Saturday, 14 April 2018

Cyberbullying- Some self defense tips.


My first two years of high school were not anything I'd like to remember.

Kids loved picking on me and luck had it that I was stuck in a class with a large group of kids who threw stuff at me, stole my book case and had tons of negative remark to make about me. Also- because I was afraid of heights it was lots of fun to grab hold of me and dangle me over great heights as I screamed for dear life.

Yes- that is how I met humanity during my formative years and I have survived it.

For the record- I LOVE saying that none of those kids were Chinese or Black- so SUCK ON THAT anyone who  looks at me funny for having friends in these two ethnic groups...

But I digress. What I have experienced in High School is what my generation knew as bullying.



We of course had no cellphones and social media did not exist.

You did not dare sass any adults in their face, because you would get the living daylights smacked out of you if you dared and if you wanted to insult a peer you first made sure that you were able to handle the retaliation that was sure to follow.

Then the Internet came. Soon a bunch of kids found the thrill of throwing insults at strangers far away without fear of retaliation. Before the advent of social media as we know it this had happened in chatrooms where the worst retaliation anyone could manage was something like this...



But internet users enjoyed a much larger measure than anonymity in those days, so threats like this really did not do much more than scared people who did not know a lot about computers.

When social media came about internet users became a lot more exposed. We put personal information out there for anyone to see and the occasional photo with which we could be embarrassed (if you can really be blackmailed with your own stuff you are really "special").

Now- the kids who used to make obscene jokes with strangers in internet chatrooms grew up and some got kids of their own. Among this new generation of kids, An online AL QAIDA armed with cellphones and laptops supplied by a CIA we call THEIR PARENTS we suddenly saw the dawn of an era where big strong jocks run scared of nerdy kids who have them in fear of opening their own inboxes or social media pages.

Am I exaggerating? I guess I am.

Still- the abuse flung about by internet users soon got a name:

We call it:

CYBERBULLYING

Must say- it sounds cool. At first an uninformed person might think it means something like receiving a wedgy from a cyborg jock at some school the Jetsons send their kids off to, but it refers to people verbally abusing others on online forums. 

Schools have started taking notice. Governments have taken notice.

People started writing articles on it. I quickly found these 3 articles on the topic with a Google search-  


https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberbullying

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cyberbullying.html


Now- I have never thought I would ever become a target of cyberbullying. I mean- for how many years have I been blogging and posting on social media now? All those years have been without incident.

So- this past week it happened to me- on Facebook.

I think it would have been over quicker if it had not been for the fact that I have been experiencing a really stressful week and was actually overjoyed at someone willing to receive some verbal abuse from me appearing out of nowhere to call me "Gramps" in a comment on Facebook and then follow it up with a whole bunch of negative remarks concerning my date-ability, my appearance, my opinions and so forth. This all came from a group of girls presumably all the way over there in the UK, oceans away from my home in South Africa.

So- did I turn the other cheek?

Hell no!

I don't remember how many there were, but I have vented at them all until they disappeared.
  



What I have learnt from it all was that the worst effect cyberbullying has on the recipient is that it is a huge waste of time. And that effect only occurs when you actually get into a conversation with these morons.

So- having learnt from my experience I have decided that the best technique a martial artist can use against a cyberbully is a BLOCK!

"You mean like this?" 


No. More like this...



Every social media app I know has this feature. You just need to search a bit, find it and be ready to activate it whenever you need it.

If you want to learn an offensive technique as well we could develop something like a Fuckyuzuki or Forum Kick (that already exists in online communities and forums), but it will be just as ineffective as the cyberbullying attack itself.

Here's the thing- if a cyberbullying attack actually WORKS on you, it is only because you let it. Cyberbullies, Trolls and anyone on this earth who insults you- be it the Army Sargeant, your boss, a parent or whoever the fuck else- HAS NO AUTHORITY to judge you in this life. They don't. Simple as that. Someone calls you ugly- that is his/ her opinion. Someone calls you stupid- as well.

Every person in this world, you me, the people we love, the people we hate- have a place here in this world. They all have the right to live and to pursue happiness. That will never change. Anyone who wants to spend time trying to hurt a person's feelings is actually wasting his time.

I know in the past there was a lot of people whom I never had the guts to tell them to go fuck themselves (yes- I do swear a lot at times), but I can assure you that those people had real power over my career, future and well-being. As soon as I became independent from them they also disappeared out of my life really quickly- depriving me the pleasure of telling them what I wanted to for so many years... :D

None of these people were teenaged cosplaying keyboard warriors, though...

Parents- if you notice that your child is actually suffering from this form of "bullying" it is the perfect opportunity to show them where a person's true value comes from and on what self esteem should actually be based- which is definitely some random stranger's opinion.

