Friday, September 25, 2015

Karate Konundrum

I love karate. A few things I like about it are:

  • Solo Kata. Karate has way more in the way of solo practice methods than judo or aikido. 
  • Paired kata-based drills. The stuff Iain Abernethy does with regard to kata-based sparring really helps make traditional karate work as a practical means of self-defense
  • Legacy. I just really like the history and rich tradition of karate. 

But as I've said before, it's hard to get training in karate around here. I mean, there are a ton of karate dojos, but very few of them are what I'd consider legit. Of those, the schedules don't work for me, and the teachers I've reached out to aren't keen on doing private lessons. My current Shotokan teacher has been okay, but lately he hasn't been available for lessons. I't been about 3 weeks since I've been able to train with him.

Even though karate provides for solo training, when I'm not doing regular lessons, I'm finding it hard to stay motivated to practice at home regularly. That's on me. 

For all the reasons above, I chose karate for my striking discipline, but if it's increasingly difficult to train, it may not be the best choice for me. Since my main concern is self-defense, the Shotokan I'm learning has to be heavily supplemented anyway. I'm wondering if I should switch over to another striking art. It would have to be something more modern like Krav Maga/Combatives and/or kickboxing/Muay Thai. I think either of those would be easier (more efficient) to learn than karate, and there's a lot of kickboxing around here, even at my judo club. I also have some guys at work that might be interested in kickboxing with me during lunch breaks. 

Even if I stop karate lessons, I can still practice the two kata I know in my free time (heian shodan and nidan). I'm not sure what I'm gonna do yet. Just putting thoughts-to-keyboard to try to sort it out. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Judo, 9/23/15

Wow, super tough class tonight. I didn't feel tip-top going into it in the first place. Anyway, we went over groundwork for our rank groups first. Most of the class was taken up with that. Then we played a game where one guy tried to pin, and the other guy tried not to let him. I know that sounds like normal Judo, but top guy couldn't get to his feet and couldn't attempt submissions. Pins only. Bottom guy couldn't sweep, he could only maintain guard and escape the pins. I started on bottom and pulled my large opponent into my guard. Once I get my feet locked, they stay locked (usually). That was the case here, and he spent the whole time trying to open my guard.

When it was my turn on top, I passed a few times, and always got my partner into turtle, but he's got a huge, stable base, and I couldn't turn him over very well. Oh well, practical self defense is my main concern, and in a self defense situation, there's no reason I'd want to turn a guy on his belly, over onto his back; I'm much safer with his back to me.

Next we did two rounds of standing-to-ground randori, and four rounds of ground-only randori! Brutal!  I don't remember much except my first throw was countered, and me and my brown belt opponent went to the ground pretty quickly. I did escape his side mount and recover guard once! Escaping side control is rare for me so I was pretty excited. I used a spin-out escape I saw on Marcelo Garcia's website. The next few rounds were all a blur. I went against the brown belt again, and did okay (I got a good mount "escape"....that is, a leg entanglement, from a bump/frame/shrimp I learned from Roy Dean's first DVD). The other rounds were against a couple of the heavier guys, so survival was my focus. Most of the time I succeeded! Most of my taps were to my lungs being crushed.

Everyone was spent by the end of class. Good workout! I'm getting better, just very, very slowly.

Judo, 9/21/15

Tough training! We started with grip fighting drills, then moved to a pinning drill. Kesa, to Mune, to Kame shiho, to kesa and mune on the other side, to tate, then back to the beginning. Then another round of it while our partner gave some resistance. Fun drill, and wore me out!

Next we did a few guard passing drills, then ground randori. My partner for the night was Kelly, who outweighs me by 50 pounds or so, and bench presses 350ish. I juts try to survive when rolling with him. He usually gets me in an americana, but mainly using his strength. On the bright side, if I can learn to deal with him, I can deal with most others.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Aikido, 9/19/15

It was so good to get back to doing some aikido over the weekend! We worked on Merritt Stevens' self-defense methods, mainly from an overhand right punch. Lots of good practice! It's always fun to see our stuff work in a slightly more realistic way. So many techniques can come off of the initial "hands-up-get-off-the-line" reaction!

Judo, 9/16/15

Another pretty light night. We got in throwing lines and did a side-version kubi nage and osoto gari. I can't recall what else we worked on. That's what I get for waiting so long to blog! I went one round of standing randori, with a new guy. We traded throws, and I felt pretty good about it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Judo, 9/14/15

Last night was a pretty easy night. First we worked on grip fighting, but it was more conceptual this time, as opposed to finger-rippingly painful. The instructor talked about a couple of things I've been having trouble with in randori lately. Preacher was reading my mail, as it were.

First, we looked at how you can't expect to have an "equal" grip with your opponent and expect to use judo on him. You might get lucky, and be stronger or bigger than him, but if neither of you have a grip advantage, the stronger/quicker/bigger guy is likely to throw the weaker/slower/smaller guy.  Conversely, if you have an advantageous grip, you have a better chance of getting the throw, despite other disadvantages.

Secondly, he talked about how he sees a lot of guys in randori stiff-arming their opponent, and how that in turn makes the other person get strong and stiff-armed, and both guys find it really hard to throw. PREACH!  He talked about how your grip needs to be strong, but your arm should be soft, like an antenna rather than a ramrod... hearkens back to what Pat's been preaching for years! So the idea is if we're using our arm as a "feeler", we can feel where our partner is moving, and tell what throw we need to do, and when. "Connectors instead of effectors", as Chuck Clark used to say.  We worked on a sensitivity drill that I think I got a lot out of. Really brings back some "ju" to the judo we're doing.

