Category Archives: Japan Training Scholarship

Already Such a Big Day

Tuesday- started out with morning training in the park gi pants and t-shirt. Pretty much just preparations for Soke cup with kata and kumite practise and performances, was quite hot and by the end of the hour and a half training, but it was a good atmosphere to train, with a nice breeze every now and then.

We then had a two hour 10:00 -12:00 Kobudo training with Higuchi Sensia, where Sam and I learnt shushi no sho bo kata mainly just remembering the sequence not so much worrying about to much detail at that stage. I found that very helpful and enjoyable just to have time to go through it as many times as we wanted. I am now very confident with shushi no sho, so I can now start looking at detail of my stances, targets ect.

During the day Sensie Sandra took us out to the city centre mostly to show us where shops and things we can go see are, we enjoyed some really yummy crepes that Sam spotted. Then Sensai Sandra took the kids home as Sam and I kept exploring around all the shops. At about 5:50pm Sam and I received a message from Sensai Sandra saying that we are getting picked up from the Sohonbu in an hour to go train in Masuda Sensia‚Äôs Dojo. We went to the bus stop to try and get back in time to have showers and eat, when our bus did not arrive, we then had to run!!!! 1.6km to the train station to get back in time, we just made it in time to have a 30 second shower each, jump in the car and go. We feel sorry for the people who has to clean the train as we left quite a bit of a sweat pool for them. ūüėõ As you could guess after such a big day Sam and I were both very worn out and exhausted, and had another training session ahead of us.

We walk into Mesuda Sensai’s Dojo wearing gi pants a t-shirt and a belt which felt bazar without a gi jacket on. We got introduced luckily, we had a lady who could speak English to help us understand what was going on during the class. We followed along with some basic’s and a few junior kata, we then got to relax and watch the class perform some higher-level kata’s for us, Sam and I then performed Bassai, and Sami and Steven demonstrated shihohai. After that Sensia Sandra, Sam and I had a surprise attack of teaching small groups of students each, which was quite scary as we do not speak their language and they have small differences of technique to us. Such as their blocking is to the side of their body not the centre, small details like that, that their Sensei teaches them. I was put in charge of teaching four young green belt girls. Which one of them spoke a tiny bit of English, but I had to do most of my feedback and comments by demonstrating to them. It was quite difficult as most of the time I just got a blank stare back in my direction and did not really know how to be clear to them to what I was trying to say.

At about 8:30pm adult class started which consisted mostly of black belts only one was a green belt of a class of about elevenish students. They said it would finish at 9:45pm, so late. So Sensei Sandra took the kids home and Sam and I stayed back to train which was a bit scary as Sandra know more Japanese then we do and she was helping us out a lot with understanding instructions and having conversations. It was a great adult session mainly just went through senior kata’s first slowly than normal speed with intensity and intent. Sam got taught how to do rohai dai, and I got some more touch ups on sochin. Which I found very helpful, but the first four directions in that kata they do extremely fast was actually hard to keep up. Another funny thing I found was that a few of the men in that class was getting effected by the heat more than Sam and I were.  I found that amusing as they should be use to training in those conditions. We finished the class with a kumite round between Sam and a boy about 20 that was going to Soke cup for kumite, it was very interesting to watch him fight as he got very low to the ground, and had a good amount of speed.

Masuda Sensei’s adult class

By the end of class I was ready to pass out for a good 9 hours, but by the time we got home it was just past 10:00pm, we had a shower got some food and got into bed by 11:00pm and had an early morning training with Soke Sensei to look forward to.

Such a big day

Japan First Day

Okay so the travelling was obviously the worst part of getting here long flights waiting at airports and delayed flights.  The car drive from Fukuoka to Kumamoto was great, such a beautiful country with lots to look at. The heat here isn’t as bad as I thought it would be but still quite humid and makes you sweat even when you are sitting down having a cool drink.

