Saturday, 30 April 2016

My Saturday outing.

This is my third month with my Shotokan club and I am enjoying it more and more, I am glad to say.

Usually the White River branch- that is sort-of like our hombu dojo- has a Saturday morning class for brown and black belts in White River. I have not made that trip yet. Quite frankly- club/ federation/ association activities are not a priority for me and I doubt that it ever will be.

That does not mean that I do not enjoy it, though.

I have just happened to land myself into a long weekend and received notification of our Lowveld Gasshuku.

While part of my long weekend got spent on educating a certain Peter Barakan on why it is wrong to call Babymetal a mere"Idol Band" I reckoned "why not?"

 So- that Friday evening I got the Saturday kit and had my Saturday workout then so that I could show up at Klipkopje Dam with my braai meat and karate gear to take part in a 3 hour gasshuku and the braai afterwards. Non-South Africans who do not know what exactly a braai is- it is sort-of like a barbeque, with just a lot more Afrikaans being spoken. :D 

To my surprise our Sensei's dad, Sensei Piet Venter, gave us a qigong lesson and we took some time practicing "Iron Shirt" and the "One Inch Punch" along with the usual kata, kihon and kumite.

We got taught Gankaku kata, which I admit I have not gotten down yet. Still- I am glad to see that a karate instructor here have gone beyond the mere kihon-kata-kumite schtick that has been the full extent of Shotokan training for so long.

There is hope for us. :)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

My first group of kids

Hi, Everyone

Last night I got a group of four kids to teach for the very first time.

Ages were 13, 11, 10 and 5.

Because it was a self defense class I did not intend to give too much attention to strict karate basics. As the students struggled to make their techniques work, however, we realised that a good grasp of the basics is necessary- especially with regard to stances.

What never gets old with teaching kids throws is when they start with "But he's too big!" and later on end up with that excited look when they realise they have just done that throw.

Those are the bigger kids.

As for the 5 year old boy we started with basic stances and blocks. A fun thing to do with kungfu is to teach them the different animals found in the movements. I prefer not to teach fighting to kids at such a young age, but the basic movements do wonders for their development.

You all know Mahiro, right?

I wonder what she and those other kids get taught...

My karate instructor, Sensei Louw Venter has an impressive group of young white, orange and yellow belts. This boisterous group of youngsters may at times appear to be too much to handle, but they willingly participate in all the class exercises and thoroughly enjoy free sparring. It really does one good to see such good spirit in a class.

They are said to be a bit naughty, but I say that naughty kids usually do the best karate. What do you say? 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Being the me that I like to be.

As you know by now I train at our Shotokan dojo. That is on Mondays and Wednesdays. I have kickboxing on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This has led to Saturdays being put aside to do the type of training I like and enjoy. Saturdays are Wenhsiuquan days.

I have come to accept that you have no control over what martial arts schools you will find in your area. For a lot this is not a problem, because they have no idea what variations of martial arts training exist in the world when they sign up, but with me it has become an issue when I realised that things like spinning kicks and meditation were things that I had to learn by myself, because my school did not offer that.

Now- when I joined my new Shotokan dojo I knew for certain that they would be able to help me get back my poise and polish my technique. The way I was going started to worry me and in time, because overemphasis on power had led to a lot of my techniques being telegraphed.

Still, though- I do not feel comfortable sparring without being allowed to use hook punches, simply because it is not natural to not hook when the situation calls for it. Likewise- I like to duck punches to the face.

Fortunately my Sensei understands this well enough and I am glad to say- he has an open mind. Explanations of kihon often contain "this is how we do it" as an acknowledgement that it is not the only way, but when in Rome.

In the same manner I make sure that I practice self defense in my own time as well since our style is mainly sports orientated.

Self fulfilment is something that does not get handed to you. Not in the dojo. Not outside. Still- it is something worth pursuing and it is attainable. Only you really know who and what you want to be. Only you know what you want to learn. 

How many of you are teaching / studying exactly the martial arts that interest you? I'd like to hear from you-especially those guys/ girls practicing some obscure Chinese style that no one has even seen in the media.  

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The irony of Qi.

