Important Choices Are Never Smooth…

I’ve often said that choosing a martial art to study and practice is an extremely subjective thing. And it is! Not only does one have different types of martial arts to choose from (striking, grappling, weapons-based, etc) each of those types have different schools and styles to choose from, often differing from one another on some very key levels. For example, although I study Okinawan karate, not all Okinawan karate dojos will offer the same aspects I may be looking for.

The thing is, there really isn’t a BAD reason to join a martial arts school, unless you or reason is because you want to actively bring harm to someone else. Notice that I didn’t say it was bad to defend yourself, but I would be lying if I hadn’t encountered a bully or two walking into my dojo over the decades. If your goal is to learn how to fight so you can bully, intimidate or harm others, good luck finding a good instructor who will be willing to teach you.

A few years ago, when I started the challenging task to find a new dojo to train in by virtue of being 3,400 kilometres away from Sensei, I coined the term “Coffee Club Dojo.” This refers to a dojo or martial arts school where the students and/or practitioners spend the majority of the class joking around, chatting slit about non-dojo-related matters and waste their time. This grates on my last nerve, and can make it difficult for a prospective student to positively identify whether the style in question may be suited to them.,

What’s the difference, you ask? The difference between a McDojo and a Coffee Shop Dojo is that a McDojo teaches a watered-down version of a specific art in the interest of maintaining the highest student count possible and making the most money. Students will often climb in rank quickly, provided their cheques clear and they’re willing to pay any associated fees. A Coffee Shop Dojo is one where financial gain may not be a priority and may not even be a consideration, but the student body treat the dojo as a social club rather than a place to learn. The instructor in these schools will often be complacent about this behaviour and may even take part in it.

I know what some of you may be thinking…. If these folks are treating their dojo as their own personal social club and use it to socialize, who are they hurting? there’s no bad reason to be in martial arts, right? Well, the problem I have with this type of environment is that it may sway or provide a wrong impression to a prospective student. Although most individuals should know what they want out of their training, it’s very possible that some wouldn’t. Further, some youths who may be brought in by their parents may not have the inherent knowledge to recognize that this may not be the place to get the best training.

Ultimately, preference is key and knowing what you want is important. that’s why it’s critical that you allow yourself the opportunity to observe a class before participating. you need to have the opportunity to ask some questions and get a feel for how those questions will be answered. If your goal is to LEARN the martial arts and get in shape, learn to defend and protect yourself and better yourself, a casual, laid back atmosphere may not be for you. But if you’ve never set foot in a martial arts dojo before, how will you know? And THAT is the question that begs answering…

When you practice an art that’s suited to you and your needs, there will be struggle. But it should be smooth-flowing. there will be difficulty, but you’ll be energized and have a hunger that will make you want to train harder, faster and stronger. there may be blood, sweat and tears but as I shared in a previous post some time ago, he who sweats more in training, bleeds less in battle. Martial arts is a subjective thing. Be sure you exercise that choice and find something suited to you. Food for thought… ☯️

Dojos Shouldn’t Be Built In Glass Houses…

Those who know me well are aware that in some ways, a lot of ways, I’m a bit of an old dog. And we all know what they say about the aching us new tricks. I’ve been studying Okinawan karate for over 30 years and as such, I’m a bit set in my ways as it relates to adaptability. This sucks, because variety is the spice of life and one should never be bogged down or restricted by only one style.

With that in mind, I started training with a local karate dojo located in Regina, back in 2016. Although it’s a different style with significantly different techniques and ways of doing things than I’m used to, the camaraderie and ambiance have been just what the doctor ordered to keep me motivated and practicing. What’s nice is that there’s been some exchange of knowledge between our respective styles, so everyone learns.

However, as with most things nowadays, COVID-19 stuck a needle in my eye by closing down the dojo. We were having virtual classes for a while and then even those stopped. When conditions lifted in Saskatchewan last September, everyone was overjoyed to return to the dojo in person and get some training in. Then conditions and health regulations changed once again at the end of September, leading the dojo to close its doors again. this was mostly due to the requirements imposed by the martial arts association it’s a part of. but I digress…

With nowhere to train and my martial arts muscles twitching, I sought out different schools in order to find someplace new to get my kicks (pun fully intended). Last Monday, I visited a local school, here in Regina. Since perspective is extremely important in the martial arts and all of this is strictly my opinion, I won’t name the school or even the style. Suffice it to say it would have been something completely new for me.

