Thursday, 12 May 2016


After the warm-up Sensei split us purple belts off together and spent some time going over heian godan and tekki shodan with us. I was quite pleased with how things are going there - I've got both kata more or less down in terms of the sequence. It's now just perfecting the moves.

We then did kumite - just the volunteers, which was Jh, D, Ja and I. It was great. Proper good old-fashioned bare-fisted full contact, and we learned a couple of new techniques. One thing Sensei was keen to have us all doing was pushing forward to restrict the opponent's space during a counter - and also doing repeated punches when doing so rather than just the usual gyakutsuki. I got a couple of really nice hits in, but I think probably took more in return. I took quite a sweet punch to my upper forearm, which is starting to swell up good and proper. The other students I was sparring with are a good 10 years younger than me at least, and it shows in the speed they have. I don't particularly mind: it's just a great feeling to actually fight.


A hard workout focusing on basics (uchi-uke, age-uke, soto-uke, maegeri, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth....), which is the kind of session I really enjoy. People who don't do karate - and people who do it but don't go to serious clubs - don't appreciate how fit it makes you and the rigour it puts your body through.

A real rarity: after about 40 minutes of this Sensei gave us an extended rest while people of each belt colour did their respective kata. He even said that because we worked hard we deserved a break. I have never heard him say that before.


For the first time in a while, Sensei got genuinely pissed off with the class today - mainly because we kept forgetting to kiai during practice of Tekki Shodan. He made us do 150 pushups as punishment, and actually left the dojo while we did it, which means he must have been properly annoyed. But when he came back he carried on as normal; reading between the lines, I think this was probably a deliberate thing - apply the punishment, then forget about it once that's done. 

It was a hard session generally. Something about the heat wave that was sweeping the North East of England at the time, I think. We all felt it - a sort of sleepy malaise brought on by the temperature. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016


Today we did a heck of a lot of shuto uke practice - back and forth, perfecting the hip rotation. You almost have to twist so that you are side on to the target before delivering the blow. I pretty much perfected this (I think) but a consequence was that I kept finding my front foot straying out of position when in back stance after making the block.

After that we practiced Tekki Shodan. I spent both Saturday and Sunday practicing that and Heian Godan, so I have the sequence down - it's just a matter of perfecting the techniques now. Remembering which fist goes where during Teķki is really difficult for some reason. I'm not sure why, but my brain can't quite seem to process which order to move the hands in. Age?

Monday, 2 May 2016


Today's novelty was a lot of practice using the hips to increase power when delivering gedanbarai. We also did repeated kekomi practice and I was humiliated at my pathetic flexibility enough to resolve to do 30 on each leg at home each evening. We'll see how that goes.

At the end Sensei showed us a self defence technique which I think may be the most painful I've yet experienced: pressing down on the collar bone with the knuckles. It is insane how something so simple can be so devastating.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


A very detailed technical session focusing on keeping the knee still during gyaku-tsuki, perfecting maegeri technique, and so forth... until about half way through when I think Sensei got bored and started teaching us some of the moves from the kushanku kata. As is often the case the randomness sort of worked; he doesn't so much make things up as he goes along as he just follows his intuition, and I suppose he has just been doing it long enough that he knows to trust where his intuition is leading him. That really has to be the aim of anybody hoping to perfect a practice - but this blog isn't really the place to talk about Michael Oakeshott.


This was very much a kumite-centric class. We started off practising gyaku-tsuki and various uke techniques, then put them into practice in very careful and strictly controlled kumite before finally working on them in freestyle sparring. Fun, but very exhausting. I was paired up with C initially and was able to beat him pretty effectively - but he is in his 50s and hasn't had a great deal of sparring experience, despite being a kyu up from me. Then I was with J, who is 19 years old and as fast as a whip. This was much tougher and I was aware there were quite a few occasions when he could have socked me good and proper but didn't do so because we were only focusing on a certain technique. I have to work more on lateral movement.


