Taking a (forced) break over x-mas

Sorry for the lack of updates of late πŸ˜› Last week ran away before I knew it!

So, update on how I’m going – erm, leg’s not holding up too well πŸ˜› The issues that cropped up a week or two back have come back again, so it’s out with the walking stick again to keep me company πŸ™‚ I’m not sure why the stump’s not healing up as quickly as it normally does, I suspect it’s to do with the location of where the split skin currently is and the fact it’s in constant pressure, whether it be wearing the prosthesis or not.

So, I have to exercise something I’m not all that good at – patience πŸ˜‰

So, I’ll be taking an extended break, longer than I first thought when I took a week or two off in November. I’ll have to make sure I don’t indulge too much over the break as well, since I won’t be able to exercise as much! πŸ˜‰

This does raise a couple of questions though – how do I exercise whilst trying to minimise excess physical impact to my stump? I want to use the next month and a half until classes start again in January to get back into weight training, and I reckon this might be able to float the balance between being able to have a good workout, but do it without excess pressure on the rear of the stump since I can do a slew of different exercises on the bench, rather than standing.

The other thing I’m considering doing is working on adapting some of my core techniques to being able to do them standing on one leg. Taking a note out of Jesse’s (of the Martial Explorer) book and his interest in practical application of martial to real-world scenarios, I thought this is something I should be looking at. While I’m generally wearing my leg while I’m awake and out and about, there will be times where I’m going to be without my prosthesis, whether it be because I’ve mangled my stump or damaged my leg. So, I’m conscious that, in the spirit of trying to be a well-rounded martial artist, it’s important that I consider broadening my skillset to cope with performing at least a handful of upper-body techniques if ever I need them. So, I figure while I’m a bit mangled, it may not be such a bad idea to roll in an exploration of some of these techniques with my condition.

So, while there are definitely some negatives with where things are at, there are also some opportunities in there as well. I’ll update as I go πŸ™‚ I’m actually a bit excited about exploring what techniques can be transferred to training on a single leg, hopefully the resultant posts won’t be too convoluted!

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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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Belated training roundup – a post in three parts :)

Didn’t end up making it to training this week – I was being a good son and caught up with the family for my mum’s birthday on the usual night I train, and on the alternate night we have training available I was home from work that day because my stump’s been flaring up again, so spending an evening doing karate would have been far from productive in rectifying the situation πŸ˜› Very rude and inconvenient of my stump to flare up like that. Mind, the issues with my stump are well and truly subject material for other posts, so I’ll leave it here.

Anywho, on the training side of things – again, was another really good session, I’m finding that ever since the last grading I’ve been trying to add extra focus and energy into each lesson and it’s really paying off, or at least that’s how I’ve been feeling. There’s always that old adage that a lot of karateka note – you only get out what you put into your training, and if you don’t train every class like how you perform during your grading, you won’t grow as a martial artist. While the claims are lofty if I’m trying to say I’m living up to this in any way, I’m hoping that by training and committing myself with this elevated level of dedication, I’ll be able to progress at a greater rate… I found that when I was training throughout 2008 that I wasn’t putting in that dedicated, focused energy into my training that I’ve been working hard on achieving this year. Hopefully I’m starting to get there since I took note of how I worked during my previous grading and have started trying to apply this to each training session I attend.

… if nothing else, it is at least a good ideal to work towards πŸ™‚

I’ve also got some thoughts to post on getting started on my next kata and on my mawashi geri technique, which I’ll tuck into tomorrow (hence the “a post in three parts” bit in the title) – it’s getting late so Wifey and I are off to bed!

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