First Karate class of 2016

Today was my first class of 2016. The dojo was very cold and the floor felt like ice but at least it was dry. Either way, it felt good to be back and before long, my body started to warm up, except for my feet, but this is Karate not a knitting class.

Gotta get warm

Sensei Noia took the cold into account and had us run through a vigorous warm up. We started class by jogging to each line on the floor and doing 5 each of the following. Jumping jacks, push ups, crunches and squats. We also did low walks to half court and front leg swings to the far end. Needless to say, I was breathing fairly hard at that point and the cold air was starting to feel a little warmer.

After the warm up we stood in a natural stance and then did single punches making sure to squeeze the floor with our feet and tighten our legs at the finish of the punch. Sensei explained that “kime” should happen at the last moment of the punch. Everything is loose and fluid until that last moment when the entire body contracts as the punch is completed.

Step down not back

For the next drill, we stepped down, into a back stance with knife hand block and then stepped into a natural stance with a punch. Instead of stepping back into the back stance, Sensei said to step down by dropping down before moving back. When moving from the back stance into the natural stance, the idea is to pull from your hamstrings instead of just standing up. We did the same with the opposite leg to even things out. We did the same leg movements but instead of knife hand block we did mange uke making sure to bring the upper blocking hand to our side and throwing the punch from the hip before moving into the natural stance from the back stance. We finished up this drill replacing the mange uke with a helping outward block.

For the next drill, we found a partner who stood in a front stance, we then moved away from them in a back stance with a knife hand block, then stepped forward into a front stance with a reverse punch. The key to this drill was to move from the hips and throw the punch from the hip too. Again, pulling from the hamstring when moving from the back stance to the front stance was the key.

We left our partner for a drill that started with us facing sideways, we pivoted 180 degrees on our right heel and punched, then pivot on left heel 180 degrees and punch again. In order to do this drill correctly, we had to initiate the movement from the hips. Extra attention to your posture and staying upright is a big part of the this drill.

The next drill was similar to one that I saw Naka Sensei do in a video. Starting in a natural stance again, we punched to the right without turning our heels, then back to center with a double punch then a single punch to the left. The key is getting the hips to throw the punches not the shoulders and keeping the feet in the natural stance position.

Sensei wanted us to get more of feel for that last drill and he had us partner up again hitting our partner, punching from the hip, while standing in a natural stance. Your knees have to be somewhat soggy to allow the hips move and the upper body needs to be loose. The punching arm needs to be similar to a rock tied to the end of a rope in order for the hip to throw the punch.

There’s always room for kata

After all the hip work, Sensei had us work on kata. We started out everyone doing Jion. Sensei counted out each move but all of the black belts had to do it in mirror image.  Mirror image kata is always a mental challenge.

We moved on to Bassai Dai spending some extra time on the first movement. After a few tries, Sensei had us get a partner again and while we did the first move our partner hit our front hand with a pad to make sure that we locked the correct muscles.

We did Bassai Dai again while Sensei counted out each move and then moved on.

For the rest of the class, the brown belts worked on their rank level kata and the black belts had a choice of a few different black belt katas. We did three more katas with the black belts doing Kanku Dai and then different kata choices for each one.

That was a lot of kicks and then some

Today’s class consisted of a few different things which included kicks, kihon and kata but a good amount of time was spent doing kicking drills.

Side thrust kicks anyone?

Sensei Noia often teaches classes where he focuses in kicks but today had a little extra focus, especially on side thrust kick drills. Everyone started out with a white pad and one hand on the wall. For example, you held your right hand on the wall, while holding a pad in your left out to the side, then you execute a side thrust kick, set the pad on your foot and leg and hold it there. After, a few seconds said back and you pulled the kicking leg back and grabbed the pad before it fell on the floor. There was 5 second hold for each count until number 10 where you hold it out for 10 seconds.

The next drill was a simple chamber of the side thrust kick. Again with one hand on the wall, you bring your kicking leg up in front, pivot on the foot on the floor and then turn your hip over, internally rotating your leg and hold until Sensei says down.

That drill was followed by a full side thrust kick over the pad but the first one was a low kick and the second was higher but it was done with full speed and retracting the kick as fast as possible. The count between the two kicks was fast and the focus was on chambering the kicking leg as fast and as high as possible.

The final kicking drill was done away from the wall standing upright. You started with the pad held out to the side with one arm, then you executed a side snap kick immediately followed by a side thrust kick. The idea was to hit the pad with the side snap kick and then follow it with the side thrust kick.

All of the drills were done on both legs and there was least a full 20 minutes of kicking going on.

Don’t step, drop down

Next came some kihon drills. These start with everyone standing in a ready stance and each time Sensei counted, you stepped out with one leg and did a block of Sensei’s choice followed with a reverse punch. The main focus of this drill was to get everyone to drop down into the stance instead of just falling into a front stance. Many times, students will stand up and then fall forward into a stance, often using the upper body instead of dropping down and using the hips to drive forward. This is also another great drill for training if you only have a small amount of space available.

End class with some kata

Ending class with kata really takes a lot of mental endurance more than physical endurance. After so many kicks and kihon drills, the legs are much like jello but this makes everyone dig deep down to do katas that look like katas.

Sensei had everyone start out with a Heian kata of their choice, then Jion and Bassai Dai and then, for the black belts, Kanku Dai, Hangsetu, Empi, Bassai Sho and then four more katas of their choice.

Doing 11 katas after all the other drills would crush most Karate students but luckily, the students in this class always give their best even though they were all walking a little funny after class.

All basics and kata class

Basics and kata, my kind of class.  Exam time is always my favorite times because we spend a lot of time working on basics and kata.  It really gives me a chance to make sure that I am still improving and that my techniques are still correct or not.

Here is the list of basics that we went through:

  • horse stance with punch, then double punch and triple punch
  • moving forward with front punch
  • front snap kick front punch
  • front snap kick, side thrust, back kick, reverse punch
  • same with roundhouse kick
  • front snap kick, side thrust to front, back fist
  • front snap kick front punch
  • double front snap kick
  • double roundhouse kick

One step with two counter attacks….

Next, we worked on some one step sparring.  For this drill, we worked on doing counter attacks with two techniques.  For example, when our partner would punch to the stomach we would block with a knife hand block, throw a roundhouse kick to the body and follow that with a backfist.

We finished up class with kata.  Sensei broke us out into groups of those doing Hangetsu, Empi and Bassai Sho.  Sensei had us all do kata at the same time while he watched each group and then he gave us something to improve upon.  I have been working on Bassi Sho for some time now but the ending movements are always the hardest for me and Sensei was a big help getting me on the right track.