We spent the first half of the class doing fairly rigorous repetitions of techniques, before working again through elements of bassai dai and other kata, interspersed with lots of push ups. Writing this entry a week after the event I find it difficult to recall much about what was an ordinary (which means enjoyable and tough in equal measure) lesson.

Friday, 15 April 2016


Sensei seemed to be in a good mood today - which often means he gets mischievous and (let's face it) a bit cruel. Within 5 minutes he decided to prove to everybody in the class that they could do more than 60 push ups ("when you're tired, your brain refuses to carry on, but your body can do another 60%"), and gave us a target of 150. I was too busy doing the actual push-ups to notice, but I bet he had a massive smirk on his face watching us all toil. 

After that we carried on with the kekomi routines from last lesson, although that had to be stopped eventually because J's foot was bleeding. We then did some really interesting pair work. He began by giving us a lecture on how important it is to get in close to your opponent, because that is where you can do the most damage and use lethal techniques. We then put that into practice with a variety of different strikes at very close range. He also showed us a technique I'd never seen before, from goju-ryu, which was a strike with the inside of the wrist, taught to him by Higaonna. It's very useful at close range because you can hit hard without having to withdraw your fist to deliver a punch. If your wrist happens to be by your opponent's face, you can just drive it into his nose and smash it. This led to Sensei elaborating on one of his familiar themes, which is that being a good karateka is about being able to deliver damage with any part of your body at any distance - the last thing that you should be doing is moving your fist back to trying to give yourself power. Just punch from where your hand is. 

A very interesting session - at the end Sensei also took a few minutes to explain his philosophy of teaching, which all about getting the hands right first. Learning control of the hands is the most important and most difficult thing to get right - and also probably the most useful in a fight. Once the hands are sorted out, then he moves on to teaching all the kicking techniques in depth. 


B was in charge again this session, so as normal it was pretty unrelenting. We had a good warm-up for once, though.

It got me thinking about teaching styles. B is young, and clearly feels a bit insecure, and this manifests in her trying to impose herself on the group through being unnecessarily harsh and strict. She also trots out a lot of Sensei's sayings ("In a real fight you'll be this tired after 30 seconds!" etc.) which don't have a great deal of credibility coming from her. Being a good teacher is in large part about being yourself - I think she would get a lot more enthusiasm out of us if she dropped the headmistress act.

The most useful part of the class was practicing kekomi. I seriously need to get more flexible.

Friday, 1 April 2016


I took the warm-up today and think it went well. Then Sensei examined D for his purple belt (he missed the last exam) while M took us through our paces with various different techniques. She is teacher's pet, so he always gets her to take over if he is otherwise occupied. While I like her personally, I think it has to be said that she's not a great teacher. Her instructions are all over the place and the stuff she does is pretty boring. Thankfully that was only 10 minutes and we got on with things after that - more empi and uraken practice, and then, for fun, doing a few slow and detailed runs-through of bassai dai. Great stuff.


A rigorous technical session focusing on new empi and uraken techniques, and then putting them into practice in flow drills. I really enjoy that sort of lesson, although they are especially tiring due to the combination of physical and mental focus required. I took a heck of a lot of blows to the torso, back and shoulder - they are bruising up nicely...

Thursday, 24 March 2016


B took the lesson today because Sensei was away and it was tough going, as it always is with her. She has no concept of a warm-up - complaint A - and a real arrogant streak that comes out when put in charge - complaint B. What I dislike most is her authoritarian attitude to exercise: she demands a heck of a lot, but she is far from the fittest of us and I suspect wouldn't be able to keep up with the routines she dreams up if she had to do them. I think it's poor form for a teacher to demand of students something that she wouldn't be able to do herself.

On the other hand, J and D both came back to the club after long absences, coincidentally on the same night. So in that respect it was like old times and was a good evening overall. I just wish B would have a more mature attitude as a teacher.


We focused on open-handed techniques today. Knife hand, spear hand, etc. Then in the last 10 minutes spent some time using them in a self-defence context. I like doing the good old 'karate chop'.

