For July we will be focusing on Koshi, 腰. Many of you that have been training for any period of time will note that we seem to talk about this “all the time” but it pervades everything we do. The use of Koshi makes all of our techniques more efficient, more powerful. Even the uninitiated observer will note that techniques look crisper and more powerful with the proper use of Koshi. This can be easy to see but very difficult to implement. It took me many years to even become aware of the use, and I am still drilled on using this more efficiently and consistently. It is my hope that current students pick this up far faster than I did.
Many who know me know I am an avid bicycle commuter, riding daily trough the year. Today it was a quiet morning, a beautiful sunny day with a temperature in the mid 60’s. To me this is a perfect morning to ride. I was riding down a road I ride multiple times a day on my way to work. I approached approaching a four way stop that I go through multiple times daily. Approaching the intersection I looked in all directions and saw there was no one visible in any direction. To my left there are trees and visibility is limited but no one visible approaching or at the intersection. I went through the stop sign without even slowing down. As I got into the intersection a large Chevy impala approached and then stopped at the sign. The driver respectfully said out the window, “There’s a stop sign.” I was instantly convicted. He was right in that I did not follow the rules, or display good character. I justify this non stop by saying how much effort it is to start back up. I began thinking if he had made the same choice, perhaps justifying it saying it was best for his fuel mileage, I would have likely been struck by his car and my perfect morning would have taken a very different direction. I continued my ride thinking about character.
Character is who you are when no one is looking… I continued to think about what image do you want to project. The actions you undertake generally have effect beyond just that moment. In may places their exists animosity between auto drivers and bicyclists. An issue that can end badly for someone on a bike. I certainly did not want to contribute to this. In seeing riders who cut sharply across traffic, ride in the middle of the road or into traffic I usually want to yell at them myself. At one time I was a few hundred feet behind an older rider who chose to make a right turn in to a traffic lane without stopping or apparently looking because he was struck by a van. He bounced along the side of the van after he was clear the van attempted to stop. The rider waved and said “its all right”… My response was “no its not” you totally blew into traffic, how does that driver feel? Riders like this make all of us look bad, creating negative image of bicyclists in the minds of auto drivers. As a rider is us usually a good idea to approach your ride like you were an auto following traffic laws. I appreciate the use of bike paths but have taken advantage of the occasional “rolling stop”when no one is looking.
I want to thank the driver of that impala for correcting my behavior and offering a check of my character.
In karate this happens often. We do our practice thinking we may have done it the way that is correct but a well tuned eye will catch even a minor detail. They will call you out on what they see. The next step is what to do with it… Do you defend your action saying I thought… or do you take the correction and examine what was offered and find out what it has to offer? Perhaps that correction will keep you from bouncing off the side of a van, or worse, in your future.
Monday the 29 of May is Memorial day. Please enjoy the holiday with your friends and family. The dojo will be closed.
When we return from the break our Thursday class will be the first of June. That will be our “Test day” for this month. We will work through the full curriculum together beginning at the start of class.
Beyond That our focus for June will be a “Return to the basics”. We will focus our efforts on Kihon, or basics using basic blocks, strikes kicks and stances. We will continue to work with Sanchin of course but will use our kihon to further detail all Kata this month.
The second quarter runs April 1 through June 30. It is frequent that this time of year presents more options and spring sports and weather get in better shape. We appreciate your interest in this program and want you to know were are here year round and look forward to serving you as you like.
With that said we are into April, the fourth month. We will be working on four directions. It is not about north, south, east and west but finding ways to pivot both 90 degrees and 180. Pivoting helps us find ways to not only face different directions but tests and corrects stances and shines a light on our posture. For those who use their student manual we will build toward Kihon 4 a set of turning exercises that will cover the four directions. Our kata are very good exercises to get us moving in different directions with different techniques so we will draw inspiration from them. Shisochin or “four directional fighting” puts specific focus on getting us pivoting in the four directions and using angles to set up defense. With all these exercises we will get more in touch with our hips and how to utilize them in practice. As we draw out bunkai we will find good self defense applications using these concepts. We have begun the “Kicking or Balancing kata” where we balance and kick in the four directions. This is a sure way to strengthen our hips and test our balance. We are creative in how we get up and down incorporating the pivoting. This month is sure to challenge…
||GOJU-RYU SHISOCHIN KATA by MORIO HIGAONNA
Shisochin “Four Gates” or “Four Directions of Conflict” Shisochin translates as “Four Gates” or “Four Directions of Conflict”. To leave it at that discounts a truer …
Looking forward to practicing with you all this month.
A local high visibility Martial arts school has recently and suddenly closed to the dismay of their loyal students. As an active member of Menomonie for most of my life it saddens me to find out about this development in our community. They have provided an important service to this area giving children and adults alike options in activity for those who are less interested in “conventional” sports. I have seen several students impacted positively by participation in Martial Arts and their loss will be felt.
