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aurik
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 08 Nov 2016
Posts: 549
Location: Denver, CO
Styles: Shuri-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu

PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2023 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Training continues to go well. My back isn't 100%, but it's definitely getting there. I've bumped up my training to 3-4 sessions per week, including teaching sessions. I've also started to go back to Aikido, but I'm starting to rethink that due to other issues (knee issues involved with taking falls and getting back up from them). I may switch to Kobudo. It's a lot more strenuous, but I can deal with muscle exhaustion much better than I can deal with joint pains.

Last night I went back to the advanced adult class for the first time -- it's been difficult recently mainly because of Zach's schedule. He generally has (Boy) Scouts on Tuesday nights, but now that we can just drop him off, I can make it to the advanced class. And I admit that I've missed it quite a bit.

Last night I taught for the 5p-6p class. Since we've got students who aren't quite 100% focused due to the summertime, our CI had us do our hojo undo bunkai-style. He stressed to the kids (mainly 10-13 year olds, brown belts and up) that they needed to give good strong punches to their opponents so their opponent could benefit. Likewise, I found myself correcting a number of students during kotekitae, because they were just "going through the motions", and not actually practicing a good stance, solid punches, blocks or strikes.

One of the things I'm coming to realize is that the basics are *everything*. If you have good, solid fundamentals, everything looks better. If you take your hojo undo seriously and focus on the little things, it transfers directly into your kata. Most of the sequences in our kata come straight from our hojo undo. For example, one of the things I've been focusing on in my hojo undo is enhancing the "snappiness" of my hajiki uke. It also so happens that the first movement in our Seiryu kata (required for second degree) is a double hajike-uke, and now I'm starting to hear my gi "pop" with that movement. It's a very satisfying sound.

So last weekend, our CI went back to Michigan to train with his sensei, Master Thompson (head of our organization), and he came back with some new techniques. One of them is a few new applications of the double wa-uke blocks we do in several of our kata, most notably at the end of Sanchin. The setup involves the opponent throwing a left-right punch combination, and you end up grabbing both hands in sequence. From there, you can either push them backwards, take them down (backwards), or a few other things.

It was a lot of fun.

However, today my body is telling me that it's SO not used to doing 2.5 hours of training in a day. It's a good soreness, but it is a reminder that I have a long ways to go before my next grading. Fortunately I'm starting my preparations far enough out to get there.
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aurik
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 08 Nov 2016
Posts: 549
Location: Denver, CO
Styles: Shuri-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu

PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2023 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Back for my regularly scheduled update.

So when our CI and his wife came back from Michigan, they brought a visitor with them, Mustafa, who is a nidan in Uechi-Ryu, and has been studying Kobudo with our CI via Zoom throughout the pandemic. I've had the opportunity to train with him a few times, and he is the type of training partner you either really like or really hate to train with. In my case, I really enjoy training with him. He is the most quiet, unassuming, respectful person you will ever meet. However, he is also fast, strong, and hits like a freight train.

I find it refreshing to train with new partners, especially new, skilled, partners. You don't know exactly what to expect from them, so your defenses have to be spot on. For example, in our dan-level drills the typical defense against a roundhouse kick is an "x-block". Your opposite arm blocks low, your same-side arm blocks high, and you end up covering your entire body from the waist to the head. However, most of the partners I train with just can't (or don't) kick above the waist level, so I tend to just block with the low arm. Well, I was training with Mustafa, and he is fast, strong, and does roundhouse kicks to the head level -- which is exactly what I tend to do to other students. So he was keeping me honest there.

Also, when we are doing hojo undo with a partner, I tend to power through my partner's blocks at least once or twice in a session -- to teach them that for someone much bigger/stronger than they are that they are usually better off getting out of the way. Well, last night I got sloppy with some of my blocks, and Mustafa tagged me in the chest once or twice. It wasn't hard enough to hurt, but It reminded me that the forms on my blocks should be better.

Likewise, last night our CI had the two of us do kotekitae together. Normally when I do kotekitae I have to ask my partner to go harder. However, this time I had to tell him to take it a little easier than he was going. As I said, he hits like a freight train. I ended up having to quit on leg kicks after about a dozen rounds. Usually I'm telling people that they aren't hitting me hard enough.

