A change is in the air – from Shotokan to Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu

At the end of training this week, we finished about 15 minutes early and were asked to grab a chair and sit in a circle with Sensei and Dai-Sensei. As it sounded pretty serious, my first fear was that I had somehow broken yet another karate club. Turns out that while it was still a serious conversation we all had, it wasn’t about the end of the karate club. Rather, it was arguably a case of sowing seeds for the future.

When Sensei had us sit down for a chat, it was to announce that the club will no longer be teaching shotokan karate, but instead will be moving to teaching Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu in its place. I’ve discussed Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Justu before, owing to Sensei’s interest in the system and having attended some excellent seminars that Renshi Jason Griffiths has hosted in the past, so I’m not surprised that he has been working hard in the background to get his teaching certification and permission from Hanshi McCarthy to begin teaching Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu. For him, having practiced shotokan for 22 years, found that while he loved the style, there were gaps that he felt were missing from making it an outwardly “complete” system. Having trained in hapkido, jujutsu, kobudo and kenpo in addition to his years studying karate, I can respect and understand his belief in this move, and his conviction moving forward with this decision, having discussed it with Dai-Sensei and some of our senior students as well, before presenting us with the news.

For me, the eye-opening thing was that Sensei has the conviction to put aside 22 years of shotokan training to move forward with this system – for me, I see that as a sign that there is real merit with the shift to Koyru Uchinadi. What is even more eye-opening is that Dai-Sensei, who has been a shotokan karateka for 35 years, has decided to put his black belt aside and join the rest of us in line to start afresh with Koryu Uchinadi.

My first reaction at the change was one of shock – I mean, I really enjoy shotokan, even though it traditionally had some big gaps as a system unless you knew how to dissect technique from kata (which I’ve found to really enjoy). However, having had the opportunity to train in Koryu Uchinadi, and having seen the extent of the syllabus, I’m very excited at the prospect of moving forward and broadening my experience with this system. I don’t even mind rebooting back to a lower grade – it’s a different style, and just as I went back to 10th kyu when I started learning pure shotokan vs the hybrid style I used to learn, I think it’s appropriate to go back to the start with a new syllabus. It’s not as though the past 6 years of training have been for naught either, as experience is experience, and having studied a couple of styles now, it will be easy to translate that experience in embracing this new style.

I think for those in the class that haven’t had the opportunity to experience some of the Koryu Uchinadi syllabus, the move is probably a bit more daunting – for me, having had the chance to train with Renshi on a few occasions, I have no qualms moving forward. It’s not like we’re moving to some dodgy “discount variety warehouse” style (Rex Kwon Do, anyone? :D), Koryu Uchinadi is an extensive, well-researched and globally organised style that offers an alternative view of traditional karate as most of us understand it today dervied from extensive practice and research on traditional Okinawan systems of self-defense. I also like how it offers an academic side as well, given its integration with the International Ryukyu Karate-jutsu Research Society founded by Hanshi McCarthy, and that the syllabus has been drawn from such a strong dedication to research into pre-modern karate.

I’m in no way suggesting I’ve discovered the “golden egg” with Koryu Uchinadi, but I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen/practiced and am looking forward to studying it as my main style of martial arts. I feel I will still get all of my base techniques/tools out of it, just as I have with shotokan, but with the broader syllabus that incorporates more close-quarters techniques, grappling, groundwork, throws, etc, I feel it will help close some substantial gaps in my ability as a martial artist, as well as emphasise the theory/research side which I also really enjoy when studying a Japanese martial art. I have also noticed that the style also contains a strong kobudo element, which means there will be an opportunity to learn traditional Okinawan kobudo within the broader framework offered by the style.

So yes, there are changes afoot, and I will miss some aspects of learning shotokan. However, I strongly believe this represent a great opportunity to study a very extensive style with extremely strong ties to traditional Okinawan martial arts, which has always been why karate in general has been of great interest to me. Once classes change over, I’ll have to go back and update the About page with some information on the styles I’ve trained in and include the shift to exploring Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu. For those who aren’t familiar with it, check out the entry on Wikipedia for a quick summary, and there’s also the official website with stacks of information.

I guess for those who haven’t trained in the style or want to know more about it, I’m hoping the posts detailing my experiences will help others understand aspects of the system from the perspective of a newbie with a degree of existing knowledge of karate, as well as allow myself to use this blog as a platform for working through my experiences learning Koryu Uchinadi. I’m looking forward to getting into training and will start posting up my experiences of it as early as next week hopefully, assuming I don’t get distracted and forget to post about it 😉

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Wear a hat you douchebag (or, having things cut off your scalp is annoying :P)

More recollections of what I’ve been up to!

About 12 months back I noticed a small lump near the crown of my scalp – being the delightfully slack person I am, I decided it was fine and nothing to worry about. Shoot forward to November last year, and I finally had a skin cancer check up. To be honest I should have gone in to have this done a while back, because even though I’m still in my 20s, being a ranga, I should be more conscious of this. Especially since my hair’s not as thick as it used to be either!

