Saturday, 29 October 2016

Our Senseis- and other teachers of martial arts, whatever titles they may bear...

I am back from my gasshuku in the lovely forest area of Graskop and really happy to sit and type yet another blog post.

Before I can move on to today's topic I want to mention that those of us who have attended the gasshuku have learnt arm locks, a simple takedown and pressure points. Now- I am no stranger to throws and arm locks, but pressure points were something I have never taken the time to study in depth. What I have learnt on the subject that day shall stay with me forever.

Now I want to get to today's topic. The classes at the gasshuku were presented by Sensei John Barnett. Outside the dojo he is a very friendly and cheerful person. His wonderful sense of humour made the lessons a easy to remember.

Now- I must mention that Sensei John is a 7th dan member of our shihankai and already past 80.

One of the events at the gasshuku- probably the main event- was the obstacle course. Us seniors also had a go at it and Sensei John was right there with us, not missing a single obstacle. What's more- at one of these obstacles I was surprised to hear him sing a line from 21 Pilots' hit song Heathens (that is part of the Suicide Squad movie soundtrack). Yep! Older than 80, in better shape than my parents and picking up new songs from Youtube. :D 

Having been introduced to Zen Buddhism at the age of 16 I have come to learn that an instructor's oddities- which I believe he must have- are a lesson to us to show us what is really important in life and what not.

At the moment I am feeling too lazy to dig up that post about Goku and King Zeno (whom I wonder by the way why he couldn't help Goku defeat Zamasu if Goku would have just asked...), but you could rather observe and enjoy some interesting instructors to get my point than read a quote from the Tao Te Ching...

We have all seen our fair share of fiction and the martial arts teachers therein.

In Western fiction (like DC Comics in this case) we have found the kind karate master Mr Miyagi (Yes! Karate Kid was a DC comics title!) as well as the dangerous and seemingly heartless Lady Shiva (If you don't know her you should read more Batman)

From Japanese anime sources I have actually found a couple of cooky teachers. By now we know about Dragonball Z's King Kai (who refuses to teach anyone before he hears a joke from them first) and Dragonball Super's Whis (who is seemingly gay- in the Japanese version as well as the English version).

As if the Drunken Master's love of liquor is not enough though we have the vices of Jiraiya (from Naruto) and Master Roshi (from the Dragonball series) that indicate that they are not gay at all.

Be it as it may. I reckon that if your level of skill as a martial artist has reached a point where you fear virtually nobody, enjoying life without worrying about appearances ought to come natural. :)

If your teacher is anything like this guy from The Foot Fist Way, though- you have my sympathy. :D

Saturday, 15 October 2016

No post next weekend. :) I'll be back, though.

You heard me. I am not going to be around to write a post this next weekend.

Why, you ask?

It is because I am attending a 3 day Gasshuku with classmates and instructors from our local WSKF dojos and some people from dojos in Gauteng Province.

I have been practicing alone for years now and truth be told- I have always liked being alone. Still- after a while I realised that spending time with people who are equally interested in any martial art as I am would do me wonders. My time at WSKF has so far been challenging as well as fun.

With the championships and gradings behind us for now we can now just get together and have fun. That is exactly what we are going to do next weekend.

I wish everyone else a great week ahead. To the people in Martial Arts Forums on G+: Keep those posts coming!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Qigong Exercises- Because Abisha asked... :)

I regard Qigong as a really important part of any kind of martial arts training. I know it is not done in all classes. Some MMA gyms have started doing Yoga, which I can understand. Now that we can observe different styles we have the chance to pick from the best of what we see.

The exercises in this post do not take up a lot of time, but are worth starting and ending each training session with.

I have decided long ago not to be a Nei Kung specialist. The main reason for that is that the amount of time and training required for that leaves very little for the external training that I like more. These exercises are therefore the most Qigong I do and just about the most time I spend on cultivating Qi.

Let's have a look at them:
1. Raising the Sky:

I know two versions of this exercise, but the easiest one starts in a relaxed upright stance. Breathing in the palms turn upward as they get raised up to chest level.

Still breathing in the palms push upward as far as they can go. At this stage the arms and spine should be stretched upward.

Now- as the hands go down to the sides you breathe out. You can now feel the abdomen shrinking and hardening.

