Tag Archives: Shorin-Ryu

Stretching. A New Perspective.

Hi folks.  There has been a lot of debate as of late about stretching.  Which techniques are good, and which ones are bad.  What bad stretching habits have been developed over the years and why we need to get rid of them.  A good Karate practitioner will spend a great deal of time stretching, so, it’s very important that he/she understands which methods are useful, and which ones may be harmful.  I found a great article called 5 Stretching Myths That Have Got To Go on www.health.com that explores some of the myths around stretching.  Let me know what you think!

…Someone needs to write an article about the stretch we do in Karate to warm up our necks.  You know, the one where you roll your head around in circle?  I’m pretty sure that’s horrible for your upper spine.

Happy training,

Sensei Pennell.

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.

O’Brian Sensei: Letting Go of Form

At first, it can seem somewhat counterproductive.  Since white-belt your Sensei has consistently reminding you of form.  Reaction arm back!  Bend that front knee! Back straight!  Sure, form is an important part of Karate.  At least it is in the beginning – but at some point, form becomes 2nd nature.  It’s something we do without even thinking.  It’s at this point in your training that you might want to consider the possibility of letting go of your form.  In this quick video, Sensei O’Brian talks about letting go of form and the impact it can have on technique.

Happy Training!

Sensei Pennell.

4 Ways to improve your Karate!

1. You don’t need to “move like they do”.  Karate has evolved quite a bit since Karate practitioners of yesteryear were first captured on film or motion picture.  A lot has changed.  In fact, entire fields of study, like sports medicine for example, have been invented since the old masters practiced their art.  These days, we have a much better understanding of the relationship between muscles and tendons.  We have scientific understanding of the relationship between velocity and “power”.  So, what does all of this mean?  Well, it means that as a Karate student, you don’t necessarily have to take your queues from the great masters.  There is plenty of theory in sports medicine and training dynamics to help guide you.  You have access to tons of resources online.  You should be “stealing” bits of relevant information from practitioners of all martial arts.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.

2. You have gifts – use them.  Everybody has a unique body.  Different heights, weights, flexibility, speed, etc., etc., etc.  The great thing about Karate, is that you can maximize your strengths.  Talk with your Sensei about what your natural abilities and strengths are.  Perhaps you’re not utilizing your long legs for example.  Remember, Okinawan Karate was first practiced by Okinawan people.  They tend to be shorter in stature and more “compact” than North Americans for example.  So, you may need to take a look at the way an Okinawan moves vs. how you move and understand the differences.  There is nothing wrong with leveraging your strengths.  Find out what they are – and use them in your Karate.

3. Karate does not need to be “all you do” for exercise.  Karate can be an amazing exercise tool.  It essentially works all aspects of the body – muscle, tendon, cardio-vascular, etc., but it’s not the “be all and end all” of exercise.  I would recommend a mixed-bag of exercise activities to round out your training.  Myself, I like to combine Karate with weight lifting, hockey (to work the cardio-vascular system) and other sports like soccer or even rock climbing.  You’ll notice that as you build strength doing other activities, it’ll have a positive impact on your Karate as well.  Remember, have fun!

4. If it’s too bad to be true, it probably ain’t. Are you looking around your fellow karate-ka and thinking, “There’s got to be more to karate then this!” Is the instruction lacking? Are you endlessly grinding through Kata, with no real signs of improvement? Does your instructor keep looking at the time? Well guess what – you’re probably training at a “McDojo“. Yep – but now you know, so the question is – what are you going to do about it? What you need is an instructor that inspires you. Someone who gets to know you and you abilities and can offer constructive feedback that’s relevant to you. And from where did your instructor receive his black-belt? In a “Mc” world, it’s truly buyer beware. You need to do your research, people! Try to find out if your instructor has ever competed or if his/her instructor has. Were any awards received? If so, what are they? And no – random certificates on the wall don’t count. What do other students say? There are plenty of reviews on line. Ask your instructor, “how long to get my black-belt?” If their response is anything less than 5-7 years – move on. OR, if they quickly start talking about monthly plans, starter packages, costs, specials, incentives, or anything like that – move on!