April

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…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryjZH8e9lrM

 

GOJU-RYU SHISOCHIN KATA by MORIO HIGAONNA

www.youtube.com

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.

 

 

Do you Spar?

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.

Back To school

This week we prepare for back to school.  Thursday and Friday are local students first day of school.
Thursday night will be September First and we will be “going back to school” at the dojo as well.

During the month of September we will recommit to the basics, spending time with Kihon or basic blocks, stances, strikes kicks.  We will review Kihon Ido from August and Keri Ido from July.  The kata of focus this month will be Sanseru and Sanchin dai Ichi this month.

My Goal is to have published study guide available by the end of the month…. Stay tuned.

We will be closed Monday September 5 for Labor day.  

Kickin’ in July

You may know that most of our kata have very few kicks, some even have none.  This is because Karate is a hand art (Kara = empty, Te = Hand) In GoJu Ryu we use kicks mostly to destabilize the body and set up hand techniques.
For July we will work with Keri Ido specifically.  Keri ido is a moving drill using kicks primarily.  The legs are very strong so they can be devastating when used well but they take a lot of energy to use.  Mostly it is a way to condition the body,  strengthen the hips and improve balance.
Keri Ido develops combinations of kicks that set each other up and help us learn to flow with our feet while maintaining balance, developing our sense of distance and ability to target.
Here is to a Kickin’ July!

Are Traditional Dojos Relevent?

My brother in law owns a fitness center where they do group fitness classes from a specific group fitness company.  This company describes them self as a research more than fitness company.  They put out a lot of articles on fitness research, nutrition and even recipes.  They offer licensed classes in fitness clubs all over the world and support certified instructors quarterly.

Over Christmas dinner my brother-in-law started to tell me about a new kickboxing type workout they offered.  He talked about the science that goes into how these classes are structured so you get the most out of them and how this class integrates moves from Karate, Tae Kwon do, Boxing, Muay Thai, Capoeira and Kung Fu in to one great workout.  I could appreciate what he was saying from some perspectives.

This is what I term Marital Fitness not Martial Arts.  It seems disrespectful to “combine” several martial arts that take years of discipline and hard work to understand, for fitness.  At least they were not giving out black belts…  Often when I see several martial arts advertised it is a flag to me that none are truly understood.  Now with this class the martial aspect was not highlighted, and that is an aside.

My Brother in law is a great businessman and a natural sales person so it was easy to get excited about this class as he talked about it.  He extended an invitation for me to attend and I was happy to take him up on the offer.  It had been two days of visiting and driving and eating and I was in need of movement!  About 20 people were punching the air when I arrived.  We went through drills and combinations kicks and jumps, even practiced running.  The talk from the instructors was motivational, positive and uplifting.  Like any good fitness program they encouraged participants to listen to their needs and offered modifications.  The interval nature of the training was evident and it works no question.

Well on to my initial question, are traditional dojos relevant?  With all the research and science that goes in to modern methods of exercise why would you continue doing something from 100 Years ago?  If your goal is fitness these modern options may be more appropriate.  But there is so much more to be gained from traditional training; body awareness, Timing, a thorough understanding of distancing and a level of control so we are capable of hitting a specific target.   We focus on skill development that leads to self-defense and situational awareness.  Now an argument could be made that these things could be developed by adding a few steps to a modern class.  True so what is the value of traditional dojos?  At the minimum a dojo that holds the traditions assists in developing respect for authority.  There is a sense of accomplishment and resiliency as a student puts in the hard work to progress through the belt system.

In an interview with Black belt magazine April 24, 2015 Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a huge advocate for martial arts training, answered the question:  What physical and interpersonal skills do children and teenagers take away from martial arts training?

 Discipline, perseverance, respect for self and others, exercise, self-defense, focus, a sense of accomplishment. Along the way, children develop maturity, camaraderie, self-control, confidence, competency at something that requires their mind and body, coordination, respect for authority — which they often don’t have at home, sadly — and so forth. For many children with absent fathers and chaotic home situations, the martial arts studio is where they learn to settle down, focus and feel a part of something special. “

About her own training which she began at 41 she said:

“I didn’t need to learn discipline; I am hardwired that way. I loved the formalities and having goals that I couldn’t obtain just with IQ: grit, stamina, coordination. I was so happy to finally learn how to breathe in order to keep my balance on one leg. People are still amazed that to tie my shoe laces, I don’t sit down or bend over. I bring my foot up to me and tie the laces with only one foot on the ground, without wobbling.”

