Martial arts… gardening?

Okay, bear with me on this one – a few weeks ago, I convinced my Dad it would be an awesome idea to come over and help me do some gardening. I wasn’t talking about your run of the mill weeding/potting gardening – I had more destructive things in mind πŸ™‚

Chainsaw cutting concrete
I didn’t know chainsaws could cut concrete – thanks Wikipedia!

Chainsawing stuff is awesome fun – Dad brought over his light-duty chainsaw, his crazy hedge trimmer and some other gardening toys and the two of us proceeded to do some boring stuff (weeding) and awesome stuff (chopped down several trees and bushes). To my credit, I didn’t even mangle myself, despite Wifey being in a panic the whole day, worried I was going to give myself a stupid injury πŸ˜‰

Anywho, to bring things back to being an amputee and a martial artist – I found a lot of things helped get through the day because of my training. Strong stances meant I could get down low to rip up tree trunks without falling face-first into the dirt (which would be funny, just not terribly productive!), breathing and body conditioning meant I could carry heavy weights around the garden and plonk stuff into the trailer without causing any pain or strain on my back whatsoever, and through the training that has helped me be more nimble on my feet, I didn’t stumble or fall once, regardless of where I might have been standing or my footing.

So it’s a bit arbitrary, but there’s definitely a connection there – good martial arts training lends itself to plenty of other applications in life, and as an amputee, by extension it helps you keep up with the rest of the able-bodied community πŸ˜€


7th kyu get! :)

Coloured martial arts beltsOriginal image by chris ?, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

Had grading this morning – went very well (i.e. I passed my grading πŸ˜› ). Got up early and did some stretching to get me ready for grading. Picked up Jyastin-kun on the way there, and got to class around 20mins to 9([am] – early start for a Saturday for yours truly!). Those of us grading for 7th kyu ended up being the most senior (aside from Sensei of course!) – there were a few white belts (including Jyastin-kun), one red and a couple of orange belts joining me for grading. After the usual warm up, we took our seats to let each group jump up and do their grading. We were the last ones up, though I was called up during the red belt’s grading to assist with ippon kumite.

Anywho, my grading. Good points: good kime, remembered everything, strong stances, good technique. Points to improve on: lengthen stances more and increase their finesse, much more focus for ippon and go-on kumite, and I fudged one of my stances during heian nidan. Overall I was happy with it, despite the fact that I can still see ways I could have improved my performance. It’ll give me some fundamentals to work on whilst learning my new syllabus next week πŸ™‚


Training roundup

Last night’s training went really well – by the time I was finished the top of my gi was soaked with sweat, and whenever that happens, I always figure it’s been a good session πŸ™‚

With grading coming up this weekend, there was a lot of emphasis on getting core techniques polished in preparation for it, as well as kata. Despite the fact I did two stupid things (jammed my thumbnail into the side of my nose accidentally while doing a wrist-grab counter, which cut it and had it start bleeding; and knocked one of my fingers on my right hand and caused it to start swelling up [nothing an ice pack when I got home couldn’t fix!]), it was a really good, productive session. The best part was when we were working on kata towards the end of class – the first two times I did it I felt I was doing a bit of a rubbish job, so with the next few times we did it, I deliberately slowed down with increased focus, and felt extremely satisfied at the end of it. I’ve corrected my bad shuto habit where I would typically raise my striking/blocking (When is a block a block? When is a block a strike? Think about it…) arm too high, but I’m still falling into the trap of doing my age-uke too high and wasting the principle that demands economy of motion in perfecting your skills as a martial artist. Despite the fact I’ve read up on the concept in various forms over the years and know better πŸ˜›

So yeah, still plenty to do, but it was a good, solid training session πŸ˜€


Another lightbulb moment – amputee-friendly round kicks (mawashi geri)

So, recently Wifey and I watched Enter the Dragon (again). And me being me, afterwards whilst getting ready for bed and doing the last-minute clean-up before bed, I started doing karate around the house – in the kitchen, the lounge room, the hallway, stuff like that. Weird thing though – I was practicing my mawashi geri (round kick) with my real leg (i.e. right leg kicking, left leg pivoting), and had a crazy lightbulb moment. This doesn’t happen often, so bear with me while I try and make this coherent!

