Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Does Sports Karate Suck?

In this blog I want to write my feelings and ideas about sports karate, combat sports in general and the push for Olympic recognition within certain circles of the karate community and maybe even add my own thoughts on how to improve the problems that many like-minded karate practitioners face. 
First of all I think that competition is a good thing in almost all areas of life, even karate. I am extremely proud of my karate competition "career" and I consider it a "paying of dues" if you will to a good few years of hard earned trophies, medals and titles. At the time I enjoyed competing and I especially enjoyed winning. The medals and trophies have now long since been recycled as student awards within my clubs or have been broken in storage but the memories of the victories are still right there in my mind. 
I have spent time competing in both kumite and kata events and had success in both at different times. The kumite fighter I perhaps was in my late teens and early twenties would likely destroy the kumite fighter I would attempt to be now just like the kata competitor of my mid and late twenties would easily beat my best katas now but I consider my karate to be better than ever at this moment in time. 
This is quite an interesting concept I think. Even though I have a box full of medals to show my previous prowess I feel my karate has improved since yet I would not feel confident in the competition arena. This is because I don't feel that competition karate is a true representation of real karate. 
To open my case I'll start with kumite fighting. In karate competition there are two main types of semi-contact rules in use across the world. The first is shobu ippon and the second is WKF. My understanding of the rules is probably not entirely up to date but I'm sure there have not been any huge changes recently. In shobu ippon rules there are two tiers of points, ippon (1 point) and waza-ari (half point). Basically the idea is that an ippon is a finishing technique or a technique that shows supreme skill and prowess. A waza-ari is a lesser technique or one delivered with less focus, speed or power. 
In wkf rules there are 3 tiers of scoring, ippon, yuko and waza-ari worth 1,2 or 3 points depending on skill, striking area, focus, speed and power etc. this is all fair enough but I have one large issue with all of that. In both styles of competition a fighter can only score with either his fists or his feet. This means no knees, elbows, headbuts, forearm strikes and even knife hands. It also means no joint locks and throws. If we look at kata being the cornerstone of traditional karate we see all of these techniques within most kata. The heian kata have all of them in them in very obvious Bunkai applications. I feel  the rejection of these techniques makes kumite turn its back on what real karate is all about. I understand the need for safety in competition and the difficulty in controlling knee strikes etc will inevitably lead to injuries and would have stopped the wide spread popularity of karate in the past due to the brutality of the sport and inaccessibility to many of such a contact sport. 
It is because of all these points that I don't feel that wkf or shobu kumite events are a true representation of the karate that I study and train with and the reason I don't agree with karate having a place in the Olympic Games. I cannot deny that the top level competitors are fantastic athletes and highly skilled in their discipline just like gymnastic competitors or archery competitors but that is what they are, athletes and not martial artists. If karate did make it into the Olympics there is a very good chance that it would increase interest in karate clubs and lead to increased participation, this can only be a good thing but the wider majority of karate clubs do not represent what is being shown in the Olympic sport of karate. I also understand that karate would only have kumite and not kata events if included in the Olympics, this to me is completely ridiculous and absolutely goes against what separates karate from other martial arts and that is kata. 
Now don't get me wrong, I have the upmost respect for the athletes competing on the world stage in karate and the events that they do but I feel that the more pragmatic and practical karate-ka should be looking for something different. 
UFC and other MMA events goes some way to filling the void but even they are often skewed by their rules which tend to favour grapplers over strikers. Also the full contact element will put many off. 
There is a movement growing in parts of the UK called combudo which is a very neat idea of MMA in a gi and on mats rather than a cage. But they still fight for knockouts (although only kicks are allowed to the head and not punches) and submissions. There is also kudo or daido juko which seems to be a hybrid of kyokushinkai and judo with throws and body punches but done wearing protective head gear. Both of these events seem very good and a step in the right direction but still not quite there in my eyes so I have recently tried playing around with something in my dojos. 
I hope that the rule set that I have devised will appeal to the karate-ka that trains their kata as a way to drill combative scenarios. They hopefully also have a bit of experience in ground fighting tactics and techniques and some throwing ability. These rules could also appeal to practitioners of other arts and maybe even the MMA fighters, especially those that have a traditional martial arts background. Also offering events with these rules could help retain some of the student base that wish to try a more "full on" karate event without the need to go over to the local MMA gym (where traditional karate is often seen as a kids activity and not combative at all). 

