Saturday, 21 July 2018

Training Day!

I have just finished a great training session with Pete and Chris. Pete had spoken for a while about working through all the waza in the Shoden Mokuroku, both weapons and empty-hand. So I invited Pete to my dojo for a Saturday morning training session. We bowed on sharply at 9 am and set my phone timer going. Then we proceeded to work through every kata one time each to see how long it would take. We managed to do all the kata in 1 hour, 16 minutes. This included idori, paired weapons sets, the works. It was great to pressure test ourselves to see what we really knew. We managed to remember all the kata even though for a few of them we had to stop and think or work out certain parts, but we got there. Not bad considering there is something like 90 or more kata to learn. It was great to get the heart pumping and my limbs warm. It is a mild winter's day here and it felt good to get to that magical 'training warm' feeling.


Not long after finishing the whole Shoden syllabus, Chris arrived. He had just flown into New Zealand early this morning and wanted to work out some of the swelling from a long flight. So he joined us on the mat as we slowed down and looked at some key points on the idori kata. 

Chris emphasised the right attitude in the techniques, an attitude that presses an opponent and takes the initiative immediately. It was just the right amount of fine tuning we needed after blasting through the techniques. 

Overall Pete and I were happy with our progress. Despite the speed at which we worked, the main points of each kata remained intact (despite the odd technique not being our best). It certainly showed us what we need to work on now for future training sessions.

Pete suggested we do the whole Shoden set some time again to see if we have improved overall. I know it will be a blast. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Training through/around injury.

So I have injured myself.

I woke up one morning to intense pain and aching in my right hip. I had trained the night before but had not noticed any problems before I went to bed. As I got up I found my right leg wasn't weight bearing without pain. I knew I had landed hard on that hip a couple of times during training and assumed I had bruised some part of my hip. After gently pressing different parts of the problem area I discovered the pain was coming from a protrusion of my femur known as the Greater Trochanter. I think I had bruised it and the area had become inflamed overnight as I lay on it. I was pretty sure I had damaged some of the soft tissue around the area as well because certain lateral movements caused me pain as well. After a quick bit of research online and talking to my wife who teaches anatomy and physiology to nursing students, it was quite probable I had tendinitis of the medial glute as well. This made sense as the same day as I had training I had a therapeutic massage appointment. The massage therapist had worked on my medial glutes as they were quite sore.

So here is what I think happened.
Last week I participated in the staff Tug o War (I'm a high school teacher). Now, due to a busy schedule with work and family I have only been getting to training once a week and teaching aikido once a week. Therefore my mobility and activity had dropped considerably over the winter months. Then to suddenly participate in some pretty serious isometric movements (Tug o War) didn't do my body any good. I had also stopped seeing my massage therapist over this winter term due to being too busy. Last year I made sure to see her at least once a month. 

This week I finally got back to my massage therapist and my body was a wreck. She did her best to iron out muscular kinks but more still needs to be done. I had that massage at 10 am of the same morning I had training. I then went to training that evening. Here is where I think my problems started. I had a fairly vigourous training session and pushed myself physically. I got home tired but not really sore. However, the massage therapist would have stretched and loosened muscles around my hips which, I believe, reduced my stability leading up to the training. In fact I believe that having a deep tissue massage PRIOR to training was my down fall. Nothing I did at training was unusual or new, other than increasing the intensity. Therefore the only thing I did differently that day was have a deep tissue massage earlier on. Also, knowing that the therapist worked on my medial glutes and that is the very tendon that is inflamed now seems to support this idea. 

Its my second day with the sore hip and it is healing quickly. It is most painful when I lie down so I slept with a pillow between my legs which reduced the tension on my hip tendons. Plenty of Deep Heat (Menthol cream) has been applied and I did take Ibuprofen yesterday to help with reducing inflammation. I am annoyed with myself for getting injured. However, it is in these moments that I find myself reflecting on my practice and what I can improve on. I will still go to tonight's training session but I will train around the injury. I know what planes of movement I can do without pain and I will stick with those. 

