swan_tower: (*writing)

The other day at the dojo, our sensei had us punching bare-handed against bags (the flat pad type that another person holds onto). I wound up punching mine a few more times with a little more force than was strictly wise — because of course I did; I’m a writer and I was curious to see what it felt like, and I’m unlikely to go around getting into fist-fights just for research.

Since my hand is still complaining at me a little bit today, I figure I should share what I learned with others, so they don’t have to do the same thing. 🙂

The actual impact stung a fair bit, and increasingly so as time went on, of course. But I was good about keeping my wrist straight, so the impact went up my forearm in a direct line; you can really mess yourself up if your wrist isn’t straight, because then it will buckle under the impact and you’ll probably sprain something. (And I really do mean straight. Mostly straight = not good enough.) My knuckles turned visibly red, and I got a small mark in the webbing between my ring and pinky finger, like I’d chafed the skin or something. Fortunately I didn’t persist to the point of really doing myself a mischief, because near the end I subconsciously flinched from the sting of impact; my wrist buckled, but there wasn’t enough force in the punch for that to do any damage, and then after that everything I threw was complete crap. I imagine that adrenaline would have carried me much further in a real fight, but odds are good that it would also have made me more likely to use bad form and hurt myself that way.

My knuckles stayed faintly red for the rest of the night, but were back to normal the next day, and the mark faded about as quickly. The lingering effect is in the soft tissue between my metacarpals: I still feel an intermittent ache there, and if I use my left hand to shift those bones around, I can tell there’s tension and stiffness. So the moral of this story, I think, is that if you’re going to talk about punches leaving a mark on the one who threw them (and you should, unless your character is a hardened bare-handed brawler), the problem isn’t so much in the knuckles as in the hand itself. Or the wrist, if they threw a stupid punch and sprained something. Or, y’know, all over the place if they were really dumb and dislocated a finger or broke a bone. But the palm of the hand is going to take a beating even if nothing more severe happens elsewhere.

So now you know. And don’t have to pound your own hands to find out.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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After my test back in March, Shihan gave me a plain black belt to wear.

My real black belt had to be ordered from Okinawa, you see. Which takes a while — and then I vanished for three months, on account of house-buying and travel and house-moving and the dojo’s annual summer break. But tonight I went back, for the first time since early May, and this was waiting for me:

my karate black belt

Mind you, the really real symbol of my achievement won’t come until the dojo party this Christmas. As Shihan has pointed out, anybody can go online and buy a black belt — even one with their name embroidered on it in Japanese. But you can’t buy an enormous diploma signed by a ninth-degree black belt in your style, which is what I’ll get in a few months.

Still and all . . . it’s good to have the belt. 🙂

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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After seven and a half years of practice, two months of really hard work, a couple weeks of rather gruesome stress, and fifteen minutes of actual kata . . . .

. . . I am a black belt in shima-ha shorin-ryu karate.

In a way, the test is more ceremonial than anything else. Shihan’s been watching you the whole time; he cares more about your general level of skill than how you perform in a single, specific moment. I screwed up the footing at one point on jitte — knew it even as my feet were moving into place. But I still passed. Because I don’t always screw up the footing on jitte, and even if those weren’t my best performances of each kata — my performance in a test is never my best; nerves get in the way too much — I showed that I know what I’m doing, well enough to qualify, at least.

My sister-in-law, who is a sensei at the dojo, said something very useful to me about two weeks ago: as much as we want to feel like we’ve earned our black belts with the test, her take is that you earn your belt after the test. The test itself is a formality, a thing to get out of the way so you can go back to working on your karate and growing into the belt you now wear. Her words of wisdom did a lot to help me stop stressing (well, stress less). And now, with the test over, I know exactly what she means. Shihan gave me some esoteric tips on movement; now in class, rather than running all my kata back-to-back in order to build my endurance and learn how to pace myself, I can stand there wiggling my shoulders and sticking my knuckles into my ribs and doing things that won’t have an immediate effect on my kata, but will make me a better karateka in the long run.

Because the thing to remember is: as much as outsiders think of getting your black belt as “graduation,” as having arrived . . . it’s really the starting line. All those belts below black are more recent inventions, a way to let you see the progress you’re making on your way to, not mastery, but basic competence. I have now achieved basic competence. Yay! Time to really get to work.