Considering how long I’ve been doing this, i have a particular set of expectations when it comes to dojos and martial arts schools. Not everyone agrees with them and it often restricts me in the sense that I’m viewing this place with that narrow lens instead of considering what I could learn. This is the issue I faced last Monday evening when I attended this new school.

Class was scheduled for 7:00 pm and was only for an hour. This is my first red flag. Class minimum was always two hours when I trained back home and even then, we had difficulties walking out without showering Sensei with questions and asking about techniques for at least twenty minutes afterwards. It’s pretty hard to truly get into in-depth training with only an hour to work with. But in the interest of having an open mind, I reserved my opinion in favour of seeing what they’d offer in only sixty minutes.

I walked in at 6:45 and was greeted at the entrance by a few students who were standing there waiting. This took me aback a bit, as it’s important to stretch and warm up before training. Everyone was very friendly, introduced themselves and asked me what I knew about their style. I was told that the lead instructor was providing a private session and that class would start promptly at 7. Prior to class start, the students as well as the instructor tried their best to have me join in as opposed to watching. I politely declined, stating I wanted to observe a class first.

I couldn’t help but notice that the lead instructor was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap. I thought maybe this was just for the private session and he’d change into something appropriate before class started, but that didn’t happen. He was also wearing rings and a metal bracelet, which is frowned upon in most martial arts schools as you can injure yourself or others while training.

The class started and one of the students led the class in about 20 to 30 minutes worth of stretches and warm-up, which should have been done independently by the students prior to start of class. But again, this is simply an opinion. At the halfway point, everyone paired off and started practicing techniques. It should be noted that the instructor has done nothing at this point, other than walking around the group. Techniques were practiced in a cursory manner, with no precision or correction and EVERYONE was chatting while they trained. Not about the material, moons you. They were chatting about personal matters.

At the end of the hour, everyone bowed out and immediately started exiting. No follow up, no questions and most importantly, no one had broken a sweat and the instructor had not participated. He was extremely polite and invited me back to start taking lessons. I thanked him for his time and said some goodbyes to the students I had met and made my way home. I haven’t returned.

This is where my opening comment about being an old dog comes in. Where I was trained, the student was responsible for arriving a minimum of 15 minutes before start of class and stretching appropriately so that everyone was ready to jump into it once class started. There’s also an expectation that everyone works hard and everyone sweats. The expression is “blood, sweat and tears,” not “tea time and socializing.” There’s a time and place for students to come together and chat, but during class time is not it.

Another issue is the instructor’s lack of involvement. This is a red flag, as the instructor SHOULD be involved in training, as much if not more than the students. I’ve heard of some styles that believe that “black belts don’t sweat,” but that’s utter bullshit. A true martial artist’s training never ends, so there needs to be an active involvement.

I left the school that night a little sad and disappointed. As I said earlier, I haven’t returned. But on the other hand, the school may have great value to its students for what THEY need. The takeaway is that it simply wasn’t for me. And this is an important lesson. Martial arts is very subjective thing and the style and habits of the school are integral to ensuring the student and/or practitioners are getting what they seek from their training.

As it stands, the search for a place to train continues. And that’s fine. Considering how much I train on my own and the fact there are over three dozen schools in Regina alone, I’m sure I’ll find something. Persistence is key. But for all of you trying to find a place to train, make sure you know what you want to get out of your training. Be honest with yourself and with the instructor about what you want and what you expect. This will save significant amount of unwanted difficulty later on. ☯️

Jus’ Sayin’…

I found this little gem some time ago while wandering the World Wide Web. As it pertains to martial arts training, it suggests a pretty important lesson. That being that the more you push yourself and sweat in training, you’re less likely to get the shit beat out of you in an actual fight. How nice of me to make the lesson so much less elegant, eh?

But I think this could definitely apply to just about any situation in one’s life. Work, personal relationships, exercise… everything! The point being, that if you put in your best effort in the here and now, you’ll likely save yourself some negatives results and/or outcomes further down the road. A quick and easy lesson for today. Food for thought…☯️

How Much Do You Need?