Then repeat this at least another 9 times.

2. Dancing Fairy

I don't like the name either...

Stretching the arms as far to the sides as you can lower the one hand as far down as you can while raising the other as high as you can. Then switch.

All this has to be done without bending over backwards or forwards. I have learnt one version of this exercise where both feet remain flat on the ground, but the first version I have learnt- and the one I use involves shifting your weight towards the raised hand's side.

Repeat about 5 times each side.

2. Water Element Exercise.

While the external movements are quite simple the true value of this exercise lie in the internal aspect thereof.

As the arms raise and you inhale the body is light and soft as qi flows into it and soaks every part.

As the palms descend and you exhale the body becomes heavy and the muscles of the abdomen, chest and limbs harden. It is actually a very subtle introduction to the phases of Fasong and Fajing in exerting force, but this exercise is not to be done with strain. In fact- none of these exercises are...

3. Air Element Exercise

When I got introduced to this exercise and the others by Ashida Kim (Hey! Owen! Stop chuckling! :D) it was done in the Japanese sitting posture in which one sits on one's knees. Well- that is about the only time I saw Qigong being done in a posture like that. The lazy horse stance I use in this exercise keeps the body rooted, but does not divert one's focus to the stance the way a proper horse stance would. In this posture the index fingers and rolled up under the thumbs as the hands rest against the abdomen with palms up. That is the external part. The internal aspect is this:

Breathing in you should feel air racing down the back of your windpipe and lungs. Breathing out air rushes up the front to the outside.

4. Fire Element Exercise (Holding a Ball)

Standing with the arms in this embracing position, or looking as if you are describing Hitomi Tanaka, with your hands open you should get the feeling of holding a large ball. The first method I have learnt was visualising qi running from your left hand to your right and into your lungs as you breathe in and then racing back out through your left arm to repeat the cycle as you breathe out. I don't use it anymore.

Now I just feel the ball contracting as I breathe in and expanding as I exhale. You will feel the ball becoming harder over time. 

5. Void Element Exercise

In this exercise the arms circle upward in an arc that is the opposite of what you had in Raising the Sky at #1 above. As the arms leave the body you inhale.

You exhale as the hands complete the circle with the palms facing each other some distance apart. You ought to feel the repelling force between the hands at this stage.

This is repeated about 10 times as well- as with the others.

6. Lohan Embracing Buddha

Now- towards the end of our Qigong session we stand in a natural upright position with the arms in the embracing position (or the Hitomi Tanaka position- if you do not know what I mean... :D)

Then... keeping the feet and legs completely still twist the body to the one side then the other until the body feels warm and loosened up.

7. Conclusion

Many of you have seen this movement, I am sure.

Breathing in raise the hands to your chest with the palms upward. Then-

breathing out, relax and calm down as the palms lower to the front of the abdomen facing down.

8. Meditation

Just because I don't have any photos for this section does not mean that it is not important. In fact- meditation is what recharges you after a heavy training session and replenishes your body's qi reserves. The lotus position is not exclusively the only meditating posture to be used. What is important about meditation, though is the following:

a) Letting go of thought and emotion;

b) Not focussing on  anything you see or hear, yet maintaining awareness of all that is going on. 

c) Breathing slowly and deeply;

d) Breathing gently- very important;

e) Keeping the back straight;

f) Staying relaxed.  

The first 7 exercises can be done before the start of one's training session for the day. At the end all 7 are done again followed by the 8th exercise. It makes a huge difference in one's training.

That's it for today.

 'til next time: Train hard and stay well!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Doing my homework

A lot of good things have happened since I joined our local Shotokan club. For one- I got faster. I also got fitter. I am still working on getting that perfect technique, though.

The kihon combinations you see in this video is part of my belt's syllabus. While I can sort of undertand a spinning knife hand block-front kick-spear hand combination that forward inward block-elbow strike to the side-spinning back fist to the front- stepping punch combination still floors me.

Maybe it will get better when I relax a bit more.

With today's Saturday workout I tested these combinations on the sai and tonfa. The nice thing about training at home is that you can do the stuff you really like and put your own spin on things. Most of the kihon and kata you learn at the dojo is homework, after all.

No one said that this homework had to be boring, though.   

Train well and have a great week.