Catching up on a few weeks’ worth of training

This one’s a bit belated, so apologies for the delay!

While I didn’t train last week (more on that later), I have been working hard in and around class the few weeks prior to that. Training during both of those weeks was really full-on… or if it wasn’t, I was working myself as hard as I could in class to get the most out of it. Since I’m keen to grade in December (or at least aim for it), I’ve been really conscious of getting my syllabus mastered to a reasonable degree of proficiency. Training has involved a lot of work on basics and fine-tuning form to continue pursuing perfect execution, form, power and focus. I’ve been trying hard to lower my stances and keep my strikes as solid as possible and maintaining proper form. We’ve been regularly working on kata, and I’m now at the point where I have the basic patterns and forms solidified in my head, and it’s now about execution, form, strength, all that good stuff. There were a few sticking points which Sensei has gone through with me that I hadn’t picked up on, but I’m confident I’m at the point where I can begin to dig deeper and execute the kata with a greater sense of skill and awareness.

We’ve also been going back to working on go-on and ippon kumite – as I’m gradually moving through my kyu grades, I’m now being expected to demonstrate a greater variety of techniques as part of my training. At first I was having trouble trying to pin down to what extent I can expand upon the usual/simple counter techniques I’ve been using, but in one of those lightbulb moments I’m prone to having, I’ve worked out that I can incorporate a lot of my basic combination drills and movements from kata into my responses. This has immediately opened up my available repertoire responses available to me through these drills, and I’m looking forward to continue working on them.

I’ve looked at time frames and will discuss the topic further with Sensei this week, but I have a feeling that should I intend to grade in December (and I do), I’ll need to be constantly revising my syllabus throughout the weeks in the lead up to grading. I started this last night by systematically going through my syllabus in the late evening to ensure I’m confident with all the techniques, and will be putting extra time aside to work on my kata, basic combinations and consider my options for ippon kumite. What’s new in this grading is the incorporation of bunkai into the exam, as well as the performance of an additional kata besides my grade-kata and kihon. The latter I’m not too fussed with as my gradings for my previous style saw everyone go through every kata in the lead-up to their grade kata, it’s just another step I have to be aware of.

So, it’ll likely be a busy couple of weeks, but I’m determined to make this grading and do well – I don’t want to simply scrape by, as I know I’m better than that.

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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 🙂

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 😉 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 🙂

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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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 😛

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 😛 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 😀

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Hard training

Just wanted to add a quick post on this week’s training – in addition to the iron stomach conditioning, we also did some general arm conditioning as well, and some cool 2-person drills that eventually evolved into a continuous flow of blocks and strikes, with both sides playing the part of aggressor/defender with relative equality. The combination seemed like it would make for good application during sparring as well, which is ace.

What was interesting was how we started the lesson – after doing our warm-up routine, Sensei had us stand in a low kibadachi and practice standing continuous oitsuki (reverse punches). After doing this for a while, we then walked along the line, standing in front of each of us with a pad placed against his abdomen, which we were to strike with as much power as we could a certain number of times. After this, he then demonstrated the importance of the use of hips, thighs, knees and feet in executing an extremely powerful oitsuki in order to get us to improve our technique. From here’s where it gets interesting – to encourage better kibadachi, we all had to stand in a line, but so that the sides of our feet were pressed up against out neighbours to either side. This actually helped reinforce my stance, but overall it helped encourage all of us to dig lower in our stance and find greater strength, kept our feet straight and knees solid – the techniques that followed were apparently greatly improved, and I know I felt the difference as well.

We also went through kata (by the end of the session I’d gotten the basic pattern down reasonably well, so now it’s time to work on refining my technique, and I’m hoping that by the time we get to the end of the year I’ll be ready to grade again), some groundwork (which was a bit of light BJJ) and some other two-person drills/techniques.

It was a really exhausting session, half-way through I was already starting to feel it, but I dug deeper when I needed to in order to push forward. The end result was an extremely good workout for the mind and body!

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