. . . no really, time to get to work. Because my test wound up being scheduled for a Wednesday afternoon, I have class tonight. I’m looking forward to sticking my knuckles into my ribs and seeing what happens. :-D

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Neither Shihan nor his wife were at the dojo tonight, which meant I felt comfortable asking the sensei who teaches on Wednesdays whether he was okay with me keeping my Fitbit on during class. He said that was fine, so for the first time, I have stats for what goes on with my body during practice.

I was surprised at how few “steps” it recorded, to be honest. Sure, we spend the first twenty minutes or so on various warmups and stretches, most of which won’t register on the Fitbit. But it only recorded 1500 for the whole hour, which is equivalent to about fifteen minutes of normal walking at my usual pace. I thought the various punches and blocks would add up to more. The real interest, though, is in the heartrate tracking: I can see where we finished the warmup and started doing basics, and I can see what happened when I ran seven kata back-to-back in preparation for my upcoming test, which is a thing I’ve been doing at every practice for about a month. Turns out that I do indeed spend most of the class in the zones generally classed as “cardio” or “peak,” and topped out the scale at 185 at one point during that block of kata. (It would be amusing to see which kata work me the hardest, but since I was only allowing myself five breaths’ pause between them, there’s no hope of differentiating one from the next via the stats.) 185 is what the American Heart Association considers the usual “maximum” for my age, so I feel safe in saying that I’m working pretty damn hard when I do that kind of set. :-P

I wish Fitbit had a way for me to save that data and label it “karate,” so that I can add it to my stats for the day any time I go to the dojo. But I also wish they made them waterproof enough to wear while swimming, and that they could make the actual unit thinner; I can’t get everything I want.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I posted a while ago about one of the stops on my book tour, an event hosted by the Oregon Regency Society. During that weekend, I met a lovely lady named Nora, a friend of Mary Robinette Kowal’s.

Last week, while on a trip with her husband to celebrate their anniversary, the two of them were in a horrific car accident. As in, the sort of thing where they’re lucky to be alive, and Nora is still in the ICU. (Her husband Bob was there, too, until recently.) They have insurance . . . but not a lot, and this is major enough that it’s going to blow through their coverage. It won’t help them with the months to come, during which neither of them will be able to work.

There’s a fundraiser underway to help them. And to sweeten the pot — not to mention create some spots of brightness in what is otherwise a dreadful moment — Mary is organizing Acts of Whimsy, as sort of milestone bait for the fundraiser. You can check out her blog for the full list, but my contribution is that I will perform a karate kata in the Victorian dress I used during the tour. I don’t promise to perform it well; in fact, it would be more honest to say I promise to perform it abysmally, given the constraints of the dress. But you will get to see it. And when that goes up, I’ll write a post about what I learned about trying to perform martial arts in Victorian clothing, for the edification of all who might write such a scene one day.

Please do contribute if you can. I didn’t get much chance to talk to Nora that weekend, but we did meet, and it’s appalling to look at the photograph of their truck (in the first update; click and scroll down to see it) and think of her going through that. The fundraiser is about 60% of the way to its goal right now; that’s fabulous, but there’s a lot more to be done.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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(Actually, owing to a clerical error, the card on which my class attendance is recorded lists me as wakashodan II. Which would make me ~two belt ranks higher and twenty years younger: the wakadan are the black belt kids. But whatever. <g>)

I had another belt test on Friday, 11 months after the last one. It would have been a good deal sooner, were it not for ankle surgery intervening; one hopes I will not face such an obstacle again this year. Because at this point — having attended class last night — I am 59 classes away from being able to test for my Real True Black Belt. Actual shodan, instead of shodanho, the “probationary” black belt degrees that in our dojo precede the thing itself.

There are three classes a week that I can attend. 60 classes at three a week is 20 weeks, or roughly five months. Except there are holidays; there are times when I’m out of town; there are nights when I’m sick or just plain don’t feel like going. My goal is to test for shodan by October, which will be the seventh anniversary of my first class. That’s eight months away: gives me a realistic margin of error for the classes I’ll miss, while being tight enough of a timeline to motivate me to get my lazy carcass to the dojo.