There’s a prevalent belief that one’s workout area needs to be elaborate, containing a vast array of different equipment and machines. One needs to have access to a bit of everything in order to ensure the best variety of exercises and the best for one’s health & fitness. People will pay through the nose for expensive gym memberships and access to equipment they would either not afford or refuse to pay for, within their home and some of the extra services like saunas or steam rooms and towel service. But that’s all a load of bullshit… And here’s why…

It may be great to have access to a wide variety of equipment. After all, I won’t be a hypocrite and try to convince any of you that i don’t occasionally take advantage of the gym at my office, since it does have the elliptical machine I enjoy using and a variety of free weights I don’t have the space to keep at home. Wake up late and need to get yourself up and going? No time for a visit to the gym? All you need is a small space, even if it’s only about 8 foot by 8 foot. In that space, you can do push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches and a wide variety of dumbbell exercises. All without the availability of gym machines and complicated and expensive equipment.

If you practice martial arts, you should be able to perform all the exercises mentioned in the previous paragraph as well as practice all of your punches, kicks and blocks from a stationary post. Doing one’s forms shouldn’t require any more space than a small, open area and doing them with a bit of oomph will have you sheathed in sweat before you know it. All of this can be done without big, expensive gym memberships or vast arrays of equipment.

Let’s not forget some of the old faithfuls, like going for a run or cycling. Even going out for a brisk walk can be a good alternative, especially if you’re on a break day or trying to nurse an injured limb back to health. Anything will always be something more than nothing, right? So, the answer to the title’s question should be that you need very little in order to focus on your fitness and make a change. There’s should be no excuse behind why you don’t exercise regularly.

So don’t wait! Whether you want to lose weight, get fit, build muscle, improve blood circulation… whatever! If you have a friend who knows martial arts, train with them! If you have a bicycle, get out and peddle! If you have a small area of open space, do some exercises at home! Jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, burpees… You can’t go wrong. If you wait until you have the money for a gym membership, your chance at good fitness may be passing you by. Food for thought…☯️

I Want To Live…

I want to live. Makes sense, right? Most people do. Most people have the opportunity. Not many people fight for that privilege. And I know what you’re thinking…. Why should someone have to fight for the privilege of living? Well, I don’t mean fighting for the privilege of staying alive because of oppression, war or famine. I mean fighting for the privilege to live against something that came to be, completely out of one’s control. If none of you have guessed that I’m talking about Diabetes at this point, let me clarify: I’m talking about Diabetes.

One of the best things about living in modern times, is that Diabetes is no longer an automatic death sentence. If you were diagnosed with Diabetes prior to the creation and distribution of insulin, that was pretty much it. I’ve written posts about how long a Type-1 can survive without insulin, even if they completely eliminate carbohydrates and continue to exercise. So I won’t get into that part, since that’s not what this post is about. Needless to say, insulin isn’t JUST about lowering blood sugar levels.

People have often asked me why I push so hard when I exercise, or why I do so much. I’ve had folks commenting on the fact that by the time I’ve completed a workout, I look like a wet cat who got stuck in the rain. Sometimes, it’s can be belittling or condescending; as though they’re suggesting that I shouldn’t be a sweaty mess in a public place where other folks can see. It’s almost akin to those who make fun of an overweight person in the gym for trying to get in shape. Granted, not EXACTLY the same, but the concept is the similar.

I learned from a very young age that Diabetes would show me no quarter. If I let up my guard, even for a day or two, it would find a way to swoop in and make my life difficult. Maybe this difficulty would come in the form of high or low blood sugars, which typically fuck with my entire day. Or maybe it would simply make me more susceptible to illness and make my day-to-day interactions all the more dangerous. Or perhaps it’ll take something simple like stubbing one’s toe and turn it into an automatic, infected toenail. Just because it can. Diabetes shows no mercy because it has no emotion.

Fitness is an important part of ANYONE’s lifestyle. It’s no secret that someone who doesn’t exercise regularly will face a host of health problems too numerous to list here. But staying fit and active is an important part of life and all the more so for someone with Diabetes. Again, from a young age I recognized this, especially in light of my doctors telling me I’d die due to Diabetes complications before I reached my teens (I’m now well into my forties, in case you were wondering).

