, which meant that if the thug was carrying a weapon of some sort, it would give the victim less chance to effectively defend himself. Another point raised was that action should have taken place sooner, particularly once the aggressor started damaging the property.

I think both of these comments are very important to consider, and as a martial artist, are definitely ones I’ll be taking on board. Personally, I have no idea how I would react in such a scenario – would I react sooner? Would I have let the aggressor get that close to me? Could I have concluded the confrontation with a single, clear strike? I don’t know, and maybe that’s the unsettling part to the equation for me, personally. I can only trust that my demeanor and martial arts training will allow me to approach this kind of situation with a degree of control that only the most appropriate measures take place.

The second I want to share is from a “candid camera” prank gone awry – Matt’s given it a neat summary so I’ll quote form his blog:

This clip comes from a TV Show somewhere in Belgium. It is a candid camera program that annoys people in obnoxious ways (standard affair really). One fateful evening the show decided to visit a mall and harass local shoppers. The β€˜host’ proceeded to throw a net on a man, taunt him, and then run away. Unfortunately, to bystanders, it looked as if he was either robbing or accosting the local shopper. One bystander in particular didn’t take kindly to that kind of criminal activity.

That kick was, seriously, amazing stuff. The fact that he was able to perform a standing roundhouse kick like that without it even affecting his balance despite the amount of oncoming energy and still managing knocking the guy flat on his back – wow, I’m very impressed.

While the guy’s heart was in the right place, this demonstrates the reverse side of self defense, even if in this case the action was meant as the deed of a Good Samaritan rather than pure self-defense – despite the best intentions, there were apparently legal consequences for the martial artist’s actions. I guess this raises all sorts of questions that the hypocrisy of contemporary society paints for us – people bemoan the lack of community assistance when someone is physically threatened or in need of assistance, but at the same time, people are afraid to assist in case (a) they get injured, or (b) the legal repercussions that may result from what they determine to be a community service, even if they meant well. I’m in no way endorsing vigilante violence, but it’s a difficult line to walk today when it comes to assisting someone in trouble, but being worried that you won’t be rewarded by trying to help, rather, you’ll be putting yourself in a situation where you’re punished for your assistance.

If you’re interested in reading through the original posts Matt wrote, the one featuring the home owner is here, whilst the crazy-awesome face-boot is here. I’d highly recommend you check both of them out, not only to get Matt’s even-headed perspective on both of them, but also the great discussion that followed. I was thinking about jumping in, but by the time I got around to reading them, discussion had fallen off, so I figured a blog post might suffice πŸ™‚

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Small group, great training

Another week, and another small class. Wasn’t a bad thing though, as it gave Jyastin-kun and I plenty of time to work on basic techniques and combinations. I know it may sound a bit silly, but even going back to basics and concentrating on taking simplistic techniques but approaching them with an ever-increasing view to advance the technique has been really interesting. During training Sensei was getting us to perform simple punching or kicking drills/combinations. However, he was checking with us that we were showing signs of advanced principles to these basic motions.

Take a standard oitsuki (reverse punch). This time when doing it, aside from using linear motion and kinetc energy, we was looking at how we were distributing our weight as part of the technique, and taught us the importance of lowering our mid-section at the end of the technique. This achieved a stronger stance when the amount of outgoing energy is arguably at its most volatile, as it shifted the weight closer to the ground, which meant you didn’t wobble about as much if you were straight-up and created a stronger connection to the floor, ensuring greater efficiency (i.e. less loss) of kinetic energy as part of the technique. I’ve probably made it sound a bit long-winded, so sorry about that!

Aside from that, we also worked on controlling strength, balance and control with our kicking technique, with Sensei again emphasising the importance of a strong stance. Without it, the amount of energy expelled into the target will simply bounce back into the attacker and knock you off your feet or severely deplete the amount of energy being delivered into the strike. Control your stance and weight/balance, and you achieve not only great efficiency with the technique itself, you control the flow of kinetic energy so it doesn’t float back into your mid-section and throw you off balance. Rather, it forms a continuous line from the ground, up your leg connected to the ground, through your centre and your kicking leg, and into your opponent. Keep the stance strong, and the energy only flows along that path back and forth, or ultimately it travels between the ground and the opponent. While the target itself may not falter from the attack, by controlling yourself thus you ensure that you remain the conduit of the flow of kinetic energy, rather than the foundation it relies on to bounce back and forth.

Or at least that’s how I visualise it in my crazy brain πŸ˜›

Anywho, aside from that we also got into some basic drill-work, and after class Jyastin-kun and I had the chance to have a quick chat to Sensei before we left for the night. With class sizes shrinking the last couple of weeks, I hope I’m not going to curse the club and break it like I’ve blogged about before πŸ˜› Hopefully we’ll be getting back up to normal sizes soon! In the meantime though, I’ll keep enjoying the excellent individual instruction we’ve been lucky enough to get!

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Easing back into training

Training this week went really well, even though there wasn’t much of a turn-out (only myself and Jyastin-kun!). Still, it made for an excellent session, as we both got plenty of instruction and had the opportunity to focus on improving the quality of our technique.

We actually had Dai-Sensei taking us for this class (well, it should be just ‘sensei’, but since it’s our usual instructor’s dad [who I trained under in 07/08], Dai-Sensei is a good term I think [i.e. Big Sensei]!), since sensei is currently in hospital recovering from what sounds like a crazy bout of asthma. At the start of the lesson he asked if there was anything in particular that we wanted to do, and I piped up that it would be good to go through basic combinations/techniques, as well as kata – i.e. essentials for our grading. This was a good move, as it meant I had a chance to brush up on the combinations required for grading and get plenty of attention critiquing my technique. While we weren’t doing a crazy cardio-intensive workout, I continued with my push since my last grading to train with the same focus and discipline I’d demonstrate during a grading; while I’m not sure if I trained to this degree, I know I worked hard during the session, even if it only involved relatively simple repetition.

Going through kata was also very beneficial, as it gave me the chance to question some of the finer points of my kata, especially stances, armwork and some of the kicking techniques in there that are a bit on the new-ish side of things. I was also able to clarify where to vary between hard/soft techniques in this kata.

It was a great way to gently roll back into training after a couple of weeks off. I’m going to try to incorporate kata training around my weights sessions so that I start or end with a few run-throughs of my kata to help solidify the concepts and better my technique.

So yeah, it’s good to be back πŸ˜€

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