It’s a long, long road to a black belt, at least where I study. (Longer when you have two ankle surgeries along the way.) But the end is finally in sight.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I haven’t been to a kobudo class since Okinawa, i.e. late July. But there’s a seminar this weekend, and although I’m only going to one part of it — I figured I should stay away from the bit that’s going to be done on a basketball court, on account of the brace I’m still wearing makes slipping on the floor a high probability — I decided it would be a good idea to start going back to class.

(Haven’t been to a kobudo class since July, haven’t hit the minimum required classes for the next test, and despite that I got told I would be testing for my next belt the first Friday in November. Possibly it’s just as well that I’ll be at World Fantasy then and can’t possibly come. Except that the next test will be in December, which is also when I’m likely to be doing my next shodan-ho test in karate, and holy Mary mother of god I am not doing those tests back to back. I may just have to admit that to Shihan’s face and beg for mercy, i.e. postponing the kobudo test until January.)

I’ve never felt like I’m that good at kobudo. It’s unclear to me how much of that feeling is because of the disparity between my karate and kobudo skill levels: I felt like I was a better karate green belt than I am a kobudo green belt, but I also had less sense of what I ought to be doing back then, and therefore less awareness of how I was falling short. It’s clear to me, though, that I’ve got more skill than I thought I did — and not just because I still remember the kata sequence. I’ve had other periods where, for one reason or another, I missed kobudo for a long time, and when I came back I always felt really clumsy and off. This time, though, I’ve been gone for two and a half months, and when I came back . . . I felt okay, actually. Not 100%, because my footing is still less than entirely secure, and worrying about that distracts me from what I’m doing. And I’m definitely on the rusty side. But I didn’t feel anywhere near as incompetent as I expected to, which means more of the technique has gotten embedded in my brain than I thought. It’s pleasing to know that.

Exhausting night, though. Class isn’t constant exertion, but even so, two hours on your feet doing stuff will take it out of you — and god knows the senpai who ran the kobudo class wasn’t taking it easy on us. We basically ran every kata twice, saijutsu kihon gata ichi and ni, kiyan no sai, nakandakari no sai, then we switched to bo and it was donyukon ichi, donyukon ni, and then cho un no kun sho not twice but three times, with very little breathing time in between any of it. That’s fifteen kata, yo. That’s tiring. Especially when you aren’t used to it anymore.

But hey: it’s the only way I’ll get used to it again. :-)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

I started up with karate again last week: my first time back since the seminar in Okinawa. As with the previous surgery, I’m not up to full speed, but even just getting to move around is a good thing.

It also paid an unexpected dividend. As shodan-ho — a term which means “probationary black belt” — I’m on the border between “black belt” and “not a black belt,” neither fish nor fowl. I was the only shodan-ho at the seminar (most of the other dojo in our organization apparently don’t use that ranking), so when Shihan said “black belts do X; lower belts do Y,” I had to ask which group I ought to go with. He initially sent me down with the lower belts, but then changed his mind and moved me to the other group, which is how I ended up learning kusanku way earlier than I expected to.

At home, my liminal state puts me in an ambiguous position where classes are concerned. I had told myself I wouldn’t ask until I was out of the ankle brace and more or less recovered . . . but as it turns out, I didn’t have to. On Monday, I was informed that I am now permitted to attend the Thursday class — the black belt class.

Sadly, I won’t be able to make it this week, because I already have plans for Thursday night. :-P But it’s official! I count as a black belt! It really does feel momentous, even though I’ve been to the Thursday class during the vacation periods where it’s open to all belts, so I know it isn’t actually anything special. And I’m glad that it happened this way, with Shihan telling me, rather than me asking. There’s an element of etiquette to how these things get handled; me being patient and not pushing is the way it’s supposed to go.

Presuming I can avoid any other surgeries or suchlike, I should be able to test for the next degree of shodan-ho at the beginning of December. Then it’s sixty classes (minimum) to becoming a Real True Black Belt, with no ambiguity. Five or six months, but probably longer given that there are holidays and I miss classes and so forth. But it is entirely plausible that I’ll be shodan before 2015 is out.

I’m looking forward to it. :-D

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

Okinawa!