I guess where I’m going with this is that there are a number of different reasons to work out and go to the gym. Some people want to get fit, some want to get muscular and some want to lose weight. hell, some people go to the gym simply to be social and see certain key people they may associate with. And that’s fine. At the end of the day, whatever your reasons for training consistently will never be bad. Anything will always be something more than nothing. My point is you’ll be able to easily discern who’s training to get fit and who’s training to save their lives.

That’s what I do. I train in order to save my life. I train because if I don’t, Diabetes complications will reach me all the sooner and take away something that I need in order to live. That’s why I’ll spend an entire hour on a cardio machine at a high level and end up soaked and breathing hard. That’s why I rarely take break days or rest days. Diabetes never takes a rest, so why should I? I push myself because I’m trying to stay ahead of a condition that will ultimately end my life, despite all the therapies, despite all the available resources and despite all my efforts.

And that’s the ultimate punchline of my existence. This is a race against time and a race against a condition that I will inevitably succumb to, despite my best efforts. But like trying to outrun an oncoming tornado, I have to try. I need to give it my all because I refuse to let it take me down. I have too much to live for. I owe it to myself and to those who matter in my life. I’m fighting against complications. I’m fighting against organ failure. I’m fighting against death. Besides, I’m well aware that there are those who push and train harder than me, anyway. But my efforts are mine and mine alone.

So, the next time you see me breathing hard at the gym, it doesn’t mean I’m “out of shape” or new to working out. When you see me walking away from a machine looking drenched like an alley cat left out in the rain, it isn’t because I couldn’t handle the exercise I was doing or I was doing too much. It’s because I’m fighting for my life. And if you don’t come out of that fight bloody and covered in sweat, you’re not really fighting. And you will lose. Ask yourself why YOU do it. No matter what your reason, you should never judge someone’s efforts or appearance when trying to better themselves. Whether it’s someone trying to get slimmer or fitter or someone who is simply trying to prolong his life long enough to see his children into adulthood. Food for thought… ☯️

A Special Belated Birthday

I spend a lot of time online and with my nose buried in books, looking up the various knowledge and materials that I use in my posts. But I often overlook some pretty important and key dates that SHOULD hold a special place in my martial arts journey, One of those dates was yesterday. While doing some research for a post, I brought up Google’s home page and noticed Google’s banner was adorned with some martial arts imagery of a dojo, practitioners in white gis, and an image of Master Jigoro Kano in the centre.

It was a clever rendition and looked nice, but considering Google frequently changes their home page banner, I thought nothing further of it. That’s a shame, because yesterday’s post really should have focused on Master Kano’s 161st birthday, which is why Google had it up. It also dawned on me, a touch too late, that this is usually WHY Google will put something up; to recognize a special day. But I digress…

Master Jigoro Kano

For those of you who don’t operate within martial arts circles, Master Kano was the founder of Judo. Even non-practitioners are usually familiar with that term. His efforts and teachings can be recognized and remembered as being the first Japanese martial arts to use the coloured belt system employed by most Japanese and Okinawan arts, as well as many others. He was a teacher by trade, which I have no doubt would help with teaching the martial arts, and contributed to Judo being taught in public schools.

Master Kano had originally studied Jujutsu while studying in university, long before it would make it’s way across the globe and everyone would only recognize “Brazilian Jujitsiu,” which is a combination of the two aforementioned arts. He eventually began to surpass his teachers and developed his own system, naming it Judo, which means “plainly” and “the way.” Master Kano also established the Kodokan, which is his Judo institute in Japan. I had the honour of visiting this facility in 2001. It was inspiring.

Although I consider myself a karate practitioner, Sensei also holds a black belt in Judo and incorporated a lot of Master kano’s teachings into our system. Through the decades, many of the holds, pressure points and throws taught in Judo were also taught to us. That’s why our school is called the New England Academy of Karate & Judo.

