Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year's Wish

Wishing a happy and healthy budo-filled 2014 to you and yours!

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let each New Year find you a better [person]."
 - Benjamin Franklin

Monday, December 30, 2013

Think Like a Cockroach

cockroach photo:  roach.jpgThe week between Christmas and New Year's Day is generally a slow one in karate land with not much in the way of regular classes happening. But one of our friends in NYC was holding class in his basement dojo and invited Training Partner Ed, myself and a a few students down tonight. And of course, we jumped at the chance.

Master Dave takes his karate very seriously, teaching in three different locations in the Bronx at least six nights a week. Because we travel over an hour to get to him, he likes to make the time we spend with him "special" in an "I don't think I can do another roundhouse kick" sort of way that makes your hair drip sweat. In addition to being a walking Goju and Shotokan kata encyclopedia, he is also famous for his "two minute drills" - where he fills the last few moments of every class with karate-related aerobic stuff designed to make you see what you're made of (or puke trying to find out). I aways leave his dojo wondering how I am able to even walk out - because not everyone does.

Tonight, after a invigorating warmup and some kihon, Master Dave had us work some lead leg kicking/lead hand punching speed drills. Speed was the operative word because fights on the street and in the ring happen fast. No one wants to get caught thinking of a confrontation-killing combination instead of moving to avoid, block or lay a hand or foot on an adversary. Openings, he said, don't come along all that often, and when they do, they don't tend to stick around very long. Good fighters look for openings and move in before they disappear. Great fighters find ways to create them.

"You have to think like a cockroach," he said "- because a cockroach will always find a way to get in."

Even the best fighters on the planet make mistakes from time to time by leaving something open while trying to block or counter - even if it is only for a fraction of a second. Finding that crack in the armor and moving in before it gets plugged up is the key to holding your own, he said. Then we spent the next hour following up defensive/blitz-stopping side and front kicks with lead-hand/rear-hand combos designed to help us think like a cockroach and get in - by any means necessary.

Next we worked more upper-body kihon with a makiwara, checking each other on form breaks and hitches that could telegraph intentions to an adversary. "Remember, the person in front of you can be a cockroach, too. He's trying to find a way inside," Master Dave said, reminding us that each shoulder dip before a reverse punch or slight drop in the lead hand before a jab is not much different than a gap under the pantry door: an entryway to the goodies on the other side.

Yeah, cockroaches are creepy, dirty little buggers that freak most of us out, but thinking like on when your dukes go up isn't a bad idea at all.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

So Long and Farewell...

Today, a training partner tested for Nidan while many of the instructors I've trained with over the years came to watch. It was followed by our annual Holiday Party (called such because not everyone who trains with us celebrates Christmas) and gift exchange. A bittersweet day for all of us - and not just because it was the last class of the year. It also marked the last class at our current location.

Training Partner Ed on Opening Day
We started at the Salvation Army three-and-a-half years ago. Since the first six students walked in that day, we've grown to close to 50. We've trained hard in our tiny space, sweating through kihon and kata and prepping for tournaments and gradings. We've laughed as much as we've cried - over birthday cakes, farewell parties and even a few funerals.

It's been a beautiful almost-four years, it really has. But we've outgrown our space - both physically and emotionally - and will be moving to a new location in January. It's sad, but it's time to move forward.

The last Friday class at the SA :-(
We've truly had some great times in the Salvation Army and seen some incredible growth from our amazing students, some of whom have trained with us since the beginning. We even started an adult class that focuses more on self-defense after a parent of one of our teens suggested it because he'd always wanted to train as a kid but his family couldn't afford it and he felt sort of odd starting next to his 12-hr-old son whom he'd have to call "sir." Unfortunately, he passed away suddenly before we could get the class up and running, but I think of him every time the adults bow in.

Karate isn't something Training Partner Ed and I do a few nights a week - it's truly a way of life. Out mission always has been to pass that ideology onto others. We understand that all of them won't be training for the rest of their lives, but the hope is that a few will. Someone has to be around for us to hand the reigns of the dojo over to!

Our group after the grading. 

I wish we could stay - because that space has become a second home to so many - but we can't. The environment has changed as have the number of folks who are interested in what we do there each week, so we have to move along to bigger and hopefully better things. It's just time.

We'll miss you, Salvation Army. We really will.