The secret as I understand from all of you out there with two legs is that a good mawashi geri relies on awesome hip power (in fact, the root of all good karate comes from the use of your torso, which works in conjunction with the rest of your body in perfect harmony… right???). Unfortunately, things get a bit tricky for me because my mawashi geri with my right leg is generally pretty weak, as there’s no knee/ankle/foot to drive and pivot the left leg, which are essential in throwing your hips into the technique to create a controlled reaction. Think of it chopping off your left leg, substituting it with a vertical pole with a hinge in the middle, and blindly flailing around 180-240° trying not to get the pole to collapse underneath you whilst trying to make a decent kick. Doesn’t work too well.

The answer, possibly, is a simple one, and crazily enough I mentioned the precept in one of my posts from my old blog in 2007 (here) – use your upper body to control your body’s rotation. I found that by simply using my shoulders, I could regain control of my hips and follow through with a considerably improved technique.

I’ll try and explain further – I start with my left leg forward, right leg back in a short fighting stance (give me time to get it working reliably in a long zenkutsu dachi!). Follow the usual components of a mawashi geri – knee-raised to the side, lower right-leg pulled in tight to help with producing a snapping motion; make this form whilst pushing off your right foot to propel the action forward.

Now here’s where the new stuff begins – try and swivel your hips to get you started, but twist your shoulders going in the same direction of your mawashi geri. Don’t go crazy, make it a measured, control action, keeping your arms up in a defensive position, controlled, and tight (i.e. don’t flail them about). The combined use of these forces will drive the leg by way of the hips in a circular motion, using the planted left leg as a single vertical axis.

Once the leg extends and snaps forward, start with the hips as much as possible with control, then use your shoulders to finish the backwards snapping motion. Pull the foot back and land from the technique with control, no arms flailing, no landing in a sloppy stance. Control is essential, which in turn means watch your speed and stay focused.

I’ll have to keep at it to see how this technique holds up, but I’m really, really excited by this – my mawashi geri with my right leg has always been rubbish, but through this lightbulb moment and my consistent efforts in stretching my legs regularly during the week to increase their flexibility, I reckon I’m getting somewhere πŸ˜€


Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo-jutsu seminar roundup

The weekend just gone I had the chance to attend a two-day seminar with Renshi Jason Griffiths, a representative of Koyru Uchinadi Kenpo-jutsu, a style that has been brought back into practice by Hanshi Patrick McCarthy. If you’re interested in reading up a bit on the style, the Wikipedia entry is here, and there is a wealth of information about the style (and many other topics) on the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society website. While both of those websites provide a much more succinct explanation of the style and its precepts, I’ll still say a little on it to put it into context.

Koyru Uchinadi Kenpo-jutsu is based on going back to the pre-20th century interpretation and practice of karate and looking at the style before it was systemised into what we have come to see today, whether it be Goju, Shotokan, Wado, etc. From a historical and anthropological perspective, it is a fascinating look at how societal values and expectations were inherently present in systems of self-defence in the Ryukyu Kingdom, and assists in explaining the norms present in most mainstream karate systems practiced today. The two areas of Koryu Uchinadi I have found interesting from a Shotokan perspective is the emphasis on flowing tegumi (2-person) drills and the way the system blows away any pre-conceievd notions of the forms present in kata.

This isn’t my first experience attending a seminar with Renshi – those who have trawled through my blog’s older posts will note I had a smaller 2-ish hour session back in March (click here to have a read), which served as a huge stimulus in changing my perspective of kata, applications, bunkai, oyo, the whole lot. This seminar over the weekend though, truly eye-openening, and was an amazing training experience (it also helped that we had Renshi take our class as a guest instructor last week, which was cool).

