Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Forest run

In another cramique-busting measure I went for a long run in the Foret de Soignes today up to the unfortunately named 'Etang des enfants noyés'; a cold and bright morning I returned happily tired out and sweating just in time for tea...

Agrandir le plan

Monday, 22 December 2008

The cramique workout

The cramique workout has been thus named in honour of the yummy if calorific raisin brioche found in Belgium! I had to do the workout to burn some of the bloody calories off!

For the cramique workout you will need:

4 slices of cramique
1 dob of butter
1 empty room
1 old t-shirt
1 old pair kung fu pants
- Firstly spread the butter on the cramique
- Eat the cramique
- Feel lardy
- Wait an hour or so.
- Pull on the items of clothing and go to the empty room with a bit of floor space.
- Do x10 burpees, x10 block and punch combos, x10 front kicks (each leg), x10 round kicks (each leg), x10 side kicks (each leg), x10 press ups, x20 sit ups.
- Reduce heat and each subsequent set by 1 repetition, so next set is x9 burpees, x9 front kicks...etc
- Repeat all the way down to 1.

- Salute the sun (real sun not needed) and at each pose hold for 10 seconds.
- Repeat sun salutation holding each for 20 seconds
- Repeat sun salutation holding each for 30 seconds

- Stand breathing in mother pose.
- Have a hot bath!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Tornado kick!

I was mooching around on the net the other day and I saw a reference to a Tornado kick! Wow... TORNADO,..... KICK! Sounds spectacular and as I'd never heard of it before I googled. I think I youtubed actually but it turns out that the TORNADO KICK is in fact a 360 degree jump spinning roundkick. Yes, I agree the term 'Tornado kick' is snappier. As I was youtubing I found this great tutorial from one of our MMA friends-really nice vid and the technique is only slightly different from the one I do:

...and this is the sort of effect it can have on someone: all the body power and inertia from the spin can make for a strong, powerful kick in competition sparrring:

PS to my shame I can't remember the Korean for this....anyone? (Possibly E Dan Dwi Tollyo Cha Gi)

Autumn Lightning - The Education of an American Samurai by Dave Lowry. A Book Review.

Autumn lightning details not only Dave Lowry's apprenticeship and learning process with the Japanese sword but also the lineage of the style he practices: Yagyu Shinkage ryu weaving the two themes together with relevant insights and inner thought processes. This book is compelling as it is a personal journey which reflects the ancient philosophies and practices upon which this particular ryu was founded giving two aspects to this bugeisha's lifelong journey.

Don't be misled into thinking this is simply a narrative of Lowry's day to day training nor a dry recounting of the ryu's inception and subsequent history! Lowry also works in a lot of feeling about traditional martial arts and underlying philosophies which for me, as a martial artist, help make sense of some of the more esoteric aspects of budo. Easily readable this book covers some interesting concepts such as the spiritual side of training, the hard physical obligation of training, mushin, musogi and much more. 159 pages long in my version and with a good writing style I reckon there's no reason not to make this part of your martial arts reference library.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Mucking about in the garden

So I decided to do a little in-garden entertainment today instead of a run. Warm up was 5 minutes skipping with 12 burpees then some light hand techniques. 

I took this photo through vanity I guess. Sad I know but I wanted to see how it looked (I can't lie!)-and at least I get to examine my round kick a little closer. It seems ok I think- back foot turning out but the kicking foot isn't as horizontal as I'd like: maybe I could roll that hip over a little more. I suppose it depends on the target. If I was aiming for side of jaw I'd be happy enough with that. Bal dung in Korean- the top of the foot.

Interestingly Korean round kick (dollyo chagi) tends to encourage a lean back further with the upper body in order to reach for the higher targets, but I much prefer to stay more upright with my round kick. I feel it's more stable and I can bring my hands into play. Certainly Shorinji Kempo mawashi geri is more upright discouraging the lean.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Master Alex Campbell

My bloody thumb!

Energetic sparring and conditioning session at Tang soo Do last night. I learnt another important lesson whilst bashing up a fellow student: keep your bloody thumbs tucked in! I didn't have my gloves so was free sparring 'naked' (so to speak) and as I thumped him (with a good straight punch I might add!) I caught a hard part of him and as my thumb wasn't tucked tightly round correctly I whacked the end of it which drove it backwards and stressed the first joint. (the carpometaparpal joint apparently! see below) Bollocks, it hurts. But as I said I'll learn. Hopefully ... I'm fairly sure I've done this before! 

Subsequent bag work was good as I was then obliged to tuck it in firmly to contact correcty without further injury.

As it was the last lesson of the year we went for a curry afterwards. The company was great but the Curry Queen on Mill Rd has gone done the swanny for sure....

Sunday, 14 December 2008


"A Florida pizza delivery man who was challenged by armed robbers in the city of Miramar got in first with his own weapon - a large pepperoni pizza."