Here is an outline of my rules. 

Competition area - 8x8 metre square mats as used in kata events and wkf tournaments etc 
Judges - 1 ring judge and ideally 4 corner judges with coloured flags (1 white, 1 blue or similar)
Time limit - 3 minute bouts. Timer stops when referee stops fight. 
All these things define the bout as a sporting event but are accessible to most and can even be used in addition to existing wkf/shobu kumite events. 

Safety equipment - MMA style gloves which provide padding to fist but allow holding and grappling techniques to be performed. 
Groin guard, shin protection pads, gum shield. 
Kudo head guard (like a standard head guard but with a goldfish bowl type plastic screen covering the face) 

Points scoring - my idea was for points to be award continuously so the fight rarely stops. The timer will keep rolling and points will be added when scored. 
Points can be scored by striking anywhere on the body except the throat and groin (for obvious safety reasons) and with any punches, kicks or elbows. Knees are not allowed due to potential control issues. 
I also feel the concept of one hit-one kill is not feasible in a real situation so to score from a striking technique you need to perform an unbroken flurry of 3 strikes eg kick to leg, punch to body, elbow to head. This is harder than it sounds!
My theory is that a flurry of 3 continuous strikes whilst not finishing your opponent, should certainly open the door for the one hit kill that many karate-ka seems to dream is a possibility. In the same vain I think any strike that drops your opponent should be rewarded with a score so a head kick that knocks your opponent to the ground or a strike to the legs that brings him to his knees will score. 
I also think that throws should warrant a score. Throws and sweeps are not rewarded in the sporting rules but are allowed provided they are followed by a punch when your opponent is grounded. This all also has to be performed within a certain time frame. In reality a well executed throw can either cause serious damage or at least stun your opponent temporarily allowing you the opening to finish the fight off. Because of this a throw is awarded with a score. 
Ground fighting is completely outlawed and ignored in the wkf/shobu versions of kumite. I feel this is rather ridiculous and often makes karate fighters a laughing stock to other martial artists. In my rules striking is allowed on the ground and scores in the same way as it does whilst standing (3 strike flurry rules). Submissions should also be allowed so any locks, chokes etc can be performed and if your opponent submits you score a point. Your opponent may also submit if they simply feel over whelmed and over powered by the strikes put upon them. Also if the referee feels a competitor is being over whelmed he may award a submission. 
In the event of a submission the timer stops, the points are awarded and the fight will restart as normal. This gives the good strikers a chance to score points and compete equally against a submission fighter and makes each bout last the distance. 

Fouls should be fairly minimal as excessive contact is not such an issue. Area violations will still be applicable and I think a first offence warning followed by a deducted point/point awarded to opponent for every consecutive offence. Time stops and match restarts in centre of mat as normal. 
Illegal strikes and strikes to illegal areas could also follow the same penalty pattern with judges discretion allowing disqualification if necessary. 

Obviously these rules may need a little tweaking over time but I hope to try and get them in use at some local tournaments as exhibition events in the near future. 
Feedback is always welcome on my blog posts and on this especially as it will need critique and adapting to evolve into something genuinely interesting. 
Thanks for reading. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

"Styling it out"

