Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The countdown has ended.....

First I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who has sent me their comments and congratulations following my shodan success.  I really appreciate the support and advice many of you have given me regarding my preparations for black belt testing and I have taken on board many of the things that you have said to me. My success is also your success.

I think my feet are now descending back to the ground ready to start the next leg of the journey! Sensei told me I was now a white belt again – a beginner. It’s true; I am (along with my co-graders) the most junior of the black belt students. It’s a place I’m happy to be as I have much to learn.

However, the countdown to shodan has now ended and so must this blog. This will be my last post here but I will continue to post regularly on my other blog 'My Journey to Black Belt', which may now need a slight alteration to the title! I'd like to thank you all for following me on this blog and invite you all to join me as I continue to chronicle my journey. I will be transferring my blog list from here to my other blog so that I can continue to follow you. 

Thank you again for all your comments and advice and I hope I will still hear from you on 'My Journey to Black Belt'......

Monday, 13 June 2011

One proud lady owner of a.....


You know, I can hardly believe that what was such a huge mountain in front of me only 24 hours ago is now behind me! It feels amazing, shattering, but amazing all the same. As I write this I am looking at a huge certificate with my name on that says I have been “….officially entered into the records of Seishin-Do Shukokai Karate and is herewith licensed to rank in the 1st Dan grade of shukokai Karate-Do in recognition of the degree of excellence achieved in the study of the art.” Who me? Wow! 

Me and Hubby!
Of course, I also have to congratulate my husband who also passed with flying colours and made a brilliant partner. Thank you. 

It was a good day, a positive day.  I had been so worried that I would feel drained and negative at the end of the day and that it would feel like an anti-climax but in reality I didn’t feel like that at all. I felt fairly relaxed and positive throughout the day.

We had an early start, up at 6.00am and out of the house by 8.00. We had an hour and a half drive to the grading centre and were expected on the mats by 10.00am. After a warm up and some practice time we started the grading at 10.30 and finished at 5.30pm. Nineteen people graded – seventeen passed.

With 19 people and 15 sections to get through the grading officers had organised the day with military precision. The kihon sections were done in rows. There were 14 combinations to do in all. The front row graded first with the first two combinations then moved to the back and the second row came forward, then the third row. Then the first row did the next two combinations and so on. It took about an hour and a quarter to get through that little lot. I made my first big error during the stance combination – I stepped left into shiko dachi and everyone else in the row stepped right. They were right, I was wrong. My mistake obviously stuck out like a sore thumb!

Receiving my belt
As an aside, I was the last person on the third row. I thought this was because my last name begins with ‘W’ and we were in alphabetical order. I had rationalised that the reason my husband wasn’t standing next to me (there was a person between us) was because we were grading partners and we were being allowed a ‘1 person gap’ between me partnering him and him partnering me for our ippons and goshin waza. It wasn’t until we were driving home that my husband took joy in telling me that the reason I was last in the line was because I was the oldest person grading!

For the kata/bunkai sections we were split into two groups. One group left the grading hall to have a lunch break for an hour whilst the second group did their 3 kata and bunkai demonstrations individually. We then swapped over. I was in the second group. For me the kata demonstration was the most nerve wracking part of the grading but I managed to do all the kata without any mistakes so I’m pretty sure that section went okay.

The rest of the sections were either done in two or three groups at a time or individually with partners. My only other blunder was during the ippon kumite section. Despite having gone through all nine techniques endlessly in my mind whilst waiting for my turn (last of course, since I was the old lady!) when it came to actually do it I unconsciously substituted one of my defences to oi zuki for one of my defences to mawashi zuki. Then when I got to my mawashi zuki defences I realised I’d already shown one. I couldn’t immediately work out which oi zuki defence I’d missed out so couldn’t think quickly enough to adapt it to a mawashi zuki attack. Instead I just repeated the one I’d already done. Naturally, the sharp eyed judges noticed I’d repeated a technique! Still it was better than standing there wondering what to do.

With our instructor
The last two sections were sparring. First jiyu kumite then shiai kumite. I was partnered up with a teenage girl who was grading for 2nd dan. She was clearly a more agile and experienced sparrer than me but I thought I didn’t do too badly against her in the jiyu section (free sparring) – I got a reasonable range of kicks and punches on her, though she knew exactly how to deal with my mawashi geri kicks – catching my foot, spinning me round and thumping me in the back! In the shiai kumite section (competition sparring) I had to fight her again. According to my husband I held her off me pretty well and even scored a half point. Then I made the fatal mistake of doing a mawashi geri and again she caught my foot, span me round and punched me in the back, scoring herself a full ippon. I should have known better! So she won but it didn’t matter the grading was finally over.

