Saturday, March 28, 2009

Oh well. It was good while it lasted.

So my quest to storm the karate circuit has taken a drastic change of course. I had the unfortunate news that I will need to have surgery to replace a torn acl in my right knee.
I have known for four years that there was a small tear in the acl, but it recently tore again. The resulting damage has put my knee out of commission. 

I'm looking at doing the operation in June. Great orthopedist named Dr. William Schell will perform the surgery. 

The good thing is that I won't have to live in constant pain anymore.

More to come soon.

Oh, sorry about the lack of posts. Life has been busy. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shh. Do you hear that?

I found this when I visited Julieanne's blog "Be Inspired Today".

"A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin;
it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that a thousand so people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world...

He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story.
Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at a inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musician in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?"

Do we recognize the jewels in our midst?
Do we rudely laugh them off?
Do we tolerate them just to make them go away?
Or do we recognize that they may be the one who can give you the answer to the question of a lifetime?

Are they the angel's that are sent to guide us, while we foolishly ignore thier guidence?

Will we wait until they are no longer among us and we cry lonely tears of sorrow wishing that we had only listened for one moment more? 
Listen to your Sensei and all of the teachers around you. Listen when you think you know it all. Even listen when you believe that no one can tell you anything or show you anything that you haven't already seen. It is from the darkness of black that we are born or re-born and to where we will all return. Your journey to black belt is a hard and long road.

In fact, it is where it all begins.

Train hard. Listen harder......

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Basic Stances

A note of concern. We have allowed the world to tell us that there are differences that matter. I'm taller so I'm better. You're stronger so you are better. We have become a fractioned Goju world. And while I am not saying that this is going to be a big "kumbya" moment, we must study our past and come to grips with it. Someone said "you can never know where you're going if you don't know where you came from." (If someone knows who said that tell me so I can give credit where credit is due). 

These are basic stances that we have taught and learned to date. Yet most are unaware that there are stances within stances. Slight changes and shifts in focus and intent can change form one stance to another:

There are two varieties of horse stance:

Kiba Dachi - Horse Stance: 
The feet are parallel and wide, weight is central and low, with the back straight and the knees and feet pointing slightly inwards. This stance is not used in all styles because of the strong tension is requires in order to keep the feet parallel and knees spread wide. This is the horse stance that USA Goju practitioners have been taught.

Shiko Dachi - Horse Stance : 
Same as Kiba-dachi but the toes face out at about 45 degrees. You have often heard us say that this is the "Okinawin" type of horse stance.

Sanchin-Dachi or Boxing/Three Battles Stance: 
The stance is fixed and tensed with one foot moved forward until the toes of the rear foot are on the same horizontal line as the heel of the front foot. The legs and buttocks should be tensed upwards, while keeping the weight low and the knees bent inwards. This stance has strong tension in the legs and is the basis of the kata Sanchin Breathing kata.

Zenkutsu-Dachi - Front Stance: 
This is a long frontal stance where the weight is mostly on the front leg. It has the exact same height as shiko-dachi, but the rear leg is completely straight at the knee and extended back. The front foot is placed frontal (toes facing forward), the rear foot is turned out 30 degrees, never 90 degrees as seems natural to newbies because this precludes any forward motion. The heel of the rear foot rests on the ground. Zenjutsu-dachi is one of the most common stances in kata. 

Nekoashi-dachi - Cat Stance: 
All weight rests on the back leg, which is bent. The rear foot is turned at about 20-30 degrees out and the knee sits at the the same angle. Only the toes of the front foot rest on the ground, positioned in front of the back heel at about the same distance as the front foot of moto-dachi. There is no weight on the front foot, and there is no bend in the ankle joint - front knee, front shin, and the rise of the foot (but not the toes) form a single line.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

All In The Name

For many of us the names of karate techniques have had a confusing journey. This is especially true for martial artists from the US. Depending on where we were trained and what our lineage happens to be, we could have had a strong or weak translation of  stances, strikes, blocks, and kata. 

Over the next few weeks I will attempt to bring a bit of clarity to the nomenclature of Goju technique and kata. I am working on a few diagram type visuals to assist in these definitions. Look for a post soon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's Personal

Kata is a very personal practice. For years I believed that it should remain the same. Remain a sttic practice. We strived to keep the kata looking the same way as when we learned it. But time is the best of teachers (youtube helps a little too).

I remember back in the 1970's, there was a karateka who went to tournaments who had MS. He would go out and do the most amazing kata demonstrations. Mind you, he had little use of his feet and legs, and had to walk with two crutches. I never remember anyone saying that his kata did not look like everyone else's. Why? The answer is that it was the strength and, more importantly, the spirit he brought to the floor. His martial art belonged to him. He wore it like a friendly coat. It was not contrived. Nor did it seen to be made up so he had something to do that resembled martial arts. He was karateka. He was beautiful.

Kata is a very personal relationship that you have with ourself. Whether you do a hard or soft style of martial arts, it is the study of the nuances of kata that round out your development. It is the study of the origin and root of kata that give it meaning. The myriad of bunkai (application) for kata all depend on how you interpret the kata. Kata is a dance one has with one's self. It is "dancing like no one is watching."

Live in the moment that kata reveals to you. Live in the kata. Dance like your life depended on it. Someday it just may.

"I come to you with only Karate, Empty Hands. I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my principles, or my honor, should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong, here are my weapons, Karate, my Empty Hands."