I want to write about the various karate styles around and why I feel they are irrelevant to practical martial arts.
Firstly I'll start by mentioning even though it possibly goes against my last sentence, I would still describe myself as a shotokan karate practitioner. I started training in shotokan over 25 years ago and it is still the only style I have graded in (I think? - more on that later). Whilst I feel very little association with the term "shotokan" I do feel the term has its merits in describing what I do to other martial artists and as a marketing tool to prospective students. 
Shotokan karate is widely regarded as the style of karate created by Gichin Funakoshi about 100 years ago (the karate historians out there will have issues with that statement but for the purposes of this blog it will do). His teachings and students then proceeded to take what they learned around the world and we now are left with Shotokan karate as we know it today, possibly the worlds most commonly practiced martial arts style. 
Obviously in the 100 years or so since funakoshis day things will have changed a bit. Karate is used for many different reasons. Some for sports, some for self defence, some just as general study yet all these variations lay claim to funakoshi and shotokan in some way. The same is also said of the other main styles of karate such as goju ryu and wado ryu. Visit 2 different wado ryu clubs and you will receive conflicting views on what their style is all about. 
As an example of this I can remember a couple of training sessions I have been in attendance of at 2 wado dojos recently. First session at dojo number 1 we were performing ushiro geri. The instructor noticed I was doing the kick very different to the way he teaches it so he showed me his version and explained his reasons for it, all fine by me, I was there to learn new perspectives and I did. Later that week I visit a different wado dojo in another town. Again we practice ushiro geri and it turns out this instructor does it the same way as I did and not the same as the other wado guy did. I asked if he had ever done it in the other way and he said he had not and wasn't aware of anyone that did. Both clubs use wado ryu as their style and claim the techniques they use to be "the wado way". For the record I don't think that one of these guys is wrong in the slightest. They both have a lot of experience in karate and I have trained with both since and would train with them again in a heartbeat. 
I have had a very similar experience at goju ryu dojos. There have been 2 goju ryu dojos I have trained in and both have taught me the kata "seisan" and both completely differently. Again I don't see one of these versions as wrong and I feel they both have merits. One version I learned concentrated on the conditioning and hojo undo (supplementary training) aspect that is common to goju ryu and I find particularly appealing for my own training, the other school barely mentioned any of these things and the kata felt very different. 
I have also had these experiences in other shotokan dojos. Whilst a student I lived in a small town with just one kugb shotokan club in it. I trained in this dojo often but quickly realised that things were done a little strange (or so it seemed to me) and as I was less experience then I almost thought they were doing it wrong. Turns out the other black belts in the club thought the same of me! As I trained there regularly over a couple of years I picked up a few things that I actually preferred to the way I had been doing previously. I was then left in the awkward position of having new habits from my college dojo and I would automatically do them when training at home. I then had to switch between 2 variations depending on where I was training even though I preferred one over the other (my home dojo felt I was doing things wrong by using technique from the college dojo! That was where I was to grade so I had to do it their way). This experience didn't sit well with me and being told to change from an effective technique to an inferior one just "because I said so!" Was counter productive in my opinion. In the years since I have trained in many more other dojos and learned hundreds of different opinions on techniques, some I have utilised in my own training and teaching (such as the Shukokai double hip punches) in replacement of my old "shotokan" ways. 
So what have I become now. A shotokan practitioner that studies goju ryu and Shito ryu katas. Uses hojo undo for strength and conditioning, and punches like a shukokai stylist? That also brings me onto my grades. I have graded up to 4th Dan by shotokan karate instructors like most do but for my 5th Dan I wanted a change from the norm so sought out someone that would grade me on my karate rather than what I could do for their association. My grading was therefore performed in front of a 9th Dan shukokai and a 7th Dan wado ryu examiner. Does that make me a 5th Dan in shotokan still? Or just a 5th Dan in karate. I will say that the 2 guys that graded me really knew there stuff and easily had knowledge to grade me in shotokan if that was what was required. I'm quite proud to say that my grading was overseen by probably the 2 most impressive martial artists I have ever met. 
To further my point lets go back to the beginnings of the style. Again I'll put this in very basic form but Funakoshi had 2 main teachers. One of them was Anko Itosu. Itosu also taught other people and the other people then went on to formulate other styles. One of these guys was Choshin Chibana who went on to form the shorin ryu style of karate. A quick youtube search will bring up videos of both Funakoshi and Chibana performing tekki shodan/Naihanchi kata. To the untrained eye the two versions look very similar but the experienced karate-ka will notice many stylistic differences. This is quite normal as at the time of the videos they were different ages, different body shapes and maybe even were training different things within the kata. It also highlights how different my version of tekki shodan is from both of theirs! Yet I refer to my version as a shotokan kata?
Come forward a few years and you have descendants from Funakoshi in Kanazawa, Enoeda and Asai. I have trained with all three of these and the experience was very different yet they all claim to teach Shotokan. Again the 3 masters had varying body shapes, flexibilty and even prior or new knowledge to impart (Kanazawa is also a tai chi master and I believe asai has experience in jiu jitsu or aikido). My own personal karate has a lineage tracing back to Kanazawa although I have never been a regular student of his and only trained with him in seminars etc I do however sometimes train in clubs within his organisation. Kanazawa often uses his tai chi and its associated breathing methods in his karate including a deep inhale and exhale after performing a kata. This is a technique I have phased out as I do not see much merit in it personally. My phasing out of this also goes back to my days in the kugb where being Enoeda rather than Kanazawa lineage they didn't do it so I would be the only one doing it after a kata!
Again a quick YouTube search can quickly bring up kata performed by all three masters and the differences are often quite striking. Heian shodan for example shows 3 different ways of performing the hammer fist strike and 3 variations of upper rising block and 3 knife hand blocks, yet all are said to be shotokan. You can even go back and find funakoshis heian shodan and see that his version is different again from Kanazawa, Enoeda and Asai. But none would ever be considered wrong!
My point really is that there can't really be a "Shotokan way" or a "Wado ryu way" just like there is often no right way or wrong way to do karate. Without being overly philosophical about it we should all find our own way. By that I mean that an experienced practitioner should be adapting techniques to make them fit their own body style or fighting style. You could argue that the only person that really did Shotokan was Funakoshi himself and we are all just trying to emulate him, this is fair enough but for me personally I know that there are a lot of things my body can do that Funakoshis couldn't and vice versa. Also I know that there are things I can no longer do that I could 10 years ago and as I get older that feeling will most likely increase. 
Because of all of this I feel very little affiliation with the term "Shotokan" other than to use it as a basic descriptive word for what I do. Having said that I quite sure I will continue to call myself a Shotokan karate-ka for many years. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