This being said Menomonie Goju is the longest standing dojo in Menomonie. We have been active since 1984 when we began as SMAF at the Leisure service center. Unfortunately we too experienced the abrupt loss of our instructor and were left floundering in the late 90s. We have been under the current leadership since 2001 and in the same “new” location 1807 Wilson St NE Menomonie since 2003. We are run by local resident professionals committed to the community of Menomonie and keeping options for children teens and adults who appreciate a traditional non-sport oriented martial arts experience. This is not to say our option is for everyone and that is why the loss of this dojo is unfortunate. If you are looking for additional martial Arts classes you are welcome to check us out on our website for the most information http://menomoniegoju.com/ or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/menomoniegoju/ Email email@example.com
The most common question people ask when they call is, “do you spar?” My response for years has been “no”. I usually talk about the drills we do and how they develop skills and reactions and how these drills help us gain more information from our training. I find it seems like it often falls on deaf ears. That is OK, this is why we interview each other. If sparing is what you want this is not your school. If you want to learn an authentic Okinawan Martial Art (or two) the way they have been done traditionally this is the school for you. One parent put it this way:
“The lack of sparring is exactly why I chose Menomonie Goju Ryu. Sparring can be counter productive, time consuming, and caters to those who want just “fighting”. Your approach is much more refined. The Okinawan karate was created for the purpose of defense. Sparring can interject offense that can lead to unacceptable behaviors outside of the dojo. We appreciate that the focus of the classes are on technique, preparation and fitness.”
As a student in the past we did jiu kumete or free sparing. We would spend about 1/4 of our class time on this exercise. When I was going to classes 4 and 5 times a week this amounted to several hours each week. I learned several things including that I could block and take an incredible amount of punishment. I often hated it, I hated that we were not learning martial arts in my opinion. We were not gaining an understanding of the concepts in the gifts we had been given of the katas thoughtfully crafted and carefully handed down. It is this experience that brought me back to Okinawan style Goju Ryu and informed the response above. Goju Ryu is a practical art developed by people whose lives depended on fighting or at least being prepared. Kata are packages to transmit information, our job is to unpack the concepts they transmitted and develop them for use.
“Open dojo” is a term we use that I define and a time of self-directed practice with support. This is an outcropping of our understanding of how the Okinawan dojo works. The first time we traveled to Okinawa we were informed we were not going for class, we were going to experience the training environment. Our job would be to go the building, change into our Gi, get on the floor and start practicing (something/ anything). If we were left alone that could mean one of two things; one was we were doing well and did not require assistance. The other was a bit more subjective but basically we had done something wrong. Basically as long as we were not standing around someone would stop by and offer assistance. The effort comes from within as a way of showing the students strengths and areas they need help. What we did with the assistance is what determined the result. If we set to work on it and integrated the new information we may get more attention. Students who did not would get passed over on future rounds. Now the most frustrating part of this was not always being able to perform the correction the way the senior wanted to see it. The good thing is they “grade” on effort not on being perfect. My first and very memorable experience with this idea was when I was lucky enough to be in the Jundokan dojo at at time it was not very busy. The ladies of our group had gone to a dancing class others went for a walk to the beach. I went to the dojo, put on my uniform, got on the floor and began practicing Shisochin kata. After about 30 minutes of working by myself, Iha Koshin Sensei walked by. We had seen him perform in a large public demonstration of persons designated as cultural living treasures a few days before and had met him on the street later with one of our seniors. I was aware he was in the building but had not seen him more than to know he was there. As he walked by He stopped and looked at me for a moment watching me practice. He made an adjustment to my kata, watched me do it a couple times and walked away leaving me to integrate this information. I continued to work for a while by myself until I was ready to go. Every time I get to that part of the kata I remember this adjustment and hope I am making him proud.
Contrast this with the following: My asking a friend to show me a kata I did not yet know in exchange for one I knew but he did not. His response was basically “Sensei will show us when we are ready”. Or maybe my asking one of my seniors to help with some exercises where his response was “Did Sensei show you that?” Senior students should not be “teaching” new things.
Our first Instructor would make us recite our “Karate Oath” which follows “Karate is my Art, Peace is my Way, Perfection is my Goal” Perfection is a goal. If any of us were perfect there would be no reason to continue. At one point I trained with a guy who suggested in his dojo of origin you could earn your next rank by beating the person who was higher than you. That is one way to advance but it values only certain attributes. For example: if Mike Tyson (dated reference I know) were there he would be the senior unless you wanted to try him out. Each person brings something special to the dojo, all are valued. The role of Sensei is to provide drills that help all students develop skills, become their best and achieve the goals they set. The students’ job is to put in the effort and integrate the information not become “perfect”.
Today I write to thank you for your support of our Yoga Program. The past few weeks have been great is several ways! It makes my night to see interactions between participants making each other feel welcome and scrunching closer to make room for each other as classes get more full. Of course we have been doing some great work toward our goals with each class. I appreciate each of you making room in your schedule for our class, we can have many irons in the fire and it is important that you feel welcome attending and comfortable with your practice.