Thursday, 17 March 2016


I missed three sessions with flu so it was good to be back today - and a really enjoyable session. A new student from Greece came along and he said he left with a big smile on his face because the club has such a positive vibe and it's true. It really does, and you notice when you've been away and come back.

I wasn't quite top of my game and definitely felt weak. But on the other hand I think a week of illness has made me healthier - I've lost weight and look and feel leaner. Maybe periodic sickness is a bit like a forest fire. You need it to rejuvenate.

Thursday, 3 March 2016


A lot of leg work, today. I have a feeling Sensei is gearing up for boosting our kicks. For the first time in a while I am seriously aching.

He showed us how to do a powerful mawashigeri. The secret is not to twist the front foot until delivering the kick. Just rotate the hips and torso and then the front foot as the leg is in mid-flight. This definitely does generate more power, but my mawashigeri is pretty pathetic in the first place...

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


Interesting class today. I think Sensei deliberately decided to mess with our heads, so he had the whole group working through Bassai Dai repeatedly, move by move. That's one of the things I like about how he teaches - the attitude that you're going to have to learn how to do high level stuff sooner or later so may as well start early.

We also did a lot of back stance practice, with gedan barai and then front leg maegeri with shuto combos. That was tough, although the hardest thing as always was having to do repeated maegeri practice directly after 60 push ups with no breather. I always find that unbelievably exhausting.

Friday, 26 February 2016


Half of the class was devoted primarily to tough exercise, the other half to kumite. It's interesting seeing how much us 'old hands' have improved. I can remember the first time we practiced kumite techniques; the change in power, speed and accuracy since then is rather impressive. Sensei used me for several techniques and I was reminded once again of how accurate and effective his punches are - two years ago he cracked a rib when punching me and today, demonstrating exactly the same technique he was back then, he hit me in precisely the same spot. That isn't an accident. (No cracked ribs this time. It's true what they say - the fitter you are the less frequently you get injured.)

I did, however, manage to do something to my second toe (index tow?) on my left foot when sparring with P. I only noticed after the class that I had lost all feeling in it, and it was sort of skewed to the left. It still looks wrong. If it was dislocated or broken presumably it would be a lot more painful, so I'm ignoring it for the time being, but I can feel that there is definitely something odd about it as I walk around.

Getting a good punch in on the counter is a great feeling. There is something immensely satisfying about putting your fist into an opponent's midriff as he comes hurtling towards you. This is one of many reasons for preferring bare-fisted sparring.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016


I was expecting a tough class today as it was after the exam, but in actuality it was just moderately so. We did plenty of Sensei's patented leg-torture strengthening exercises, but I am growing to have a strange enjoyment of those, and  the hard work only lasted half an hour. Then it was mostly ground work - practicing arm locks with the legs. Some of those moves are very effective, although they need a lot of practice and repetition (like everything, I suppose).


Largely focusing on running through kata. I got a rare word of praise from Sensei ("that was a good kata") - he almost never says anything complimentary to male students in particular. So I must be doing something right.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016


We've got an exam coming up on Sunday so today we mostly worked through different techniques and kata. Sensei also explained something of how to regulate your breathing correctly when doing kihon kata - breathing in on the blocks and out on the punches. I noticed it did have an effect on my performance (though who knows if that isn't just psychological?).

Afterwards as we were sitting around talking he got talking about how good karate is inseparable from a good group. That's easy to say, but I get what he means. The club has a good atmosphere and good people, and that feels like it's conducive for good karate. And that's a lot of 'goods'.

Thursday, 11 February 2016


We had another new student visit the club today. She is a black belt, but none of us knew that until after the lesson - all the way through she trained without a belt. Mental note: this is considered courteous when visiting other clubs.

After half an hour hard exercise we spent a lot of the rest of the time doing ground work. After practicing kata, I think ground work is my favourite aspect of karate training. There's just something fun about wrestling around on the floor. I like the combination of physical and mental exertion: it's like the world's toughest game of chess. You constantly have to think.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016


We had a new student today - a young American kid who is a master in a Korean martial art called Tang Soo Do. It was interesting to watch somebody of Dan grade in a different art struggling to keep up with our fitness. It's easy to get a big head, but the kid could barely do 20 press-ups and simply couldn't sustain  doing repeated techniques in the fashion we normally do it. We're pretty tough. We finished off doing 40 burpees and even our orange belts were able to keep going longer than him. It will be interesting to see if his ego can take coming back.