January 2015 diet blog - part 2

'It's now January 13th and yesterday my weight just pipped under the 90kg mark (89.9kg). I feel this is a bit of a milestone and definitely progress in the right direction and proof that I am shedding a few kilos. I expected the first few kilos to come off easily as it would mostly be a literal reduction in my stomach content from the last few weeks over eating and probably some water weight coming off too but it's all good to me!
The weight loss has made me more determined to clean up my diet and the few things that I have been eating that are not particularly clean are hopefully now done with. For example nutella - the jar is finished so I will try not to have any more, mayonnaise - also the jar is finished so I won't buy in anymore. 
One thing I want to remind myself is that often cheating on this diet is just not worth it! Last night after training I had a fruit snack and started winding down. For some reason I decided I wanted something else to eat. I wasn't hungry, just habit kicked in. In the end I had some bread with olive oil and pesto. In the grand scheme of things probably not that bad but it really did nothing for me and I regret it now but hopefully I can remember this and not do it again. 
One revelation to me has been creamed coconut! It's the flesh of a coconut blitzed and compacted into a block. I like to break bits off and mix into a paste with some water for a dash of milk and mix into brown rice or stir fry for a lovely coconut rices taste. 

Update January 19th
This week hasn't been so good. My weight has stabilised at around the 90kg mark which I'm quite sure is due to my failure to commit fully to the diet. 
I broke a few of my own basic rules this week such as late night snacking (even if it was only on fruit). I have also been tempted a little by some treats that have been around the house such as a couple of cookies that my wife brought. Yesterday I had a family lunch which was a roast dinner and an ice cream pudding, I knew it was coming up so I planned for it to be a treat/cheat meal but the problem was I added a few other treats in that I didn't really need and it's obviously reflected in my results. 
Partly due to last weeks poor showing and partly because I had planned to do it at some point anyway I am going to try the next five days 100% clean. Monday 19th to Friday 23rd I will aim to eat only meat,  vegetables, fruit and rice. No carbs after 5pm and nothing after 8pm. It will mean being well prepared with having appropriate food available and possibly taking some food with me to late evenings at work so I can snack just on my time cut offs. 

