Saturday 31 December 2011

New Year's Resolution for us all maybe?

A diet rich in vitamins and fish may protect the brain from ageing while junk food has the opposite effect, research suggests.

Monday 10 October 2011

Friday 23 September 2011

Saturday 10 September 2011

Frederick The Great's Uniform

Photograph, courtesy of Constanze Schweda

Frederick the Great

His uniform was a simple officer's suit, without trim or accoutrements to show, as a true philosopher, "that outward appearance means nothing".

Which made me think of a karate uniform and why we pull one on and why its appearance is simple. Is it to remind us, like Frederick's uniform, that outward appearance is not important? Everyone should be treated equally so there is no place for fine clothes: just a simple training suit which brings everyone to the same level. A uniform, by its definition, is the same for everyone so nobody can bring in any external symbology: everything is found in the simple, white suit. We are all there to train together, to sweat hard in a co-operative way.

On the other hand there is the belt system which reveals other areas of complexity. Superficially this shows only the rank within the style, reflecting how long the practitioner has been studying and how much of the syllabus they have covered. But we all know that underneath this simple ranking system lies quite a lot of posturing and unsaid desire! As a romantic I love the idea that the belt, originally white, would turn black from wear and grime showing that those with a 'black' belt were more experienced. Furthermore Masters' belts would, through use, change back to white, donating a return to a beginner's mindset within the art: a full circle.

I had a conversation with Harry Cook, a martial artist of certain renown about the way karate was instructed. He maintains that regimented training in karate along with grading and exams may have been institutionalised by the Japanese following contact with European armies in the 19th Century. He backed this up with references which I'm afraid I don't have, but he mentioned the more relaxed earlier training styles of the Okinawans: often un-uniformed and in 'backyard' lessons. Worth more thought and references I guess...

Sunday 28 August 2011

Ninja patrols streets of Yeovil

A warrior for just causes, or a vigilante? … or a nutjob?

I appreciate his sentiment that if he sees someone getting beaten up he won't just walk by but is it right for him to use his 'powers' to go and look for trouble?

What do you think?

Sunday 21 August 2011

Dances, War and kata

Again my interest is piqued by something I read linking the ideas of dance to martial movement. This time the sources is not from the far East but Europe: the ancient Greek war dance.

I'm reading a fascinating and comprehensive account of sword fencing throughout history (By The Sword (Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai Warriors and Olympians) by Richard Cohen, Macmillan, London 2002) which in it's preamble of early sword fighting history touches on the ancient Greeks. The Greek infantry or Hoplites were trained in fighting arts in weapons manipulation and pure fighting skills but also in the war dance which Plato sees as valuable for combat preparation. Cohen states that the Greek army did place emphasis on larger, heavier recruits but also found that the agility and the gymnastic ability that dances encouraged were of value. Not as overtly martial in the following example as Asian kata but interesting all the same.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Grading Post mortem.

After a week or so I can now take stock of the grading and think about what went well and what didn't and how the preparation helped...or not?

My main concern leading up to the day wasmemory recall of the techniques. I've grained long enough to know them to a fair standard (some better than others, granted) so this didn't trouble me so much. I did however *still* get muddled up with the Japanese names and find that there is lag between being asked for a technique and my brain processing it and outputting it as action. So what to do? Well as MattKlein commented, just swot up on techniques and have someone call waza at random. Over and over again. And over some more. This worked quite well and in the grading I was confident that I could manage.

The second issue was not knowing who I would gradewith. As shorinji kempo is based on pair work this can have an effect on performance. Naturally techniques should be able to applied to anyone but in a grading it comforts you to know who your partner is. As it happens when I met mine and we had a chance to go through embu I felt a lot easier. He knew his stuff and was fluid in movement. No problem.

In fact during feedback Mizuno sensei made this very point about grazings. To him a grading is useful as it pressure tests technique. Yes they make allowances for the fact that sometimes we don't have a chance to practice with a partner beforehand but in real self defence you have to make the technique work. And this is grading: making it work under pressure. It's no good asking an adversary on the street to stop and start again "cos I wasn't prepared".