One can also of course leave any forum or community where people don't want to communicate with you in a decent manner...

History shows us that a lot of people had been able to survive for decades without social media anyway...


I guess this counts as my break from serious writing.

Next week's post is going to be about the pro's and cons of self study and joining a dojo.

Until then- stay well!    




Saturday, 7 April 2018

It started with a video


You know- I don't want to start trouble- especially not with my post about respecting other styles, but I have found that my time being absorbed in Karate has made my kicks feel all stiff and without power.

Really- no offence meant against Karate. I just like my techniques to feel a certain way just as I love the smell of ginger and something else I cannot yet name in a Chinese kitchen.

Few things in the world feel as satisfying to me as a Chinese Kung Fu workout. So- I have started to focus on the Kungfu component of Wenshiuquan. To explain briefly what the Kungfu component of my style entails might reveal that it is actually a most crucial component as it concerns the generation of speed and power.

It is really funny that I have been able to grade all the way to 1st Kyu Brown in Karate, but had never really been able to punch powerfully. My kicks had stopping power, but that was only because legs are inherently strong limbs.

The moment I have learnt developing the explosive force of Kung Fu punches and kicks, though, things have gotten really interesting... 

For one thing- My punching bag's spring base broke after one kick too many...

I have found my punches can actually do damage (to the point where it has become easier to hurt people and harder to control as opposed to earlier when I could not hurt anyone and had a hard time at kumite because of it. Trust me- kumite is a lot more fun if your partner is at least a bit wary of you.).

So- in short- Kungfu works for me.

So- I have spent a couple of mornings revisiting the basics when I saw this video on Youtube:  


David Torok's Butterfly Kick

https://youtu.be/gzOUV1av3ok


Hey! I realised. I have never learnt this kick before! So- I decided to start learning it. Well- my attempts as they are at the moment are not worth posting here, but- having forced my hips to twist a bit sharper than usual did give me the ability to do two kicks- actually sweeps- that I have not done in a long time: 

Jade Xu's Front Sweep

https://youtu.be/Cg3WwHU9uBc


Jade Xu's Back Sweep
https://youtu.be/K9DEsdLNzKs


These two videos are excellent tutorials and these techniques have proven much easier for me to learn than the butterfly kick.

Still- I practice it regularly now, because- even though I can't quite manage to do THAT kick just yet, I got this one back in the meantime:



I guess staying in a comfort zone can eventually rob you of techniques that you have learnt and abilities that you have developed. The only way to maintain these is to keep pushing further. 

So- let's all kick things up a notch!

Stay well and train hard, everyone! 



Saturday, 31 March 2018

Discipline and sacrifice- Where would the world be without it?


Hi, everyone!

I hope you have all been enjoying a peaceful and restful Easter Weekend.

I have trained to the point of utter exhaustion today before I sat down at my desk to balance my books for this month- end and get some stuff ready for an annual audit us attorneys have to go through over here.


 Image result for yogi on spikes

The training was a pleasure- even when I had to absolutely drag my arse through the last kata,

Image result for shaolin monks training

but the month- end accounting took some will-power.

Still- it could have been worse.

You see- I have this habit of writing up fees into my bookkeeping system as I work. Middle of every month invoices go out. End of each month I balance books.

Because I do not skip any of these steps I have been able to save a lot on accountant fees simply because I leave the accountants less work to do this way.

Believe me- I don't always feel like doing this, but- I also know- and fear- what chaos will ensue if I let one of these tasks slip for even one month...

One of the first things you start learning when you start developing internal strength in your martial arts training is that we have our emotions, moods and feelings. In most people these are the things that get influenced by whatever we perceive with our senses. We hear upsetting news and we start feeling upset. You see another gloomy post on local politics on social media and you end up being depressed and so forth...

And then- what you do gets affected by how you feel.

This is the way for most people.

Now- those of you who know me by now can probably guess that I don't want anyone who studies martial arts to be some average joe with a beer gut who has done karate at some time of his life before. I want people to study martial arts and take something home with them.

I don't see the need for all of us to break bricks, fight off multiple attackers or kick the cookie jar from the top shelf. One thing we could all take home, though, is having broken these shackles of emotion. Sure- you can feel afraid, but you can nevertheless still fight. You can feel tired, but you can push on further.

You can feel so not in the mood for bookkeeping, but you can still do it.

Why I prefer martial arts to merely trusting that you would learn these things just through your day to day life is because a martial art puts you in a controlled scenario that you would prefer to avoid, but get forced to deal with by fighting.  Within this simple activity a host of skills come forward. You develop good reflexes for attack and defense, learn to control fear and you learn to attack properly, regardless of how you feel.

Now fear is a really powerful emotion so- if you have learnt to overcome that, how much easier is it not to get out of that simple not-up-to-it feeling?