Anywho, so the skin cancer guy has a look, and nothing out of the ordinary. I point out the spot on my head hiding in my overdue-for-a-haircut mess of reddish hair, and I’m sent away with a “see your doctor” slip of paper. After seeing my GP, I was then referred to a specialist, who suggested that taking a knife to it would be the happiest method of dealing with it. I went into surgery about a fortnight later, which brings us to the end of January (yes, I was slack following up on the referral slip and seeing my GP). Now, considering the size of the bump, I’m quite surprised at how painful it was! I guess because after it gets cut out of your scalp and they stitch the wound back together it pulls tightly on your skin and causes extra pressure, but I didn’t sleep well at all until the stitches came out… and crazily enough once that was sorted, my head felt a lot nicer and I was back to my usual sleeping habits!

It’s been neraly two months since I had the spot removed and funnily enough it’s still not 100% healed – almost, but not quite done as yet. The test on the bit they removed came back without any nasties, so this one ended up being a preventative measue and it’s re-enforced how proactive I’ve become with at least looking after myself when I’m outside – when working in the garden enjoying the subrubian life, I’m out there with sunscreen (30+, and now with smelly clear zinc as well!) and the world’s most awesome sombrero. Because they’re cool.

It also goes without saying that I kept from training for a couple of weeks due to the recovery – rolling round, falling over, being thrown or getting into locks and holds wouldn’t be doing the recovery any favours, and it’d be nasty if the stitches caught on something mid-way through class! If life were a Tarantino film though, that would have happened and people would have been bathing in the red stuff!

So unless you want a knife taken to your scalp, wear a hat you douchebag. Or at least make sure you have a nice full head of hair to absorb the impact from the sun 😀

This announcement has been brought to you by me, Sean, the colour orange, and the letter ‘R’.

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Taking a (forced) break over x-mas

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

So, update on how I’m going – erm, leg’s not holding up too well 😛 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 🙂 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 😉

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! 😉

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 🙂 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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Stupid stump

As the heading suggests, I’m in a very mature and rational mood 😛 Was heading home from work yesterday looking forward to jumping into a good session last night at the dojo, and thought – “My stump feels a bit funny, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with the prosthesis though”. By the time I got home and walked out the car though, I knew it was happening again – much like the problems I was having with my leg last week, where I thought the skin had healed over the split in my skin, it was in fact splitting open again. I was actually pretty confident that it was on the mend, but I must have gotten ahead of myself; I should have kept the bandaids over the wound a little longer, but to be honest, it was probably the great little training session I did on Tuesday that started undoing all the good I’d achieved by taking it easy over the course of the last week and a half.

The bummer is that this throws my training regime completely up in the air, as it means I definitely won’t be able to train outside of class, and wholistically, I definitely won’t be able to grade before the end of the year. I know martial isn’t all about the grading, but I like to set goals and achieve them, and am a little bummed that I’ll be falling behind that target I thought I could achieve. Not that it’s really something I could have avoided as I didn’t know the wound hadn’t completely healed over, but still, it’s a bit disappointing.

Still, all the extra effort has not gone to waste by any means – all training is good training, after all – so I’ve now revised my goal to grade up by the end of Q1 2010, and will try to train hard and get myself to a level of expertise so I can grade again before the end of next year.

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Mangling my leg (again :P)

So, no training last week (as alluded to in my previous post) – this was due to two things. First and foremost, I had a family dinner on the night I usually train, so that kinda knocked that out. But even if that wasn’t on, more serious than that was my recent mangling of my stump. Y’know, just for something different 🙂

The issue made itself pretty obvious by the time I got up Friday morning – on the back of my stump towards the upper part of the leg (the area that absorbs a lot of the impact when you walk in your prosthesis; I’ve also heard it called the “seat” of the stump, given the bone structure around the area allows the stump to sit on the rear supporting area of the prosthesis), I had a sore that had become inflamed and the skin had actually split open, meaning that whenever I walked with the prosthesis on, it was stressing and tearing the skin as I walked or sat down. I kept off the leg on Friday and took it easy over the weekend, using my walking stick wherever possible, I was hoping things were back to normal by the end of the weekend, so I took the dog for a walk Sunday afternoon around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, I probably walked a little too much, because come Monday, I was only able to get half a day’s wear out of my prosthesis before I had to go home and remove it and try and rest it up for the rest of the day. While I was back at work the next day, I was heavily reliant on the walking stick for the rest of the week as I tried to get my stump to heal.

The scary thing about this is that the problems I had with my leg around the summer of 2005/2006 that eventually saw me taking nearly a year off from training started out very similarly to this – it starts with a small sore with split skin, and from there it eventually became a chronic injury that became exasperated by constant use and wear of the stump. It was bad for me for work as I had to eventually take time off to let my stump heal, we changed the interface in the socket to a silicone “sock” and I took nearly 12 months off from karate training. I’m not keen at all for a repeat of that, so I’m pleased that my leg’s manage to repair itself, and more importantly, that I’ve respected my leg’s need to heal.

So, even if I didn’t have family commitments on last week, it wouldn’t have mattered, as I needed to give my body time to sort itself out. Annoying and frustrating as it may be (I’m not overly patient with my body when it needs to heal itself :P), it’s something I’ve come to respect over the years.

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