Monday, 29 June 2009

Thinking evening

It was hot in the city tonight. Wow. I was dripping! Sensei therefore made the lesson a thinking and feeling one. We spent the time after kihon examining one particular technique okuri gote, but with much feeling and seeing what seemed to work or not. How did it work and how to feel through the technique. what did it do to the partner? How did they move? Where was the point of imbalance?

A thoughtful and in depth lesson.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Health, sleep and restraint

You know ducks sleep with one eye open? Well it seems humans can sleep upright! Is it safe? ?Is it recommended? who knows. Ask these crazy monks:

Music is good for you, it's official! Thank chuffs for that. I'm going to see AC/DC on Friday. No wait...

Restraining techniques can lead to broken limbs. Prison chiefs are now looking at how staff restrain inmates at young offenders' institutes.

Hear Brian Caton Prison Officers Association general secretary and ex-judoka talk about how restraint can sometimes lead to broken bits. Interestingly he admits that prior to the current restraint policy they would rely on "a mattress and a fight"...

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Day 21 of the burpee challenge

And I've made it thus far. Today I didn't stop during the reps but I must admit some days are harder than others. Although I always feel out of breath at the end of my reps the most painful aspect of the burpees is the tightness in my thighs from relentlessly squatting and jumping. I'm guessing it's lactic acid build up.

I'm also glad to report that conskeptical is still on the path of the burpee...

Friday, 19 June 2009

Lose weight by bulking out meals with lower energy foods

This article advocates eating more food with high water content (such as fruit and vegetables) in order to make us feel full for longer and avoid snacking. This may not be good advice for a long distance runner, but I'm a terrible snacker so it seems fairly sensible to me. It's also good advice to eat more fruit and veg.

"It may not be a licence for a liquid lunch exactly, but consuming foods high in water could be the key to losing weight, nutritionists say."

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Waking up

I experienced a strange, amusing and startling thing the other day as I pulled myself from sleep through into the wakefulness of day.

I knew it was early. I was conscious but lay there without thought on the edge of sleep, feeling completely calm. As there were no thoughts I simply enjoyed this state of 'being' and the sensation of soft and slow purring throughout my body. As my consciousness began to take over, though, I began to realise where I was and what the day ahead had in store for me. As soon as these thoughts entered my mind a sharp pang of regret kicked in as I knew that this state would now change. The calm state was broken. It was a real process that I followed from paisible relaxation, thoughts entering about the day (stressful agenda ahead) then panic that my calm will be soon shattered...a crashing of my day's worries into my head. The fact that I sensed and was aware of this process startled me almost as much as feeling the whole tempo of my body sharply change. I encountered a wave of (what I think was) adrenaline squirt through me then a sudden rise of heart rate (almost instant). This made sure I was well and truly awake! Peace was broken and I was now focusing on the day to come instead of my warm, cosy, duvet moment.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Dan gum hyung

It was hot again last night and I felt it was very difficult to finish class...but I did! There were one or two moments when I just wanted to sit out and get my breath and give my body time to stop leaking sweat! It was good to get through it though, if a little tough- lots of regular breathing bringing the breaths deep down into the belly. It was good to perform when my body was under stress; I made a real effort to not let my techniques slip whilst still trying to nourish my blood with oxygen!

Towards the end of the class the dan grades ran through Dan Gum hyung (literally short sword form) or dagger form. This is a fun form to work through and if you're using a live blade it certainly keeps you attentive to your techniques. Before we started it we shared stories of injuries through dagger form: one guy in a competition dropped the blade onto his foot and it bounced out and stuck in the floor: result...stitches! Another described was an injury from the downward thrust along the line of the arm: point dug into arm and ripped open the flesh: result...stitches!

Having just looked up Dan gum in the Muye Dobo Tongji but there isn't a section on dagger (or dan gum). Other sword forms covered in the book are: Ssang Soo Do (Long Sword) and Ssang gum (twin swords).

Friday, 12 June 2009

Basic anatomy 'baffles Britons'

"Less than 50% of the more than 700 people surveyed could correctly place the heart, BMC Family Practice says.
Under one-third could place the lungs in their correct location, but more than 85% got the intestines right."

The above study shows that a large proportion of people just don't know where the major organs lie! Although I can't scoff too much- there's always room for improvement and I had to think long and hard about one of the items in that article (not the heart, ok!?).

Knowing anatomical features and weaknesses is important for the martial artist, not only to have maximum effect when we need it but also to know where we shouldn't strike or apply pressure. The human body seems, to me, a fairly weak structure and the news is often peppered with tragic stories of people being killed in an altercation where only one punch has been thrown. Most of these people, I'd guess, didn't enter the conflict with the idea of killing but ultimately somebody is laying on the floor with their life seeping out onto the pavement. (Det Sup Alan Betts said, "This tragic case is a powerful reminder to all that it can only take one punch to kill a person.")

