Sunday, 13 December 2015


A very hard session - almost non-stop rigorous exercise. Sensei trying to fatigue us before the holidays... And succeding.

Thursday, 3 December 2015


We did a mixture of hard exercise and sparring today. My sparring is pretty good. I was paired up with D (who hits very hard and very fast), J (who is old and wily) and Ja (who is young and cocky) and came out on top, I think, against all of them. I'm pleased with the speed and power of my blocking above all.

After the class we were chatting in the changing rooms about our favourite techniques. It's funny how much fun for a group of blokes it is to talk about fighting. I think actually blocking is my strong suit. I don't know what that says about me (I value self-preservation above all else?) but I can deliver really effective downward and inside blocks that I think can be developed into proper bone breakers. It's really satisfying when an opponent comes in for a punch and you execute a perfectly-timed uke which makes him wince in pain. Maybe that also says I'm a sadist as well as being into self-preservation.

Exercising was tough. Sensei came up with a new double burpee technique: down, squat thrust, two press-ups, jump. Repeat x 20. The fun never ends...

Tuesday, 1 December 2015


First of December, a mixture of the tough and easy: the first half-hour was non-stop exercise (whether leg-raises or continual repetitions of kizami-tsuki); the second was self-defence techniques. Some really nasty finger break stuff left me with aches through my knuckles, but I'm reassured to see that I'm improving generally with the self-defence (or "RBD" as I've seen it called on the 'net).

Sensei gave a min-lecture at one point about aikido, which he has also practiced for years. He expressed the view, basically bearing out a lot of internet commentary on that art, that aikido isn't really for fighting. It's more a form of bodily harmony or meditation. It's not useless but nor is it for "the street". In all his long experience he barely ever employed it.

Thursday, 26 November 2015


I had a cold on Tuesday and skipped class so as not to spread the lurgy to the unwitting. Apparently I missed something seriously tough.... And bizarrely I'm a bit disappointed.

Fitness continues to surprise me. I did 45 squat thrusts, followed immediatley by 30 push ups, and barely felt it. It's funny how slow, incremental improvements have a way of suddenly creeping up on you.

We did a bit of kata practice, but then quite a lot of self defence. We also did a bit of gyakutsuki practice, punching each other hard in the chest through a pad. Sensei was demonstrating the difference between punches: if you want to take somebody out, punch right through the face or chest. You'll knock them out or break ribs and the fight is over. But if you want to cause pain and injury, punch the first inch. It sends shockwaves through the immediate area, smashing teeth or damaging internal organs. Interesting stuff.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


Went to a Saturday class for the first time in ages, and was glad I did. Nothing like 60 squat thrusts to melt some of the ice in the muscles.

My left leg is getting better. More accurate and powerful. It's only when you see how incompetent a white belt is with his "off" leg that you realise how far you've come.

Quote of the day: "If you want an easy club, go to a different one."

Friday, 20 November 2015


A really hard lesson, the first such lesson we've had in a couple of months. Lots of push ups, lots of squat thrusts, lots of mountain climbs, lots of burpees... Felt really good to burn off some of the fat (although there's plenty of that left).

It's funny how much doing a decent maegeri takes it out of you, though. Doing three in a row going back and forth up and down the hall is a seriously exhausting form of exercise. Likewise sanbontsuki. Doing karate rigorously is one of the best workouts there is.

The final 15 minutes we spent doing some ground work. I'm slowly getting the hang of getting a decent arm lock. I'd like to branch out into judo or BJJ at some point; the game of chess that is ground grappling is genuinely fascinating - and while I think I'm decent at it, I need to learn how to finish an opponent off. I get into a commanding position but I'm never quite sure how to deliver the coup de grace.

I was reminded how hard as nails Sensei is while he showed us how to break the fingers of somebody you have in an arm lock before snapping the arm. "He's not going anywhere, so you can take your time." Now that is a guy you don't want to get on the wrong side of...

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


An interesting kata-focused lesson. We had a tough warm up - lots of abs work - but the lesson itself Sensei took us through heian yondan and godan repeatedly, over and over. I like using kata as a teaching tool. It breaks things up nicely, but also puts the moves in context and it's great exercise. Very early on I remember Sensei teaching us heian nidan even though most of us were white belts. As he often says, you're going to have to learn them anyway so doing them now will do you no harm. None of us lowly types could master heian godan but after 20 minutes of repetition we were at least memorising it and able to perform a kind of bastardised imitation. Not bad and something to hone in future - rough clay to work with.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


We focused on gedanbarai and maegeri/gyakutsuki combos for much of the lesson - over and over to the point of exhaustion. It was the first time I think I've ever seen Sensei have mercy; eventually he must have noticed we were flagging despite our best efforts, and gave us a short breather.

I love that type of session, though. Repeated practice is the only way to improve. It's funny how the school system has turned away from rote learning so completely - my experience in adult life learning Japanese and now karate have told me that rote learning is vastly underrated. It requires motivation, so it may not work brilliantly with all school kids, but there is certainly a place for it. It's very enjoyable too, in its own way, to just tune out and let yourself go with the flow, almost ceding autonomy for a short period.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Tonight was quite technical and rigorous, practicing hip movements and kime. We spent some time practising 'coiling' the body when delivering a back hand punch for speed and power. The physics of violence are fascinating.

