Sensei's Blog

Below is a compilation of my thoughts on many topics throughout my life journey focused on the martial way.  Thanks and acknowledgments are in order here as without others I would be nothing.  First I want to thank to my father, my mother, my fiance, my family and my friends for their support through the years.  Secondly I want to thank my Karate Teachers including Master Kise, Sensei Ader, Sensei Rosebraugh, and Sensei Spencer, as well as the whole karate family.  Finally I want to send a special additional thanks to Sensei Ader as his Lessons of the week are the inspiration behind my blog.  Now on to my babbling....

Nana Korobi Ya Oki

posted Jun 19, 2009, 10:53 AM by Robert Collins II

"Nana Korobi Ya Oki" Fall down seven times, Get up Eight.
Many times in our journey we will fail or struggle to accomplish what is asked of us. It is at these times that we must push forward and "Get up"; we must rise again and keep trying. We might fail several times but if we always get up one more time, we will eventually come out the victor. As a student of the martial arts, you have undoubtedly struggled with your journey. Be it with a new concept that appears just too hard, or with a concept that you just can't seem to grasp. But you are not alone, I have struggled and will continue to do so, and so have your teachers and their teachers. This really is one of the big secrets of the great martial artists, they just don't give up. Every time they fall or fail, the rise again and keep trying. Remember this and you are well on your way in your journey. Good luck!

Bring it

posted May 5, 2009, 8:26 AM by Robert Collins II

As most of my students know, I am currently doing P90X and am close to the end.  One of the many great concepts of P90X is the motto "Bring it"  How often do we find ourselves making excuses as to our training or lack there of?  "I just was too busy", "I had a headache", "I will after this show", "I just need a day to relax",...sound familiar?  It is a really hard fight to beat the voices in our heads trying to tell us reasons not to work harder.  The thing that gets me the most though, is that these students often wonder why they are getting corrected when they do show up and why they are passed over for testing even though they meet the "time in rank" by the amount of time only.  I can tell you it isn't because your Sensei wants to pick on you or because he/she doesn't like you; it is most likely because your fellow karateka are putting in more work and showing better results through their dedication and hard work.

We as a culture are based on the "I want it now" philosophy.  So many things such as Fast Food, Online Movies, Email, Text Messaging, etc, have driven us to getting instant results with minimul efforts.  One of the beautiful things of following a traditional style is that it is based on hard work and detailed understanding.  Sure there are some students that just seem to get it, but that is only to a certain level.  For most of us, and most likely for them as well, true dedication and hard work are needed to excel.  Do you want to be able to perform a kata like so and so from your class, then the best suggestion I can give you is that you've got to "Bring it"!  And this is not just talking about today, or tomorrow.  This is talking about a lifetime choice of setting aside the notions that this should come naturally.  It will later, but for now, it takes time and dedication to practice practice practice.  And when you feel like you are doing well, slow down and do it again because you still have a ways to go.  Even our Grand Master practices and if he doesn't have it perfectly yet, I can guarantee you that you don't either.

Take the excuses that you come up with and give them a real hard look.  How many of them are real and valid and how many are just to avoid the sweat?  Learn to turn "I just was too busy" to "I can set aside 15 minutes for kata practice this evening before bed."  Or to turn "I have a headache" into, "I will use this time to meditate on XYZ principle."  Or even to turn I will after this show" to "I will tape this show to allow time to practice now and watch it later."  By using these tricks, we can get win the mind game and make time to practice.  And once you have this time available, You've got to Bring it!  Commit to the concept of Kime and have conscious practice to the best of your abilities.  I hope my interpretation of the P90X motto has helped you as it has me...So go out there and "Bring it!"

Its a game of balance

posted Apr 29, 2009, 12:07 AM by Robert Collins II   [ updated Apr 29, 2009, 1:16 AM ]

Today I participated in Sensei Gravelle's class on Tuite in Seattle.  It was a great class with some wonderful students and I was very honored to share the dojo space with all of them.  In any event, it got me thinking as to why Tuite, or Joint Locking, works.  There are many things to think about with Tuite such as body position, angles, hand position, foot position, grip, change body, and so on and so forth.  While all of these concepts are important, one of the major concepts of Tuite and Karate, relies on Kuzushi, which is Japanese for balance.  The game is to take away your opponents while maintaining your own.

