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I do karate all day... when I talk, you know I will talk about karate... There was this once... long ago that I spoke about something else, but it is too long ago to remember what it was.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What my Karate is up to....

Karate has once again filled my heart with such great joy. And this is only because I am detached from the outside world of politics. 
Which allows me to enjoy my karate for what it truly is.... a fighting art with budo values.

My current training regime has me visiting Clayton Thom Sensei, a Goju-kai instructor, twice a week to get more inside information on the Naha-te way of karate. I have certainly learned how to keep quiet in all circumstances and focus on only my own karate. Even when the younger instructors take the class, I just put my head down and push through all the crazy stuff they put in front of me.

My Shotokan kihon and kata training is something I am training four times a week in private. I spend much time trying to link my karate to all that which I find in my research and my day-dreams. 
Yes you read right.... I day-dream about karate a lot. Normally about bunkai. The funny thing is, they normally come at random and when testing it, the ideas always work.

Kumite seems to be a bother to me of late. Shotokan focuses too much on ippon type shiai, and not nearly enough old school type jiyu kumite. I find myself in front of my punching bag, slamming away all types of techniques all focusing on real life fighting situations.

My cross training has also stepped up a gear. More traditional plyometric exercises have been included and soon new age plyo training will be a more regular training aid. 
I broke my elastic tube, so very little resistance training has taken place. 
Next week I have a serious phase of weight assistance to get through.

To all those who bother reading this, I hope you guys are training our beautiful art for one reason.... that reason is for yourselves!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Training in the shadows….




I feel very guilty because I have not spent time on my blog for a number of months, due to work and life conditions. To those who normally are used to visiting here on regular occasions, I apologise for not giving you the normal boring reading material of my karate.

The good news is that I have found my passion for being a student again, which is something that was lacking for some time now. With regards to Shotokan, I am still my own student, through research and much self-training. I find my journey a very bumpy ride, but I feel it is one I only want to share with myself. So I spend countless hours a week training Shotokan kihon and kata by myself, in search of the more brutal approach, which it was in fact originally designed for…. Life and death.

I spend a lot of time focusing on impact and penetration work. Which is factor that Shotokan lacks in way too much. My punching bags and I have become very good friends of late.

Other training which I have brought into my regime is training with a Goju-kai group, under the guidance of Clayton Thom sensei. Weekly I get reminded of how little in karate I actually know. Their kihon, jiyu ippon kumite and jiyu kumite has me looking at my own karate and find so many holes that our predecessors have left open.

The most important thing I have enjoyed is not belonging or having to answer to any association for any matter, especially political concerns or the money factor. 
Now karate is what it was to me when I started all those years ago….  
An art, a fighting system, where I train to prevent my life being taken away…. Where I heel my hurts.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What karate really is….



I have belonged to a number of organizations in my karate career, most of which was because I saw opportunity for my karate to grow…. And in some cases, I saw that I could help the organization grow (with regards to technical matters).

Of late I have not belonged to any organization, which has allowed me to take a look at karate from a different view. Also it allows me to say what I want and not have to answer to anybody.
I have been visiting different schools of different fighting systems. I was beaten up at a MMA school, I was manhandled at a jujitsu school, I was educated like a white belt at a Goju-kai school. Each adding a little value to what I believe karate is.

A wise instructor (and a dear friend) Bryan Dukas sensei once told me: “There is no such thing as bad karate…. Only different.” Which I have come to realize that he meant each person trains to their ability and to their knowledge. Either way, at least they are training.

Today we see karate majorly via the WKF (World Karate Federation www.wkf.net) which has 100 million practioners. This is by far the biggest organization in the world. And I guarantee that it is the premier organization to belong to when it comes to the sporting side of karate.
As for the style organizations, there are many. Some are great, some are really shocking in quality and lack of knowledge, then others are just there to make money. Some groups are very focused on standardization. But then there are those groups that charge ridiculous prices for gradings or qualifications. To each their own.

Back to the topic…. Many people ask me what karate is really all about. Many start the conversation off by telling me how karate is useless because we “pull punches”. Well I am going to try and explain this, the same way I figured it out.
In my first karate school, we only did syllabus kihon, along with the kata needed for the next grade and then shiai (shobu ippon kumite). Funny enough, that same organization is still doing things this way….  But like I said earlier, as long as they are training.

I left to find a deeper meaning in the older way of doing karate, through studies and research. What I found was old school teachings taught in a new manner. I had stumbled upon gohon kumite and kihon ippon kumite. To me this was a very basic fundamental block which was to be taught to junior grades…. something that I missed out on. So naturally I trained it excessively to be sure I really understood it.
After a number of years I was introduced to more versions of kihon kumite and along with it more fundamental basics. By then I already knew all the kata, so I felt rather confident that my knowledge of karate was good. It was about then when I realized basic prearranged kumite is just as important for senior graded black belts, as it is for beginners.

 

Somewhere down the line, my research showed me that what we do as karate is not what it was actually for. Karate has developed into a group training for education of the masses, for health and sports. But the applications of all the techniques are not trained as they were intended. You see, kata is a dictionary, allowing us to adjust ancient defense techniques into various situations. I say it like this, because there is no one application for any karate technique. Luckily I have had much time spent with a new-age thinking Goju-ryu instructor, Che Jagger, who has really helped with my view on oyo / bunkai (application). More inspiration came from research into some of Patrick McCarthy sensei’s work. And lately Iain Bernethy has allowed me to see my thoughts are not so crazy…. Only because he seems to think along the same lines.