Over the years there have been times when I feel to busy for practice. It is during these times it is needed most. Occasionally I have tried to “multi task”, practicing while watching a webinar, or listening to a lecture. Sometimes I have felt the need to keep my phone near me to know the time or to watch for that important message. These multi-tasking strategies have impacted the experience of my practice in a way that I may call negatively. I miss the deep relaxation at the end and do not end feeling as refreshed seeming to drop right back in to the state of “chaos” I fought leaving to practice. As a “teacher” at times I have kept my phone nearby to watch for messages from participants who were running late etc. It continued to be a distraction from my ability to lead class in one way or another. Worse yet it distracted people who were close to me with sound, (even when silenced it vibrated…) and the light would draw not only my attention but that of those around me.
For me the practice has become a “mini” media fast. It is a small way I can work to keep my attention on what is happening on my mat and let the “worries” of the world melt away. The messages will be there after practice is done and amazingly and I feel more organized, my webinars get watched and the lectures find themselves listened to. I invite you to join this practice in the studio. If you are able extend this to your home practice taking note of the changes.
The Lunar New year is upon us. One tradition that my wife and I have tried to keep with the incoming new year is to do some releasing of things we no longer need. I will be going through my closet over the weekend and selecting items that no longer serve and boxing them up for a trip to Goodwill. I am excited to rip in and thin out the collection selecting out the items I really love and sharing the rest. I am thankful for the blessings these items may have been, recognize they are not required anymore and they may be of benefit to others. You may ask what does this have to do with our martial arts training? Read through the Dojo Kun: Live a plain and simple life.
In this spirit I am writing today as we have recently received an “abundance”. Some of our former dojo mates have found martial arts supplies that has graciously been donated to the dojo for anyone who can benefit. With this abundance I have sparked to clear out storage areas at the dojo as well. There are t-shirts, some sweatshirts and uniforms all in various states from new to used(All have been washed). There may be some interesting items. If you have uniforms to share you may drop them in the bin (please wash first). Look over what is in this bin and take what you can use. The remainder will be donated to Goodwill after the 10th of February.
The other day I read an article in a publication I receive talking about safety on the road entitled “Think Slow”. The author referenced a game his “friends” would play when they were in their youth where you say “think fast” while doing something that they can not avoid but can not help but react wildly. This article painted a picture of youth and mischief but made some great points.
In our Karate training we work to prepare ourselves for unpredictable things. We work to create reactions that will serve when we do not have time to formulate thoughts. (refer to the kempo hakku; Reaction must occur without conscious thought). Sanchin is at the foundation of our training; a way of forging a body and mind that is able to handle the stresses of this possibility. Sanchin is preformed slowly to develop control and focus on detail among other things. When we practice Kihon (basics) we often do them slow “for form”, then faster. It is usually stressed that we should only go to the pace where we can do the move with the form we are striving for. In kicking practice slow kicks are often stressed again for form, however we notice that slow is more difficult as it is work to hold our foot up longer and it exposes challenges to our balance we may not notice when going faster. As a student it is easy to be eager to move on to the next kata or push to get to the next level. The thirst for knowledge is a good thing but not at the expense of technique. The same thing is often stressed in strength training that the form is most important.
Often we remind of how Goju Ryu has only 12 kata. Why do you think this is? Could it be that the founders wanted you to ‘cross train’ (in all styles) so they would make this easy to become a part of a “greater” curriculum? I have seen many school advertising that they teach Goju Katas in part of their curriculum. Could it be that they had 12 levels so you only needed 12 to get all your belts or that they were so in tune with the yearly cycles there is one for each month? Could it be that there is not a lot of information to transmit so it only amounted in 12 kata? Hardly. Perhaps the founders intended us to spend more time on things and take it slow to get a full understanding of all contained information. It is said that Miyagi Sensei would teach a student Sanchin and one or two other kata depending on their body type… (Wait there are 12 but you are only going to teach me 3? And I am only going to do Sanchin for 3 years… ) As you can imagine it may not fit in the YouTube generation whos’ culture may explain why there are schools that have 40 or more kata. Even our Kobudo Curriculum may have 12 weapons but the bulk of our training time is done with the Bo, Sai and Tunkua and to a lesser degree Nunchaku. Each weapon has basics and few kata,(Bo 5, Sai 3, Tunqua 3, Nunchaku 1). Much time is dedicated to basics then progressing to kata, Perhaps to develop skills that become second nature and can occur in the absence of conscious thought. Additionally of note It has been my experience that the skills learned with these first four scaffolds to the more “advanced” weapons.
For January we will recommit to basics and Sanchin training. The more we examine even the most basic technique we find a wealth of information in an ever deepening practice. Taking our time to lay down the foundation ensures high degree of skill adaptability and proficiency. Refer back to the tortoise and the hare if you want, Slow and Steady wins the race.