Aug. 1st, 2014 12:41 pm
swan_tower: (Default)

This is less coherent than I wanted it to be; I blame the narcotics. :-P

I went to Okinawa! As many of you know. The main purpose was a karate and kobudo (weapons) seminar; there was also time built in for sightseeing, which is relevant because Shihan’s planning to do another seminar in three years, but that one is intended to be all training, all the time. It is also possibly intended for a different time of year, because yare yare, the heat and humidity. I said I was going to be training in an un-airconditioned budokan; this turned out to be mostly not true, as Shihan got them to turn on the A/C for most of our scheduled training. But we also had one unscheduled afternoon block — about which more later — with nothing but a couple of very inadequate fans, so I got to experience something more like the full misery for at least a couple of hours. More than enough to be grateful it wasn’t the entire time, I can tell you that! (Though even with A/C, it was quite warm. Japan, unlike my home state of Texas, does not feel obliged to chill every indoor space to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.)

The prefectural budokan is an odd place: concrete walls studded with random bits of stained glass, highly functional but with lovely hardwood floors in most places, and then the exterior looks a bit like a stylized samurai helm. Our first day we shared the place with a swarm of children there for a tournament; we also saw a number of kendo groups come and go. It clearly gets plenty of use, and has three separate training halls as well as a weight room and a konbini and so forth. As for the training, it was both very intense and not. Each block was two hours long, usually without a break, and sometimes I was doing things like learning kusanku that drove me into the ground. But periodically Shihan would stop everybody to expound upon some point of technique or history, so you did at least get breathers. I suspect the experience was a bit more valuable for the people from Germany and Denmark and Spain and so on; people from our dojo get advice from Shihan on a regular basis, and are taught by people who are still being trained by him directly. The other RBKD dojo are a bit further removed, and so get that kind of guidance much more rarely. But it was very nifty to see them all, and to realize we truly are part of an international organization for the promotion of shorin-ryu karate.

Where sightseeing is concerned . . . I realized a while ago that I kept saying I was going to Okinawa, not to Japan. The difference matters. Those islands were only added to Japan in the relatively recent past, and culturally speaking, they have a lot of influences from Taiwan and China that make them distinct from the home islands (not to mention, of course, the indigenous Ryukyuan culture). We went to Shuri-jou, to Naminoue-guu, to Fukushuu-en, to the Churaumi Aquarium to see the whale sharks. We went to a small island called Kourijima, and that wound up not really working at all: I don’t know what happened, but we had nowhere near enough space for everybody who came. Shihan told us monks sleep on only one tatami mat; well, the American contingent had fourteen people in an eight-mat room, with no futon or even pillows. (Half the group ended up sleeping on the wooden porch; one of them got bit badly enough that he ended up going to the hospital to have the water blisters lanced.) So Kourijima got cut a day short, which is why we were back in Naha for an extra afternoon of training. But we were there long enough to have “beach training,” which Shihan ought to have called “ocean training” instead: he literally marched us into the water and made us do kata there. (It turns out that you can do the upper-body half of naifanchi shodan quite well while treading water.)

As instructed by my sister, I ate spam fried rice. I ate chanpuru (though not with goya). I ate Okinawan soba; I could not have avoided it if I tried, because it got served as a side dish with practically every meal I ordered. We got to see traditional Okinawan dancing at the welcome dinner; Shihan’s wife Tomoko-sensei is to Okinawan dancing what he is to karate, basically, though health issues mean she doesn’t practice regularly anymore. We bought CDs of traditional Okinawan music and also heard the same group sing “Let It Go” in Japanese. All in all, an excellent trip . . . except for the Kourijima part. :-P

And oh yes, there are pictures. Expect to see many of those in the days to come.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I have survived training! Most of it, anyway; maybe all. It’s unclear whether there will be more training on Kouri Island, which is where we’re going for the next couple of days. The schedule originally said yes, but the final version said no, and we’ve been told not to bring bo or sai or even gi. So if we are going to do more karate, it’ll be in swimsuits on the beach. Which would not be a bad thing . . .