Lastly it's worth mentioning sweat. I know it's notpleasant but on a hot spring day in a packed dojo it becomes an issue when you're trying to apply wrist locks. The answer? Think creatively. Go with the flow of the technique and focus on the outcome (immobilising an opponent, trapping an opponent or maybe throwing). It was trickier but a valuable lesson.

Photos courtesy of Amar Haria.

Monday 16 May 2011

Grading Day

Black belt grading came and went (it was the 7th May 2011) and I was lucky enough to meet and take the exam with a very capable kenshi. All went well apart from a few brain jams plus putting locks and wrist restraints on sweaty people on a hot day tends to be….challenging.

Beautiful day with view of the Royal Albert Hall and a post grading chinwag and beer with Toby.

Monday 2 May 2011

Richard Holmes, military historian and top toff, dies

Richard Holmes made military history very presentable without losing any gravitas or intelligent discussion. Modern military presenters like Dan Snow tend to sensationalise and recount the 'fluff' at the top of the story without going deep. Not Richard Holmes. He was a Brigadier in the TA and professor at Cranfield University and had taught at the military academy at Sandhurst. All this made him credible but just as important as that he came across well on screen with his steady, whispering delivery. I believe this was a deliberately reverential tone, showing the respect Holmes had for the ordinary soldier. The man on the ground.

I still have on my reading list: Redcoat, Tommy and Sahib and these are just three of his many publications on military history. Bibliography.

Read a detailed obituary here.

See him at work in his War Walks series, this one covering The Somme. You'll even see hear him speaking very good French with a spectacular English accent. They must've thought he was great with that and his 'tache! I did too.

Final revision

Well, as the saying goes, if I don't know it now I never will. With only five more days til grading and one more official training session I can only revise my 83 techniques, 9 katas, 6 philosophy subjects as well as general ukemi, different stances and of course the whole thing wrapped up in a language I don't know. Thankfully there are plenty of resources out there to help the errant kenshi, such as Kenseikai's Shorinji Kempo site.

There's no point me cramming now and I've planned my schedule fairly well. I've aimed to peak this week and I have been polishing up some points this evening and aim to ask some final questions tomorrow at training. Then a light revision and training session on Thursday night and a day off on Friday. Saturday's the grading day so I'll take my mandatory kit bag with me:

- 1x dogi
- 1 box (I refuse to call it a 'groin protector!)
- 1x micro fibre towel and shower gel
- 1x flask of green tea
- 1x sandwich and a banana
- spare contact lenses
- body protector ('do')

Oh flipping heck I forgot I'll have to lug that around on the tube. The things we do...

Thursday 21 April 2011

Martial Arts for mid-air combat

This is doing the tour of Facebook (thanks NJ) at the moment: Wing Chun in action...

"Hong Kong Airlines is training its cabin crew to use wing chun on unruly passengers"

and a good excuse for this...(everybody Wing Chun tonight...well, almost)

Monday 4 April 2011

Ko map sum ni da

I found this snippet recently and found it interesting, as I thought that one was a different way of saying the other!

Kamsahamnida = formal, used when you are talking to anyone who is older or more educated or in a higher social statues than you. A bow would also be appropriate while saying it.

Komapsumnida = less formal, used when you are talking to your peers

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Boxing legend Angelo Dundee

Video of Angelo Dundee here:

Dundee cornered for the champions such as Muhammad Ali...!

"That's the key. If you have fun at what you do you're gonna excel at it."

Thursday 3 March 2011

Shorinji Kempo demonstration at Japan Day, Kaetsu Centre, 5th March

Come and see the Shorinji Kempo demonstration at Japan Day, Kaetsu Centre, 5th March.
Our demo is on at 3:00 but the day starts at 12:00 and there are plenty of great activities and other martial arts demos to look forward to! Check out the official page:

Monday 28 February 2011

Thursday 10 February 2011

Changing lives with Cricket.

