Thursday, September 2, 2010

Karate, 8/30/10 (and Beyond)

Over the past few months I’ve been reevaluating my judo training. I’ve been training aikido and judo concurrently, and two things became apparent to me:

1) I enjoy aikido waaaay more than I enjoy judo
2) I think I’m much slower on the uptake in judo than aikido.

So I needed to decide if I wanted to work harder at something I don’t enjoy as much? Or do I spend more time doing what I enjoy more? Or replace judo with another art while continuing my aikido training? I’ve always been very interested in karate – even more so after getting an idea of Pat’s take on it. I’ve decided to continue weekly aikido lessons, and half the time, double the lesson length. The other half of the time (roughly) Pat and I will train karate. So basically I’ll do two karate sessions with Pat per month, give or take. In addition, I signed up for a 3 month membership at a local Shotokan club. I made that decision for a few reasons:

1) It’s local; I can go one or two nights per week by literally driving 10 minutes from where I work. Maybe less. So I can get some mid-week training/exercise. Pat’s dojo is an hour and 15 minutes from my home; even farther from work. It’s not feasible to go to a midweek class there.

2) I figure I can train in the Shotokan school, but my karate will be mainly informed by Pat, who I know has closer ideals in martial arts to my own. So while my body will be training Shotokan, my mind will train Pat-Ryu karate, haha. Not that the two are all that different. But application of kata etc, doesn’t seem to be taught there, at least until after shodan.

3) It’s a way to get some really good mid-week exercise doing something more interesting than running on the treadmill.

This past Monday was my first class at the Shotokan school. I’ll be keeping training logs for my time there as well. I’ll start by saying that the class was a lot more physically demanding than it looked when I observed a couple of times. Sure, I saw people sweating and breathing heavily, but for some reason, I didn’t figure it could be all that bad.

Class began with a light warmup, followed by some simple punching and blocking combos from horse stance and front stance. This is a whole new set of movements that I’m almost entirely unfamiliar with. Keeping up was a challenge, but I guess that will improve. I think the biggest obstacle for me is my legs. It takes mere minutes in a stance for my quadriceps to begin burning like crazy. I guess I’m especially weak there. No kidding, I simply couldn’t stay in the stances as long as I was supposed to. I had to either relax and stand up out of the stance or risk falling down. I’m certain strength will develop over time, and I really hope it does soon.

The next part of class, I and two other brand new students were taken to the side by three black belts to learn the very basics. This was encouraging; I’m glad they didn’t just throw us in the deep end and leave us to figure it out. On the other hand, while I’m grateful for the black belt that worked with me personally, he could have been a bit more understanding of my newness. Ah well … if they’re expecting an “old head on young shoulders” it will be an opportunity for them to learn patience. The guy also kept insisting I stay in that deep stance the entire time. I told him “I’ll get there, but I can’t maintain it the whole time just yet”. He said “You have to stay down in it – it will make you stronger.” Yeah, I get that. But I’m a grown man, and I (mostly) know my limits. And if I could refer him to the FAQ on the club’s website…

Do I need to be in good shape to start karate? No. The beginning classes focus on the basics and correct form. With effort, your fitness will improve as your expertise improves.

I’m not trying to whine. I understand it takes hard work, which I’m willing to commit to. It’s just going to take a little while to get in shape.

I’m trying to get my impressions down rather than go into detail about the techniques; they were just the very basics, which I’ll continue to work on.

Another observation: this club is pretty “traditional” in their training (in the misinformed Western sense of the word….sorry to be cynical). Anyway, I’m studying karate strictly for self defense value. I do enjoy the rich history and some of the culture, but don’t feel the need to “play Japanese” in order to accomplish my goals. I’ll just say this: Saying “OSS” (however it’s spelled) all the time has nothing to do with self defense. I’m sure there will be lots of ideological differences between me and the teachers in the club. But if the karate is good, and it appears to be, I can eat the melon and spit out the seeds. And it's good exercise if nothing else.