Taido (躰道)

Nathan Teodoro brought my attention to Taido on the convocation of combat arts (a cool martial arts networking and discussion site) and I thought I'd post a video or two of this quite spectacular style of karate which uses lots of spinning and jumping techniques making for interesting jissen (or randori).

Interestingly the founder, Shukumine, wanted to update karate with more flexible and less 'linear' movement.

Check out the result here...

It was simply-myself.

"What I saw wasn't a ghost. It was simply-myself. I can never forget how terrified I was that night, and whenever I remember it, this thought always springs to mind: that the most frightening  thing in the world is our own self. What do you think?"

The Mirror by Haruki Murakami from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.

Translated by Philip Gabriel.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Three step sparring

This evening at Tang Soo Do training we did some little-practiced three step sparring which turned out to be very satisfying. It's not usually part of our training like one step sparring is but it brings in an interesting dynamic and forces sharp thinking and quick reflexes making it a good pre-sparring technique.

The three step sparring we exercised tonight were random techniques in classical, formal style so not codified and open to creative interpretation. Given this it meant you had to think fast to get some correct blocks and counter techniques in. Although it's a very linear structure (go see this article by Dojo Rat for more on linear or circular) in many ways there is a lot of room for interesting counter techniques on the third defence bringing the entire syllabus into play: hits, kicks, grabs, throws, immobilisation and although done in a very contrived way I think this may be a good precursor to sparring for some junior grades.

A big problem I see with junior grades and sparring is that they rely far too heavily on strength and speed, forgoing a lot of technique. When I see this I always encourage them to slow it down, take the opportunity to try some fancy stuff and practice things 'live' rather than see it as all out conflict! The aim isn't to kick me black and blue. Not yet anyway. I find ramping up to sparring much more sensible than throwing the juniors in at the deep end at full speed and strength. Tang Soo Do sparring is very energetic and quite spectacular to watch and it would be a shame to miss out on this. Above all I find it thrilling to do and great FUN!

Friday, 5 December 2008

What remains...

"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."

This makes me think of Picasso-somebody who mastered the rules, then forgot them.

Most people think of Picasso's paintings as being of the abstract or cubist variety. His politically charged and poignant Bombing of Guernica is a fine example of his analytical and cubist style which he, along with Georges Braque, pioneered and for which he is well known. What some people fail to understand is that in his early life he was an exquisite realistic painter, mostly leaning towards neo-classicism which was popular at the time. At the age of 15 he painted the incredibly life-like 'First Communion' (1895/96) which prompted his own father (and teacher) to give his son his own palette and brushes and vow never to paint again! 

Although Picasso may be known for his fantastic and innovative cubist work and possibly later in his life for his whacky neo-expressionist work it can't be forgotten that this guy was an innovator and art pioneer who had gone through the process of learning the rules-mastering them even so as to be able to (at a very early age) create paintings with almost photographic detail and then pushed through those rules, burning them up forming new styles, new adventures in art.

Sound familiar? It should. Martial artists do similar things. Learn the rules-practice hard and do the basics well. Then get your black belt. It's after this we can start pushing boundaries, looking at other styles (if that's what takes your fancy) or just looking deeper into your own style and making it your own. We might not end up being a Martial Arts Picasso but at the very least we should, just like him, learn the basics thoroughly in order to master them. It's then that our true journey of discovery begins. (See also this article about black belt being merely the introduction...)

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Why oh why...?

Run and kicks

Just done a light run on this bright day and half way round worked on Ee dan ahp chagi (two-step front kick) and Deah ahp chagi (direct jump kick). 

My main aim in deah ahp chagi was to drive off the back leg and jump at the same time without unnecessary preliminary movement or telegraphing of the technique. This guy illustrates how NOT to do it:-

You'll see he brings his legs together and prepares his body to jump which I feel is no good. Maybe he's trying to close someone down then finish with a powerful jump front kick but for me it's best to practice a seamless deah ahp chagi from fighting stance, straight up and thrust. None of this getting ready..ooh,.... right I've stepped up now...erm....jump....and kick. Jump and kick off back leg. End of story.

Finished off training with some stretches and sit ups. Drawing the bow and propping up the sky.


Whilst reading Dave Lowry's Autumn Lightning I was intrigued by his mention of sojutsu or the techniques associated with spear (yari in Japanese) handling.  

There's a neat video on spear kata here: embed was disabled though :-(

(image: Général lançant ses troupes à l'assaut du château de Nagashino en 1575. Estampe de la série Tsuki hyaskushi ("100 aspects de la lune") de Taiso Yoshitoshi, 1887)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Midday training

Well it's all well and good me blathering on about training but the only way to train is to get on and do it! And as Nakayama says in his solid training manual 'Dynamic Karate', "the ultimate goal of karate should be the attainment of a developed moral character built through hard and diligent training", I set to do some training.