A happy, belated birthday to the late Master Kano. He may no longer be with us, but his legacy has obviously endured long after his passing and will continue on. In fact, judo was the first Japanese martial art to be included in the Olympics. It makes one wonder if he ever thought, all those decades ago, just how far his teachings would reach…☯️

Sure, Get Right In The Way…

Kids are amazing and they have no shortage of clever quips and imaginative ideas. Sometimes the amount of stuff my oldest son comes up with kinda scares me, especially when he starts talking about some of the “advanced” weaponry he builds with his legos and various other toys. If he ever gets a mountain fortress and a swivelling chair while petting a white cat, we may have a world domination problem on our hands. But getting them interested in the things you do can be the biggest challenge. For me, it’s been getting my children interested in martial arts.

My oldest son Nathan had some moments of interest where he would emulate some of the movements and techniques I would practice during a given workout. It was cute, considering he used to do this prior to being a toddler. I have a great video clip where he comes out of his room and sees me training, and immediately drops into a horse-stance and does a kiai. I used to show that video to EVERYONE, as I absolutely loved the precision and ferocity he did it with.

My oldest son, Nathan

This happened without my efforts to try and encourage him to do it. It gave me a slim hope that he would show some interest and perhaps prowess in karate and I would be able to start teaching him from a young age. I’ve seen the results of “forcing” children into karate, firsthand. The results are never positive. For this reason, I’ve always been an advocate of allowing children to make their own choice when it comes to sports and extracurriculars. That being said, Nathan has never shown an interest in learning beyond the occasional bout of floor grappling or “wrestling.”

When my second son, Alexander was born, he began to show some active interest almost immediately. As soon as he was able to walk without falling over, he would follow me around and do what I do. At only 2-year’s old, he currently practices punches, kicks and even lifts little 3-pound weights when I do resistance workouts. Although letting a small child use weights isn’t ideal, 3 pounds isn’t significant and it’s hilarious watching him do arm curls, trying to imitate me. Watching him on the punching bag is even better.

Beyond both of these scenarios of ultimate cuteness and adorability, one of the biggest issues is finding the time to do a proper workout when you have two small, rambunctious children clambering all over your legs. A good example was a few nights ago, when I was trying to do a short, weight workout in the living room. I’ve bring doing this push-up challenge called “Bring Sally Up,” lately (it’s been going well, BTW. Thanks for asking…) which requires the use of YouTube, since that’s where the video is. I prepped myself with a pair of shorts and a dry-fit hoodie with the hood up, which allows me to retain more heat and get a better sweat on.

The push-up challenge is about three and a half minutes long and at about the first minute mark, I raise my head just a touch to see a tiny, red-headed grin peeking into my hood. Hilarious, but obstructive. Then, as I was working through a set of dumbbell exercises, he was trying to emulate them with his 3-pounders. It would have been adorable if not for the fact that he was crowding my space and I had to keep moving or altering my sets in order to keep from cold-clocking him with a dumbbell.

I got the workout done, but it goes a long way towards showing how exercising with children involved can be complicated. The important thing is not only teaching children proper fitness safety as it pertains to proper stretching, not overdoing it and the dangers of the equipment you use, but trying to get it done for yourself in a safe, controlled manner. Kids don’t always get the potential dangers of exercise, especially with equipment. There’ll always be an excuse NOT to exercise but your children shouldn’t be one of them. ☯️

To Teach Is To Learn, To Learn Is To Teach…

I have a great respect for teachers, a respect I wish I had when I was actually a student in school. I remember struggling to stay awake during class and considering a lot of the material boring and unimportant. As I grew into adulthood, I came to appreciate the importance of acquiring knowledge and how important those who were trying to pass it on were to me. As it pertains to karate, teaching is a very specific flavour that not everyone’s palette can appreciate. Myself included.

Having a good teacher is an integral part of a good martial arts journey. Too often, I hear about instructors who are either too violent with their students, refuse to provide certain levels of instruction or coaching or are simply more concerned with showing off their own skills than actually passing on their knowledge. These are all good signs that you’re in an ever-so-lovely “McDojo,” and you should exit, stage left if you ever find yourself in that kind of a teacher/student relationship.

I remember my first experiences with teaching karate. i was still a white belt, albeit a couple of stripes in, and I was tasked with teaching basic movements and the opening of our first forms to students who were starting classes for the first time. It was a fun experience, and it showed me some of the shortcomings and errors I was committing myself. Occasionally, I would been have a student who would recognize something and say, “Isn’t it supposed to be THIS way?” It was good, because it kept me humble and reminded me that there’s always learning to be done, even when it’s something you’ve learned already.