That said, he clearly had good technique and was very fast. I had a bit of sparring and practice with the lad, and I was obviously nowhere near his technical level. It's just hard to escape the conclusion, as Sensei says from time to time, that martial arts in other clubs are going soft.

Thursday, 4 February 2016


A more technical and 'traditionally' focused lesson with multiple repetitions of uchi-uke with gyakutsuki forward and back. J and I were discussing how sometimes when everybody is practicing a technique and advancing in a horizontal line forwards across the floor, on certain techniques you'll find yourself way out in front of everyone else and in some you'll be lagging behind. With me, if I'm doing a blocking technique I tend to find myself advancing yards ahead of the rest of the pack. But if it's maegeri I'll be a similar distance behind everyone. No idea why that is.

One area to improve on: getting a punch in immediately after I block. I have a tendency to block a punch or whatever and then feel self-satisfied and pause briefly, allowing my opponent to step back from my counter. I need to get my retaliation in early.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016


Broke the 60 press-up barrier today. I feel more energized - but also, perversely, I'm turning into a bit of a fat bastard. I haven't got a paunch yet but there's a definite spare tire developing. While I'm a great believer that a man shouldn't feel bad about having a bit of a belly because it shows "joie de vivre", I do need to get a bit more exercise. I've been going to karate exclusively twice a week for about a year now, without going to the gym. I've built up some serious muscle and I am much stronger, fitter and quicker than I was when I was going to the gym five times a week. But the lack of lengthy cardio does seem to have resulted in weight gain. Or maybe I'm just eating and drinking more. Either way, maybe it's time to do a bit of jogging.

Thursday, 28 January 2016


Primary focus was on kata, particularly heian yondan. We also practiced some throat punches. Naturally everyone pulls those punches when practicing but it's astonishing how even a light tap causes pain. It makes you realise how seriously powerful a proper karate punch is and how much damage one does in the right place.

Friday, 22 January 2016


Hard and technical. We focuse on perfecting gyakutsuki and oitsuki technique, with the late twist and stretching the stance.

Sensei showed us how the late twist keeps the punch parallel to the ground, whereas twisting early tends to pull the punch upwards at an angle, reducing the force.

I like that kind of lesson. You can feel your technique improving from start to finish. Sometimes variety comes at a cost.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


This session ran the full gamut: tough exercise at first, then hard repetitions of techniques, then practising some kata, and then kumite. I was primarily matched against Jh during kumite and noticed that kid is seriously improving. We're ostensibly the same grade, but he's 13 years younger and it shows. He's simply quicker than me. Hopefully that notion that age brings wisdom and experience holds true... At one point he executed a soto-uke right on my elbow joint. Christ, that hurt.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016


A relaxed self-defence orientated lesson tonight, mainly I think for J, who was making an appearance after a long time (six months, I think) and a new student who is a black belt in wado-ryu but hasn't done anything karate related in 22 years.

It was good to see J and there was a nice atmosphere in class, but I do have to confess that I miss having a really tough workout - never thought I'd say that, but pain and torment can be addictive in the right doses, it seems.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

05/01/2015 and 07/01/2015

Fresh start to the year and two very contrasting sessions. The first session back was brutally hard (must have done at least 200 push ups during the course of the session, and Sensei has come up with a new method of torture: three punches, down into three push-ups, then up for another three punches....repeat times a billion). I definitely felt stronger for having the break, though. I think I'm right in saying I was the strongest/fittest performer.

The second session was still rigorous but much more of a 'karate' session - repeated practice of shuto uke and maegeri, and then numerous runs-through of the first four heian kata. About 45 minutes in there was a power failure at the gym, so we spent the last 15 minutes doing heian shodan over and over again in the darkness with our white dogis glowing slightly. Fun times.