I warmed up with some aerobic activity and then rotations (it's good to think of muscles like chewing gum: it's more mobile if you warm them up first) I practiced simple punching. My main aim was to initiate the punch from my waist rather than my shoulders. So as an exercise to see my punch driving straight out from my side rather than flicking the elbow out I stood next to the bookcase so my arm had nowhere to go!

Following this I did simple mae geri (or ahp chagi in Korean) keeping my shoulders as they were during the kick to facilitate a follow up punch with the weight of my body behind it.

I finished up with some dynamic tension techniques and some breathing.

Feel better now.

Gonna have my noodle soup soon....


If, like me, you're huddled up inside with the rain and the wind sweeping down outside wishing it were the summer, why not swing by Dojo Rat and think of it in a different way.

It's all part of the big cycle of life: the hibernation, slowing down and growing fat stage followed by the anticipation and joy of the coming spring. Just like themes within Carmina Burana.... 
Don't know Carmina Burana? I bet you do....

Monday, 1 December 2008

The call of the dunes

As I woke up and curled under the duvet of the cold attic bedroom I knew the day had come. I could hear it calling me and although I wanted to stay a little longer in the warmth of the bed I could tell it wouldn't be long before my body would be inexplicably dragged to the seaside and beasted. To be honest I'd seen it coming. It had been calling me all weekend. The sea was waiting and I couldn't wait any longer. After a brief breakfast of a banana (this could have been a mistake but turned out to be fine in the end) I drove to the old fairground car park and looked out across the wide stretch of beach leading down to the North Sea. Seaton beach (recently famous as the place where the canoeist and scamster John Darwin lived and 'died') is beautiful. Wide and long with golden sand. Spoiled only by the odd littering it really is a marvellous place. The dunes, however have even more character and this is where I needed to run- to expend my energy and train my limbs and muscles.

As I set off on the bright and cold morning I headed to Longscar pier not knowing that when I arrived I'd be so inspired by the view that I'd continue on to Teesmouth which is what happened. Just before the pier I had picked up a fairly light but long log and perched it over my shoulders to give me more of a work out. At the mouth of the Tees there's a sand bar and small ridge of dunes where a lot of flotsam can be found. I exchanged my light log for a heavier one. It wasn't too bad-maybe 15-20kg but it was big!

I learned 3 main things as I chugged (I can't really say I 'ran') back to the car park along the dunes:

1. Breathe. It was a long old haul back to the car: about 2 miles and I was completely lost in the moment of carrying the log and progressing one foot after the next that I was aware of my
 breathing. Left to it's own course it was a choppy and fairly quick cadence: in over two paces and out over two paces. I found I could muster more energy by dropping into longer inhalations right down into my belly (using my diaphragm) and exhaling deliberately. It was enough to do this occasionally for a minute or so to keep me going.

2 Mind strength. More than a couple of times I thought, "Oh, knickers to this" and was about to drop the log, or even I found I wasn't jogging along but fast walking. Just at that point I simply told my body to keep going. Or I said sharply: "do it!" I was reasoning that actually my body could endure much more than it was going through at t hat moment and I used the power of my mind to keep at it. This time it worked! Other times it doesn't and I end up eating the chocolate bar....

3. Tucking my spine in. With the weight of the log and climbing dunes my bum started to stick out. I knew this wasn't a smart move as it puts great pressure on the lumbar region of the back so I tucked my butt in. This had the consequence of me waddling up the dune-with a straight back-but with my legs spliced out like a frogs'. Although seemingly ungainly I did work out my quads more in this fashion and saved my lower back some discomfort and possibly pain.

That last point reminds me of an article I read on Fighting Arts about front stance and posture. Go here to see 'A Simple Lesson in Body Mechanics'

Enjoy the route and the pics.

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Last Man Standing

This is a fun tv show about some top athletes who turn their hands to esoteric martial arts and sporting feats throughout the world, usually out in the middle of nowhere!

This series (it's the second one so far) seems a little less focused on martial arts and more about indigenous sports but there are some interesting insights to be had seeing these guys (not sure why it can't by girls too) battle against each other to the winning position. There's a lot of rivalry and a real drive and desire to win. Often the gruelling training leaves injuries scattered amongst the group but just like in the first series they want to continue and to try and win. A great example of this was when Rajko, who had previously split his toe in two whilst chopping wood in the run up to the match, stood up to take part as the last man in a local 'cricket' match (which seemed more like a preparation for war with taunts and shouts). Rajko limped over to the wicket and simply batted his team to victory as well as himself to be the Last Man Standing! 

This is a fantastic example of indomitable spirit. The guy is a true athlete and talks a lot about how positive visualisation and serious meditation helps him. I think it works for him and there is much to be said for positive reinforcement and visualisation. Maybe you might also think of itas  like pumping yourself up before a combat: a mix of adrenaline, psychology and a desire to win.

See the episode of Rajko's amazing comeback here.