Tag Archives: Martial Arts

“…I expect my students to fail.” – Pennell Sensei

Failure.  It’s a part of life.  Athletes fail in spectacular fashion.  And quite often their failure is shared with hundreds, if not thousands of spectators.  Sure – it hurts.  The humiliation of it all; exposing one’s self to the bitter reality of failure.  It can affect your career.  It can affect your personal relationships and indeed, it can have an effect on your perception of the world – sometimes, in a negative way.

No one wants to be hurt – obviously.  However, I think (and perhaps many of you have had the same thought) that failure really does build character.  Sure – perhaps we’ve all heard our grandparents talk about this mystical quality of failure.  “When you fall down, brush yourself off and get back up again!”  Now, Call your grandparents old fashioned, but I think they have grown to appreciate the lessons learned from failure.  Maybe they have seen the long-term effects of failure and have grown to appreciate how it can mold an individual.

Not to jump all over the ‘helicopter parent’ or anything – but I’ve seen first hand how fear of failure – or more specifically, fear of our children’s failure, has caused many parents to turn into overbearing watchdogs who are quick to fight their kid’s fight on their behalf.  I get it, you love your kid.  I appreciate and respect the love you have for your children.  But perhaps – in the right circumstances, a taste of tough love is appropriate.

Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “what the heck does this have to do with Karate?”  Well, a lot actually.  I feel like in the last 20-25 years what could once be considered a healthy supply of traditional karate dojos have turned into these hyper-safe playpens that cater to the constant worry and interference of all!

The ‘helicopter parent’, I see it all the time: Parents who try to tell Karate teachers when their kid is ready to grade.  Teachers who only test a student, “when they are ready”, parents who berate instructors who discipline their child – the list goes on.  Now, am I saying that the institution of Karate should be immune to discipline when teachers get out of line?  No – that would be silly.  If a Karate instructor crosses the line, he/she must answer for it.  But, for a moment, try to be bi-partisan and listen to what I’m trying to say.  Karate teaches us valuable lessons.  It’s meant to build character, teach focus, etc., etc., etc.  However in today’s world where many live under the “fear of liability”, where at any moment a wayward parent is “always right” when they stomp their feet and throw their own temper tantrum – it can be very difficult to teach the life skills that Karate can offer.

“In my Dojo, students are not immune to failure.  I expect my students to fail.”

More importantly however, I expect them to learn and grow from the experience.  I expect them to learn from it the same way I do.  Failure builds character.  Period.  Only when we subject ourselves to the possibly of failure, can we hope to learn from it.

Life is not always going to be a cake walk.  It seems silly to say it – you’re probably thinking, “ahh – duh! Of course it’s not.”  Well our kids need to learn to experience failure without being molded into believing that mom and dad are always going to be there to save them.  Because whether parents are ready to believe it or not – their child is going to face difficult decisions in their life and you’re not always going to be around to tell them what to do – so the sooner they can forge a strong character, the sooner they will be able to deal with all the curve balls that life will throw at them.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it’s the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.

Happy Training

Pennell Sensei.

Eihachi OTA Seminar May 2017

Hi Folks!

I wanted to post a few pictures May’s Ota Seminar in Orillia.  Thanks again to Campbell Sensei for hosting.  It was a great workout!

Sharpen Your Tools

Carpenters, mechanics and other tradespeople all have their own tools of which they rely on to get the job done. Maintaining and sharpening their tools assures that when the time comes to use whatever it is that they need, they have confidence in that tool’s ability to work as desired.

As karateka, the obvious tools at our disposal are namely our hands and feet used to strike and/or block.

Hands are very versatile tools in that we can form fists, half fists, spear hands, knife edge hand, palm heel, etc., etc.

Conversely, our feet are tools that may deliver strikes with ball of foot, toe kicks, shins, foot edge, heel, insteps etc., as well as further up, the knees.

These are the more obvious tools that we have to use. We could delve into more weapons within our bodies but to be brief, we’ll use these examples for now.
Having recognized that we too, must maintain our tools, we must also sharpen these tools so that when called upon, we may rely on them to achieve a desired result (defending ourselves.)

Maintaining and sharpening our tools require training on the makiwara with various hand and foot strikes and hitting the heavy bag with both. When we practice with a partner striking, blocking and flowing within each other’s actions we can hone our distance and proximity skills, along with the sensitivity required and thereby, sharpen these tools, also.

We must always explore the various strike and block permutations of our bodies weapons looking at shapes and tool configurations to achieve desired results. Be aware of what is useful under the circumstances presented and recognize the appropriate tool useful to us.
Practicing kata, reinforces our patterns, develops our form and timing as well as allows us to use those tools of ours. We mustn’t be content with just blocking and striking empty air with these tools, we must also be able to actually develop our ‘tool’ confidence for real by striking, blocking and kicking something!

Honing those tools, also involves doing various strength exercises and working on stretch flexibility. All of this tool maintenance, combines to give us the confidence required to make us effective karateka.

Recognize and develop your own weapons/tools so that they are always available.

Most of us have 3 – 5 favourite go-to techniques that we rely on. Make sure we always have those techniques backed up by our sharpened tools.

Yours in the arts,

Gary Christensen

Pennell Sensei: Wanshū Kata

Wanshū Kata is perhaps one of my favourite Kata.  There are several Kata under various styles of both Okinawan and Chinese martial arts that hold the name “Wanshū.”

There are several different meaning as well, each appropriate for either the style in which the kata is demonstrated; for example in Mandarin, “Wanshū” means, “Excellent Wrist” due to the nature of several of the techniques that exist within a Chinese version of the Kata.  Additionally, the term “Wanshū” is also meant to pay tribute to the individual who is credited for inventing the Kata, Wang, or perhaps one of his students who invented it.

In either case, in this video I’m demonstrating Wanshū Kata as it is practiced in Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate from Okinawa.