Tag Archives: Shodan

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

How Do You Wear Your Rank?

Our rank designation will naturally or should change as we continue to train and advance through our martial arts studies.

As in karate, we start as a white belt and expectations for a period of time are low.  We are inundated with new terms (maybe in a foreign language), stances, etiquette, technique, movement and so on – 95% physical and 5% mental!   Our heads are spinning and not a lot is expected of us for a while!   Our rank is apropos — for now!

We’ve been training for say, 6 months now and we’re about orange belt level, the dojo is starting to really feel like something special.   Not quite in our element yet, but the atmosphere is slowly permeating and expectations are still minimal.   Around the year mark, with luck and determination, we are now green belt.   Our niche in the dojo is being carved as we are recognized as a serious student in the making!   At this juncture of our training, expectations are made as our confidence and self esteem grows.   Others may notice that we perhaps carry ourselves a little more assuredly.   This is the beginning of an intermediate student and as such, an awareness of how we carry our rank is important.  Are we good examples of a martial arts student?    Gut check time.  Yes, we’re all in!

With consistent and regular training, ah, now around 4 years, maybe we’ve attained brown belt!   No one works harder than a brown belt!  Bright coloured belts are gone and now we are within striking distance of the all elusive black belt!   We work hard to prove that we deserve this rank and we work hard to prove that we are legitimate contenders for that Black obi!!   The Martial Arts culture is in us!

So how do brown belts wear their rank?   Brown belts are senior students that lead by example on and off the dojo deck.  They wear their rank with humility recognizing that they are constantly being watched by all up and coming students, as well as their seniors in rank!   Brown belts wear their rank off the dojo deck in everyday life carrying their positive attributes developed in the dojo beyond their training venue, at all times.

We’ve been learning, training and have embraced our art to the point where we are now rewarded with Shodan (1st degree black belt)!   Congrats!   Black belt brings responsibility.   We are now, more than ever, looked up to, to lead, mentor and demonstrate how a martial artist wears his/her rank!    And now another reality hits us… we realize that we are actually just starting to learn in earnest AND share.

From Shodan on up, any black belt is not only viewed and judged by physical prowess, but more than ever by how they present their rank, whether by teaching and leading, but also by good character always!   Our ranks and the responsibility attached to it, is how we present ourselves in all aspects of our lives.  Our training through the ranks with lessons learned, make us accountable – the higher the rank, the more accountability.

Wear your rank well.

Top 5 Okinawan Weapons – Part I: The “Bo-om” Stick

Picture it – ancient Okinawa. It’s a beautiful summer’s morning and you’re just minding your own business; quietly tending to your rice patty. Suddenly, you hear screams in the distance. “What the hell?!”, they seem to be coming from your family farmhouse! You race back to find that some local prefect (aka “dumb-ass”) decided it was a good idea to get drunk on cheap saki, ride his horse over to your crib and start harassing your beautiful wife. Fortunately for you, you’ve been training in the ways of Karate-do basically since birth. Oh ya, and that “walking stick” leaning up against the wall? Well that just happens to be the world’s most dangerous piece of pine, when placed in the hands of a skilled kobudo expert…. and that just happens to be you. What happens next resembles something I saw in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie last week. A few good, strategically placed strikes and lets just say someone’s wife is very, very appreciative. *wink!

Seriously though, the Okinawan’s were great at two things.. fighting with their bare hands, and fighting with …. well, ….not-bare hands? Otherwise know as kobudo, or weapons. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore the coolest Okinawan kobudo weapons to ever grace the hands of a Karate expert. Believe me, if you ever run into a guy wielding any of these little beauties, make like tree and leave. You’ll thank me for the advise.

So, whats first on our Top 5 List? Naturally, The Bo. Call’em Sticks… Big, long boom-sticks! Who knew ultra-straight pieces of wood could be so deadly. And heck, why not? I mean, if an assailant is charging you via trusty steed, what better way to un-politely dismount your nemesis than to spear him with a big long Bo. It has been argued throughout the ages, the validity of the Bo as the supreme weapon of choice for Okinawan, peasant warriors. Think of the Bo like kobudo’s version of soccer. It’s a skill that everyone can develop, no matter how poor you are. All you need is a fresh supply of trees and zing, you can make yourself a Bo. Sure, it sounds a bit Neanderthal-ish, after-all, you’re essentially beating a man with a tree branch, but at the end of the day you’ve got to use the tools available to you, right? The Bo is pretty popular among today’s Karate-ka. It’s the first weapon that pops into your head when you think Karate. As far as functionality, we asked one of the world’s greatest wielders’ of Bo, in which situation would the Bo come in most handy.

Scenario One – It’s the year 1753. You’re minding your own business, making your way from your neighbourhood to your neighbouring village. The sun-dial on your wrist reads somewhere around 7:30 in the evening, and it’s getting dark. Just like the old Okinawan nursery rhyme says, “If you walk the path of the cherry blossom as the sun falls behind the mountain, assholes will appear.”  BOOM, 3 ninjas make a smoke-cloud entrance, (I hate it when they do that) and they didn’t come to practice the Japanese tea ceremony.

Scenario Two – Everybody loves a good cup of saki! Personally, I prefer mine warmed up – but hey, to each there own. Anyways, you’re a retired prefect, living in Tokyo in the twilight of the Japanese feudal period. Some might argue that you had a few too many wobbly-pops, but it’s not like they had breathalyzers back then – and besides, who’s counting? You decide to drain the dragon in a back ally way, when what appears to be a small, carnival midget looking samurai suddenly appears out of no where, set on ending your life. I don’t know why – maybe his little dragon is not as ferocious as yours? …hubba-hubba!

So, what’s the verdict? … oh please, read on!

Bo Master (names have been changed to protect the innocent): “Well clearly Scenario One would call for a Bo. I can handle one ninja blindfolded, even two – assuming they are from Southern Japan. But when three descend, I like to pack a little extra protection. Given the Bo’s long reach, it’s bound to help keep you out of range of those pesky ninja swords. I generally use them to cut the veggies before dinner, but I guess in the hands of a skillful ninja a sword could be a threat? Anyways, no matter – I’d quickly dispatch the fist 2 assailants and make sure the third suffered for his insolence.

Me: Okay, cool. But what about scenario 2? I hear samurai are pretty nasty.

Bo Master: I eat midget carnival samurai for breakfast.

Me: …gross.

Well that settles it folks. Clearly my keen interviewing skills allowed me to really cut to the heart of the issue. Look out George Stroumboulopoulos, here I come! By now you must be wondering what other weapons make our covenant list of 5. Stay tuned next week, when we post part II, lovingly titled, “Sticks of Death“. 🙂

Until then… drop lower in your stance…