When I started to climb in rank and reached a senior belt level, I enjoyed taking the occasional class when Sensei wasn’t available and I continued to teach beginners and some higher belts as my own knowledge base increased. Teaching beginners was always a good thing, because it provided me with a refresher of my own materials and knowledge, which most martial artists tend to ignore as they climb the ranks. After all, it’s usually way more fun to practice that fancy, complicated kata instead of the basic one you learned as a white belt that essentially looks like you’re walking back and forth, right?

But the ability to teach and impart knowledge is a specific skill; one you don’t necessarily acquire simply by virtue of having “been there, done that.” the ability to impart knowledge is learned skill and a kept skill, but also one that has to be suited to one’s personality and overall abilities. This is a lesson I unfortunately had to learnt he hard way. And that lesson came in the form of teaching a kids’ class. When I graduated to black belt, Sensei approached me and asked if I would be willing to be the new Sensei for a kids’ class. he explained that he was getting increased pressure from some local parents to open one up again, but he simply no longer had the time or motivation to do so. He asked if I would do it, along with his silent assistance in the background.

I have to admit that I was happier than a pig in shit and very much looking forward to being an instructor. A head instructor of my own school, at that. So I got set up, sent out applications to the parents who wanted their kids to learn karate and started taking in students. During that first month, I had over thirty new kids in the class. That first class was reasonably decent, considering the children were reasonably quiet, compliant and following instruction. It helped that it was a new environment for most of them and as most children do, they were shy and withdrawn for those first few classes. then, all hell broke loose…

See, children have this thing they do where, once they get comfortable with an environment, they start getting cheeky and hyper. this is exactly what began happening in my dojo. With every passing class, it almost seemed as though I spent more time telling everyone to settle down and try to calm them to follow instruction than I was actually providing instruction. I also made the mistake of having some classes where i tried to introduce grappling by playing “king of the mat,” which resulted in the kids wanting to do nothing else.

After that first month, the total number of students dropped by half for a variety of normal reasons, including some who decided they didn’t like it, parents who thought tuition was too expensive (good luck finding another karate school that only charges $20/month) or children who had to be gently expulsed from the dojo due to refusal to follow instruction and such. It began to feel like a struggle and I quickly learned that teaching children was not my cup of tea. Within six months, I had approached Sensei and told him I would be stepping down and asked him who my replacement would be. There was none.

It was heartbreaking but I realized that teaching was beginning to take the joy out of karate for me. I didn’t want it to suddenly become something I no longer enjoyed, so despite having no replacement I made the difficult decision to close the doors of my dojo. Some of the slightly older children and the ones who showed proficiency were able to transition into the regular class and some of the parents were pretty miffed, but I closed my first dojo under a year of opening its doors.

Where am I going with this? Well, the lesson today is threefold. First, one needs to recognize that high rank does not make a teacher. It needs to be learned, inherent and wanted. Just because someone has reached the level of black belt (which isn’t the be all, end all BTW) it doesn’t automatically make them an adequate teacher. So the rank doesn’t necessarily come into it, to an extent.

The second point follows on the first, which is that you need to want it. If you start teaching others simply for the prestige of having them call you “Sensei,” then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Unlike classic Kung Fu movies where the aged master always retains a few key techniques for himself, true Senseis will teach their students everything they know in the hopes that the student will someday surpass the teacher.

Lastly, be clear on why you want to do it and know your niche. once again, teaching young children wasn’t my thing. I’m unfortunately too used to having structure and discipline in the people I teach to manage the chaos and lack of attention that accompanies most children. It takes a special level of patience. this is why I have the utmost respect for school teachers. When I think of the difficulties I often have trying to teach my 6-year old something important, I weep for the school staff that have to deal with him all week in tandem with a classroom full of his peers. I think they may be the true warriors… ☯️

Martial Artists Do It With One Leg In The Air…

I read a really good post recently about how “movies lie to you.” It covered a variety of things we see in the movies that generally wouldn’t be genuinely possible in real life. Things like drawing a long sword sheathed on your back, gunshots or explosions throwing people across the room or getting that zwing! Sound when drawing a sword from a leather sheath were some of my favourites. It was a pop up story on my Facebook feed, so I unfortunately don’t have a link to share, which sucks because it was a pretty good article. The one thing they brought up that caught my attention was actually something that I’ve written about before: kicks.