Sensai Sandra, Sami, Sam and I had our first training this morning from 6:30 ‚Äď 8:00 am, first 30 minutes was in seiza which at the start was comfortable, about half way through I noticed my feet went fully numb without me realising it, and obviously it got worst to the point where I couldn‚Äôt bend my toes underneath my foot as we were meant to be standing up, when I finally got up I looked down and seen my left foot was securely on the ground but felt as though I was looking at someone else‚Äôs foot because I could not feel a thing. Was a bit scary cause I‚Äôve never experienced that before.

As we started to train just with basic chudan-zuki in uchi-hachi-datchi, I wasn’t very stabilised as my feet were still coming back to being alive. Then we got into some basic stepping up and down the dojo, it took me a while getting use to training on wooden floors but by the end of it I was getting the hang of it. Having a smoother step transition instead of a bumpy one as my feet kept sticking to the ground.

Seeing as though it was early morning training the heat wasn’t too bad, mainly just the gi sticking to you was making it difficult to train properly. We got into doing all kata from kihon dosa ichi up to the highest kata we know and back down.  I found that a little bit difficult whilst getting used to the heat, and the floors, also didn’t help that my left eye and cheek was swollen up and my eye was hurting for some unknown reason. So I spent 80% of the lesson with my left eye closed, which did not help my balance as I was changing direction. But overall I really enjoyed the first session in the sohonbu dojo with Soke Sensai.

Preparations for Japan

Okay so Sunday the 16th was our last squad training before Sensai Sandra, Sam and myself leave for Japan this coming weekend. It was a great session with Special guest visitors from previous Soka cups, it was very interesting to hear their perspectives and experiences from when they attended their international tournaments in previous years.

During this squad training we experimented on making our presence stand out to others, have a strong, focused, confident and level presence in the way that we present ourselves in the ring while doing not only kata but kumite. Throughout this training I didn’t feel quite at my peak with my energy and concentration. However I feel as though since the start of my journey training for the Soke Cup, my kata and kumite has improve quite a lot, with technique, better understanding of kata and improving my technique using my stance to excel my technique and better, more soft use of my hips.

With my kumite, my fighting style has changed quite a lot from how it was a few months ago, I am using different attacks as in faking an attack pull back then attack again, I am doing more than one or two attacks now I am following through a lot more doing three or more attacks, I feel lighter on my feet and have stretched out my stance so I am more stable and can move quicker while attacking and getting out of the way of an attack.

As a conclusion I am happy with where I am at with my karate technique and spirit. I found this last squad session together very enjoyable and helpful with my preparations for my scholarship to Japan.                                                                                                                

Training intensive: Complete

So the two week training intensive is at an end. I would highly recommend doing next year’s intensive to anyone looking to give their karate a turbo boost.

I would first like to thank and show my appreciation to Sensei Martin and Sensei Sandra for not only guiding and pushing me through the training intensive, but also sharing their immense knowledge and impeccable advice for the last few years.¬†They have made karate enjoyable and personally rewarding for me, and I couldn’t imagine having a better pair to teach me.

My fellow scholarship compadres, Selina and Klaudia, you have impressed me both so much. When I heard Selina was going for the scholarship I was very happy to have her along for the ride. I feel we get along quite well and she is always eager to improve her karate, and I try to help her where I can. I believe Selina has gone above and beyond during her training intensive schedule, putting in a huge amount of effort I have not seen from her before. Keep up the awesome levels of dedication and you will go far.

Klaudia is a machine. I believe she attended every class available during the day and night, which can be up to five hours a day. When I would do the speed training during the evening class, Klaudia was beating me in speed by a fair margin and she had already done two hours of intense training. You cannot fault Klaudia’s attitude towards her karate. She is always engaged and ready to learn, thinking of ways to improve and leads by great example.

The three scholarship contenders; Klaudia, Selina and Sam.

To everyone that I trained with over the last two weeks, you are what gives me my drive and energy. I really believe we benefit from the people around us, we can share the energy to help push through whatever obstacle comes before us. Thank you to all that I have had the pleasure of training with, it is a great community we have in the dojo and I am very grateful for it.