We were all asked to leave the grading hall whilst the marks were added up. The atmosphere in the waiting area was very upbeat. We were all tired and glad it was over but there was a lot of camaraderie and positive talk going on. In fact, throughout the day the atmosphere had been friendly and supportive – almost enjoyable!

My fellow club members
After about 40 minutes we were called back in and lined up again. Each person’s final mark was called out and that person walked to the front to shake hands with each grading officer and receive their belt and certificate. This was obviously a difficult time for the two people that didn’t pass as they just had to stay in line after receiving their mark. They were both only youngsters and I thought they dealt with it stoically and maturely (no tears or complaints). They even came up to congratulate other people when we were celebrating at the end so I hope they both have success at their next attempt.

You know, I didn't feel as shattered at the end of the grading as I had expected to. I was tired and a little achy but not as shattered as I was after assisting at the last dan grading last November. I don't know if this is because I am fitter now than I was 6 months ago or whether that carbo-loading regime Felicia advised me on really did work - all I know is I felt okay at the end. The porridge for breakfast fuelled me for a few hours (thanks Marie) and the mango pieces were the most practical and enjoyable snack food I took (thanks Patty).  I nibbled food at every opportunity (thanks Charles) and drank cranberry juice as well as water (thanks kururunfa). The other food I took that was really palatable and useful was - sushi! It contained protein and carbohydrate, was tasty, easily digestible and came in bite size pieces - perfect! I'm pretty sure all your nutritional advice helped get me through the day, so thanks.

I have a double karate class tonight so I am looking forward to stepping into the dojo with my black belt on. The belt is stiff and virtually untie-able at the moment but I'll manage!

The whole grading group!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Some nutritional advice needed...

I'm wondering if anyone can give me some advice about what food/drink supplies I should take with me on my grading? I will be getting up about 6.00am and having a good breakfast before we leave at 8.00am to travel to the grading centre. The grading starts at 10.00am and will continue until around 7pm. We will not be tested continuously for that period and will get breaks between sections, though we will have to remain in the grading hall. I think we get a 30minute 'lunch' break at a suitable point.

It will be a long day and I will need to keep my energy levels up. I can't eat anything that will sit heavily in my stomach so I expect I'll be taking frequent snacks and drinks between sections. So far I have a couple of protein bars but what else should I take? Sandwiches? cake? cereal bars? I don't know! I will take plenty of water, but what about a flask of coffee or energy drinks? Any recommendations? My appetite may be suppressed during the grading due to adrenaline levels but I know I must eat something.

I'd really appreciate your advice and suggestions...... 

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Just 5 days to go!

Just five days to go!

You may have noticed that I have changed the countdown in the sidebar to days rather than weeks. The grading is on Sunday and starts at 10.00am for the warm up. Since there are so many of us grading this time (about 19) we have been told to expect the grading to last until around 6.30pm with the presentations at 7.00. It will be a long, long day!

My aims this week are mainly to avoid further injuries and to just keep walking through the techniques to keep everything fresh in my mind. We had a hard session last night which focused on the first half of the syllabus which is mainly Kihon and kata (with bunkai). My leg held out well with the kicking so I'm pretty sure it's going to be okay for the grading - phew!

On Wednesday we will be going through the second half of the syllabus which is mainly partner work. I expect this will be an equally hard session but after that I am resting up until the grading. I think I am as prepared as I'm going to be now, I'm comfortable with the syllabus and know what to expect on grading day. There doesn't seem any point in pushing myself to the limits in the last few days, I don't think it will achieve anything.

I probably won't post again now until after the grading so hopefully I'll have good news for you....

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Progress report on my leg....

Less than 2 weeks now to black belt grading! My injured leg had its first real test last night and held up pretty well. We went through all our combination techniques including the ones with the dreaded jump kicks that usually set my leg off again. These felt okay on the whole and I just kept stretching my quads out between each set.

We then went through our kata and bunkai. After about 20 minutes of practising these on our own, those of us that are grading had to demonstrate all our kata and bunkai to the class as if it were a the real thing. I felt relieved when Sensei said that it had all gone well and would have been worthy of a pass in the grading (relief!).