Apart from the fact that I ended up learning kusanku yesterday (a kata I’m not supposed to know for another year or so, which involves dropping to a one-legged crouch three times and is absolute murder on your right quadricep and glutes), I think I’m in pretty good shape. Ankle isn’t bothering me much, though it was a bit bad on the first day — I think I blame the plane flight. Okinawa is hot and humid, but so far not as bad as it could have been. I’ve experimented with continuous shooting for stuff that’s moving (traditional Okinawan dancers; adorable ducklings), and therefore have vast quantities of photos to wade through and cull. I would try to make a more interesting post out of this, but my brain appears to have been chopped up for chanpuru. :-)

I should eat breakfast. And pack for Kourijima. Yeah.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I made reference to this in my previous post; I’d forgotten that I hadn’t actually said anything about it before now.

I’m going to Okinawa in July. Every few years, on an irregular schedule, Shihan and various other people put together an intensive karate and kobudo seminar, bringing in people from a variety of countries (Germany, Spain, Denmark, the U.S.) for about a week in Naha and on Kori Island. It will be my first time going; the last one was five years ago, and I was much too low-ranking to attend. Sometimes there’s a tournament, but apparently Shihan got tired of waiting for other parties to get their act together, so this time it’s a seminar only.

I made the decision to go before I knew I was having ankle problems; I paid the fee before I got told I was going to need surgery. But honesty compels me to admit that before I went to the doctor, I told Kyle that I didn’t care what the prognosis was, I was going to Okinawa anyway. Because it’s bad enough to have to do this again: I will be damned if I let it take away my chance to experience that kind of intensive training. I’m going to be sweating to death for 4-6 hours a day in an un-air-conditioned budokan, and that isn’t exactly a thing to look forward to — but I am.

And then I’ll come home and have surgery and not go to karate for a month or more. But before then, I’ll work my butt off.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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As of tonight, the belt I wear in karate class is black.

. . . mostly.

My actual rank is shodan-ho, which translates to something like “probationary first degree.” It means I wear a black belt with a white stripe. After my next test (which won’t be for months), I’ll wear a black belt with a red stripe, and then some number of months after that, I will be an actual honest-to-god black belt.

This means I have made it through the “brown belt blues,” i.e. the stretch of time where you feel like you’re making no progress at all. Our dojo has three degrees of brown belt (going from sankyu to ikkyu), and it’s a minimum of 45 classes between tests; at two classes a week, you spend a long time as a brown belt. Apparently a lot of people burn out and quit at that stage. (I myself am guilty of having slacked off for a while in there.) But now I’ve rounded the corner; the end is in sight.

Except of course it isn’t an end at all. Shodan basically just means that you’re considered “trained” — I’d give the serious side-eye to anybody below that rank who set themselves up as a teacher. There’s nigh-infinite room for improvement above that, though. The lowest-ranking teacher at our dojo is third dan, and Shihan himself is ninth. So, y’know. Shodan isn’t “mission accomplished; now I rest on my laurels.” But it’s a landmark, and one that is no longer quite so hypothetical. I could be there in a year and a half, if I’m consistent about making it to the dojo.

My test on Friday was kind of brutal, mostly because I was the only adult karate student testing this month, which means I had to go through the whole thing without any pauses. (Normally you get to rest while the other students perform their kata.) Stances, standing basics, moving basics, four karate kata (two pinan of my choice, jitte, and tomari passai), two sai kata (kihongata ichi and ni), two bo kata (donyukon ichi and ni), thirty-five shrimps, thirty push-ups, running in place for a minute. It took me ten minutes afterward to change out of my gi and repack my bag, I was moving so slowly. But I passed, and that’s the important part.

It’s very satisfying to look at how much I’ve learned. Not the number of kata, but the knowledge of how to perform them: the ability to think about something in jitte and connect it to a similar-but-different move in pinan san-dan, or to catch an error in my own movement before a senpai comes along to correct me. I’ve been doing this for a little over five years, and the progress is real.

Give me another year and a half, and you might even be able to call me fully trained. :-)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)
My braid weighs approximately six ounces.

For those of you who were wondering.



(It doesn't sound like that much, does it? Though when I said "so my hair in its entirety probably weighs about half a pound," that sounded like a good deal more.)

(This experiment was brought to you by the bun into which I had put my hair for karate starting to pull painfully on my scalp, and me wondering just how much weight I had hanging in a lump off the back of my head.)
swan_tower: (exercise)
I got no exercise while I was at TIP -- which was okay in some respects, because right before I left for that I got a plasma injection to deal with a tendon problem in my hip, and was supposed to be taking it easy for a month or so after that. But it meant that by the time I came back, I was very grumpy about lack of exercise, and determined to fix that.

My schedule for the last couple of weeks:

  • Mon. 7/8 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Wed. 7/10 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Thu. 7/11 -- one hour of karate
  • Fri. 7/12 -- swimming (250 breast-stroke, 250 freestyle, 25 fly)
  • Sat. 7/13 -- half hour of stationary bike
  • Mon. 7/15 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Wed. 7/17 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Thu. 7/18 -- one hour of karate
  • Fri. 7/19 -- swimming (250 breast-stroke, 250 freestyle, 25 fly)
  • Sat. 7/20 -- no exercise per se, but several hours of walking around museums etc
  • Mon. 7/22 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Tue. 7/23 -- one hour personal training (upper body strength)
  • Wed. 7/24 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Today -- another hour of personal training

I won't keep this up forever, of course. The Thursday karate classes are a summer-schedule thing, so those will end mid-August, when I leave for a trip. I won't always make it to both kobudo and karate on both Monday and Wednesday, though I'm trying to get back into doing that more reliably. Swimming is something I've been wanting to start up with for a while; we joined a gym at the beginning of this month, and it's a five-minute walk from our house, so the activation energy for that is about as low as it gets. And [livejournal.com profile] kniedzw and I are trying to institute a habit of going to the gym on Saturdays.

Regardless, it feels good, and I'll try to make it last.
swan_tower: (Default)
I got no exercise while I was at TIP -- which was okay in some respects, because right before I left for that I got a plasma injection to deal with a tendon problem in my hip, and was supposed to be taking it easy for a month or so after that. But it meant that by the time I came back, I was very grumpy about lack of exercise, and determined to fix that.

My schedule for the last couple of weeks:

  • Mon. 7/8 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Wed. 7/10 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Thu. 7/11 -- one hour of karate
  • Fri. 7/12 -- swimming (250 breast-stroke, 250 freestyle, 25 fly)
  • Sat. 7/13 -- half hour of stationary bike
  • Mon. 7/15 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Wed. 7/17 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Thu. 7/18 -- one hour of karate
  • Fri. 7/19 -- swimming (250 breast-stroke, 250 freestyle, 25 fly)
  • Sat. 7/20 -- no exercise per se, but several hours of walking around museums etc
  • Mon. 7/22 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Tue. 7/23 -- one hour personal training (upper body strength)
  • Wed. 7/24 -- two hours of karate and kobudo
  • Today -- another hour of personal training

I won't keep this up forever, of course. The Thursday karate classes are a summer-schedule thing, so those will end mid-August, when I leave for a trip. I won't always make it to both kobudo and karate on both Monday and Wednesday, though I'm trying to get back into doing that more reliably. Swimming is something I've been wanting to start up with for a while; we joined a gym at the beginning of this month, and it's a five-minute walk from our house, so the activation energy for that is about as low as it gets. And [profile] kniedzw and I are trying to institute a habit of going to the gym on Saturdays.

Regardless, it feels good, and I'll try to make it last.
swan_tower: (karate)
I may have mentioned before that the man who runs our dojo (though he doesn't teach all the classes anymore) is ninth dan in Shorin-ryu karate and eighth dan in Yamanni-ryu kobudo, which is our weapons style. I don't know what rank Shihan was when this video was filmed, but, well, just watch:

Shihan performs a bo kata

He didn't hit anything there. He just moved the bo that fast.

Yah. This is the guy I study under.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/583393.html. Comment here or there.
swan_tower: (Default)
I may have mentioned before that the man who runs our dojo (though he doesn't teach all the classes anymore) is ninth dan in Shorin-ryu karate and eighth dan in Yamanni-ryu kobudo, which is our weapons style. I don't know what rank Shihan was when this video was filmed, but, well, just watch:

Shihan performs a bo kata

He didn't hit anything there. He just moved the bo that fast.