One may ask- why punish yourself like this? Life is so short, after all... Why not spend what time we have on things that make us happy? Well- I don't intend to elaborate in this post on what truly makes anyone happy, but I will say that the house in which you live, the mall that you go to and the public services you use and enjoy do not exist because of people who chose to please themselves rather than making themselves useful.

Believe it or not- all these things exist because of sacrifices made by other people.

The ability to overcome your own unwillingness or reluctance to do the right thing is what I regard as discipline of the highest order.

The big secret in all this is also that once you have learnt to give up personal comfort for the sake of doing what needs to be done you realise that you are actually a lot more comfortable with this life.

Every martial arts skill under the sun is the product of such a sacrifice.

I think I understand why countries like China and South Korea made a point of maintaining a thing such as a national martial art. The type of citizen one gets from training on a national scale is truly the stuff of ideals.
 


Well... I have now reached the end of my post.

I hope you all have a great Sunday and a very good week ahead. I also hope that your martial arts training will continue being useful to you.



Saturday, 24 March 2018

Don't disrespect other styles- We just don't do that...



When I had decided that I wanted to learn martial arts I was not content with just going to a dojo to train.

As my belt rank went up higher and as I interacted with black belt students I have realised that the only learning you are truly guaranteed to get from your dojo is learning by experience.

In Karate a lot of teachers have become teachers by attaining the required belt rank (In South Africa that is 2nd Dan and up...) and then choosing to teach. Knowledge of martial arts philosophy and history is not a requirement for any of these belt ranks. 

I on the other hand wanted a full martial arts education. Part of my reason for this was that I love books and I love knowledge.




Image result for tekken characters pictures and names

I must say, however, that part of the puzzle in learning martial arts is gaining experience in fighting or at least sparring to truly understand what it is that you have to learn.

Image result for huo yuan jia and suzuki having tea

So- I was only able to understand the styles that I have learnt after having experienced the controlled combat that one gets on the dojo floor.

Some of us may have experienced actual violence outside the dojo, but I truly do not recommend that anyone actively goes and seeks out that kind of experience unless it is your job to do so.

Now... Let's start moving towards today's post.

A short time before the internet was around I have taken up Karate at our Shukokai dojo in a town that was known back then as Ellisras. I was 14 at the time.

Now- back then most people who have seen Karate knew about JKA, which was the only known vehicle of Shotokan at the time and also in many places the only known style of Karate.

My Sensei made a point of having us understand that we were not doing JKA. He would also demonstrate from time to time the folly of kicking from a bent leg like JKA (being vulnerable to being pushed over), having a wide forward stance like JKA (nobody walks like that in real life and besides, your groin is open to attack!) and standing with hips facing away from the opponent like JKA (your hand is now too far to reach the target in time. It slows you down!).

Well... All in all we Shukokai students believed that we were practicing a style far superior to JKA because our techniques were simply better conceived. 

Imagine the surprise you get at an event called the "All-Styles Championships"...

In traditional karate circles here all-style competitions are not a strange phenomenon. I was a green belt when I took part in my first all-styles tournament. That would be the second belt in your second year of karate training if you have passed all your other grades in the previous year and the current year.  


So- when the match-ups for kumite were called out I was at ease to see that I was fighting a JKA guy.

After all- with what we have learnt of these guys this match was going to be a piece of cake, right?

Think again...

I remember the last point being scored against me was a punch in my back before I could finish my back kick. These guys knew how to fight... 


<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/15687220" width="640" height="256" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href="https://vimeo.com/15687220">Tea, Martial Arts and The Way - clip from 霍元甲/Jet Li&#039;s Fearless</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/user4851459">neeraj2608</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>


https://vimeo.com/15687220


Anyhow- more surprises and experiences have of course followed after then.

The 90's was also a time when the Gracie brothers were making headlines in martial arts magazines. During that time I have read a number of issues of a particular magazine called Fighting Arts International of which Terry O'Neill was the editor.

Issue by issue we could see how no-rules matches and open tournaments increased to find an answer to the public's question on which style is the best. What came to be later on as we know is MMA which in turn has actually evolved into a fighting style on its own...

The advent of social media actually took this ...umm... can I really call it an ongoing debate... well... whatever it is... it brought it to a wider audience and now- instead of having to wait for the next month's issue of Fighting Arts to read someone's opinion in the letters column I now only have to log onto any of my social media accounts and find this kind of stuff in the comment section.

Now- I think you, the reader will agree with me that we often do not know that level of experience or level of achievement of a commentor, but we find that many of these commentors are quick to deride any given martial arts style at the drop of a hat.

I am well aware that there are also many people who would tel them to change their attitudes, but I have not yet seen anyone who tells these commentors what I am to tell you now-

These people don't understand fighting.