Update Jan 20th
Halfway through day 2 and things are going ok. Yesterday I had a piece of fruit and an espresso for breakfast. Them I had a coffee mid morning and an apple as a snack. Lunch was chicken breast, brown rice, sweet potato and green salad. Another Apple as a snack mid afternoon and then dinner of pork chop, sweet potato and green salad. 
Today's breakfast was a porridge pancake and honey washed down with espresso. Lunch was pork chop, brown rice, potato, sweet potato and green salad. Another espresso after lunch and dinner will be chicken breast, brown rice, sweet potato and green salad. As a dressing I have used a little olive oil and lime juice with some creamed coconut. 
Right now I'm really craving something sweet but a piece of fruit later on will have to do. 
We are now approving Thursday lunchtime and all good so far. My only minor blemish in the diet was a little stock I added to a curry I made yesterday. I also broke my after 8pm rule on Tuesday night by having a salad made from spinach, pea shoots and rocket with radishes, drizzled with olive oil and lime juice and little chicken and sesame seeds. 
Even so, my weight is down to about 89kgs now so it is coming off. My energy levels feel fine too and I hope to get some decent training sessions in today and tomorrow. 
Saturday morning is here and I'm reflecting back on my weeks challenge. Yesterday was a nightmare day in general. We went out early to our baby scan so I had a breakfast of espresso and some fruit. After the scan we stopped at a coffee shop where temptation was all around me. I had another espresso whilst my wife tucked in yo a cappuccino and a crepe with nutella. I did however eat the almond biscuit that came with my espresso. For lunch I had a small salad of spinach and iceberg with an olive oil, pesto and lime dressing and some chicken. I then went out to start a trainng session in my shed. This was a complete disaster as my iPod didn't want to work, neither did my heartrate monitor or the video I was going to use to train to! I packed in the session with the plan to try again later. We then went off to look at new cars for the wife which took way longer than it should and meant that we didn't have dinner until almost 9pm. Dinner was a shepards pie I made with beef, sweet potato, butternut squash, a little stock, some other veg and sliced potatoes on top (instead of mash which would require butter and milk) it was delicious and I had a helping way larger than I should have. 
Anyway, I'll give myself a 7/10 for my weeks efforts and I think I will do it again on Monday. As for this weekend I will treat myself a little bit. I've already had a macchiato coffee this morning (so a little bit of foamed milk) and I'm having my own homemade pizza tonight. I use tortilla wraps as the base to make a healthier alternative and I make my own sauce using tomato purée and pesto mixed together. Also I tend to use more mozzarella cheese and minimal grated cheese. I usually accompanie it with a green salad. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Training Diary January 2015

Just a few words regarding my own personal martial arts training as a reference for myself and others.
I hope to update this every few weeks at least with what Ive been up to. Possibly I will include some pictures and videos from time to time too.
For years I have trained in multiple styles either as a way to understand the theories in the Shotokan kata I train and teach or simply because I find the prospect of being a "Shotokan" ( or any single style for that matter ) very limiting and not really a progressive way of learning or training. Ill probably write more about that another time.

First training session back after the new year was my regular Monday night group session. Every Monday evening I teach an adults beginners session and straight after a few guys all get together for a training session. Most of the attendees are Dan grades in my club but a few others pop in from time to time but we always have a great little group there prepared to train. I started the sessions as a way to get martial artists of all styles together and share techniques, experiences, drills or whatever and would love to see more people turning up. The more varied the group becomes the greater the benefit for all involved and I'm pretty sure that regular training with a group like this will see everyone improve through greater knowledge and improved fitness. So, anyone reading that feels like coming along you are more than welcome. Sessions are every Monday in central Milton Keynes. Just get in touch with me for more details.
Anyway, last nights session saw a few people missing for whatever reason so there were just the 3 of us there. We worked on some punching drills to start, with the aim being to keep correct form and technique whilst generating speed and power. We drilled the reverse punch from 4 primary positions. First a traditional style reverse punch from a deep forward stance then we shorted the stance a little to make a more practical "free" stance but still chambered the punch all the way from the hip. Next we brought the hands in front of the body to create a shorter punch. The aim here was to still use hip movement and create good power from the shortened punch. Finally we did exactly the same but from a near standing position.
We then did very similar but for a round house kick. We aimed to kick the pads with a fully chambered kick and finish the kick. The idea for all of this was to keep our basic technique as close to what we tend to practise in our karate kihon but now use the technique to create power on impact.
Finally to finish off we did a few timed rounds on the heavy hanging bag. Nothing too crazy this week, just 10 secs on - 10 secs off repeated 3 times ( making a 1 minute round in total ) I think we did 3 rounds of this in total by the end.
Today I was at the gym doing a few massage treatments and happened to finish a bit early so I popped into the studio for a little private training. I started with a few sit ups, crunches and planks to get me going and then did some light bag work on the standing bag.
I then practised a little bit of conditioning kata. Recently I have been training with the Goju-Ryu kata "Seisan". This is a conditioning kata used to build core strength and train your breathing. I have learnt this kata about 3 different ways now and to be honest I am not interested in the form itself but find the conditioning aspect very appealing so I just train my own version ( which tends to change every time I do it!). I did a couple of reps of this kata and then I decided to try something new (to me). In Okinawan styles of karate they often train something known as "hoju undo" which basically means supplement training. This is usually done with traditional materials used as weights etc. What I did was I use 2 6kg dumb-bells and gripped one end with my fingers. I then practised movement in my seisan stance whilst clasping the weights. I tried to focus on using my core to keep the weights held high and not just rely on finger and hand strength. Done regularly this should improve core strength, grip strength and arm strength.
I then carried this theme on and used a 12kg kettle bell held out in front of my abdomen. I basically then worked my way through a few kata steps using the added weight to work my legs and core. I also tried similar using a 15kg bar on my shoulders and worked though a few kata. Anyone wishing to try similar I suggest you try a kata such as "Gankaku" for the one legged stances and the height changes. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

