Back to karate on Wednesday night, and it was really good to be back in my gi. I'm starting to get nervous now as grading is coming up...similar collywobbles to a swim event, really, and I'm working hard to get past that and just be mindful about what I'm doing. There are parallels...sparring (kumite) carries the same worries as sprinting; this is the hardest thing to focus on and my form goes all over the place. I'm so glad to be a distance swimmer as sprinting is not a requirement when you're only competing against the length of the lake!
I've taught myself to think of swimming drills as a kind of kata, which has helped no end in both sports. I even count in Japanese whilst in the pool, which I find particularly hilarious for fist drills. Well, when you're drilling over and over for kilometres at a time you've got to get your laughs somewhere. For those of you who don't know anything about martial arts, katas are the pre-set routines we learn, one or more for each belt, which help us practice techniques like blocking, kicking, punching and balance without the stress of an opponent, and they all build on this kihon or fundamental kata. The slow, stately movements of Tai Chi or Qi Gong are probably what most Westerners are familiar with; it's similar but usually performed faster, and as I understand it pretty much all martial arts do them.
I'm struggling, I must admit. Practicing with Eldest daily is good fun but when neither of you know what you're doing properly, it's easy to make mistakes that stick with you. Having very little space to practice makes it a lot harder, too, our living room is the size of a postage stamp. I know my turns are not right - I often get muddled in the middle as to whether it should be a 180 or 270 turn - and last night a sempai (assistant teacher) pointed out that I, as an adult, can't get away with a simple block like the kids can. It has to be a full downward sweep, and I really hadn't registered that before. I am quite a visual learner and I realised I'd never actually stepped back and watched kihon kata being performed, I was always too busy trying to do it and watch at the same time, and I'd never figured out what that beautiful movement was all about. I was too frustrated at myself for it to sink in during class, but I've been digging about for videos and the one above is just perfect - slow enough for me to take in what's happening, I think. Eldest protested all the way home that learning by doing is the best way - and to some extent she's right - but my brain is used to seeing and fitting components together, giving them names and numbers and writing stuff down. So with a bit of luck, diagrams like this should help me get it sorted out in time.
Much gratitude to Lewisham Shotokan Karate Centre for making this image available!
In other news the warm-up was extra-hard and I completed my pull-ups, press-ups and part of the plank Lift programs. My arms gave out for the side planks, unfortunately, so I'll do those on Thursday.