Author Archives: Selina Strazzari

Only the beginning

At first I was afraid, I was terrified.

Kept thinking I could never live throughout this tough fortnight.

Now I spent so many nights thinking this could go so wrong,

But I was strong.

And I kiai’d like King Kong!

Oh yes I!

I did survive!

As long as I know how to punch my spirit will stay alive!

This week I would relive,

With experience to give.

I have survived!

I have survived!

Hey hey!


So yeah. That just happened. After the final class today I ran inside belting this song at the top of my lungs. Weird, I know. But totally worth it.

So a recap of what happened throughout Thursday and Friday. Thursday was physically tough and our bodies were pushed to the limit with shiko dachi and thousands of punches. Now those punches were tough. Twenty-odd people in the class, everyone counted ten punches, then everyone counted ten double-punches, andĀ thenĀ everyone counted ten triple-punches. I didn’t even bother counting, but the entire time I was thinking ‘I will make the next punch better than the last’ and ‘Do not stop kiaing unless you have to sneeze!’. It hurt my entire body and I felt it the next morning, but so proud for not giving up.

Friday morning was all physical. The shiko dachi we did made it very difficult to climb the stairs at work afterwards. But the evening? Let’s just say that for the last eight years I’ve been mimicking the Showa without any knowledge of what I’m supposed to be saying. We spent an hour devoted to learning the correct pronunciation of the Showa and of all the classes throughout the intensive, it was that class where I feel I learnt the most.

Let’s talk overall. Throughout the entire week I had an amazing team of people surrounding me and helping me push myself to be better. There was Bailey and Klaudia, who when I was behind them for speed training they were much faster than me and it pushed me to be faster to keep up. And little Sam, who was a great partner for training bunkai with zanshin and performing at 110%. William, where going through kata with him was great for realising my own flaws, and together we worked to fix both of ours. Savannah, who encouraged me to step back and think differently and more creatively about things to improve kata and bunkai. Big Sam, whose kiai I kept trying to one-up through the entire second week.

Through this fortnight I’ve come to realise that I am not ready to grade just yet, even though I was aiming for a February grading. I need to go back to the basics, e.g. kime, shime, zanshin, conditioning, cardio. Currently they are not an acceptable level to grade. And now that the intensive it over, I’m planning to train in conditioning and cardio from home until I feel it’s good enough to warrant a grading attempt.

Doing the intensive has felt so great. Not while working out so much as the buzz afterwards. The mixture of early mornings (which gave me extra hours to do things during the day) and physical activity (which woke me up and prepared my body for actually doing stuff) made my daily performance better. I felt that I smiled more, even during class, and it was refreshing.

Now the entire time I’ve been working with Sam and Klaudia, all of us vying for a scholarship to go to Japan for a week or two and train with the senseis there.

Sam came to every morning class and afternoon 6.15 class without fail. He had his towel (which was always as damp as his gi at the end of the night) and his training attitude. I never saw him yawn or stop and take a breath because he was tired. Well, if he did then I didn’t see him. Whenever he was my partner for something he was always focused, but didn’t hesitate to crack a smile when warranted. During speed training he was a tad slower than Bailey and Klaudia, but that was because he made sure that every punch was accurate, he had kime and his stance was strong. Rinten, shiko, cosi dachi, you name it. Everything was flawlessly executed and still incredibly fast at the same time. It’s not difficult to understand why Sam is a black belt. He always puts in his full effort and then some, turns up consistently and I can’t help but be inspired by him.

Klaudia, as far as I know, turned up for every single class throughout the fortnight, including day classes. Of course she was tired, but that didn’t stop her. She tried hard every class and put in so much effort and kept such a positive attitude throughout the entire thing. In speed training she was one of the fastest and it was a task and a half merely keeping up. Her kiais were terrifying (especially during the more senior kata). Throughout the entire fortnight she was an unshakable rock and oozed strength and commitment. She was nearly always in good spirits and I couldn’t help but admire her charisma when working with the Little Champions and younger kids.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with both of them during the fortnight and learning from them. Both of them stand an equal chance at the scholarship and it’ll be a close race. This intensive has been an interesting, exhausting, and full of learning and did I mention exhausting? But so worth it. Pushing myself past my limits felt amazing. And you know what? It’s the beginning of the year and there’s so much more to do.