Again, a very refreshing experience. He's been really fun to train with. He's here through the end of the week, after which he heads back to Michigan to celebrate my CI's youngest brother's birthday -- he (the youngest brother) just earned his rokudan last month.

I've got a few minor bruises on the forearms from the kotekitae last night, but nothing that won't heal in a couple of days. That's actually the first time I've had bruises from kotekitae since we restarted contact post-pandemic.
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Shuri-Ryu 1996-1997 - Gokyu
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 16497
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2023 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like you had some pretty good training sessions lately. It's always best to train with those that can bring the best out of you, like Mustafa did. Helps to keep you on your toes across the board. I like he tagged you to just enough to let you know that he was there and not to overwhelming you with his true power.

Same things happen for your students when you're teaching. You're more effective than your students, so, you help them to bet better across the board.

Ineffective deflections remain consistently ineffective due to ones technique(s) are immature because one's afraid.

I believe that training partners like Mustafa will be very beneficial for you across the board. Your CI challenges you and more knowledgeable/experienced practitioners training partners have extremely vital.

Train hard and well!!



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aurik
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 08 Nov 2016
Posts: 549
Location: Denver, CO
Styles: Shuri-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu

PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2023 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had a really good time teaching and training yesterday. I generally teach the youth advanced class, which is geared for students 5th kyu and up. At that rank they're starting to work the dan-level kumite drills. I get to work with kids, but they already know how things are supposed to work, so I get to do "fine tuning" along the way. Yesterday was such a day. After our warmups, our CI had me work them through our hojo undo techniques on partners. He told me that if I wanted them to focus on anything specific to do so, so I picked a few examples along the way.

The first technique I had them try differently is our hajike uke-hiraken tsuki sequence. In the hojo undo proper, it is performed with a snapping upward/forward block, followed by a hiraken-tsuki, followed by a chudan-hiraken-uke circular block, followed by a hiraken-tsuki strike. All of the techniques are performed with the same hand, and all of the tecnniques are done with the hiraken-tsuki (leopard-paw) fist. I took this opportunity to introduce the students to the sen-no-sen mindset. Instead of blocking and countering, each of the "blocking" techniques can be both a block and a strike. For example, if the opponent comes in with a punch to the head, the front rising block can be a hiraken strike to the opponent's opposite eye that also deflects the incoming attack. Likewise, the chudan-uke can also be performed in such a way that the knuckles strike the opponent's eyes while deflecting the incoming attack. Some of the students "got it", others didn't, but they at least have that idea in their head to practice in the future.

As we were moving on, I noticed some of the defenders were struggling with which uke to use on a technique. They would step back, start a block, switch to something else, then try something else. So I picked our most complex technique (block-chop-backfist-one knuckle strike) and asked the class, "What is the most important technique in this sequence". The first answer I got was "the chop". The second student said "the block". So I had a student come up and hit me. I showed them what some of the other kids were doing, and lhe of course tagged me, which is what I wanted. I told them that if they got NOTHING else right on the technique, to make sure they got the block right. Because if the block isn't there, none of the other techniques are going to matter.

The third technique I had them focus on was the elbow strikes. We have several options to choose from, but one thing I notice that they often do is they will perform their block, step, and then strike with the elblow. I demonstrated this on a partner, and exaggerated the step, pause, strike. I then showed them how if you step/strike in the same motion that you'd have your entire body weight behind that elbow, which gives you a lot more power, and gave them examples from their kata where we do elbow strikes.

Hopefully what I said sinks in to a few of them. Not all of them are old enough/mature enough in their karate to really get what I was saying, but I think some of them definitely got it.

Fast forward to our advanced adult/black belt class, and we are doing the same thing with our partners. I partnered up once with our CI's younger brother, and he is pretty hardcore. We were doing that same block/chop/backfist/one-knuckle combination. He was coming in like a freight train, and there were a couple times where I was ONLY able to get the block off before getting flustered. But he didn't tag me at all, and he complimented me on how much my uke techniques have improved over the last few months. I then told him what I told the kids earlier.