The training was split across two days, with 5 and a half hours on Saturday afternoon, and five hours on Sunday morning. Some people attended either day, and a few came along for both – I was there for both days. The core emphasis for the weekend was to establish and leave us with guiding principles that were demonstrated in flowing two-person drills, or tegumi. The amount of physical effort that was used in the tegumi drills were entirely up to the practitioners – you could use maximum effort/speed if you were comfortable with the techniques, or perform the techniques at what Renshi called “Tai Chi speed” – maximimum focus and technique, but without speed and explosive power. This proved beneficial to me as I’m a bit unco when first learning drills and techniques, so for the most part I didn’t try and go super-fast, but tried to apply as much focus as possible.

Saturday saw us working with different partners over the course of the day (same for Sunday) working on locks/holds and escaping them and turning the techniques against the opposing partner, flowing from one technique to the other. By the end of the first session, we had gotten the sequences down for escaping from a series of different holds and chokes and flowing one into the other – start off escaping from a rear sleeper-choke, slip behind your opponent and put them into a full nelson, partner escapes from this and plies the other person into a back grab, and so on and so forth – I think there were five smaller drills that made up this sequence, but it was possible to mix up the flow of techniques to keep you on your toes into one long drill. Whilst I struggled to get the speed up, some of the other more experienced practitioners were demonstrating an impressive amount of skill and dexterity in moving between the forms.

In addition to this, we also studied simultaneous parry/attack combinations, various counters, holds, chokes and some ground work. Under Renshi’s instruction, we were able to see a lot of the raw utility that sat in the art before it was altered for mainstream appropriation – there are plenty of strikes to the groin and other vitals, an amazing amount of chokes, holds, grabs and other forms of biomechanical manipulation and, suprisingly enough, plenty of groundwork involved, which is amazing because karate has primarily been seen as very weak on groundwork and criticised as such.

On Sunday, we repeated the multiple grab/escape drill, added in more striking/defending/countering drills, spent more time on various chokes and groundwork and continued through learning about the theoretical framework of Koyru Uchinadi and how we can see applications of this in our usual karate styles, whether it be shotokan, goju and so forth.

The really cool thing is that the drills we were being given were related to various kata, and the meaning behind those first simple steps in Tekki Shodan was amazingly eye-opening. I know I wax lyrical about kata applications (or bunkai/oyo/etc), but that’s because I’ve only heard very basic precepts behind the techniques until I started studying shotokan, and things continue to evolve as time goes on. It also emphasised the precept I’ve read elsewhere that “there is no such thing as a block in karate” – over the weekend I saw the various blocks we do in basics as strikes, grabs, chokes and all sorts of stuff.

Hmmm, I think I’ve started rambling now πŸ˜› Which means it might be time to summarise things and wrap this post up. For those who may have the opportunity to attend a seminar on Koyru Uchinadi Kenpo-jutsu, I would highly recommend you attend and check it out. For Australian residents, check the forums on OzBudo, as there are specific areas for announcements of events and seminars that are on the way. Check the links I posted earlier to read up a bit more on the style and the research society as well – I’m considering joining so I can increase my knowledge on the history and applications of karate and other martial arts down the road as well, and grabbed a couple of books Renshi had on display for myself to read through while he was down (will have to do a post on recent book acquisitions too, as Wifey picked up a couple of awesome books for me recently! :)).

I’d also like to take a quick moment to acknowledge Renshi for his time and efforts in taking us for the weekend, to my Sensei for organising and hosting the session with Renshi, and to all who attended and were very patient with me – there were many higher-grades attending which was very intimidating considering my lack of comparable experience, but all were patient, understanding and were happy to work with me, which I’m very grateful for (big props to Chris [who runs the SA Martial Arts Newsletter]for helping me get that twirly-escape technique thing sorted out on Sunday morning – I’ve struggled with that when learning it in the past, but with his help I was able to get through the technique much better than I had previously been able to do!). It was also cool to put a few faces to names of people I’ve talked with on the OzBudo forums which was ace!


Companion blogs


September 2021