I just want to thank Sensei Martin and Sensei Sandra for holding this intensive and being there the entire time and for all their pushing and encouragement. It was a great experience and one that I would gladly relive again.

Two days to go and seeing success

This morning was easily the most challenging of the 6am classes.

Speed training. Check.

Struggling to keep up with speed training. Check.

Stretch time. Wait what?

Everyone in the senior group had their legs worked (dare I say to the bone). And during the last five minutes our arms were worked too.

At the time all I could think was ‘Oh god please let it be over’ because everything was killing and I was hungry and tired. But, with the gift of the amazingly helpful hindsight, I could appreciate the burn throughout the day. The evening though, was a different story. The burn was more of a hindrance than a help and made the afternoon physical activity a bigger challenge.

During the first afternoon class we did half an hour of repetitive four-kick combo, one lap speed and the other one slow. It was exhausting and again, in hindsight, I should have had more water during the day. Hindsight would be a great superpower to have… not. It would be useless.

Today was hands-down the hardest day of the intensive physically. Despite not facing the aches from the first week, it was still tough because of the burn and buildup of lactic acid and whatnot.

Knowing that there are still two more days to go is torture. It’s like you’re competing in a race and the finish line is just over the next hill but it’s a steep hill covered in uneven rocks. Still though you’re trying your hardest to get over the hill and across the line no matter how much pain you’re in. Having the finish line in sight makes it even harder, but that’s just me. Mainly because I suspect that the next two days will end in borderline exhaustion and a desire to never climb out of bed.

Nothing new really. It just depends if you look at it as exhaustion or success. My biggest goal for the next two days is to see it as success. No matter how tired I get, my overarching goal is to not give in despite how hard it gets.

Bad start to a (hopefully) good week

The title says it all. Sunday night I went to bed thinking ‘wow I can’t wait to go to karate tomorrow night, it’ll be so fun!’

Fast forward to the following morning, where getting up later than anticipated resulted in not eating a decent breakfast to get to work on time which resulted in feelings of dizziness and nausea. Plus it was hot.

Despite throwing up, I spent the entire day battling nausea and no desire to eat. Thankfully I managed to shove something down before karate and drink bucketloads of water because that made me feel slightly better.

For a while I didn’t think I would make it to karate that afternoon. I debated saying I was too sick to go, but that’s not the point of the intensive. The intensive is about turning up no matter how horrible you feel. Sure, I requested to take it easy and Sensei Martin and Sandra were more than accommodating, but turning up was the real win. Despite feeling awful, I tried my hardest to challenge myself and stretch a little further and use my hips properly in the final lesson.

My favourite part about training today was that we got to work with lower belts and give them pointers on kata. I love learning new things about kata just so I can pass them on to junior belts and help them improve. Even people around my own belt. I love passing on knowledge and experience and helping someone come closer to their own individual goal. Today allowed me to do that.

The next week is going to be even more challenging than the week past. Last week we were coming off a holiday and my muscles were not used to being pushed. This week represents the finish line in sight and it’s torturous. There’s four more days before we’ve officially survived this training, and then there’s the Saturday beach training to go to as well.

Last week went so fast, and this one will too. It’s only four days. So bring it on!

One down, one to go

Ooooooh we’re halfway there, WOOOAHHH LIVIN ON A PRAAAAYER!

That’s right. We are halfway through the intensive and looking at the weather forecast next week, it’s not getting any cooler. It’s supposed to be even hotter. This means bringing three water bottles instead of two, and a towel to wipe the sweat off my face.

This past week has been one of the most challenging of my time at karate. Throughout the nearly eight years I’ve been at the dojo I have never done an intensive or pushed myself this much. I calculated the hours I was at the dojo this week at 20 hours. That’s almost one entire day at the dojo.

For the first three days my body was so sore I had to roll out of bed because my arms were too sore to lift my body. The soreness lessened on Thursday and was nearly entirely gone by Friday, except for my legs from doing these splits.

Now, on Saturday, it’s completely gone.