Some martial artists may find this cautious approach alarming, after all the aim of martial technique is to inflict damage on the opponent (or points in tournament) and I'd be happy to hear from others on this. If you know positions of organs and vital points you are better placed to get out of that altercation by ruse rather than by staring down at a corpse. Of course it is rare to kill in a fight (safety in MMA) and these stories of one punch kills may be flukes; a guy hits his head on the pavement.... There's not much you can do about that once you've lamped the guy and he's heading floorward. The reality is that street or domestic violence doesn't happen in a padded ring: very often it's a bar or a pavement where falls can break you or your opponent.

I'm not advocating entering a fight in a state of fear, but knowledge of anatomy, awareness of what's going on and confidence in your technique will help in a 'situation'.

So, I'm armed with anatomical knowledge and a respect for humans but how would I react if my family was in danger?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Applications within Pyung Ahn Ee Dan

I needed to move.

I'd missed Shorinji Kempo on Monday and despite an energetic session on Tuesday at Tang Soo Do I felt like I'd missed out tonight so I headed for the garden once my chores were done...

After having warmed up with a bit of skipping and burpees I decided to start close to the beginning and examined Pyung Ahn Ee Dan in detail particularly working through the applications therein.

The mirrored blocking and striking sequence has a lot of variety in application here but I'm of the feeling that this is most probably a block, arm lock and throw combination rather than a block and 'uppercut'-way too facile. Interestingly within Tang Soo Do there seems to have been preserved a head wrench one way then the other as we step across and up into a prepared stance for the block and kick.

I also enjoyed working through the soo do or spear hand at one extremity of the form. This is preceded by a parry (not just a flop down from the mah ki - it must be a parry) then strike.

From the strike through to the next block there is a turn involving the spear hand to be opened out and twisted behind the block to facilitate a release.

There's a lot within this form and I still need to work on it...

More on breath

Top tip today is...breath naturally during technique and you'll have enough clout for the kihap. I was tired and breathing hard and when the teacher put a string of techniques together which seemed straightforward I experimented by breathing out gradually through the technique in order to build up to the kihap. Not such good idea as, by that time, I'd ran out of puff!

I think there may be some value in a long breathe out culminating with kihap but it would have to be on shorter technique 'strings': A rapid block or two building up to a powerful strike and kihap, maybe. But certainly not what I was attempting which was more like 3 blocks, a kick and a strike...

Ho hum.

Breathing naturally would have kept my energy up and helped me through the techniques. To kihap, you need air in the lungs!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


Following a rather frisky sparring session tonight one young lady was a bit shaken from an encounter with her partner, a young fella who has pretty good technique for his age but not so good control. At the end of the session I asked how she was as I saw she was upset. After she'd explained what happened I sympathised with her but she replied, "Well no point blaming other people for your own mistakes. I should've been more aware".

I was quite humbled. As I said to her, if only I'd had that sort of attitude when I was younger!

I am celebrating a good session and hard sparring with a Hoegaarden Blanche. Ah!

...and now for the bad news.

It turns out that a glass of red wine a day ISN'T really that good for you. Or good for you at all! But ssh! Don't tell the French.

"It's an absolute myth that red wine is good for you," says Professor Valerie Beral from the University of Oxford and lead author of the Million Women study.
"The evidence is not there."

Nutritional information: Eat (oily) fish!

I'd already received the 'oily fish message' but this is another piece of research showing that we should endeavour to eat more salmon and mackerel.

Suits me, I love it.

I'm by no stretch of the imagination a nerdy health-eater but I thought it would be interesting to note these studies in a new label: nutrition and see what comes up. am particularly keen to see conflicting studies (For example: A UK study has cast doubt on claims that eating oily fish can protect against dementia in old age.)! The trouble is that very often the news article I see (in the general press) may not have the full details regarding the sample of those tested. I saw an interesting programme about vitamins which exploded the claims the manufacturer's made on their packs (I'll try and find it). 

Oily fish 'can halt eye disease'

Mackerel is rich in omega 3
People with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) should eat oily fish at least twice a week to keep their eye disease at bay, say scientists.

Conclusion: Eat oily fish twice a week.

Monday, 8 June 2009

How to teach martial arts

That's a bit of a sweeping statement to live up to isn't it?

Maybe I should say that I took a 'Teaching' course over the weekend. Interestingly we covered some great techniques including chunking (breaking down long concepts into digestible chunks) a little bit but some of the other concepts that were covered I thought could be relevant for teaching martial arts.

Concept checking
Constantly check with the students they have understood by asking them questions, making them demonstrate to see they've got it! If not, more coaching and partner work might help lick them into shape. How to tell? Check!

Yup there's no getting away from it kids. We have to drill....and frequently. You know the old adage about doing something seven times in order for it to really sink in? Well I'd say seven times for it to sink in, seven hundred to really get on top of it...