Yah. This is the guy I study under.
swan_tower: (Puss in Boots)
I'm not usually much of a shipper (in the fanfic sense) . . . but I want ALL THE HAWKEYE/BLACK WIDOW FIC NOW.

Ahem. Apart from me loving those two and wanting them to get their own movie, I thought The Avengers was quite excellent. Once I have it on DVD, I may well sit down and try to pick apart just how the writers managed to balance their script. Superhero movies have foundered before on the "too many heroes/villains" problem, but this one did a remarkable job of giving each character a meaningful role, without letting the pacing bog down in side tangents. It's helped, of course, by the fact that they're operating off a whole slew of individual movies -- but that doesn't account for all of it, because you can do that and still have a terrible team-up (just look to comic books for proof). This one handled things very deftly, I thought, and I'd love to dig into how.

And now, I crash. Because I survived my first kobudo seminar today (though I'm not sure my feet did), and have earned my rest. :-)
swan_tower: (Default)
Tonight, I am thankful for these things:



I first encountered them years ago at my ballet studio. Bought some for myself, lost them over the years, and then my mother made herself a hero of the revolution by tracking down more. These days, Goody makes their own version, which are a bit longer (though not as nicely coated) as the kind she found for me.

What are they? They are magic. I know they can be put to other hair-related uses, but to me, they are the things that hold my bun up. For those who haven't seen me: my hair is down to my hips, and is relatively thick. When I put it in a bun (for ballet then; for karate now), I end up with a mass of hair more than half again as big as my fist. This is a lot of hair to bun, y'all, and it takes a vast number of hairpins to hold it, not very securely, in place.

I can hold my braid up with two of those, messily. Four makes it tidy. Six makes it secure enough to stay in place through two hours of karate and kobudo.

They are freaking magic.

We call them "hair screws;" I don't remember what Goody calls them. If they might be of any use to you, go out and buy some, stat: I want Goody believing there's enough of a market to go on manufacturing them. Otherwise, I will be back to buns falling down, and I will be sad.
swan_tower: (karate)
Just got back from two classes in a row at my dojo, one in kobudo (weapons) and the other karate. From when I walk out my front door to when I get home, that's pretty much three straight hours in which I don't sit at my computer, barely moving, alone with the imaginary people on the screen and in my head.

This is a really, really good thing.

It's exercise, which sedentary types like writers have to be very careful to get. The exercise actually starts with walking out the door; our dojo is close enough that I generally hoof it there and back. Takes a little longer, but it gets me out into the fresh air, and gives me some good contemplation time. Then there's stretching, and the mild cardio of doing kumite (sparring) and kata.

It's also social time, which is likewise very important when you write full-time (or have another solitary-making job). A couple of years ago, when I was working on A Star Shall Fall, I went through a stretch where, to meet my deadline, I needed to write about 1500 or 2000 words each day, and revise 5000 of what I'd already written. This coincided with the dojo being closed for two weeks while the black belts and sensei decamped to Okinawa for the World Karate Championships. While it was good from a freeing-up-time standpoint, ask [livejournal.com profile] kniedzw what it was like, living with me for the duration. I went crazy. Workworkwork all the time + no real outlets = bad news.

Our dojo is a really cool place, too -- very welcoming, very laid-back while also being committed to excellence. Shihan, the owner, is ninth dan in Shorin-ryu (our karate style) and eighth dan in Yamanni-ryu (our kobudo style); he regularly travels the world to do guest seminars in foreign countries. He's that good. One of the other sensei recently made sixth dan. My sister-in-law, the lowest-ranked sensei in the lot, is third. The excellence is there for you to learn from, without being one of those scary-competitive places like the Evil Dojo in the Karate Kid movie. <g> Working there wakes up all the old gears in my head, left over from my ballet years, where I think on a fine-grained scale about what my body is doing. It's a very good change of pace from how I normally spend my time. (Even if sometimes I'm thinking about how to apply what I'm doing in a story. Shutupdon'tjudgeme.)

When I moved here, I didn't really want to study karate; there were other styles that appealed to me more. This place was convenient, though, and I knew people there, and I liked the atmosphere. When it comes to actually going to class and enjoying it, those things matter more than the details of the style. I'm very thankful that I had someplace this good so easily available to me.

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