It goes without saying, that I will not be getting a deep tissue massage before training in the future.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Brazilian Jiujitsu Experience

Yesterday I my wife was talking to a guy who use to teach our children at their primary school. He told her he was competing in his first BJJ tournament as a novice. When I heard this I was interested in going along and seeing what it was all about. My knowledge of BJJ is very limited. I have not practised it myself and all I know of it is based on the Gracies and the UFC. I wasn't sure what to expect but I wanted to be among New Zealand BJJ practitioners and get a feel for the type of people they are. I also wanted to see my daughter's ex-teacher having a go.

So I managed to get to the tournament after my daughter's soccer game and watch not only Adam's novice bouts but many others as I was waiting around. The first thing I noticed was the great sportsmanship shown by everybody there. Not only the practitioners but also members of the crowd. The crowd always applauded the winner, no matter who they supported. Credit given where credit is due.

I had a great conversation with a guy I met there. He was a father and his whole family was involved in the MMA gym there. He and his daughter practise BJJ and his son goes to parkour which is also attached to this gym. His family had tried BJJ and then left for awhile to try other sports but had come back because the of the great atmosphere.

During the bouts, the competitors shook hands before and after and during one of the more elite bouts where only two men were in the division, they were smiling and chuckling as they were rolling.

This was a real grass-roots competition at an amateur level and the atmosphere was chilled out and friendly. I was pleasantly surprised. There was no posturing because you spoke with your actions out on the mat. You won or you lost...end of story.

The guy I went to see did well for himself. He won both his bouts. First with an arm bar and secondly with a choke. He was really humble about it all, but man, he could move. He was fast and he was balanced. I don't know if he will continue with tournaments but he certainly has potential.

All in all it was a very positive experience.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

TSYR NZ in the paper!

The last time Threadgill sensei was out, our club took the opportunity to put an interest story in our community newspaper. The local paper known as the Hamilton Press sent a series of questions via email for sensei to answer then booked a time for a photo shoot down at the dojo. 

Chris McMahon and Threadgill Sensei.

You can look at the digital version of the article here.

It is a very light article but gets the point across. We are a Samurai-era historical preservation society in need of more members to preserve the teachings and techniques of Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu. 

It is an obscure pastime that only a few people are interested in. This makes holding members difficult with a city of about 200,000 people. Martial arts such as karate, judo, aikido and mma dominate the community and of these people only a small portion may look into koryu. 

Our martial art also favours budo practitioners 20 + years who have already gained a dan grade in a Japanese martial art. So this narrows down future students even further. 

It is my hope that after the release of this article and increasing our digital profile with a new website, we may get one or two committed students to join our ranks. 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Does the martial art you choose, matter?

How has martial arts practice affected my thinking?  This was a question asked of me the other day in my work place. I was taken back a bit at first as it is not something I would expect to be asked by a fellow high school teacher. The person asking the question was a trainee teacher who had two sons. He wanted them involved in combat sports/martial arts and when he had overheard a conversation between another colleague and myself he approached me with the above question.

After some thought I said, "Well, that's a big question, how long do you have?"

It was near the end of the lunch break and we were both heading back to class so it went no further.

The following day we caught up again to have a discussion. The guy was very sincere and interested in what his boys could get out of martial arts. He was a triathlete so the martial arts were new territory for him. From what I can understand he had an idea that different combat sports/martial arts provide different values and he wanted me to suggest which ones would be best for his boys. 

However, I didn't agree. I came from the angle that all martial sports/arts teach people a type of power over others. Usually this is physical power but it can also be mental or emotional power depending on the pursuit. Power can be used to help or to abuse.The famous Japanese quote, "Setsuninto - Katsujinken" roughly translates to "the sword that takes life" and the "sword that gives life". This quote is very old and refers to the use of the sword to simply kill for killing's sake or to use it to protect and keep order.  I used MMA as an example. The fighters are exceptional athletes with fantastic technical ability but I dislike the ego and poor sportsmanship that was displayed in the sport. I compared this with the Gracies' Brazilian Jujutsu and how those people were also technically very good but acted with honour and integrity. This being said, then how would he ensure that his boys would be training for the right reasons. In my opinion most of their values will come from their father and mother. I would trust that they will teach the boys integrity and honour. So would it matter which martial art they learned?