Martial arts are often seen as sports for hard people who like to fight. Or sporty people who want to express themselves physically. But there is another side to martial arts and that is the intriguing philosophy underpinning the external manifestation. This philosophy often contains elements which help in forging character and development of the self. I'm sure that Funakoshi used this in licking young ne'er do wells into shape physically and mentally. Doshin So certainly used martial arts as a tool for forming people into socially responsible individuals.

But this is unique to martial arts owing to its philosophy and grounding in Buddhism which has important self-development doctrines, right?

Not quite. A cricket team in LA, USA, is using cricket as a vehicle to clean up gangster neighbourhoods. Established 15 years ago it is captained by a homeless activist, Ted Hayes, who feels that cricket has lessons for life which can show gangsters that there are other ways to live their lives.

Mr Hayes says, "We were... successful at teaching the homeless guys civility through the game".


Monday 24 January 2011

Black belt training

This post is in response to Sue's question about my preparation for Shorinji Kempo shodan grading. Check out her full blog 'Countdown to Shodan', here.

I wanted to outline my approach to my impending dan grade exam. The way I'm looking at it I need to follow two broad aspects of training which then break down into more categories.

The main aspects for focusing my preparation are:
- body
- mind

Seems a bit noddy doesn't it but I then break this down further:

* Physical fitness: am I fit enough in key areas of stamina, aerobic capacity and strength.
* Technique fitness: I define this as being fit enough to execute the techniques themselves well enough without flaking out.

I think these two are subtly different. I want to work on general fitness by running (especially fartlek to exploit explosive energy) and light weights / stretching for general toning. Technique fitness will be the ability to execute techniques over and over again and I will be practicing this in this manner.

Of course doing so also helps me remember my techniques which brings me on to the next section of 'Mind':

* memorize techniques (repetitive training)
* train on memory recall
* examine in great detail techniques I haven't done for a while: which stance is it? which pin is used?
* Breathe! More meditation and deep breathing to help my blood oxygenate and yoga for relaxation and flexibility.

Shorinji kempo is very different from Tang Soo Do in that rather than learn mostly kata the emphasis is on learning lots of paired techniques which means (for me) in depth learning and memorizing of details....

Thursday 20 January 2011

Sports injury: Supraspinatus tendonitis

I've been out of training this week because of my shoulder pain. I eventually went to the doctor to check what I could do to self treat it and she explained I probably have Supraspinatus tendonitis (sometimes called rotator cuff tendonitis): an inflammation of the supraspinatus tendon. Tendons attach to bones and I can feel it acutely at the point in my shoulder where the joint is, especially when I raise my arm above my head or try to move it behind my body. BBC Health says that: "overuse is ...a common cause", and I think I might have aggravated it by doing a very wide lat pull down.

Here's a decent article outlining treatment, management and rehab

Hey! Take care out there!....

Thursday 6 January 2011

First post Christmas training session

Tonight was the first training slot after the Christmas break and I have to admit that during the holidays I took every occasion to eat well. Such was my consumption though that when I actually got down to exercising this evening I sweated chocolate.

It was good to be back but curious to see how such a little time away from a consistent training regime led to a feeling of being a little out of sorts. Moves didn't feel quite so crisp and my muscle 'memory' seemed to be rusty.

I'd better get in shape and back on track as this year is mostly preparation for shorinji kempo black belt. This means getting fit and knowing my stuff as thoroughly as possible. Going into a grading well prepared helps me relax and really show good technique.

So these are my aims for the first half of the year and these will help shape my martial arts activities.

Anyone else sorted their goals for the year?

Sunday 2 January 2011

Weapons as training aids

This short video clip shows TO and MH using weapons to see how classical techniques feel when 'extended'. I found this particularly useful in training as it made us work harder at the technique but also gave back some insight into the inner workings of body mechanics and tai sabaki. Foot work became essential as feedback from touch on our arms was taken away. Despite this we could 'feel' with our bodies in 'cutting' into the technique.