More importantly we learn a philosophy.  There are embedded concepts in the traditional methods that are only discovered after years of repetitive practice.  Those concepts vary from style to style and to some extent dojo to dojo depending on how they are unpacked.

In the Book The Weaponless Warriors , Richard Kim sensei Writes:

The most difficult task in teaching karate is to instill belief in the moral aspects of the art. Most students are interested in the immediate results of fighting techniques and care little about morality which is the foundation behind them.

This raises the question, “If we are fully aware of the violence inherent in man’s nature, are we not turning out killers? Are we not teaching an art that enables man to destroy man?”

The answer must be, as great Okinawan Masters have always answered, “yes, we are fully aware of the violence inherent in man, and that the art of karate embraces within itself techniques to kill with the empty hand. But, there is a morality involved, woven in the fabric of karate, that controls the violence and the use of the art except under one condition–absolute necessity in dire Peril.”

The rhetoric is good, but the question itself is academic. How does one go about teaching fighting techniques and instilling morality at the same time? How does one accomplish the juxtaposition of fighting and morality at the same time?

The answer is found in the kata, the heart of karate. Kata is meant to train the mind, and is not intended solely for conceptual and intellectual self-defense. Indeed, to bring it in contact with the real self is it’s true purpose.

Kata, in the traditional sense, is a religious ritual. The art of karate does not mean the ability of technical excellence, which can be developed by physical training, but inability of attaining a spiritual goal through the practice of the kata, so that the player plays against himself and succeeds and conquering himself.

The basis of kata is in the concept “karate ni sente nashi,” literally translated, “in karate, one does not make the first move.” All kata begin with defense and end with the defense. The kata instills the belief that the true karateka never strike first, and never strike in anger.

Warming Up to the New Year

A few weeks ago I attended an in-service on sports performance with a very prestigious method that is used by many collegiate and professional sports teams, special forces and professional emergency response organizations and Rehabilitation agencies.  Self described “as a leader in applied research and innovation to advance human performance”.  This short in service was specific to the warm ups.
 
We were running through various exercises that were thoroughly studied to provide optimal preparation for maximum sports performance.  As we worked through this set of exercises my Physical Therapist co-workers, many of whom were collegiate athletes, noticed how it seems like I do these exercises all the time, which is great since they were very similar to some of the yoga exercises and Junbi undo techniques we employ in the dojo.  

Today I am writing about Junbi Undo, one of the cornerstones of Goju Ryu.  Created by Miyagi Chojun Sensei after extensive research with medical professionals into the workings of the human body, the junbi undo of Goju-Ryu are more than a warm up but a way of instilling martial movement and building a robust body of good health
 
The exercises contained within junbi undo not only loosen the joints they promote mobility and martial movement. Relating specifically to Karate technique, the various methods gradually raise the heart rate, promote circulation, regulate the breathing, massage the internal organs, and boost the immune system.  Body-weight exercises designed to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles and spirit of the practitioner.  Breathing exercises introduce the concept of hakkei and how to issue power using the entire body and breath. Also contained within the exercises are elements of Kiko (Qigong), the harvesting and circulation of energy in the human body. Many of the movements transfer directly into Kata demonstrating the link.  
 
My definition of Self-defense has been to protect (my/our-self) from anything that would cause us harm.  In modern days it may be complications from inactivity.  Regular practice of Junbi Undo helps to ensure we remain active, mentally alert, and energetic throughout the span of our lives.  
 
Our focus for January will preparing the body for our Karate practice.  That is not to say we will not practice other things, but we will be paying special attention to Junbi undo and Sanchin as this is the foundation.  
 
If you are looking less to instill Martial Movement but still like the ideas of promoting mobility, increasing circulation, boosting immune function and stabilizing joints with body-weight exercises. Additionally we will work to connect with breath and calm focus the mind in our Yoga classes.  We will also begin some dedicated time for supplemental exercises, with implements to help with strength.   
 
Looking forward to a great 2016!