Friday 29 January 2010


I'm in pain. Wrist pain to be precise, but not all the time.

I'm having trouble working through some of the attacking Shorinji kempo wrist techniques. I realised quite quickly that Shorinji Kempo attacked the wrists a lot but recently I'm getting frequent pain in my wrists. I just don't know whether it's my inner wrist muscles getting used to the twisting and turning, me being a wuss or worse. Thankfully I've been introduced to the Powerball! The marketing blurb says...

I was recommended this by a real tennis player friend of mine and reckon that it's worth seeing whether building up core muscles in my wrist and forearms will help.

Watch this space.

Bassai Dai with explanation by Sadashige Kato, 9th dan.

Brief bio of Sadashige Kato here.

Man tries to karate chop a moving train...and fails

Oh well.... He probably wasn't using a deep enough stance...

"A 33-YEAR-OLD man has come off second best after trying to karate chop a moving train at Eagle Junction station in Brisbane last night."

Thursday 28 January 2010

The power of feet

Just in case you didn't catch Conskeptical's comment I've decided to post a main article regarding Vibram's fivefingers....! An amazing piece of footwear that seems to allow the toes to interact with the running (or exercise) experience. When toes are squished into a shoe they only really have one range of very limited movement but these shoes could help you grip the floor better helping with balance.

I wonder whether they would be better than traditional martial arts shoes for outdoor practice? Why not.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

The most beautiful samu I've ever seen

I was careful to say *I*'ve ever seen as, if you look closely at the photo, you'll see that these diligent karateka are in fact my children and therefore this is special to me...

The act of cleaning the hall before training is a great way to make sure everything is clean and tidy and hopefully reducing the likelihood of splinters or at the very least making for a more pleasant experience. We don't have a dedicated martial arts hall so this is fairly necessary - I was scolded after one week's lesson when we hadn't been able to sweep the floor and had done some floor exercises and everybody's white do bohk's were filthy! But to be honest the kids love doing samu. And so do I!

I like the idea of devoting some time to cleansing (nurturing) the place where we'll train. It's almost a pre-training meditation. After all you're lost in the act of cleaning and making sure the floor is free from splinters or miscellaneous objects which may injure (in the past I've found-as I'm sure others have- thumb tacks on the floor, paper clips and small lego blocks which are REALLY painful underfoot!...). Of course this time can only be achieved if you turn up nice and early without being rushed-that's what I like. It may be considered a calm before the storm (especially when I'm teaching the little ones!) but I do have a job getting the brooms off the little ones who love to do it partly to play with the brooms and partly they like to help dad out.

I don't think they should do it out of obligation to me, but one day they'll see that it's nice to do it for their own benefit and for that of the others they train with. Doing this simple chore puts us against ideas of servitude if we're not careful. It's not only about serving others (although the word samu may allude to this) it's about working through a concept of diligent application for each and every one of ourselves.

This cleansing ritual is very useful. My opinion is that it's about helping others through a simple task as well as helping ourselves through applied and continued service to the hall and our co-students. This helps us retain a sense of ourselves-we're a member of a club: black belts masters, 6th gup all perform cleaning tasks. This helps us all see that we work together to help each other grow through martial arts.

The Martial Arts Show, Birmingham, NEC, May 22nd-23rd

So it's that time of year again...more martial arts shows. This time it's at the NEC which means it's gonna be bigger (and better?) than last year! Last year's was pretty good and I got value from going just from the demonstrations which were great! It was good to see other martial arts styles practising. I like to see different flavours of martial arts so for me it was fun. Plus I'd talk the hind legs off a donkey so beware contributors...

As well as demonstrations there are free seminars and suppliers' stalls. Last year I got to chin wag with Iain Abernethy so I might see if he's going along again and catch up.

I was going to embed the promo video but it's so cheesey I didn't bother. If you're desperate to see it go here:

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Martial artists have better will power

Or Zanshin is good for you.

I was listening to the Today programme the other week and a piece on will power struck me as quite relevant to the martial artist. Listen again here:

Scroll down to 0721:
"According to neuroscientists, having a lack of willpower isn't a character flaw, it could all be down to the physical make-up of the brain. The American science writer Jonah Lehrer explains an experiment by a psychologist at Stanford University."

Being self aware constantly can help build up the frontal cortex which is the area of the brain which handles willpower. Scientists found evidence that subjects who were trying to be aware of their posture throughout the day also built up their willpower. Also exercises in self-awareness or pay more conscious attention will help improve it too!

More cake anyone?

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Shoes may have changed how we run

Wearing cushioned running shoes may have changed the way in which many of us run, new research suggests.

Using slow-motion footage, scientists have discovered that experienced barefoot runners land very differently from runners who wear shoes.

Green Tea is Good for You!

(but we knew that didn't we.)

Green tea 'may block lung cancer'

Drinking green tea may offer some protection against lung cancer, say experts who studied the disease at a medical university in Taiwan.

Man it up!

In response to my last post somebody made an oblique reference to this (I think she was calling me a whimp:-)

Gotta love the Chuck Norris bit...

Tuesday 12 January 2010

The Mighty Migraine

Pronounce it how you will but the migraine is a bummer. Especially in the middle of a Tang Soo Do beasting. High energy, high kicking, and my temples about to explode through the pounding. To be fair I suffer from the less violent 'visual' migraines when white blobs appear in my vision until I go half blind and then have a mild to bad headache. But it's not advised for martial arts. Having said that....