I thought getting up at 5 every morning would be the biggest challenge. It wasn’t. The biggest challenge was peeling my sweat-soaked gi off after every session. It got incredibly sticky. Getting up was the easy part. The morning classes were quite enjoyable and prepared me for the day ahead. Doing exercise in the morning really makes you feel like you’ve done something productive and the endorphins makes it easier to look forward to the day, no matter if you have a full day of work ahead.

During the holidays I felt so fat and unhealthy because of the lack of exercise. Now I feel fitter and stronger and not fat at all. And that feeling is so great for my self-confidence.

I’m proud of everything I put forward during class, even the absolutely terrible techniques I put forth during speed training. Each class I pushed myself to do better and try even harder. And I benefited from it.

Did I hyperventilate? No.

Did I get a stitch? No.

Did I ever feel like fainting? No.

Did I give up? No.

It might not seem like a big deal, but given my recent track record when rocking up to karate, it’s a big difference. You need a balance between mind and body to be able to perform well and recently I’ve been unbalanced. With both my mind and body working strong and working together.

Not only has my mind and body been balanced, but my life outside the dojo as well. Usually I work without a chance for relaxation, but this week I took some time off of doing things to just sit and let everything relax. Even taking an hour out of each day to go fishing, play a game or read a book was enough to prepare me for work and another karate session. The balance between working hard and resting is what allowed me to fully energise between each session. And having a balanced diet helped too I guess.

At least one of the two weeks is over and the finish line is in sight. We’ll just have to take it day by day and see what comes out of it.

Coping when your aches have aches

Day three.

Physical status: My aches have aches.

Mental status: Not bad actually.

The last few days have been draining as one would expect. Thinking ‘I might do the intensive, it’ll be fun’ and then having it creep up so quickly was the real killer. It’s real. It’s happening. My body will be pushed past its limits and best not forget that I volunteered.

In the past year I’ve struggled with karate. It was always an effort and I always felt like hyperventilating or passing out. The problem, I found, was my diet. I wasn’t eating or drinking enough, mainly not drinking enough. Once my diet was fixed up it was less of a challenge getting through just under two hours of karate. It’s always been tiring, as with any physical activity, but with the proper preparation of eating and drinking, it’s less so.

For the intensive I’ve put a lot of focus on eating the right foods and drinking enough water throughout the day so that there’s no headaches, no lightheadedness or dizzy spells and definitely no hyperventilating. When undergoing something as tough as this intensive, you have to be on your A-game and take care of your body. Bodies are like cars; they need fuel to function.

And repair time. Sleep is just as important as food. I aim for seven hours minimum each night, but so far haven’t managed a nap during the day. Napping is one of the best things to do during an intensive like this, as your body has time to rest and repair before afternoon training. It’s just unfortunate that not everyone doing the intensive has an opportunity to nap in between the morning and afternoon sessions because it’s beautiful.

In the coming week-and-a-half everything will be tested physically and mentally even more than it already has. The aches of my aches will have aches and my greatest desire will be to sleep. But I can take solace in the fact that I’m not alone: everyone doing the intensive is in the same boat. And the boat is sinking. While on fire. It’s just a matter of swimming instead of sinking.

Selina – Monday the 9th

One down. Nine to go.

Before this week started, my thoughts went in the direction of ‘I’m going to die’ and ‘I really should not have spent the last two weeks eating and sleeping’. Today during 3.5 hours of training I only thought I would die once. Then the endorphins kicked in and I couldn’t stop smiling.

What drives someone to put their minds and bodies through two weeks of, after no physical activity for two weeks past, what I constitute as hell?

Ask me in two weeks.

I’m kidding. It’s not really hell. It’s a challenge, sure, but one that everyone has volunteered for. The difficulty is why I’m doing it. It’s something I’ve never done before and this is the furthest my mind and body will be pushed to the limits. Mainly the mind.

My goal for this intensive: get rid of thoughts like ‘I’m dead’ or ‘I can’t do anymore I need a rest’. These thoughts are poison and do not have a place in my head. For me, this intensive is about strengthening my mind, and maybe regaining some of the muscle lost over the break. Putting your mind and body through something like this is what makes or breaks a person. You either quit, or come out stronger.

While body and mind will suffer, this fortnight I refuse to break. This is the next part of my karate journey and it’s time to tackle it with gusto.