Sure- you can show me your certificates and your belts and so on. Chances are that I know what you had to do to get them, but still- you don't understand fighting.

The simple test that the Gracies have chosen to determine which martial arts was superior is a simple one. Two fighters from different styles fight each other and then see who wins. You think this is a good test?

Well- the world has many incidents where a cocky martial arts student (and believe me- in some cases it is even a black belt) gets his ass handed to him by a person who has not studied ANY martial arts in all his/ her life. So- are you now going to conclude that it is better not to study ANY martial art and just rely on what Nature has given you?

The thing is- to win a fight- you only need to deliver an attack against which is not being defended or attack at a time when it is not expected.  These conditions apply to all of us, regardless of what style we practice. It becomes harder to fulfill these conditions of course when you have two contestants facing each other with the full knowledge that they are trying to beat one another... Still- whoever manages to do any of these two things- or who does it more than the other guy- wins.

And the Universe does not care what method or what technique you sue to do so- as long as it fulfils the condition.

Now- away from competition- we still have to answer those people who want to talk about what works in a real fight. Right?

Well- you know- fighting is almost as old as mankind itself. I am saying this under the assumption that Adam and Eve had experienced a period in humanity's history where no fighting was necessary at least until Cain had come around.

Now- would you believe that the Chinese had long before even the 18th century already observed the act of fighting with all of its emotions, all its problems and all of its consequences and analysed it?

In Shaolin it is said that Kung Fu stands on 3 legs: Force, Technique, Tactics.

I have spoken about this before, but let's refresh our memories. Force refers to visible qualities like strength, speed, reflexes, agility and so on... This is what we call external force. Things that are cultivated with active effort. It requires you to break a sweat.

We also have internal force, however. Although the effects thereof are visible how exactly the results are achieved cannot be seen. A conditioned mind, high pain tolerance, being impervious to fear or emotional stimuli... these are all the result of inner workings that we do not see. The quality of these inner workings we call internal force.

Now- martial arts do of course have ways to train and develop different kinds of force, but force is also possessed by different persons in different quantities.

Moving on to technique... Technique is the method of attack and defence. Different methods exist. Some may be more efficient than others. In martial arts styles we find that some choose a specific striking technique for its speed while another prefers a different one for its power. From Where I am typing I cannot imagine any untrained person to have technique of any kind and I will say that those fights in which untrained persons beat martial artists are fights where they were either more cunning than the trained opponent or simply just stronger/ faster.

Then we have tactics...

If you have been studying martial arts for a long time now and have spent many hours in the gym or at the dojo you would know that tactical cunning will only get you so far...

Still- it is a factor that determines the outcome of a fight. Superior tacticians are known to beat their opponents seemingly without effort.

Now- the Universe really does not care what training background you have, who your teacher was or how much you know. Those 3 factors are what gets weighed in a fight and nothing else.

But that is all talk...

In martial arts we get to do. In fact- we learn by doing and by seeing things happen for ourselves.

So- here are a couple of things that you can do to get over this myth that one style is generally better than the other for winning a fight:

1. Play Tekken 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. 6 or 7: Choose any character. Finish the arcade mode with it. Then select any other character.  Then play against someone else. Let that person pick whoever he/she likes and then see how the match ends... Simple, but also clear.

2. Spar with someone, but with both allowed to use only one technique (eg reverse punch/ gyakuzuki): It may be silly, but it works well to show you that what techniques you know (which is basically the largest distinguishing factor between styles) is only part of what determines your success in combat. It is actually interesting to note that Japanese martial arts masters like any Kendo master or a Karate master are capable of winning a fight with something as simple as a single whack over the head or a stepping punch. These attacks seem simple and can be found in a large number of fighting styles. Still- the fact that these attacks work have nothing to do with under which style they are being performed.


And so I have written paragraph after paragraph about combat efficacy, but that is only part of what a lot of martial arts styles are about. Many styles of martial arts have practices derived from combat that are used for other purposes such as maintaining or restoring health, attaining enlightenment or even just developing physical strength. I am, for instance, not so confident to use Taijiquan or Xingyi in a fight as I am with Jeet Kune Do or my own style's combat form, but still- the core strength and mental focus that I have gained from just practicing these arts can't be denied.

Like I said- I was fortunate enough to have learnt these things and have applied them to what I have experienced to understand what I see and do. I know that many people have not heard this from their teachers.

At least I can hope that if you have read this post you will know that whenever you feel like ridiculing this style or that- someone may be out there reading what you say and knowing that you actually do not know enough about martial arts...


To the ones who have realised the things that I have written about without having been taught- respect! :)





Saturday, 17 March 2018

Kami Waza/ Special Moves

Image result for hurricane kick gif

Hi, everyone.

Study any Asian martial art for long enough and you may find...