My still working thought processes managed to juggle the options. It started half way through the adult class so I could have whinged and bowed out and gone home or just sucked it up, breathed deeply and got on with it. The latter being what I chose to do and I'm glad I did as by the end of the lesson my head was clearing and I even had fun!

Martial arts aren't magic. I reckon the migraine would have gone in just the same amount of time but training to focus and have a determined spirit is something quite important. Make your mind up on the course of action and get on with it without whinging even if it is a bit difficult. (You had the choice earlier to bow out and you didn't so get something out of it.)

All good.

Snow joke run

Chocolate the name of a wonderful foodstuff and also of an average martial arts film with pretty good fight scenes.

As mentioned in previous articles I'm not a big fan of the genre, but a good friend reckoned I should check out this Prachya Pinkaew (maker of Ong Bak and Warrior King) film. Although this was somewhat tedious with a very bizarre storyline I didn't feel like I wanted my 170minutes back. The gangster plot is led by an autistic (?) girl with amazing reaction abilities who learns fighting skills from films and her rather annoying fat side kick's helping exercises.

The fight scenes are epic and also quite entertaining. It feels like there's much inspiration from Jackie Chan films with acrobatics galore, rolls and use of the immediate environment to enhance the entertainment value of the fights. This comes to an amazing head at the end of the film with great struggles along balconies in a Thai street.

My favourite part of the film is when the heroine, JeeJa Yanin, takes massed killers with two (empty) saya (sword scabbards). What a wonderful idea! My iai teacher always said the nihon to was a two piece weapon....

If you like martial arts movies I guess you're going to love this! If, like me, you're not so into it, you might find the hammy acting and two dimensional characters a touch annoying but might enjoy the fights.

Watch out for the 'documentary' clips at the end of the film...!

Hitting stuff

Our Tang Soo Do lesson last week was pretty high tempo as Master C obviously wanted us to burn off some of those Christmas calories. Joy...!

So we started off with some bruising shuttle run combinations which had us all gasping for breath and followed that up with some stretching. After this we then started hitting stuff which is always satisfactory: focus pads and bagwork was the order of the day. In kempo pairwork is essential and this is very good for seeing how bodies interact and work and feeling where to strike but you can't, obviously, go at it full pelt or you'd soon run out of training partners. It's good to thwack a bag occasionally to get feedback as to how a full power kick feels.

There is other martial arts equipment that can be used too. Paddles give a good focus workout for turning and spinning kicks: strikes that aren't possibly as powerful but require a degree of skill and accuracy when turning. Straight kicks and punches are much better done on a shield or heavyweight held bag. In fact we have a pretty old shield which has softened somewhat so it has a good feel to it without crumpling your hands into a bag of bones!
On that note: I do seem to be having some trouble with my wrists these days and I think it's the increased training I've been doing at Shorinji kempo. Lots of juho techniques attack the wrists and hands (from grabs and holds by the opponent) and mine seem to be especially vulnerable. I'll have to see how things progress but am worried that it might cause long term damage.

Then again, I worry too much!

Monday 11 January 2010

Clearing the car of snow

I experienced an interesting snippet of body movement plus snow the other day when I was clearing the car before setting out. As I pushed the snow off with my arm my body twisted and slipped backwards. This is a fairly normal reaction to pushing but the snow made me realise I was weighted backwards on my heels and imbalanced.

As I pushed hard forward with the arms my heels went forward too, effectively toppling myself backwards.

Check out a Professor's solution to slipping on ice:Try

"For example, if you were on ice and starting to fall forward, you
would instinctively try to push backward on the ice.  If you do not  slip, by Newton's Third Law (action = -reaction), the ice will push  forward on your feet, helping you to regain your balance.  If your  feet slip, you could lose your balance and fall forward.  If you are stationary, you can stay upright as long as your center  of gravity is directly above the area on the ice defined by your  feet and the space between them.  By pressing on your toes or heels  and/or your left or right foot, you can keep yourself balanced.  If  you take small steps, it is easier to keep this balance and the  corrective forces will be smaller, making it less likely that you will slip.  Keeping your balance is not an easy problem as small children  quickly learn. For example if you are walking on a railroad track  and start to fall to the right, you can regain your balance by  bending the top part of your body to the right or the bottom part (a  foot and attached leg) to the left.  Try it!  Dick Plano, Professor of Physics emeritus, Rutgers University" (
Try the exercise he prescribes: stand feet shoulder width apart, 'slip' your right foot forward (on imaginary railway lines)-if you endeavour to keep your weight where it was you feel unstable so lean into it to regain your balance. Best done in socks on a wooden floor.
And hey presto: front stance! Our sturdy everyday practice stance. As endorsed by professors!

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Happy New Year with happy feet

After a somewhat long absence from the dojo I returned this week to normal lessons and found that my foot regime had worked a treat. Over the holidays I had a bit more time than I usually have so I was able to pamper my neglected feet. Don't get me wrong, they're not *that* disgusting but other than clipping my toenails and keeping them clean I don't really pay them much attention. After all, they're just feet, right?

As a martial artist though I really should give them more time. The reason? Hard skin. This is pretty pesky stuff and I don't really want to end up with calluses or corns on my feet. Towards the end of the year they'd been groaning a bit from barefoot practice on cold, hard dojo floors so over the holidays I took a bath and used a pumice stone on them. Following this up I doused them with a rich hand cream. My feet loved it and my first sessions back were pain-free and light.

Look after your feet martial artist!