After that we practised a little escaping from having a knife to the throat. As with last week, when we practised smashing somebody's head into a wall, I was reminded of the fragility of the human body. It's easy to kill and easy to die. One mistake in a knife fight and you're dead. Sensei always does an excellent job of bringing that home: "No, you've just lost an eye"; "No, you've just been stabbed"; "No, you're dead" whenever you make a mistake.

Thursday, 5 November 2015


Felt great to be back at the club after missing, I think, five sessions due to the death of my father. Exercise has a transformative effect on the brain and, dare I say it, the soul. Within two minutes I had a great sweat going and all other problems melted away. Something about the enforced focus of hard physical exercise can be a relief sometimes.

Today we did a lot of maegeri practice and plenty of Sensei's patented "low stance" leg-killer oitsuki routines, up and down the hall. For the first time in ages I found myself fighting the urge to puke - two weeks out of the routine was enough to have an effect on my fitness, it seems. Even that felt good, though, like I was getting back in touch with my body. Looking forward to next time.

Thursday, 15 October 2015


We did a lot of basics today. Maegeri with sanbontsuki up and down, ageuke with gyakutsuki up and down, etc. It's interesting how much just simply punching takes it out of your arms; half way through we did some push-ups and the furthest I could get was 30.

It felt good to clear my mind and just focus on technique. Sensei was chatting to C at the end of the lesson and was saying he thought the reason C is bad at kata is that he works hard all day and probably has work on his mind when he comes to karate, which then gets in the way of him focusing. There may be something to that, but I always feel as though karate cleanses my mind after a hard day. I start tired and apprehensive every time, but then always go home feeling refreshed and even re-energised.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


A technical session. We spent some time doing kihon kata as a mirror image (left = right) and then doing the entire kata using shuto uke. I love stuff like that. It shakes things up and focuses the mind.

We also did a little mat work, practicing arm locks. I've figured out that a lot of mat work is down to using the opponent's body like a fulcrum. But it's all very well saying that....

Made it to 70 push ups. Maybe I was just tired last week.

Thursday, 8 October 2015


Today was divided in two. Some very tough and rigorous punching and maegeri practice. Then running through all the kata from kinon to heian yondan. It's fascinating to watch white belts and red belts attempting yondan, but it's one of the reasons I like the club - it's about doing karate, irrespective of belts and what kyu you are.

A is without question the best at kata. She has a very clean, graceful and accurate technique. It's good to watch. I think I'm somewhere around the middle. Not bad (I have no problem memorising the movements) but lacking grace. It's hard to learn that, however.

I found myself for the first time gossiping about somebody else in the changing room afterwards. Nothing major, but I was disappointed in myself for doing that - it's not the ethos of the club. I won't do it again. Another thing I was disappointed by was that for some reason my press ups were pretty poor. I can normally do 50 good ones (part of my daily routine), and push towards 60, but for some reason I found myself petering out around 45 when told to do 50. I wonder if that's due to lack of sleep - I only got 10 hours total the last two nights.

I'm going to start going on Saturdays as well as Tuesday and Thursday again. Need to work off my incipient beer belly.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


Tonight was rigorous and technical. We spent more or less the entire session going up and down, forward and back, doing gyakutsuki, oitsuki, soto uke and uchi uke. Relentless stuff, but enjoyable all the same; it is very hard not to improve through repetition.

About half way through we stopped to do some leg stretches. I'm disappointed how inflexible I am still. I am definitely improving in this regard, but nowhere near as much as I'd like. I need to double what I am currently doing, clearly.

Sensei praised us at the end for working hard, which is a very rare occurrence. I think it's because we all like these kinds of classes; it's nice to just spend a session doing karate.

Thursday, 1 October 2015


Really tough session tonight. Sensei did his old trick of asking if we wanted a hard lesson or not. Of course, we said yes. And sure enough, it was hard. Maybe the hardest yet - pretty relentless with press ups, squat thrusts, burpies, etc., all mixed in with some oitsuki, maegeri and shuto uke practice.

But I was pleased to find I was able to get through it relatively unharmed. My fitness is definitely improving. Main things to work on are keeping the front foot straight when in back stance, and making sure I lean back in maegeri.

Thursday, 17 September 2015


Today was mostly focused on kata. We did the warm up and then went through some basics (new students in class) - kazamatsuki, maegeri, mawashigeri, oitsuki. Then the new students were taken off by B to do some fun self defence while Sensei took us through Kihon kata. He was annoyed with us for lack of effort initially (60 press ups punishment) but we soon got into it. He stopped us after a couple of goes to explain how to perform a kata really well. He said that you need to picture yourself on a battle field already surrounded by opponents. If you imagine opponents popping up out of nowhere your kata has a sense of surprise about it. If you imagine yourself already surrounded by opponents, it's more fluid.

After 30 minutes of that we finished off on Heian Yondan. I really like that kata, but nowhere near mastering it.

Other observations:

-My kazamatsuki is really snappy and powerful now. Feels good.
-Sensei's view of mawashigeri is there's only one use for it - breaking the floating rib. Other uses should be avoided.
-Tensing the stomach, arse and shoulders at the point of kime is important when punching.
-I have been inadvertantly doing my maegeri slightly wrong. Need to focus on the kick flowing from the foot being on the floor right through to the point of impact.
-I'm a bit frustrated with my lack of progress on kicking in general. I'm not sure if it's a problem of flexibility or strength or coordination... Or perhaps everything.

Saturday, 31 January 2015


I began practising karate approximately six months ago. I don't remember the exact date, but it was the summer of 2014 - probably late June. I've been intending to start logging each session ever since I began, but never quite got around to it. I intend to start now.