The class was an evening of working alternate dan kumite drills from other Uechi-Ryu organizations, like Okikukai, Kenyukai, and Kenseikai. We tend to do the Okikuai drills the most, but the Kenyukai and Kenseikai drills are pretty fun, and very different. One of the reasons that our CI has us do these drills is because if (and technically when) the head of our organization passes on, he will likely have to join another organization. If and when that happens, we'll have to re-test for our current ranks using their requirements. So... if we already know their drills then it will just be a matter of polishing those techniques and testing, as opposed to learning a completely new set. Given that Thompson sensei is in his 80's, that might not be too far out. But I'm hoping it's not. The good news is that he'll be coming back for a seminar later this year. I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully it will go better than the last one, where I ended up with muscle cramps right after from not drinking enough water.

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Shuri-Ryu 1996-1997 - Gokyu
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aurik
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 08 Nov 2016
Posts: 549
Location: Denver, CO
Styles: Shuri-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2023 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm back after my weeklong class in Colorado Springs. It was a great class, and I learned a LOT. My forging technique definitely improved quite a bit, as I was able to hammer out a full 30" katana with a 10" tang (40" total) mostly by hand in the course of one day. Towards the end of the day, my forearm started to cramp up, so I used the power hammer to finish out the tang, and I also used it for flattening (it is awesome for flattening!). Day 2 consisted of a lot of time on the grinders, using a draw file, and hand sanding in order to shape the blade and the bevels. On Day 3 we did the heat treatment to harden the blade (including applying clay to the spine to keep it soft). Unfortunately, I apparently didn't apply enough clay to my spine, so the blade ended up completely straightening out in the quench, and the blade kicked further forward in the temper. The end of Day 3 consisted of making the molds for the tsuba (guard). Day 4 consisted of annealing the blades (softening them), re-shaping the curve on them, and then re-hardening and tempering them. On Day 4 we also poured the bronze for the tsuba, which was my first time ever doing casting, and it turned out really well. All I really needed to do was grind the flash off the outer ring, cut off the sprue lines with an angle grinder, and hit it with a brass bristle brush and it turned out GREAT.

Unfortunately the second quench didn't turn out quite as well as the first one in some ways. My blade had a few wobbles in it, which required me to put it in a straightening vise and heat the spine up to soften it. That was a good portion of my Friday morning. Then Friday afternoon I hit the grinders to start cleaning the forge scale off the blade, and we fit up the hibaki, and then started working on getting the tsuba to fit.

The blade is still not finished, but I'll be at the shop this coming Saturday to work on it more. I took plenty of pictures in the proces of making it though. I learned a LOT, and I already have plans to make another sword once this one is finished.
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 16497
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2023 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting addition to your thread; I loved it. It's another way to keep your mind sharp and focused overall. You and Noah have a lot in common when forging is concerned with. I admire those like yourselves that can forge a clunk of metal into a effective thing of beauty.

Forge on, Ken!!



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bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 30275
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE, Police Krav Maga, SPEAR

PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2023 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That sounds like a really fun week! You'll have to share some pictures when you are finished!
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aurik
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 08 Nov 2016
Posts: 549
Location: Denver, CO
Styles: Shuri-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu

PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2023 9:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's been a pretty good week overall. Last week our CI and his wife traveled to Edmonton to train with Shinjo sensei at a seminar for part of the week, and while he was gone his dad was in charge. Which means for the most part I got to run the Tuesday class on my own, with him supervising. As we went through hojo undo, I noticed that there are still a LOT of students that are doing their kicks (especially side kicks) at knee or thigh level, so I admonished them that all of their kicks should be at or above the belt. (Interesting note: when our CI got back today, he was telling students that ACTUAL side target is the knee BUT we don't practice it that way for 2 reasons: 1) If you can kick at the floating ribs, kicking the knee is easy. 2) The consequences of accidentally hitting the floating ribs are much less severe than hitting the knee). And when we got to Sanchin, I noticed that a lot of the students were being "floppy" through the first 3 iterations. So I pointed this out and had them run through Sanchin again. During the water break, Kyoshi told me that he would've done the same thing.