We ended the class with hop randori. I went against a pretty new white belt. I felt like I could make my throws work a lot better, and that was encouraging; shows I am growing, despite how I feel against other, more "seasoned" guys.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Good Article Regarding Knives for Self-Defense

Deadly force better be justified if you pull a knife! Check out this post for some good thoughts on knives for self-defense:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Judo, 9/9/15

We're still in shiai prep mode, but it was a fun class. We worked a lot of grip fighting, then moved on to seoi otoshi, and kubi nage or harai goshi, whichever one we wanted. I haven't done much harai goshi before, but I really liked it! I got a couple really good throws with it.

I did one round of standing-and-ground randori, but it was against Kelly, who outweighs me by 50 pounds. He shuts down my throws but I'm getting a little better against him on the ground. It's tough out there on the mats!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Judo, 9/7/15

First, an update:  I recently let my instructor know that although he wanted to get me ranked up to green belt, I only wanted rank verification up to orange. After training in this club for a while now, I have a better idea of where I am in relation to my classmates. And as rusty as I am, I feel way more like an orange belt than green.

Regular classes were cancelled for Labor Day, but they did open the dojo for open mat night!  Only about 7 of us showed up. I got to work with an Ikkyu buddy of mine on my orange belt rank material. Mostly counters to the throws:

  • deashi harai as a counter to Kouchi gari
  • kosoto gake as a counter to ouchi gari
  • tsubami gaeshi to counter deashi
  • osoto gaeshi to counter osoto makikomi
  • sumi gaeshi to counter kibisu gaeshi (this one is really fun!)
We also worked on the two orange belt combos:
  • kouchi to kibisu gaeshi
  • kouchi to ouchi
I had a frank discussion with a couple of ikkyus and a black belt about my frustration with my standing randori. I told them how I feel as awkward with tachiwaza right now as I did with ground randori when I first started. To my surprise, the brown belts feel much the same way! We got to talk about how they've persevered through the exact same frustrations that I'm dealing with now, and some things to try to be more successful. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that the reason a lot of my throws aren't working, is because I'm not fully committed when I throw. I'm hesitant and overly cautious.We'll see if I can keep that in mind next time.

Finally, I rolled once with the brown belt that was teaching me. I did okay, he never tapped me, and I swept him once. I did get him into a "shoulder guard" I learned on a Roberto Abreau video, but forgot what to do with him when I got him there, haha!

I'm glad I went, and it made me feel a little better about my judo. I'm hoping I can make it through this tournament prep season without losing interest!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Karate, 9/5/15

After a warm up, we learned a few one-steps. All are done against a right-handed punch to the face:

  1. Parry with right hand as I evade to the back right, counter with right elbow
    • I need to work on the parry:
      • Don't over-extend my arm
      • Parry with palm, not fingers
      • Use hips for power in the elbow strike
      • Choose my target
  2. Parry with left hand as I evade to the back right, right ridge hand strike to neck or temple
    • I need to work on the arc of my ridge hand. I'm going too "straight in"
  3. Rising block with left hand as I evade to the back left, counter with right roundhouse kick and right punch to the ribs
    • Need to work on judging my distance better so I don't have to readjust after my evasion. Lots of the efficiency of movement we're working on reminds me of aikido.
  4. Rising block with left hand as I evade directly backward, counter with right front kick and right punch to the face
On all of these drills, I need to get used to evading away from uke. I think aikido and judo have made me want to enter. There are times shotokan enters (just like we can also evade away in aikido), but not in these drills.

Next we did some good old line work. Kihon can be hard work! I was ready to hurl a couple of times.

We ended the class with some light free-sparring. It was a lot of fun! Although I was uke for most of it, haha. I'm impressed with (higher level) karate's ability to fight from long range. I suppose aikido and judo are both technically grappling arts, and are usually within one or two arm's lengths. Toward the end I decided to try to stay in short range. There's definitely a different dynamic, but I didn't fare much better. I think my teacher has learned to deal with different ranges after 35 years of practice   ;-)

Looking forward to next time!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Judo, 8/31/15

Last night we drilled some grip fighting, and then got into throwing lines to throw our tokui waza. I don't know what my tokui is, really, but I was hitting some pretty good kouchi's last night. After that we worked rank promotion material, then did several rounds of standing and ground randori. It was a good workout!

I don't know why, but last night was one of those times I found myself thinking "Why am I doing this?"

I can think of a few possibilities, but I can't put my finger on the reason for sure. Possibilities include:

  • I've been doing Judo pretty regularly for 3 months now, maybe I'm just getting tired of it.
  • I missed both classes last week, maybe it's just hard getting back to it.
  • Maybe I'm dissatisfied at how I still feel like a noob, especially in standing randori.
  • Maybe increasing stress at work is making it harder for me to commit 2 nights a week to Judo.
  • Maybe it's because the club is switching into "tournament prep mode" for the upcoming tournament in October. I'm just not interested in shiai at this point.
  • Maybe it's because I was on 3 nights of poor sleep, and I was just "off".
Whatever the case, I'm gonna keep at it, and see if the feeling passes. Stay tuned!