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.