Just so that we have a point of reference with regard to what I am going to talk about I want us all to understand how I perceive qi energy in martial arts training.

A person with a healthy qi flow is that person whose body seems unaffected by your blows. It could also be that person whose wrists feel like "iron bars wrapped in paper" when you grab them. Unwavering focus and even an infectious joi de vivre  are singns of an abundance of qi.

For those of us who have developed a sensitivity for these things the amazing aspect of some people's qi flow is that with some you can feel the tingling sensation of their energy from about 2 metres away. With some you need to be closer. In two cases I have felt a warm pleasant sensation emanating from the persons in question. In other cases a paralyzing sense of being drained of energy.

Now comes the ironic part- Only one of the people I have met was a martial artist. And he was also the only person consciously focussing on using his qi to demonstrate a concept relevant thereto.

Yes- there are people with really strong qi flow that do not even know what qigong is and there are also people that train in qigong daily and do not have such a strong energy flow.

If you practice karate, taekwondo, kungfu, judo, Aikido, Japanese jujutsu or any such related martial art you can be assured that the techniques of your styles have been designed to use your qi in the most efficient manner for attack and defense.

While many teachers will tell you that meditation is ideal for gathering qi and that qigong exercises are ideal for cultivating healthy qi circulation lifestyle plays a huge part in the strength of your qi.

The following practices help a lot:

1. Chastity- Some people may say that sex has no influence on it, but I assure you that especially men expend huge amounts of qi during ejaculation. So- keeping sex to a minimum saves a lot of qi. You know of course what the Shaolin monks do...

2. Healthy diet- A good basic guideline is to stick to natural foods and to avoid processed or manufactured foods. Enough water helps a lot. Staying off acohol and cigarettes is ideal.

3. Not holding grudges- In fact: all negative emotions like anger, fear and sorrow create blockages. Qi in itself is pure joy. So if you wish to build up tremendous internal strength you will have to learn to dispose of negative emotions. That means forgiveness, acceptance and compassion shall become part of your life.

4. Balance between exercise and rest. Exercise is as important as rest. A deficiency in either shall negatively influence your qi flow.

 Qigong plays a huge part in Wenhsiuquan. How big a part it plays in your style is up to you. At least you now know that you don't need to know any complex "Silk Reeling Exercises" or to decipher some obscure text to boost your own power level.

Stay well and train hard! Just rest enough as well, okay? :)

Saturday, 2 April 2016

The underlying philosophy- What is your style built on?

The principles referred to in the piece of Taoist scripture below have wide application. I have seen it used in Karate, Taijiquan (perhaps the foremost Taoist art in existence) and even in the tactical aspects of Shaolin Kungfu.

It is a universal law that can be tested and relied on.

Martial arts are usually not based on only one or two of these rules, but the rules themselves are interconnected.

When I was working on developing Zanshindo (what later on became Wenhsiuquan) the main underlying principal was awareness. Sensory acuity coupled with prompt, effective response. I have found that Zanshindo has turned out to be mainly a defensive style and must admit that I have neglected attacking back then.

When I became able to strike a balance between being able to defend effectively while also being able to launch quick, decisive attacks I have decided to use those techniques that best suit this purpose.

In my way of teaching I tend to point out more than often that martial arts abide to the same universal laws that govern our daily lives. Some may, however, prefer just to concentrate on the way those rules govern our technique and tactics. All of any style's techniques have such an underlying principle. It is important for a student to know this if he is to progress.

Without the key of an underlying guideline to follow the student shall always be dependent on somebody to teach him the next move or next technique. Knowledge of the underlying principles, however, open the door to learning new techniques, creating new attacks and defences, compiling new sequences of techniques and so forth. It also indicates what place your martial arts training has in your life.

Now- back to Chapter 86 of the Tao Te Ching- whether you do MMA, Kungfu (I know you guys think you already know how to do this), Karate, Taekwondo, Judo or any other style that I don't even think of so often, you can find ways to make the principles work for you. 

I always love a nice lively discussion- especially if the participants are talking from experience.

Feel free to tell me your views and experiences in the comment section of G+, Facebook, Twitter or Qzone. :)