Next we started on two-person drills, working the yellow belt drills and working out way up through green belt. I was working in with students as they rotated, so I was able to give feedback to individuals, and when I saw issues that repeated, I'd ask one of the other students to come up and demonstrate with me, show what the technique SHOULD be, and explain it to them what it was supposed to be and why. Not all of the students would get it, but I'm seeing a few of them pick up on it. So that's pretty good.

Last night's teaching class was also fun. Since it is the first week of the month they will be doing testing this Friday. As such, we "pre-test" the students to see who is ready for testing on Friday. So our hojo undo was done randomly in Japanese. After that, we did Sanchin for 2 repetitions. For the third repetition, our CI pulled the ikkyus aside to work on their hojo undo while he asked me to test the other students' Sanchin. I mainly focused on pushing them to check their arm strength, that they were flexing their fingers properly, and checking their foundation by pushing them at 45 degree angles. When I saw something wasn't quite right, I'd correct it until their foundation was more stable. It was a rough time for them since instead of a 1 minute kata it was like a 5 minute kata.

Last night's advanced adult class was really fun. There are some partners I REALLY like working with, mainly because I learn a lot from working with them. Last night I got to work with David sensei, who recently tested for his godan. I always learn a lot of little things when I train with him. The "meat" of last night's class was the Kenseikai kumite drills -- we don't get to do these very often, but since our CI just got back from a seminar they were fresh in his brain so we got to practice them. These are very direct and visceral.

For example in the first one, the opponent comes in with a chest level lunge punch. The defense is to stand your ground, perform a osae-uke (circular downward pressing block) with the left hand, while striking the larynx with a vertical nukite. Being on the receiving end of that is pretty disconcerting even if they don't touch you with that nukite.

Another fun one we did involves defending against a right front kick. The defense is, again, to stand your ground, drop your right arm down and receive the kick on your right forearm, redirecting it to the right (across your body). You then turn the hand over, reaching down to hook the opponent's heel and pull him past you. Once he loses his balance, you step in with the right, and strike him with an overhand ridge-hand strike on the left clavicle. The official version involves taking him down with a clothesline takedown and a one-knuckle strike to the ribs to finish him. However, our CI said that if he were ever going to use that in a real self-defense situation, his preferred ending would be to pull the opponent into a rear naked choke.

So David and I practice that for awhile. My front kicks are pretty strong, so he was having a hard time at first with the technique, but once he got the concept of receiving the kick on the forearm, redirecting it, and then pulling... well, he started using all of that energy against me. It's definitely a technique I want to work on more.

You can see the techniques I talked about in this video at 0:16 and 0:48.

After class, our CI told us that Master Thompson (10 dan uechi-ryu) would be coming to Colorado for a seminar the first (full) weekend in October -- 3 sessions for adults, one session for instructors, and one (optional) aikido session, along with advanced dan grade testing (5th dan and up). He hasn't been to Colorado since before the pandemic (2018, I think?), and I was a white belt when he was here. Given that he's 80+ years old, this may also be the last time I have a chance to train with him here, so I'm really looking forward to that weekend. There are also going to be 3 sessions for kids, but I'm not sure if Zach is going to be up for it. I'm going to try to talk with him to see if he wants to go, but in the end it's up to him.
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My Journey (So Far)
Shuri-Ryu 1996-1997 - Gokyu
Judo 1996-1997 - Yonkyu
Uechi-Ryu 2018-Present - Nidan
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bushido_man96
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 30275
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE, Police Krav Maga, SPEAR

PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2023 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like a good week of training, getting lots of different things in. Definitely seek out that opportunity to train with that high rank!
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aurik
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 08 Nov 2016
Posts: 549
Location: Denver, CO
Styles: Shuri-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu

PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2023 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another Wednesday, another update.

The last week has been pretty good with an unfortunate setback. Classes on Thursday and Friday were uneventful. Zach and Mrs A went camping over the weekend (with one of her friends and her son), so I had the weekend to myself. Since this was the first week of the month, I decided to sit in and watch the test, trying to look at it from an instructor's eye. Two of the adults I like training with, Devon and Kris were both testing for brown belt (sankyu), so I definitely wanted to watch them. They both have prior experience (Kris in Shotokan, Devon is a 5th degree in TKD), so I had little doubt they were going to pass with flying colors.