January 2015 Diet Blog

In an effort to keep my motivation and to make me keep track of my mishaps I am going to keep this post as a regular update of my diet and any changes that occur.
Firstly my reasons for doing this. Well in the last 6 months or so I have had a few lifestyle changes. In late spring I went on a wonderful holiday for the best part of a month where I ate and drank a lot! It was brilliant! I also took my bike ( as I usually do on holiday ) and so did a fair bit of exercise to cancel as much of the food and drink as possible. I then moved house. This then led to a few weeks/months of decorating and reduced time for training. Then my regular training partner got injured meaning we never started our weekly sessions up again after the summer. Then I got injured meaning less time on the bike and less hard training in the dojo. Then I started doing much more physical therapy and massage work which again led to less training time! And then...Christmas!
All this has led me to pile on a few kilos. In March 2012 I was 91kgs. I then changed a few things and dropped to about 82kgs which I found hard to sustain but I settled at about 84kgs. My weight then fluctuated a little around 84-87kgs but never any higher. Well on January 1st 2015 I was 94kgs! I'm not happy with this at all and its simply due to more alcohol and junk food than normal so for the next few weeks/months it all has to stop.
I also have another reason to motivate me which is that my wife is expecting our first baby in June. I'm well aware that once the baby is here my training time will be cut substantially so I am trying to create a positive lifestyle change in preparation for all that is about to come!

So on to the diet. I am keeping this simple. No processed foods. Simple as that. I want to eat and drink as natural as possible and as I write this on January 5th I would say Ive not done too badly.

Jan 1st was lunch at mother in laws. This consisted of cuts of pork and chicken, salad and boiled potatoes. Nothing too bad there. There was beer on offer and also coca cola but I stuck to a glass of squash. For dessert there was an awesome trifle made by my wife or xmas pudding. I didn't have any xmas pud on xmas day so I treated myself to a little piece with some brandy butter. Not really part of my diet but it could have been worse.
Jan 2nd and 3rd passed without hiccup. We had friends over that brought chocolates which I managed to pass on. They also help finish of the last of the coca cola in the fridge from xmas whilst I had a glass of water. I did however treat myself to a piece of that trifle that I mentioned earlier! Again not part of the diet but I had been doing a fair few hours of cycling and done some decent core training so I tried to justify it.
January 4th I did a good solid work out on my stationary bike ( too icy to ride the roads ) and some core exercises. Lunch was homemade risotto and supper was some sweet potato and salad ( with some light mayo ). I did succumb to some of the xmas leftovers and had some mince pies and custard too.
So far on Jan 5th I have had an espresso ( which I have every morning ) and a pancake made with oat flour and porridge oats with some honey and I am about to do a bike ride of 2-3 hours.
I have already shed a kilo or so and feel a fair bit better but I know I have to cut out the pastry and desserts etc but I figure small steps will still lead to progress.
Jan 6th* A little update so far. 6/10 so far. Not bad but could be better. Dinner yesterday was chicken breast, brown rice, sweet potato, avocado, green salad and coleslaw. Nothing dreadful there. Ive found my self snacking on the left over crackers ( as in biscuits ) with either peanut butter or nutella on them. Very yummy but I certainly need to cut out the nutella and the crackers cant be that great either! I also cracked last night and ate some chocolate! There were 6 small chocolates (like quality street) left in a box so I polishedvthem off. I now feel guilty and its made me more determined to clean up.
Todays breakfast was a banana as I ran out the door to the gym for massages. A black coffee from the machine at the gym and an after training snack of crackers and an apple.
I aim to not eat any carbs after 5 pm and eat nothing at all after 8pm unless I am training early in the following morning. Last night I broke this by eating some grapes after getting home from training.