My leg was feeling fine at this point and I was still stopping to stretch it regularly. At the end of the class we decided to have some races which involved crawling or running over large crash mats - good fun but ouch! Not so good for my was aching like mad by the time I got home and stretching had become painful again (arrrgghh!!!). What was I thinking joining in with that race?

So it was back on with the heat pad at home and a massage on my leg by my husband - he has a vested interest in getting me fit for the grading since I am his grading partner! The tiger balm that I had ordered a week ago from a well known Internet shop (A--z-n) had still not arrived, not even been dispatched yet - just when I needed it. Today I decided to buy it the old fashioned way by going to a shop - it worked, they had it and now my leg stinks of Tiger balm! Stretching is still a little tender today but not as bad as last night.

I have another class tonight but I think I'll pass on the games this time if we have any! 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Sports Massage - ouch!

I have a recurring quads injury in my right thigh. This 'pulled muscle' injury goes back about 8 weeks now and keeps getting better and then recurring again. It recurred again last week and has bothered me a lot during the last 3 karate classes.

The activity that seems to set it off is jump kicking. Front kicks and round kicks don't seem to bother it though back hook kicks do bother it a bit. Once it is set off I literally cannot do a jump kick with my right leg, it's just too painful!

I am worried how this is going to affect me in my grading. I desperately don't want to pull out at this late stage if I can help it. Unfortunately the kicking combinations are the second section on the grading so I am worried that if it pulls again during that section it will affect my performance of all subsequent sections.

To try and avert disaster and get this pull sorted out once and for all I decided to have a sports massage today. I've never had one of these before (life's full of firsts, even at my age) but I've heard that they can produce good results.

Anyway, I have just returned from this sports massage and I can confirm that it is not for the faint hearted!
After prodding away at my thigh to see where the tightness was he recommended a deep tissue massage. Aarrghh! He was pushing his fingers so deeply into my quads muscle that I felt like he was going to go right through my leg. It was definitely a painful experience but hopefully one worth going through.

I was starting to regret telling him that I also had a bit of lower back pain and that an old injury to my left shoulder was bothering me a bit. However, I did let him massage my back and shoulder (in for a penny, in for a pound!) and this was not nearly as painful as the thigh.

The prognosis? Well, he said it may feel worse tomorrow but after that should get better. I have got to do regular stretching exercises on my thigh and must warm up thoroughly before attempting any kicks. He has advised me not to do any kicking in karate class tomorrow but after that it should be okay to try. He also recommended using a heat pad to warm up the muscle before exercise and to basically just keep moving.

He was hopeful that it would feel a lot better by next week but if it didn't he suggested going back for another massage (I'll have to summon up courage for that!).

Here's hoping it's done the trick! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tabata training

Have you heard of tabata training? It is a new concept to me. I was interested in finding out more about it after reading a little about it in a newspaper fitness supplement. I was particularly interested when I realised it was Japanese in origin.

Tabata is a form of 'mini' circuit training or interval training 'Mini' because each circuit is only 20 seconds long with a 10 second rest between circuits. There should be 8 circuits for a full tabata session. After an initial warm-up a tabata session takes only 4 minutes to complete. The exercises for each circuit can be anything you like as long as they involve full body movements, so sprinting, push ups, lifting weights, kettle bell squats, bear crawling - you name it! It is probably best to tailor the exercises to the sport you are in training for.

Tabata training gets its name from its developer -  Izumi Tabata  at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan. Basically he researched and compared various exercise protocols to find out the most effective way of increasing both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. The 20 second on 10 second off protocol was the most effective.

It sounds easy doesn't it : 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for eight rounds. Apparently not! It's not for the feint hearted. In fact it is recommended that you are in good cardio  condition before trying tabata training as it is very intense. If you are not exhausted after it then you are not doing it properly. Tabata training is used by top athletes and is particularly suitable for combat training. In fact it is such high intensity training that it is recommended that you only do it once a week or even fortnightly.

Martial artist require the ability to produce short bursts of energy quickly to generate power and speed. Fast twitch fibres are needed for this type of muscular action and interval training is ideal for this. Kata also makes good interval training by the way.

Unlike aerobic training such as jogging where the fat burning abilities stop as soon as you stop running, tabata training is said to continue fat burning  for up to 2 days after the training session, so ideal for weight loss!

Sounds good doesn't it? I might give it a go. If you want to find out more about tabata training here's some links: