Sunday, August 28, 2011

Triangles, Circles & Crane Stances - Oh My!

My karate sensei talks loads about triangles - specifically about how strong they are. There are so many kata where our hands end up in some kind of modified triangle or other. Whenever he points out another triangle in a kata, ippon kumite or self-defense technique, I always think of the Great Pyramids of Egypt: still standing after centuries.

Circles are referenced a great deal as well in Goju, Aikido and Jujitsu. So many times, the technique isn't complete until your hands, arms, legs and/or feet end up exactly where they started - including blocks/strikes like mawashi uchi (two-hand circular block) and hiraken uchi (rolling back fist), simple movements like the crescent steps (half-circle stance movements) and kicks like ushiro geri (traditional back kick). Both Jujitsu and Aikido often use energy generated by the adversary against him/her by first moving him/her in a circle then abruptly making the person go the other way via a joint lock or strike. Cool stuff :-)

So imagine my surprise when yesterday in Jujitsu, I discovered that one body part might be completing a circle while another is moving in a totally different - and straight - direction. We were working on a self-defense technique that involved first linearly evading a straight punch then trapping the punch hand and guiding the adversary down until his/her face is at knee level by controlling the elbow you just acquired. The two other students I was working with were my height or taller and when Sensei A. - my 6'2" Jujitsu instructor - saw that we were all having some difficulties getting our tall selves out of the way of the attack, he had us drill the movements in what he calls "kata form" - which means slowly, deliberately and very much like the kata flow drill I learned about a year ago. He had us line up and stand with our hands up, feet together and knees bent before instructing us to step back then turn 90 degrees to the right to emulate the movement in the technique. The turn placed us into a perfect Sagi Ashi-Dachi (crane stance) - before we stepped forward with the rear leg, did a 180 degree turn and ended up in another Sagi Ashi-Dachi. "Now pair up and do the technique again," Sensei A. said - and yep, we all nailed it. Seeing the crane stance turn on itself - in a complete circle - was truly an ah-ha! moment for all of us. I felt like doing the happy dance right in the middle of the dojo!

And to think, I actually hated geometry in high school...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


"Nothing limits achievement like small thinking; nothing expands possibilities like unleashed imagination." 
- William Arthur Ward

Monday, August 22, 2011

Marking the Calendar

Got an email today I've been waiting a whole year for: one about an upcoming tournament. It is one of three tournaments I try to compete in each year and it kicks off the competitive season for me. I've circled the date on my the calendar, even --->.

Each year at this tournament, I get a little bit closer to the grand championship in sparring. Two years ago, I won my division but the "Executive Women" (that's the over-40 set, LOL) were not included in the grand championship round robin. Last year we were, but I kind of lost my head in the grand championship round when my opponent - the 18-year-old winner of the black belt women's under-35 division - dropped like a rock when I hit her in the gut. I'm talking fight stopped, me forced to kneel while the medics attended to her, the whole nine. That had never happened to me before - and my fight was pretty much done as a result because once the action resumed I was flat-footed and reactionary instead of staying aggressive and on my toes - my head completely out of it because I'd actually hurt someone young enough to be my daughter. Can't tell you how ticked I was that I allowed the situation to take me off my game. Lesson learned - because that certainly won't happen again...

I've heard it said many times that in order to do a thing, you have to first admit that you want to do it then set a goal in order to make it happen. I think a scene from one of my favorite "feel good" flicks - "Akeelah and the Bee" - best illustrates that. When she begins her training, her coach makes Akeelah admit something she'd probably never said aloud before: that she wants to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She whispers a simple "I want to win," at first, but he makes her repeat it over and over again until she is able to scream it at the top of her lungs - and mean it.

So here goes: I want to be the Women's Kumite Grand Champion at the Diamond Valley Classic this November. There - I said it. OK - I'm still whispering right now, but each day I train, I not only get another day closer to the one circled on my calendar, but my whisper gets a little louder, too. It'll be a scream at the top of my lungs real soon :-)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Black Belt Excellence

Found this quote on friend's FaceBook wall today and had to share it:

"Black Belt Excellence comes through consistent training. When things are darkest, toughest, and all seems lost...TRAIN and this too shall does get better.. in fact it is better than you think already...Have an attitude of gratitude! If you think you are done then you are!! Get to class!!!"
- Tom Arcuri

Thanks to a massive sinus headache (courtesy of the lovely humidity), I won't make it to class tonight, but you better believe that once my meds kick in, I'm hitting the heavy bag in the garage and working some kata. Thanks for the gentle nudge, Tom :-)