Make sure the students (children?) get to know when they've done something well. Positive affirmation will help in the learning process.

Error Correction
Sounds a no-brainer, right? But it's easy to let those tiny things slip but error correction is essential if the student is to make good progress in a timely fashion. I detest correcting a green belt's front stance, but I have to sometimes because somebody has either not picked up on this or feels as if it's 'good enough'. Good enough is just not good enough in martial arts.

Start off simple then move to complex
As I mention above it's pointless learning Bassai if you're front stance is ropey. This aligns with chunking: assess the student's level and tailor the right amount of 'chunks' to this and also choose a relevant level of expertise. Teach at a level the student(s) can understand and relate to.

Shorinji Kempo video

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Four Shades of Black

I'm reading it now and LOVING it! It's beautifully laid out and makes a lot of sense, written by a guy with plenty of experience.

Just check out the typography:


The photos are wonderful, powerful pieces on black backgrounds which enhance the body movement. I have some design issues with it such as certain photos are laid in the centre of the full spread and as such are lost when the book has been bound. This is probably because the gutter width is too tight (10mm I think) so I have to bend it out uncomfortably to read the text. Having said that, it's generally well designed and a nice book to look at (which is not the case for a lot of books on the martial arts).

Never mind though because Mulholland writes well about the kata applications, history and deeper techniques of Goju ryu. For all Okinawan practitioners it's a must but traditional karateka will certainly get off on this too (I am!).

Interestingly Mulholland puts forward the idea that karate 'lost' some of it's grappling elements at a time when it was carving out a niche in Japan where Ju jitsu and aikido had already taken this ground. In fact Mulholland bemoans the fact that many karateka no longer practice bunkai and he gives this much attention in the book-no wonder then that the foreword is by Iain Abernethy (a leading exponent of karate application). 


And as a bonus I found it from my local library!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Joel Bauer on the importance of Killing a Guy

This is Joel Bauer...the business card guy!

I have no idea what he's on about here but it's a funny video...I still haven't been able to see whether this guy is for real or not or simply a myth...


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Soar like an eagle

Tang Soo Do was hot and sweaty tonight and Master Campbell was hell bent on energy. So we ended up doing spinning back jumping outside to inside kick. Killer. as he was demonstrating he whipped round very quickly and at that point was able to perform the kick. I was happily executing the kick till I saw this demo but it was a bit sluggish. Once I'd seen a different possibility I could imagine myself doing it. I know: this sounds a bit new-wavey. Visualise yourself doing it and you can do it! Seeing the technical aspects of the move really enables you. 

It makes me think of being lined up a long time ago and doing ee dan ahp chagi in a huge class. The guy in front of me was a lean, young dan grade who jumped up and seemed to hover in the air as he made the kick. He looked like a bird gliding through the air! I was feeling like a badger rather than an eagle. But his kick inspired me and I examined him doing it once or twice and then emulated him. Ok it may not have been as good as his but my attempts came better, faster and smoother. I was happier. More like a badger with wings.

Fed up again!

Maybe it was because Monday was such a beautiful, balmy evening and as I cycled to Shorinji Kempo I had a marvellous desire to sit on Parker's Piece and gaze up at the sky. For hours. Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood. Either way I struggled to get myself to training. Why was I here?

Once I was there things warmed up slowly. Nicely, but slowly. It was only at the howa (or philosophy period) that I really saw why I was there. Sensei DD spoke about 'go ju ittai' - hard and soft make one whole. This really struck me as great: how wonderful to be studying this hard/soft style using blocks, punches, locks, grabs, throws, evasion, Zen philosophy, healing massage all with the aim of personal development.

More on go ju ittai:
(See number 5)

Monday, 1 June 2009

Moving in back stance (hugul ja sae)

Moving forward in hugul ja sae can be a pain. A real pain (in the legs)! Of course when executing kicking techniques progressing forwards is a cinche but quite often (in our dojang) Master Campbell will have us marching up and down in back stance punching and blocking without kicking (or sometimes even foojin) ... Moving forward in hugul ja sae requires a bit of attention to keep form, so this is what works for me...

From back stance, pivot on the balls of the feet (you needn't raise the heels off the floor, simply pivot). As you pivot the feet your shoulders square off and you transfer the weight to the front foot; then you can step forward. In Korean style I place the new front foot down onto the ball of the foot facing inwards slightly in order to get a twist on the hips for technique.

Japanese back stance is much longer and more evenly balanced: more like 60%/40% rather than a Korean 70%/30% so I'm not sure if there is a better way of processing this movement. 

moving in hugul ja sae

Burpee challenge

Today is the first day of the burpee challenge! Conskeptical, EP, PMY as well as myself are taking it on. One burpee today, adding one burpee on each subsequent day till we reach 100. Watch this space!