Time for another update. It's now January 11th and whilst my diet hasn't been as clean as I had hoped I have now had 10 days alcohol, bread and diary free. I also feel considerably better than a week ago and have lost a few kilos (down to 91.3 this morning). 
My main realist soon has been that to lose weight you have to be prepared to go hungry and probably give up some of the foods you ate that made you fat in the first place!


Ive never really understood new years resolutions. Most people make these resolutions that are possibly unachievable and fail within the first few weeks making them completely pointless!
Having said that I have made a few this year and I intend on doing my best to keep to them.
That's why I am writing this blog. I feel if it is written down then I will feel more of an idiot for not keeping up with my new lifestyle choices.
So my first resolution is.....To blog more! Done! In all seriousness I do hope to keep this blog updated in a few ways.
Firstly I intend to get more stuff down on various media ( youtube, written blogs, facebook and maybe even printed word ) mostly Karate tuition kind of stuff from advanced technical theories to simple beginners advice.
Secondly I am hoping to change my own personal training a fair bit this year. In my many years as a martial artist I have been through many processes with my own training from syllabus learning, to technical performance, to expanding my knowledge base and finding practicality in traditional karate. This year I hope to improve my conditioning and possibly discover a few new things on the way. Ive been training a lot more pad drills and grappling technique than ever before lately and I hope to push that on to the next level.
To go along with my changes in training I am planning to write a little about my own fitness, diet and condition. Last year was a very busy one for me in a few ways and some of my training was disrupted. This has led me to be in the situation I am now in where I am the heaviest ( ie. fattest ) I have been for 2 and a half years! Not a good place to be! So from January 1st I started a new clean living and training regime that I will blog about as much as possible.
This post was really all about setting my goals out so I will make others to include details of my diet, training etc.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Kata Analysis - Meikyo - Bunkai and Oyo

Welcome to another Kata Bunkai blog. This time we will look at Meikyo kata.
Meikyo is a Shotokan kata that is based on elements of 3 Rohai kata that are studied in Shito ryu schools.
Meikyo roughly translates as "Bright Mirror" probably due to the obvious symmetry within the form. Rohai Translates to "Vision of a Crane" and is belived to be a Matsumora kata from the Tomari region.
In my opinion there is an underlying theme in the bunkai of this kata that revolves around different countering options for 2 handed lapel grabs or strangles. This will become more apparent as we get through the videos.

First off here is the complete video for all the sections we will break down.
So, onto the first section.
In the kata we start with the big, circular "salutation" style move that brings the fists back to the hikite position. Then we follow that up with the rising double nukite move. In my mind this is quite obviously a break from a strangle or double grab (probably to be followed by a head butt). We use our stance in a similar way to in the tekki katas by dropping into the low kiba dachi to help over power the opponent, there may be other scenarios when another stance may be more suitable but as always discretion must be used. As we drop low into our kiba dachi we use the circular arm movement to strike the attackers grab. This should force the attacker to jolt forward and probably lower their head giving us a perfect opportunity to counter with the double nukite. In the video we have changed it to a palm heel strike but a spear hand to the eyes or throat is just as viable.