Do I study karate? Yes. Yes, I do. Do we practice kicks in karate? Oh, most certainly. But here’s the thing: high-flying or flowery kicks are all but useless in a real fight. Movies and television shows make a pretty good show of having martial artists duke it out with each other and there’s no shortage of kicks and it usually looks all cool and stuff. But all those high-flying kicks can leave you extremely vulnerable and standing on one foot is never a promising endeavour when you’re squaring off against an opponent.

I usually like to think, and I know some of my martial arts counterparts would agree, that any technique has its place. Some techniques are taught and practiced solely for the purpose of increasing flexibility and mobility and to develop that whole thing that if you want to kick to a certain extent, you should train further. But in actual real-world applications, it would never do to try and use a high kick against an opponent.

Not only do high kicks expose your groin and various other areas that one would rather not have struck, even a practitioner who’s trained and or acted certain kicks ad nauseam will find their balance precarious during an actual fight. One can easily make the argument that during training, you’re in a controlled environment where if you do nothing more than block, there are certain safeties in place that’s don’t exist in a real fight. When “fight or flight” kicks in, keeping your balance and composure can be challenging, despite muscle memory.

My style of karate basically includes front kicks, roundhouse kicks and blade kicks with an occasional sprinkling of back kicks. But with the exception of doing it to increase flexibility, all of our kicks are generally focused no higher than the belt line or floating ribs. I’m usually dependent on my hand strikes and blocks, since most real-world scenarios won’t involve a great deal of distance between you and your opponent. And honestly, if there IS that much distance, there would potentially be opportunity for you to simply reposition and walk away. Food for thought… ☯️

The Uechi Chronicles, Vol. 6: Final Thoughts

Some weeks ago, I sent out a message to a reasonable number fo people with whom I’ve trained in karate for any number of years. People who have had an impact on my journey and who have left a lasting impression. In the previous 5 volumes of these stories, I have shared their thoughts and answers to a few short questions that shed light on what brought them to the martial arts and why they’ve continued or trained in it.

The most important aspect to take away from these stories is the fact that everyone’s answers were different. Why they joined, how long they’ve done it and what they’ve gained or hoped to gain differed significantly from one person to the next and made for some interesting insight into the thought process that goes into the making of a karateka. We had one person who was essentially forced into it, another who joined along, one who wanted to learn self-defence and one who needed it to save his life.

As good as it may be and as fun as it’s been to write about these journeys, what about the ones who didn’t respond? I’ve passed on 5 stories, one of which was mine and I don’t mind sharing that I sent out feelers to over a dozen people. So, what about those who didn’t respond? An interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed with something like this is very much the same as a previous post I did about wearing karate “swag’ or apparel.

When a person joins karate and are genuinely motivated by it, they’ll talk about it constantly. They’ll wear “karate” shirts and warmup jackets in public. Hell, one of the first things I did in my first month of training was sew my extra school patch on a t-shirt and I wore that thing EVERYWHERE. It also drew some unwanted attention, since it basically broadcasted that I was training in self-defence, but that’s a whole other mess.

My point is that as time passes, so does one’s need to validate what their doing by broadcasting it in this fashion. The same can be said of speaking about it. When I was a young white belt, I couldn’t STOP talking about Uechi Ryu. As I got older and more seasoned in the art, I changed my perspective to simply answering questions if someone asked about it. Nowadays, I don’t generally discuss karate outside the realm of my blog or if I’m actually training somewhere. It seems as though many of my senior counterparts have chosen this path, as well.

in some respects, this is unfortunate and I believe it’s a great loss that we can’t hear their stories as well. For example, although I know some snippets, hearing Sensei’s responses to the questions I posed would have been enlightening. But despite a significant period of time passing and only four questions to answer, many have chosen to remain silent, which I totally respect and understand. This brings the chronicles to a close. Should any of them reach out eventually, or choose to respond after reading this, I’ll certainly be more than happy to add another volume. ☯️