Tuesday 29 September 2009

Fencing debut

I can't say I am unbiased about my first fencing lesson: I was *thoroughly* looking forward to it. I've wanted to taste what fencing is all about for years and this course only runs once a year which only highlighted the anticipation.

I turned up and met a few other beginners: a big class (not surprising given its infrequency) and after an initial introduction we set to practising footwork. This didn't surprise me at all as this seems (much like other martial arts) the basis of movement and by extension of fighting. Most of the two subsequent hours were given over to this moving forward and backward in basic forward lunging stance and fighting stance. These were very similar to a classic karate front and back stance which didn't come as much as a surprise. They did have some differences but as a family these stances used in fencing and classic karate are in the same family. Not the same but siblings certainly.

It was exciting to be learning and drilling within a completely new framework outside of my order of understanding. You could say that sparring is sparring whether it's with your fists or with a length of steel in your hand. The aim is to get the opponent: tag, touch, hit or strike. Movement seems much more restrained in fencing though with it's linear back and forth, to and froing. For example I only learned fighting stance in a right hand guard and our drills were in this format forward and then...backward! There's no deviation from that (at this stage at any rate!).

The following video shows much more than what we covered in our first lesson and is a great and deep study of body movement and weight distribution:

Sunday 27 September 2009

First 10km run...ever!

I completed my first ever 10km (6mile) run and I'm happy to report that I survived, although given my rough start I thought I mightn't've even finished it!

We arrived with plenty of time to register and relax a bit but at the last moment I needed to dash off to the loo and when I re-emerged they'd started! Without me! So I was running hard just to catch up with the stragglers and then the uphill struggle really started. A long slow incline stretched out ahead of me which I dutifully pounded into. As we descended into a farm I thought I might be getting in a good stride only to find another set of sharp-ish hills to get up. It was important for me to concentrate only on the moment I was in: one foot in front of the other. If I'd focused on how hard it was and how much left of the course there was still to run I may have given up. I kept at it and came out over the small heights above Royston and could see the finish line down below.

My final time was nothing to crow about but I did maintain roughly 10 minute miles. The overall route was 6.4miles and I managed a time of 62 minutes: just better than my training times probably due to other runners helping me set a pace.

Monday 21 September 2009

Slightly quicker Gunn's lane run

Did this run again yesterday morning (lovely weather for a run: cool but bright!) and I managed to do it a bit quicker. Only by three and a half minutes quicker though, dammit! I guess I should be pleased though as I didn't stop this time for a gasp and a rest. I felt stronger and more ready to finish. So some progress there is better than none!

Time was 41 and a half minutes (about ten minute miles).

Quote of the day

Plutarch - "The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."

Google offered me this little titbit which I thought was quite useful for a amrtial arts training outlook!

Thursday 17 September 2009

Boxing class at MMA gym Cambridge

I stopped off at the Pro-am fight centre this week: they have an extensive gym as well as a full size cage and mat area with plenty of hanging full size and half size bags. These guys train in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) in Cambridge and even have professionals who drop in to train for fights. I was roped into a boxing class, which was entirely new to me. I have done some savate in the past but really nothing to talk about so I was intrigued by a boxing lesson.

The teacher was ABA affiliated and extremely good: polite but worked us hard. There was some very different levels here (including me, relative beginner) and he catered for us all and by the end of the hour (or was it 90 minutes?) I was sweating buckets... But I was happy and felt I'd learnt a lot (hands up, strike and move, maintain a distance, stay relaxed).

Great class, I'll be looking at doing more! Maybe I'll try the Muay Thai class....!

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Another run

A light run in preparation for my 10K in a week or so.

A disappointing 12minute mile. I had to stop a little half way round for a pee but honestly...12 minute mile!!!

View Short run in a larger map

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Teaching debut

Last week was my first lesson in charge of the little uns without back up. This in itself didn't worry me at all! I always have fun with the junior class and I try and instill in them broad principles of martial arts such as awareness, confidence, responsibility, as well as physical techniques.

I did find it a problem not having an assistant though. This meant that I had to spread across the entire range of abilities from absolute beginner to very competent and eager brown belts. Delegation helped and I managed through the lesson to get everybody involved but felt that the level may have been a tad simple for some of the older and more advanced children.