 In section 2 we show the downward block/inside block/upper rising block stepping punch combo. This part of the kata does vary from school to school with some using the same block in each of the 3 repetitions. We are showing all 3 variations of block so every version should be covered. For each of the blocks we have shown the most basic application of blocking a stepping attack and countering with oi zuki. This is fine for beginners in the dojo but I feel that a student studying this kata should have more common sense and skill to apply to their bunkai. Because of the simplicity of these applications I shall not even bother to write a description!
However, if we add the block onto the moves we used in section 1 we have an alternate counter (or 3 alternate counters!). So again we will assume that the attacker has tried a strangle or double handed grab. We can use our kiba dachi and the circular arm strike to try and release their grip. We then have the option of using the nukite strikes as before or by shifting our weight into forward stance and performing the gedan barai we have a clear strike to the opponents neck (this gedan barai could also be directed to the attackers arms to further help releasing the grab). We can also follow up with the oi zuki as in the kata to finish off.
For the inside block we can make a slight change to the attack to a one handed grab and hook punch scenario. We then use the circular arm movement in the same way as before to release or control the grab, The inside block can be used to cover the incoming hook punch and then should give us the option of grasping the punching arm to pull in for our hikite. Again we counter with the oi zuki to finish.
The age uke version can simply be used as an upper rising strike to the attackers grabbing arms to help release them or move them towards his face and disrupt his vision and allow us space for our oi zuki counter.

Section 3
This piece of the kata includes the Bo Uke and Bo Dori techniques. Many traditional practitioners claim this to be a defence against attacks from a Bo staff (6ft foot long, solid oak stick). I find this unpractical and unrealistic and also feel that a modern karate-ka has little need to learn defence against traditional weapons so I personally do not include them in my training or syllabus at all.
In the first clip we have used the Bo Uke as a quick block and grab against a straight stepping punch. The Bo Dori then becomes an arm lock and throw.
As an alternative the second clip shows a block against a hooking punch and a simultaneous counter to the solar plexus. We then use the Bo Dori technique to secure the arm and strike to the face, throat or eyes.
Section 4 shows tetsui uchi, mikazuki geri and ryowan gamae (hammer fist strike, crescent kick and double arm position).
A simplified bunkai for these techniques is to use the tetsui uchi as a forearm block to a straight punch and counter with the crescent kick.
A more realistic approach would be as a defence against a grab to the throat or lapels. We can use the tetsui uchi as a strkie to the opponents face and continue into an arm lock. By using our back stance here we can also use weight to help over power the attacker. The closer distances invloved here rules out any practical use for the mikazuki geri but a slight change to a knee strike makes a very effective counter. Finally if we work on the assumtion that the previous counters will have caused some reactions from our opponent we can use one side of our ryowan gamae as a forearm strike to the back of the attackers neck.
Section 5
This section shows a double Haiwan Uke and another Ryowan Gamae. In the kata all techniques are performed moving forwards. I have said this many times in other blogs but in my opinion the direction of movement in a kata has little bearing on the bunkai that is performed. The kata has to move in a direction and obviously if you are using the skills trained in bunkai to defend yourself every technique must be as a reaction to an opponents actions.
With this in mind we use the first block to stop a straight punch. We then grab the attackers arm and use the next Haiwan Uke to perform an arm lock and potential break. We could continue with the Ryowan Gamae and bring the attacker to the ground.
The alternative bunkai uses a more realistic hook punch attack, in fact a double hook punch (right then left hand). This Haiwan Uke block can then become more of a reactionary head cover to the flurry of punches. If we then close in on the attacker and use the Ryowan Gamae as a shoulder lock and alter the directions shown by the kata to step back instead of forward we have a very useful arm lock restraint technique.
Section 6
In the kata again we step forward to block with Awase Uchi Uke (double inside blocks) we then counter with a Morote Zuki (assisted punch). For our first bunkai we have to make the block work so we change the technique to steop back instead of forwards to block a straight punch. We then counter with our assisted punch to the face. A liitle note on this punch. Basically I think its rubbish!!!! I have practised it on a heavy bag and found it weaker than a single hand punch. I am also a firm beliver in never using 2 of your limbs for 1 combative use (for example not using 2 hands to block 1 kick). My general theory on 2 armed techniques in kata is that there would usually be an opponents limb or body part in between them or that they should not be together at all but just close to each other. In this instance a single jab punch is more effective and the close proximity of the second hand could suggest a follow up punch is possible.
The 2nd clip uses the double blocks stepping back again  but this time to break free from a strangle or lapel hold. As a counter we are going to stick with my theroy (its my blog after all!) and actually use the first hand to grab the opponents head and the second as our strike.