At one point in our discussion he liked my use of the term "body awareness". I was using the term to describe how practices like martial arts and dance allow a full range of motion, increasing mobility but also improving the sense of where your body is in space at all times. This was actually what he wanted his boys to get out of the training. Yes, he wanted the boys to protect themselves but he also wanted them physically competent. 

I believe the martial art isn't as important as the instructor teaching it. All martial arts are taught by people, usually men who have their own take on things. Some people teach martial arts for the joy of it. Some teach to make money, other teach for their own agendas, sometimes these are not honourable. 
So my advise to this man was that he should let the boys choose whatever martial art they or he sees fit but meet the instructor first, watch a class and get a feel for the person. If your gut tells you it is not for you, then walk away with no regrets. 

It was a fascinating discussion that helped me crystallize my own ideas about why I practice martial arts and whether my training influenced my thinking. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

A Good Day of Training.

Yesterday (Saturday), I had a very satisfying day of training. A friend of mine from Auckland had come down Friday night. He joined us at the Hamilton dojo for the morning session. Then after lunch we drove back out to my place for a further two hours of training.

As usual McMahon sensei was on form and we worked through five idori hand releases. I always enjoy these exercises as they focus on very precise movement and sensitivity.

After the idori we moved to standing techniques from a cross-hand grab. We worked on flow and intensity while trying to keep to good form. By the time we worked through all of those, the session was near its end. I certainly felt wrung out and my body felt loose and strong.

The training at my own dojo was slower and steady. We went back over the five idori from the morning session to reinforce the key ideas then moved to five idori kata that require a more aggressive mindset.

Predatory gaze of Samurai Jack.

The mindset of a TSYR practitioner should be that of a predator. Patiently hunting the opponent, pressing for an advantage, waiting for a mistake to occur. When an opening presents itself move in without hesitation and finish quickly. Many of the kata we were working on involves the uchitachi initiating AND finishing the kata. The initial movement must not alert the uchitachi of the attacker's intentions and then, once started, the job must be finished quickly and precisely with certainty.

We worked on getting intent into the movements, not just going through the motions. It was very much a session of study and critique. Very enjoyable but a different pace from the morning.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Chokes and Throws.

It is very hot in New Zealand at the moment with temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees Celsius. There is something about training in the extremes of temperature that I enjoy. Stepping off the mats with skin wet with sweat is invigorating. My body feels loose and supple and I have the warm buzz of exercise flowing through my veins. 

This morning's training at the Hamilton Dojo was great. We don't officially start classes for another week so we have been working on a collection of waza from the Chuden syllabus. Today we started with chokes. We worked through ten different ways to wrap our arms around someones neck. By themselves, these chokes are just a list of possible options. But when combined with certain kata we practice, things start to make sense. One of the chokes is in fact the attack uchitachi initiates in one of the idori kata. So learning how to do this choke correctly aids shitachi in performing the correct response to escape and counter. Another one of the chokes is used part way through a different kata. Understanding what the choke is attempting to do helps shitachi perfrom it correctly. 

After swinging on each others' necks for awhile we moved to some of the chuden idori. Now, these are fun!  I can still remember when Robbie Smith sensei introduced us to these techniques. They are quite...memorable. The first technique starts in a similar way to a shoden level kata but ends, wait for it, with a choke. Being on the receiving end of this kata is not very nice. Threadgill sensei has some stories about people losing bowel control with this one as they can be choked out very quickly. The second idori kata we practiced involves someone coming up from behind to choke you but you counter and throw them. It is quite dramatic.

After idori kata we went to standing throws. The throws we were shown today work off concepts we are taught in the shoden syllabus. It was satisfying seeing the progression of techniques from the "basic" five throws we learn morphing into other variants or versions of the same concept. We are told often that the shoden mokuroku holds some of the key principles and concepts of the school and it is obvious in moments like these how true it is. An understanding of the Shoden syllabus really does make learning the Chuden stuff easier as the waza are often an extrapolation of an idea or movement learned previously. 

All in all it was a great session today.