You never stop learning from Karate. Something you have been doing for years can change quite dramatically from a relatively small lesson learned. I have taken a lot of small lessons from this two week intensive. One is such a small change, but has me changing my habit of years. When using the hips to generate the power of the punch I have always pushed with my front hip, now I need to concentrate on pulling back with my other hip. It seems like such a small change, but every small improvement and tweak carves out a better you. It is about refining and removing unnecessary parts that will make your karate better and ready for the next small adjustment.

The next step is working towards Soke Cup in Japan this August. This is the International Chito-ryu Championship Tournament held every three years. Unfortunately last year it was postponed due to some devastating earthquakes near Kumamoto where the tournament was taking place. If I qualify for the training scholarship I will head over to Japan for training at the Sohonbu a couple of weeks before the tournament to train with Soke Sensei. Everyone going for the scholarship is most deserving and the best of luck to Klaudia and Selina Рgreat job guys!

The scholarship

 

Klaudia Caston, Sam Hunt Selina Strazzari

There are three students at the Sunshine Coast Dojo that have applied for the scholarship to Japan. Myself, Sam Hunt and Selina Strazzari, who ever is chosen to receive this scholarship will get 2 weeks of training with Soke Sensei in Japan in either April or August leading onto the Soke Cup that will be held in Japan this year. This is an amazing opportunity for many reasons, a new challenge, an amazing experience and face to face training with Soke Sensei, will definitely improve your karate skills and will help you propel to the next level.

To apply for this there were a few requirements, you had to be brown belt or above, the two week intensive was compulsory and we had to write up this blog and say how we were coping with things and what we took away from the classes that we attended. What I think they are looking for to choose the candidate for the scholarship: the candidate should be a hard working students, always willing to learn, being respectful in the dojo, being a good leader, being able to pass on skills and knowledge, having goals they would like to achive and work until they have achieved them, being mentally strong and physically never giving up, always pushing till the end, and many other things. I personally think who ever has to choose the candidate has their work cut out for them, I think they will have a hard time choosing. As we all have been working so hard the past 2 weeks, working along side Sam and Selina has been a great experience pushing each other to train harder and faster.

                                                                                                              I think both Sam and Selina would be great candidates for the Japan scholarship.
Sam always trains hard when he comes into class, always focuses and loves learning new things. If Sam got the scholarship i think he would learn a lot and enjoy the experience also he would be good to pass on the skills and knowledge he learnt to others in the Sunshine Coast Dojo.

Selina has put a lot of effort in these past two weeks in the dojo, pushing past her boundaries and working harder so it’s good to see that she’s trying hard to reach her goal, I think she would learn lots in Japan.

Together we have all grown a lot in this intensive, I have seen some personal growth in myself and my techniques and the things I am aiming towards have improved, yes still need lots more work but I am many steps closer to my goal. As I am aiming towards my next levels Nidan and Jun-shidoin, this experience was very helpful and has helped me grow in all different aspects of my karate studies. I have grown mentally and physically stronger, I have reached the peak of my fatigue a couple of times these past two weeks but I had the inner strength to push myself to keep going and push harder. As I am going for my Nidan I am looking to get more connected with how my body moves and gaining that hip movement to power my techniques also to get more of a whip in my techniques, and to have more of a soft touch with my opponents instead of being stiff and using my upper body to throw or disarm my opponents. I was able to have lots of great practise in this area, as in a few classes we got tied up and had to throw our opponents only using our lower body so it was essential to use the hips otherwise the movement would have no effect on weakening their stance.  Also utilising the my pull back to propel my techniques also helping get the whip and vibration.

Another great lesson was getting to learn and repeat the showa as i have always known the showa however i have never fully understood how to pronounce every word. We learnt where we had to breath and what words had to be dragged out and just breaking down the showa a few words at a time and repeating them i am fully confident know when i do the showa my pronunciation has improved a lot this session was very helpful and I enjoyed it very much.

