Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When I'm 64

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out 'til quarter to three, would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm sixty-four?

Well today I am 64. When the Beatles first sang this I never realized it would be about me.

Been a heck of a year.

Last January diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. So daily blood tests, started walking (try to do 1 to 4 miles a day depending on weather) and increased my karate and tai chi workouts. I taught myself a new kata “Tomari Rohai” and even competed with it.

Then in March diagnosed with Colon Cancer. Surgery, Radiation and continuing chemotherapy. Still walking and practicing. Taught myself Aragaki No Sochin.

Finally in January diagnosed with Myasthenia gravis, a neurological disorder causing facial muscle weakness interfering with my speech. So I’ve been working with a speech therapist and taking new medication. I need to learn a new way of speaking.

While recovering from surgery I began my analysis of early Karate writings and posted those results on my blog.

I have a never ending list of projects I’m working on for my students. I recently completed an analysis of Mutsu’s applied techniques I refer to as “there is no first strike in Isshinryu” which is awaiting revision as we work on them. I’m currently re-editing my notes on the late Harrill Sensei’s 1995 clinic on 85 applications from Kusanku kata working for greater clarity for my students. The list I have is endless and much of it too private for my blog.
Michael Cassisdy is the primary instructor for the youth program and he’s doing a super job with them. I end up with the advisory role where I get to yell at them for mistakes (OK I exaggerate as I don’t really yell but I do try and help their progress. It’s a great learning experience for me).

The adult program continues, but the major student is me. Having a very small group, and tough economic times taking their toll on everyone to keep their jobs leave them a lot less time for karate.

I was fortunate to spend some time last year with everyone who has trained me (Tom Lewis, Charles Murray, Tristan Sutrisno, Ernest Rothrock and John Kerker) and that was special. I hope this year allows more meetings. So far Charles Murray has been visiting for a few brief visits.

And my wife Maureen is working, my son Michael and my daughter Caryn, both work and attend school. So the family is fine and healthy.

Send me a postcard, drop me a line stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say, yours sincerely wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form, mine forever more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm sixty-four?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bushi No Te Isshinryu Kobudo

Weapons practice is an important part of the Black Belt study in Bushi No Te Isshinryu.

Not as much as for defensive use but for the secondary skills the training provides during the years of practice. Over 15 or so years the fingers, hands, arms and entire body as strengthened as the weapons study progresses. This increases application study, as if you grab an arm and move it down as if striking with a sai.

In our dojo we practice the Isshinryu weapons kata as practiced by Charles Murray. We also study version of Bando practices for staff and stick as they were shared with me. Additional studies for kama and tanto derive from Tristan Sutrisno, which are restricted to the senior practitioners.

Am example of Bo is Michael Cassidy performing Urashie No Bo

Then Michael Cassidy & Young Lee practicing

Chantan Yara No Sai

Or Young Lee performing our version of the Bando form the Hidden Stick. This version was shared with me by an instructor at the Bando Summer Camp in 1994. Their stick was considered a back up weapon for use if the primary weapon was lost. It has obvious use for self defense.

These presentations are not meant to be perfect presentations but are representative of the craft we work at.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Brown Belt-itis

Let’s discuss one of the reoccurring diseases that result from Karate training, being Brown Belt-itis.

I first discovered it in my students close to thirty years ago, and despite efforts to stamp it out, the disease keeps popping up in my students. It’s not restricted to brown belts, it can occur at any rank, though rarely is it seen in White Belts. Even more awful it can occur in Black Belts. I’ve even suffered it myself.

It has many symptoms, the cause is known as well as the cure.

The symptoms, well I’ll give some examples. They’re real examples but the students names are withheld, though they may recognize themselves, simply because the disease is real.

In kata studies, it most often occurs as Brown Belt level. It’s where a student concentrates on the new and neglects their prior studies. They lose sight that they must continue to keep progressing on everything. Part of their advancement is that they have to become more responsible for all their art.

At times techniques change in the kata, at sometimes a regular rate of chance, say30% of the students make the same change, a movement that was never taught. This symptom is so regular it may be the way some nervous systems work, but it needs to be conquered.

Another kata challenge is the Brown Belt study of Kusanku Kata. In Isshinryu it is our longest kata, for that reason students get ahead of themselves in the practice of the kata. Thinking of the next technique they forget to finish the technique they are on. Thus blocks become less than slaps and weak or punches become pushes.

For all of the above, the cure is correct practice. I even warn the students that this will occur to stress vigilance. But Brown Belt-itis still lurks.

Another symptom can occur in kumite. The student having developed some technique begins to feel they know more about what they need, often with interesting results.

One student had super kicks and really enjoyed going to the head. After receiving repeated instruction that this wasn’t the best idea at tournaments would still follow his heart. It took repeated tournaments where he got kicked in the groin (with attendant pain) before he could accept that we had a reason for our cautions, and it wasn’t his ability to kick, it was instead when to kick.

Another student was working out with friends who were boxing. He came up with the idea that mixing boxing and karate kicks was the way to win at tournaments. Even with repeated attempts to dissuade him he held to his game plan. Simply put at a karate tournament it didn’t gain points and afterward it was another instructor who made it clear to him. The same message he had heard but couldn’t hear, Brown Belt-itis.

I once had a group of newer students that I spent the evening showing a simple aikido technique, one of the first movements that I had learned from Sutrisno Sensei many years before. We did a lot of drill and
I explained it’s many uses. Later during a free practice period, another student with many different brown belts behind him was impressing them with his jumping spinning crescent kicks, and all they felt they could do was back up. I an older and much slower instructor took the opportunity and told them they were missing the obvious answer. I then stood before the ‘brown’ belt and asked him to let me have it. He started his attack with speed and accuracy, but I didn’t stand there, instead I stepped in and reached out. He went flying 15 or so feet into the wall (the intent of perceived pain the cause). All I did was the same technique I was showing them earlier. They weren’t Brown Belts, but Brown Belt-itis was the cause.

I’ve suffered it myself. Among my earliest studies with Sutrisno Sensei were two of his simplier Kama kata studies (Chosen no Kama Sho and Chosen No Kama Dai). His family kobudo traditions are unique and the forms build on the same core and the kata in the series advance. What makes them unique are the continual handling shifts the kata require. I’ve not seen similar complexity elsewhere. In the early 90’s my studies with Sutrisno Sensei came to an end. Over the years, with arthritis and aging I became convinced that the purpose of the shifting was simply to build handling skill and under no circumstances would it be utilized for real. Then a few years ago I pulled out an older video tape of Sutrisno Sensei working Chosen No Kama Dai with me. There I saw his technique a veritable vegamatic of movement. Where for me it was exercise, for him it was reality, and this wasn’t his most advanced kama study.

Study isn’t videotape to me, and I neglected to review what I already had.

Essentially Brown Belt-itis occurs when we ignore our instructor’s lessons, intentionally or unintentionally. The cure, correct practice.

Be ever vigilant.

Friday, February 10, 2012

January 2012

Some of the youth class members