It's going to be a challenge to get their syllabus taught when I have to introduce base concepts to other younger members which is, very often, a time consuming exercise! The other children of course benefit from revising basic elements but I need to work carefully on my lesson plans!

Tips welcome!

Monday 14 September 2009

Gunn's Lane run

For the first time in ages I went for a run and half way round this 3 mile route my body told me it had been a *considerable* time since I last ran! I was pleasantly surprised to calculate the run at the end of the course at 4 miles. I'm glad it was 4 and not 3 as I only managed to hobble, spluttering around it in 45 minutes! (11minute miles!) Well...there's progress to be made!

View Gunn's lane run-variant in a larger map

Friday 4 September 2009

Sine wave in forms/hyung/poomse

I'm currently reading a fascinating book by Alex Gillis regarding the history of Tae Kwon Do which is called 'A Killing Art-The untold history of Tae Kwon Do'. This is an excellent read, if somewhat dry in parts, and reveals some interesting facts about this very modern art.

I often thought that certain Korean Tae Kwon Do practitioners had a certain bobbing up and down feel to their forms somewhat and reckoned this was due to stylistic or cultural differences. I've always been told to move through from one technique to another aspiring to keep the head as level as possible and to minimise 'bobbing'. Gillis says that General Choi introduced what he called a 'sine wave' to his forms when he was introducing Tae Kwon Do to North Korea in 1980. This, maintains Gillis, "distinguished it from Karate and Kim Un-yong's Tae Kwon Do".

This sine wave relies therefore on gravity for power and not a hip rotation and as Gillis writes, "gave Choi's...patterns a distinct style-slower, more rhythmic".

Whether or not this is more powerful I cannot say as I have never practiced the sine wave but it helped concretise the schism within Tae Kwon do and meant Choi could claim the North Koreans were practicing "pure Tae Kwon Do" and that other instructors were "fakes".

Here's an interesting video showing the diminuative Choi himself emphasising the 'big' sine wave:

width="425" height="344">

And this other video shows 'Choong Moo' hyung being performed showing this chracteristic bobbing motion:

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Encouragement for beginners to sparring

I offered some pre-tournament sparring practice to a friend who gladly accepted. Off we went to the country park...

As we searched for a suitable clearing to kick off our shoes I asked her what her 'problem' was (so I could focus on this in the following 45 minutes) and she replied that she found it difficult to score a point. She was a bit flustered by the plethora of techniques she knows and felt unable to bring them into play during sparring.

OK-let's bring up her confidence by concentrating on a few essential sparring techniques, after all much free-fighting is made up of front kick, round kick and a variety of straight punches. Of course we aspire to be able to use all our techniques in order to score the point but invariably we rely on a stock of well serving base techniques and sometimes the simpler, the better.

So with a minimum of time we set about improving her confidence (she'd only sparred twice in class before!) and this is how we did it:

Round 1: Just front kicks from her. I would encourage her to connect with the attack and I would counter at competition speed with anything I fancied but she must use only front kick.

Round 2: Same deal for me, but front and round kick for her.

Round 3: Front kick, round kick and punches.

Last round: Focus on these three but feed in any 'fancier' technique if she felt that there was a scoring opportunity availing itself. (In the end she only really added in back kick and possibly side kick).

I also emphasized kihaping.

How did it go? She's a natural. She didn't need my help she just needed confidence. It's easy to forget that when we started out in a particular style there is a bewildering amount of techniques that we are exposed to directly in our syllabus or indirectly in group classes and often this is just too much information and we cloud up. "Oh yeah but I can do this, no wait....Er, what about this technique...."

No. Stop. The object of competition sparring is to get the point. To score within whichever framework of rules exist. In order to score you have to react to the attacks of the opponent as well as look for opportunity to counter or initiate. My advice today was to use a core set of techniques (as the student is a relative beginner) in order to score points. Keep it fairly simple.

What I didn't do was go easy on her. My attacks were speedy and of varying heights: I wanted to get her flinching, checking out her blocking reactions, which were great!

Photos courtesy of my little girl...