...that you still can't do any of the cool techniques that you may have seen in movies or online videos! 



We know it is true.


Image result for flying side kick

Many black belt students also know this to be true.

There are a lot of martial arts clubs/ schools that do not even bother teaching these really spectacular and advanced techniques.

You know the techniques I am talking about, right? Those crab scissor throws, back spinning sweeps and let's not forget- aerial techniques!

The reasons teachers give for not teaching such techniques are usually one or more of the following:

1. They don't work on the street



or they are useless.

2. They are not in the syllabus;

3. The instructor does not know them.


About reasons no. 2 and 3 I am not going to write a lot. I am sure that by now we know that a lot of martial arts we see being taught today are watered down for a number of reasons. You  are welcome to comment about this, but for now it is good enough to accept that these reasons exist.

About reason no. 1 however I want to clear up some misunderstandings.

Before writing this post I have googled a term that I have read in a library book long ago. The term was "Kami Waza". Search results that I got, however, ranged from articles about some video game, a brand of some kind of business solution and a whole lot of other junk that I was not looking for.

In Karate- this term was used to refer to techniques reserved for advanced students. No- these techniques were not something like jodan mawashi geri. They were something much cooler.

One of these techniques, for instance, was called sankaku tobi. It did not refer to the jump used in Shotokan's Meikyo kata, though. In Okinawan Karate this referred to a jump used when you are surrounded by three assailants and where you kicked all three of them before your feet were beck on the ground. This is very much like what we see in Taekwondo demonstrations today.

Various other jumping techniques also exist that can be classified under this category. Shotokan's Kanazawa Sensei was known to demonstrate what was called "Whirlwind Defence" that was performed by jumping towards an opponent while spinning to let direct attacks slip of you while that same rotation powers your counterattack. In the photo I have seen that counterattack was an aerial gyaku zuki. 

Search around for some really good Karate demonstrations and you also find mounting techniques- techniques that involve one climbing or jumping onto the opponent- that resemble the mounting techniques in Monkey Style Kungfu.

We have dropping/ ducking techniques as well. Moves like the dragon tail sweep in Kungfu (as shown by Jade Xu in one of the photos above) have one dropping to the ground.


Now true- these techniques don't come natural to most of us. They require a measure of agility and in some cases flexibility that a lot of us don't have. So- why would anyone bother to use them in a fight?

Part of the answer may be found in one of Nakayama Sensei's "Best Karate" books. I was lucky enough to borrow one for a short while some years ago. The book that I remember had a chapter on what was called "Desperation Techniques".

  

Now- to understand what exactly is meant by this term I want to use an example of some movie that I have already forgotten. In the movie an adult said to a child that the problem with a swearword is that if you use it too much it loses its meaning.

Now- as desperation techniques go- it won't do you any good to fly into a fight with a move like the Crab Scissors as your opening gambit. These techniques work at their best in a fight where the chips are down and your opponent is confident that he knows every move that you have and anticipates the normal forms of attack and defense to which he has become used.

Looking at a move like the Dragon Tail Sweep- you have to admit that even a seasoned fighter who can block punches and kicks from any angle does not see it coming when someone suddenly changes the script and drops down to deliver one of these...

But- before you can surprise your opponent with something unusual- he must first have a usual to get used to.

So- you reserve these techniques for special occasions.

Shaolin Kungfu has a number of moves that do not follow the customary patterns of attack that one usually expects and the success of these moves lie in just that.

Specifically dropping techniques like the Dragon Tail sweep are effective because in a moment a high attacking pattern is broken by you dropping out of the opponent's line of sight. In the time it takes him to adjust you have him landing on his butt with his feet kicked out from under him.


Now- How can you learn special techniques like these.

Well... Some of these techniques can be learnt from a good school if you are lucky enough to find one, but don't be surprised if you have to train for many years before you can even begin to learn them. All of the special Karate techniques that I have seen were performed by Senseis who were 6th Dan or higher.

You can of course find external sources like videos or books.

Whichever way you find to learn these techniques, however, you have to accept that your teacher is not going to change his class' curriculum for you. You have to learn and practice these techniques in your own time. If your competition rules allow them you can test them when you feel ready to do so. If they are not allowed in your competitions practice them anyway and keep them in your arsenal.

I have always liked the idea of martial arts taking you as you are and then producing a brand new improved version of you after a couple of years. The ability to even just perform (let alone use) such a technique is in my book a sign of such transformation.

That's it for today's post.

Next weekend- because I have seen a need for me to do so- I will post a detailed explanation on why we should not disrespect other styles than our own.

Until then- be good and train hard! :) 




Saturday, 10 March 2018

Karate Spoilers- It is not as bad as it sounds. I promise!