If you think about most tuite moves, they start with a distraction or misdirection, both types are excellent at upsetting Kuzushi.  Purple Belt Tuite finds us starting moves in the opposite direction (misdirection) as when we finish.  This causes our opponent to resist into the direction we want them to go making it easier to disrupt their Kuzushi.  White Belt Tuite starts with a kick to the leg (distraction) in order to disrupt their Kuzushi and then we proceed to the lock out.  Both of these, while simple examples, help to show how disrupting Kuzushi is embedded in what we do.  Go ahead, analyze your tuite / kata and you'll find that all throughout are things similar that disrupts our opponents Kuzushi before we actually lock or apply the technique.

Misdirection / distraction, while essential are often left out by lower ranked students who are eager to rush to the "actual" technique.  This mistake would render the technique useless on the street as without disrupting your opponents Kuzushi, you are seriously left at a disadvantage since now you are on relatively similar playing fields.  In a real combat situation, it is imperative to take advantage of your skills and to push the playing field to your advantage.  We must disrupt our opponents balance quickly and without warning to gain the upper hand and win.  So to take your Karate and Tuite to the next level start looking for the little ways that we disrupt Kuzushi in our opponents before we apply the "actual" technique.  This can be found in Tuite and in kata and I challenge you to look to find it.  Once you have taken the upper hand its easier to win as after all, its a game of balance.

Homework Assignment:  This is an addition to the last homework assignment.  Take the Kata that you have chosen to consciously practice and look into it for the moves that cause misdirection or distraction.  We will discuss them at next Tuesday's class during our Seiza Talk Period so be sure to have one or two examples for us to discuss.

Turn off your Brain and be in the moment

posted Apr 26, 2009, 8:24 PM by Robert Collins II   [ updated Apr 26, 2009, 9:14 PM ]

Last week, we had a sparring class and I noticed a pattern emerging, there was way too much thinking going on.  Sparring can be a difficult task for some, I myself struggled with this concept a lot coming up through the ranks.  The endless possibilities of what the attacker would do, the endless possibilities of how I could counter and all the while getting hit because I had failed to turn my brain off and let myself be in the moment.  It was not until Sensei Ader introduced me and consequently I started investigating the concept of Mushin or "no mind" that I truly started to understand sparring.  It also opened the door up to a new way to approach life.

Mushin, pictured to the left, is a concept where the mind is allowed to not be fixed on any one particular thought and is allowed to be completely open and in the moment.  By clearing the mind we are better able to see the bigger picture, to rid our bodies of emotions that will only get in our way such as doubt, anger, or fear.  Instead of thinking what if I get hit, we dismiss the thought, enter mushin and embrace the situation.  Our body takes over and we come through the victor.  But at this point, you might be wondering how do I enter Mushin?

Coming through the ranks, we repeat and repeat move after move in order to ingrain certain reactions into both our muscle memory and into our mind.  It is with this knowledge that we should be able to embrace Mushin but it is also with this knowledge that we let our brains try to run the show.  I have heard people talk about how they know 50 ways to counter an attacker but it is not how many ways you can do it, the real test is, Can you actually counter the real attacker?  I can tell you this, if an attacker came to you with just a straight punch and you were thinking of the 50 ways you could counter it and which one would be the best for this particular situation, you would be hit by the time you would select one.  It is this precise reason that we have to turn off our brains and be in the moment.  We can't be thinking about all the possibilities of ways to block/counter, we have to rely on our intuition that provides us with one move that comes from the many hours you have put your mind, body, and spirit through in the course of your training.  This of course does require that you have put in the time of practicing the moves repeatedly through "conscious" practice.  I say conscious practice because as my Sensei says often, "Practice does not make perfect, Practice makes Permanent, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect."  We should always strive to have conscious practice knowing that we are doing the moves to the best of our abilities with application in mind, this then gives us peace of mind that the move will work when applied, which in turn allows us to Turn off our Brains and be in the moment.

Homework assignment:  Focus on perfecting your technique in your training and having conscious practice this week.  Select one Kata you already know and practice and perform it daily a minimum of three conscious times.  At the end of the week, turn off your brain and let the Kata flow from your body, this is the start of your Mushin training.

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