I have also learned that you dont just have to rely on other students in the dojo that are the same rank or higher then you to get feedback, I found that doing the earlier classes, the feed back I got from the karate kids was very helpful as they look at different thing and they sometime see things that I can not and them letting me know about it so i can work on that. So the earlier classes was also very helpful and I learnt a lot,

Congratulations to everyone on there great efforts in the intensive

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, and¬†then¬†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.

The home stretch

We are getting to the end of the second week of the intensive and it continues to challenge and push me. So what is different about¬†the intensive compared to regular training? I usually do 4 or 5 sessions a week, doubling it shouldn’t have that much of an impact I would have thought. The early morning starts have been quite nice, as I am usually not an early riser. But they don’t call it an intensive for nothing, the main difference about¬†the last two weeks of training has been the intensity (big surprise!) Pushing through the pain and not giving up has been a real test for me, and I feel I am better for it.

Take Thursday night’s class as an example, would you say you could do 1500+ punches in a row? I would have had my doubts, but that is what we did. It was painful, mainly from¬†the stitch I had from¬†the first hundred punches or so, but it is an accomplishment that I am proud of, and everyone who did it should be proud of themselves.

I am looking to finish strong for the last remaining classes, and then it is off to the beach for early morning beach training on Saturday.

More towels please

The last couple of training days have featured a lot of leg work. Concentrating more on using the legs and body than just using the arms. I am fairly guilty for using my arms, especially in a throwing context. The work we have been doing in the dojo has really highlighted for me the importance the legs and body have in strength, and how much less effort is required compared to when trying to muscle with just the arms.

I would have to say this mornings session with Sensei Sandra was my most physically demanding of the two weeks so far. Everyone’s favourite stance – shiko-dachi, was our challenge for today. There’s nothing quite like the burn in your legs from shiko-dachi to push your pain barrier. For me, holding a low position shiko-dachi for extended amounts of time is a real mental battle. It is really easy to stand up and have the pain go away, but the challenge is to work through the pain to show your perseverance. One of our exercises was using the Chi¬†Ishi (short wooden stick with weighted end) in a figure eight motion with our wrists while shuffling in shiko-dachi across the dojo. This required more mental coordination than I had thought, and I struggled a lot with going backwards. After completing the session, you could say I was a bit more sweatier than usual.

There is something I like about sweating. It might be that it is a physical confirmation that I am working hard, it might also be the sound my gi makes when I scrape my arms against the side of my body. It is probably pretty gross for my classmates that need to throw me or get a flick of sweat to the face when I kick near them, but I still like something about it. In these hot conditions especially, the towels are¬†required fairly often to make sure no one slips¬†in a puddle. By the end of the night my towel needs¬†to be rung out. Sorry if this grosses anyone out, but my reason behind telling you this is karate can be messy. If everyone was bone dry by the end of the night, do you think anyone had pushed themselves physically? I wear my “sweat badge” with pride and I hope the next time you feel the sweat drip down your forehead you can know that you are putting in an effort and you are there to make the most of your training.

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.

Hardest day today mentally and semi physically

This morning’s class was probably the hardest morning session we’ve had so far.
Physically: We done speed training again which was good, then done some hectic leg work doing lots and lots of shiko datchi holding it very low while our partner was making their way up and back down the dojo rotating the cement block’s. and then we done shiko datchi in circles while the partner held shiko datchi very low holding a bow out in front of them, there was also more to that. It was an intense let work out but also a great one i felt my legs burning all day i very much enjoyed the work out though.

Mentally: Through the day some personal things happened and it obviously was stuck in my head i thought it would be gone by the time i got to karate but i was wrong. i was very distracted and yes i will admit the standards of my effort wasn’t very good at all to start out with. My mind was much too clouded, but because i was very disappointed that i let my problems lower my efforts i made myself work harder till i had no energy to think about the things that clouded my mind by the last class i was fine, i let the thoughts slip out of my head for a while and trained hard, i was very happy that i could do that so i could focus on my training instead of my problems.