Image result for stan schmidt spirit of the empty hand


Hi, guys- and girls!

It is ironic that I have planned to publish some spoilers about the journey ahead for most karateka while some wise-ass thought it a good idea to publish spoilers about how Dragonball Super was going to end.

Well- a post about THAT will follow after I have watched the controversial episode...

Now, however, I want to get really open and frank about what really goes on in Karate what you are to expect if you have just walked into a dojo for the first time.



Image result for street fighter ryu
Now WHY would I bother to write this?

Well... because in spite of information being freely available all over the internet nowadays there are a lot of misconceptions about Karate in general.

These misconceptions keep some people from starting and with some who have started it causes disappointment.




Image result for street fighter ryu


Now- I must say beforehand that I am aware that this is a very generalised post. Things may be done differently in your country, or at your dojo, but the expectations that I outline here are about as universal as it gets- especially here in the West.

Image result for street fighter ryu

I have picked Karate to write about because it has the most in common with all other forms of martial art that I know and I know that students of Kendo, Kenpo and even Judo will find something here to which they can relate.

Now- before I get into what you can expect to really happen if you stick around at your Karate club long enough- let me first tell you about some of the rumours and stories that were spread in my country:

1. "Karate systematically taints one's soul with violence in order to make him/ her into a servant of Satan". 

Sounds really ridiculous, doesn't it? You have to understand, however, that from 1961 until 1994 South Africa had a government that has not only been oppressing the Black population here as you all probably know, but that was also manipulated by a not-so-secret-anymore society of people who had worked towards keeping South Africa's people ignorant and compliant. In those days these people, called the Broederbond, had a huge influence on our churches and back in those days the Church had a lot of power here.

Many of the traditional Afrikaner Churches preached this right from their pulpits. Well- one can understand how anything linked to Asia and Buddhism can't be welcomed by Christianity, but someone came up with this little rumour that spread through our primary and high schools like wildfire:

"White belt means you are still innocent. As your soul becomes more and more tainted with violence and hate the belt's colour grows darker. When it eventually becomes black you are ready to offer your soul to the Devil."

Well- times are more enlightened now, but you still get Afrikaners hissing at anything Asian like a vampire would do at the sight of a crucifix. :D

Just like any good Chinese restaurant would take out the MSG if the customer does not like it many Karate Schools have removed any and all Buddhist or Shinto practices from Karate over here- or rather- they did not even bother to bring it into their schools to begin with- so as to not scare people away from their classes.


Image result for ninja

Image result for ninja

2. "After you have become a Black Belt you start becoming a Ninja!" Okay- this one is not the Broederbond's fault. :D

Still- this was a very popular myth when I was in school and explaining to a bunch of 13 year olds that there is a thing such as Ninjutsu (which now actually seems not to exist...) did not do much to stop the spreading thereof.

Although it is true that some schools of Karate teach Kobudo weaponry and some Freestyle schools teach their version of weaponry that goes beyond just Okinawan Kobujutsu/ Kobudo weaponry- the fact is that the teachings of Ninjutsu encomapssed a wide range of skills and practices that went beyond mere hand to hand combat. No Karate school that I know of has ever bothered to teach that.  



Image result for miyagi karate kid

Image result for miyagi karate kid

3. "Karate teaches you self control and inner peace"

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhh... This is not really a lie, but it is also not so true either. The thing is- when the Buddhist teachings and Zen got thrown out the door you ended up with your average joe who likes fighting and you find out soon that these guys can get angry and in some cases even beat their wives and kids! Thing is- if you are a tofu eating hippie who thinks that you are going to find kindred spirits at your local Karate school you are in  for a huge surprise! Funny thing is- long before the days of the UFC we had dojos run by Senseis who felt like Karate needed to become a lot more credible and during the early 90's we were beating the living crap out of each other. 





4. "Karate will give you superior fighting abilities" 

Uhmmmmmmmmmm... Maybe... But then again- what a lot of people forget is that the things that determine the outcome of any fight are strength, technique and tactics. Fighters all over, trained or untrained possess at least some of these qualities to a larger extent than others and can as a result be victorious in combat. The sad thing is- the Universe does not give a damn about what style you practice.



Noneteheless- Karate is fun and beneficial. I always recommend it to people who want to get their kids to become stronger, healthier or just become more confident. As a sport- it is safer than Rugby and the amount of fitness and balanced conditioning one gains from practicing it, regardless of style or school, beats what I have seen in spinning classes and gyms.

Okay- the spoilers are about to follow so- if you don't want to see it then just stop reading right here...





1. White belt: Welcome! I think by now you realise you were not to wait outside the Master's house for days and you also did not have to bring the Master a present. :D
Image result for Krillin's gives Master Roshi a gift

Nope. Rather- you have most likely been given some forms to fill out, an indemnity to sign and got told what kind of gi to buy if you did not yet have one.

Life at the dojo pretty much consists of learning and practicing basic blocks, straight punches and- hold on a bit longer- you might soon learn a Taikyoku Kata! :)

Some schools- like my old Shukokai dojo- give older white belts, from ages 13 and up- an early taste of free sparring. The results of that are good in the sense of it not being so much of a surprise later on, because Karate is a fighting art after all, but the bad result is that you develop bad habits that are hard to shake as we rather like to stick to doing the things that save our asses in a fight, although those things aren't necessarily the kind of technique your grading panel wants to see in your basics (kihon) and kata.

The Kata that you have to learn besides Taikyoku differs from school to school. I won't say from style to style as there are even differences between different schools of Shotokan. It can be agreed however that you will invariably learn Heian/ Pinan Shodan.

2. Yellow to Orange: Let's get a move on... This post is going to be a very long one otherwise and I don't have that much time... :D

Okay- you are doing free sparring without really knowing what you are doing. You may even be copying a roundhouse kick from your senior classmates. Your grading syllabus, however, features only a simple set of prearranged sparring sequences called ippon kumite. It may seem silly and a waste of time because you are already being deemed smart enough to do free sparring at tournaments, but the actual fact is that you were actually supposed to master these sequences before you try your hand at free fighting. The Masters, however, reckoned that withholding free sparring from you for that long would result in you getting bored and leaving early, so you get to do free sparring too.

As for your kihon- you actually learn to kick too! At this stage you ought to know mae geri. Mawashi geri might also get learnt.

As for your kata- You should at least know Heian/ Pinan Nidan by now...

What I would hope you pick up at this stage is proper stance. Thing is- you can fool yourself into thinking you are doing good karate just because you win a fight or two, but the foundation of karate's effectiveness lies in its technique and the stance is the cornerstone of that technique.

I have seen many people progress to the next level with poor stances and that really does more harm than good. I will deal with this in another post, though... Now- lets get on to the next level.

3.   Green to purple:  By now you are most likely aware that things are tougher in the road up ahead. You attend senior classes now. Free fighting is a lot more intense and by now you know Heian/ Pinan Yondan.

Yoko geri has been added to your inventory- perhaps couple of other kicks as well as you are no longer a novice at competing... 

You find that your teacher is a bit tougher on you and that mistakes are not really tolerated with you anymore. By now you should know how to do things correctly. Mistakes happen, of course, but you realise how far you have come by noticing the abilities that you have gained. Hopefully this motivates you to push on...


4. Brown to 1st Dan: By now you know every kick, punch, strike and block to compete in a tournament. You may notice that there aren't any weight classes in your division now. In the Kata division you show up doing really advanced Kata now -no longer just any of the Heian/ Pinan Katas.

You also have an extra class to attend on Saturdays.

At this stage nobody should have to tell you how to stand or move properly or how to perform any technique.

You now know enough techniques with which to fight effectively. Whether you are physically and mentally capable of handling yourself in a fight remains to be seen...

By now you have taken a lot of hits. Your fitness levels get pushed to their limits and the dojo is most likely not such a friendly environment to you anymore. Many decide that they have had enough at this stage and quit. Realise, however, that the dojo in which you find yourself exists because of somebody who pushed on beyond this point.

In some schools your 1st Kyu (last brown belt) level is the last level where jiyuu ippon kumite (semi-free sparring) is the highest kumite requirement for grading. In Shukokai we already did one on one free sparring for our blue belt gradings. In Shotokan, however, free sparring becomes a requirement. This type of free sparring is also not the point sparring of competitions, but the dojo kumite about which I have written earlier. It is actually full contact, but the bouts aren't as long as MMA fights. In many cases one such bout is enough, but it has become a trend at Shodan gradings nowadays to have candidates fight multiple bouts.

New Shodan students then get introduced to the Black Belt initiation. Sure- if you pass your Shodan grade you receive your certificate, but it is customary for the right to put on your kuro obi only after you have fought every black belt in class- either at the place and on the day of your grading or the day of your next class- before you are allowed to put on your black belt.

5. Second Dan and upwards: These gradings are a lot further away than the ones before, of which you probably had two in a year.

Old Shotokan has 26 Katas in their syllabus. You probably know most of them by now, but I have not yet met anyone who knows all of these katas. No- wait! My old JKA Sensei knows them all...

The weekly classes are actually a breeze now. It is the black belt class on Saturdays that challenges you.

At this point your school expects you to start giving back. You referee at tournaments, you help teach classes. Some open schools of their own. An interesting trend at 3rd Dan Gradings and probably upwards is that candidates are also required to write and submit a thesis on a topic of their choice, that of course relates to what they have learnt from their Karate training.



Gradings become more challenging. In some schools more complicated kihon sequences get added. In all you can be assured of one or more advanced katas to learn and perform successfully.

You have that thesis to write.

As for free sparring- you can be assured that multiple bouts of dojo kumite will get fought. Some schools now decide to test your ability to defend against multiple opponents attacking you at once.
(A Shukokai school in Polokwane, South Africa did that with its Shodan gradings. I have not seen that with Shotokan yet, but am certain that it lies waiting on the road ahead eventually...)

Now- interesting thing to note- In most Western countries your highest Dan level to be reached is somewhere around 8th Dan or so...

The Chief Instructor always holds the highest Dan grade.
So- let's suppose you have stuck with it until the very top of the ladder- all the way up to let's say- Tenth Dan- which is held by your Chief Instructor...

What happens then?

Well- he/ she (I do not know of any female chief instructors yet, but let's keep an open mind) automatically promotes him/ herself to 11th Dan! :D

No! I am serious!

At this point, I must say, however, that it is said to be a very lonely and scary place- at least for those who felt comfortable in the security of having a teacher above you at all times to guide you.

What happens now...?

Well- if you ever get there- let me know.

You'd expect that here from 6th Dan on you'd find teachers pondering the meaning of really Zen questions like "What is the ultimate aim of Karate?" or something like that. Well- with all due respect- in reality it is often much more mundane questions like "Who is going to the Nationals this weekend?" or " Where do we find a place to train when this place's lease expires?"

:D

Nonetheless. Any teacher will tell you- and they will be very right is saying so- that how rewarding your training is going to be is ultimately up to you.

This is it for now. Next post is...

No! Not about the ending of Dragonball Super!

It is going to be about some of the really cool stuff in Karate that does not get taught so much anymore and how self-study and training outside the dojo helps in learning them.

Until then- train hard and have fun! :)

   







Saturday, 3 March 2018

I swear this is of interest to Karateka as well! The Scouter App that I have found in the Playstore

Hi, guys!  :D

I am super excited about today's post because of an awesome app I have found in the Google Playstore during this week.

I was going to write a post titled "Karate Spoilers" today, but it seems like a higher power intervened this week and gave me something much cooler to write about.

Before I tell you more about it and SHOW you what I found it does- let's first look at this scene...

https://youtu.be/QsDDXSmGJZA

Those of us who know the Dragonball franchise very well know that these scouters first made their appearance in Dragonball Z with the arrival of the malevolent Saiyans. This scene where an amazed Vegeta reads Goku's new power level after his return from Kaio Sama is definitely one of the most memorable scenes.

The scouter was alien technology that measured a living being's Ki.

We have seen a similar device being used in the Street Fighter II animated movie.

https://youtu.be/Fk0OxjpkE0k?t=130

Now the app that I have found in the Playstore is not called "Scouter" or "Ki Detector" or anything like that. It looks like this...


No! Not like my girlfriend's hand! Stop staring at that! :D

It looks like the icon on the screen and as it shows- it is called "Ghost Camera".

Now- before I type anything further- have a look at what it does!




HOW COOL IS THAT?!!! :D

Okay- let me calm down and tell you what I know so far. I have done some reading about this app. Whoever designed it believed that ghosts will emit something that would be picked up by any of the following sensors which are all in your basic smartphone:

1. Electromagnetic sensor/ Radio receiver,

2. Camera

3. Microphone

4. Motion sensor

Now- it was meant to find ghosts or paranormal presences in your immediate area and when you use it you will find that it does not pick up your TV or any electronic equipment. I have noticed, however, that it likes living creatures. In fact- if it is to be believed then our Staffie Bruno probably has a power level over 9000. :D

Here's Bruno. He does not like being photographed...

Well- having been introduced to a device similar to a Ouija Board in the past and having experienced how occultists communicate with spirits I have experienced that the sensations I feel during such activities are very similar to the feeling of qi flowing during qigong exercises and meditation. 

So- I just had to try...

Before I have found this app I have been able to resuscitate an unconscious bird and some people who practiced Taijiquan with me were also able to feel the electric-like tingle of energy emanating from the palm of my hand. And- of course- I have felt qi within me ever since I have started qigong at the age of 16...

Some explanations that I got in the past were along the lines of suggestions either planted within myself or within other people. Now that we have a phone, which cannot be hypnotised, involved I am more certain now that our bodies do emanate an energy that can be detected and that can affect electronic devices.

Now- practitioners of Ki-Do, Nei Kung, Qigong, Taijiquan and any other style that pays attention to Qi/ Ki in its teachings- I strongly recommend you download this app and use it!

You know- I realise I have completely forgotten about my initial ghost hunting trip as well...

Well- okay... Karate Spoilers will be next week then.

For now- stay well and train hard and have fun! :)