The test went extremely quickly, only one or two students were asked to repeat anything ("Can you repeat that" is never a good thing to hear in a test. It means you didn't do something right), so the test was over in about 40 minutes. I was watching Kris & Devon pretty closely on their techniques, and I only saw one or two things that I thought they should work on going forward. I noticed quite a few things from some of the lower-ranked students, and was trying to figure out "what is appropriate for them at their rank". Everyone passed (woop!), and I listened in on some of the feedback the evaluating instructors gave. Some of what I had in mind matched up with the feedback the instructors gave, so I felt pretty good about that. After the test, I told Devon what I noticed about his kata (short version - there is one specific kamae where he let his elbows drift out to the side. I told him about the mantra "All is in Sanchin" with some examples), and he thought about it for a second and agreed with me (Kyoshi couldn't have seen it, since he was facing away).

After the test, I briefly spoke with my CI, and he says that as long as I don't break myself again, he expects me to be able to test for nidan this November/December. That would also coincide with my level 1 (dojo) instructor certification. That would allow me to sit on test boards. Since I would be a nidan at the time, I would also be able to sit on test boards for dan gradings.

Mind you, I don't plan on teaching full-time or part-time. I like the arrangement I have right now, where I teach one or two classes a week. I don't plan on teaching at the rec centers (he runs classes out of the rec centers in Erie and neighboring towns), but I wouldn't mind subbing in from time to time. I see this as both giving back and being a good example to Zach.

Unfortunately Saturday was not the best of days. I decided to start out with the Aikido class and follow up with the all ages/all levels karate class afterwards. Aikido was going really well -- I was getting the feel of the techniques pretty well (considering I am still technically a white belt in aikido). However we got to one point where we were doing nikyo (wrist/elbow lock) and my partner cranked on my arm HARD and I felt something go OW in my elbow/forearm. It doesn't hurt ALL of the time, but when I move in certain directions I can feel discomfort. It seems that when someone sees me the size and strength I am, they feel the need to crank my joints even harder to get me to submit (it's actually generally the opposite).

Fast forward to Tuesday. Our CI decided to switch things up a bit again -- he had us perform hojo undo bunkai again this week, and this time instead of defending against a single punch, he had us defend against a one-two combination. This required a bit of thought on how to set things up properly, but got me thinking "economy of motion" in terms of my uke-waza. A few months ago, we had a seminar with Seisho Itokazu, and he demonstrated an uke where you start with your hands up in "dragon" kamae (think Uechi-Ryu sanchin kata), and all you do when a strike comes in, you take your same-side arm and move it over to cover your body, taking the strike on the blade of the hand and/or the ulna. This is a very gentle uke, takes very little energy, and keeps you in contact with the attacker. If a second attack comes in, you'll feel it immediately AND your arm is already there to receive the other attack (usually with a circular watashi-uke). In any case, I started using this on these double strikes and found it to be really effective.

The next thing we worked on in our Tuesday class was a set of 3-count combinations. The first one we just worked on with our opponent holding an arm out -- a downward press with the same-side hand, a downward press with the opposite-side hand, and then a across-the-body push with the same-side hand. These are meant to be done in quick succession. We then worked on this technique against a strike, and he showed how if the opponent pulled the arm back, the third press can become a grab of the upper arm. The next iteration showed how from this position, you're in a great place to slide in for a rear naked choke.

He then talked about other places this sequence shows up in our kata and bunkai, specifically in our dan-grade yakusoku kumite drills. In this case, the opponent comes in with a right flying kick, and the defense is to sidestep, perform a sukui-uke (downward sweeping block), followed by stepping in to grab the opponent's upper arm. Which of course leaves us in a prime position for... you guessed it, a rear naked choke.

During this, my partner was having difficulty getting the choke in on me because I'm considerably taller and bigger than he is. He mentioned this to our CI's brother and I looked at him and told him, "watch this". I then performed the technique on him, but before I put him in the choke, I yanked him backwards off-balance. His eyes lit up because he immediately saw the application to that as well.

It was one of those classes where you get some really good nuggets of information and now you're looking at places to apply that throughout your karate.

Until next week!
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My Journey (So Far)
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Judo 1996-1997 - Yonkyu
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