 
After more studies and many more hours of training, I learned that pre-basics was just as important or maybe more important as basics. If you do not understand, go look for articles that I mention Isaka Sensei in. That should get you in the picture.

Now with my visiting of different schools I have had people ask me, what use is karate and all those things you train? Well this got me thinking. I mean in any real combat situation, you will not find me in a kamae and launching a perfect kihon or kata type oi-zuki. But what the other fighting systems were training was more practical. Then it boomed on me…. “MigueL you are an idiot, karate is not a combat system!” Karate is a mechanism to be able to defend yourself when your life is in danger. There should never be fighting involved.
(Please do not mistaken sparring for fighting)

So then why do all the kihon and kata? What is the use of it?
Well besides the applications, they are in fact just tools to educate the body. Same as a makiwara is used to toughen the skin over the knuckles, as well as aid in bone density, tendons and ligament strengthening…. So kihon and kata educates the body to be able to produce the maximum result, because it has been trained to the maximum of the karateka’s ability.
(When I speak about the body, I mean the entire make-up of the body.)

Another way you can look at it is kihon and kata are cross training aids, for real life threatening situations. When they happen, the body is prepared and has the ability to take the strain of combat with ease. All in all karate is just educating yourself to the most extreme, for if and when the need ever arises for it.

With this all been said, I have visited many karate schools and I find especially in Shotokan schools that application is something shown and not nearly enough time is spent only actually training it…. This is funny, because that is the original reason for karate.

There are two major schools of thought: Either you are sporting (WKF as mentioned) or you are practical. I do karate for the practical reasons, and as far as I know, that is the real reason why most people start karate. It is definitely not to become a world champion.
For whatever reason you are training karate, please make sure your instructor knows what is going on. Otherwise they will limit your own growth and they will keep you in their little whole of a kingdom.

Always be sure to test what you have been taught. Train against a makiwara or bags. Be true to yourself about the attackers, as they will not oi-zuki you. Life threatening situations are tough and those who have trained true karate, will be able to walk away from most of them as easy and will as little effort as brushing your teeth.

Keep training and always remember: For every drop of blood spilt while training, saves a bucket of blood in real life.



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

World Karate Day 7 October 2012

From "The K is on the Way Karate 2020"

The "K Day" aims to demonstrate the family unit of karate to support the Olympic bid.

The main actions on this date includes public displays of Karate at representative locations of cities around the

world, as well as "open doors day" in
dojos and clubs.
 
 

To promote these events we need to know, as soon as possible, the places chosen for the demonstrations, in order to include them in the campaign to promote the "K Day".
Please confirm your event and city, sending an email to karate2020@live.com
Upload photos of your own event in JPG format before October 25 to karate2020@live.com
 
 

WE ARE READY FOR 2020!! WE´LL BE THERE!!
 
  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

DKI's Open to the Public session

On Saturday 29 September I hosted an Open class for the public at the ACVV Community Centre, Port Elizabeth South. Needless to say it was a huge success. Children from all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds attended the class. 

Class started with the two rules that I teach all youngsters: 

Rule #1: Never to kick and punch your friends. 
I use the word friends for children under the age of seven, as at that stage, everyone is a friend. Obviously to those a little older, I can explain that it is not to be used unnecessarily.
Throughout the class I will give situations where I ask if it is fine to retaliate with karate. Each time testing everyone. 

Rule #2: To Listen.
With this rule comes more questions, such as who to listen to. As well as who not to listen to. 
What I find in most cases is they all say they must not talk to strangers, but in many circumstances they cannot define what a stranger is. So further education is given. 



We then got into a few stretches incorporating core stability exercises. 
Class itself was just teaching a punch, one block and also one kick. 
Breaking each up into the most basic forms, along with trying to make it exciting enough to retain all the children's attention.... as we know, this is always the most challenging part of a "new crowd".

All in all it was a fantastic session enjoyed by all.







Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why we grade & why we grow in Karate




In the previous organization that I was training in, I found some scary issues regarding gradings. 

There is a saying: "do not fear a man who trains thousands of techniques, fear only those who train one technique a thousand times." 
Along with this, you will find that the "monkey-karate-schools" (as I have named them) have grading syllabi that have many different extravagant techniques in them.... that is if they even do the grading. Yet no one from these organizations can tell you any of the technical matters. 
In fact, it is more challenging to hold a conversation with some white belts from main-line Shotokan groups than it is to do so with these type of karateka.

Firstly let me state the second maxim of the Shotokan dojo oath:
"Each person must be faithful and protect the way of truth." 

If you do not follow this, then it is not Shotokan! 

Now let me get to why I started this post....

Why is it that we grade? Many people will give you their fairytale versions on why we have a grading system, but history tells us (as written in Gichin Funakoshi's Karate-Do: My Way of Life) that he adopted the grading system from Judo in order to keep to the typical Japanese way. The way of hierarchy, which was magnified during the times of war. 

The reasons for the grading system was to show time spend focusing or serving on a specific level or understanding. From there ability obviously became a criteria. The Okinawans & Japanese were very strict not to let people grade just because they had ability. They believed that these would be the karateka who would leave after they reached their goal. As we know, karate has no end, therefore these talented karateka were just a waste of time.


As time has gone by, karate has evolved tremendously, yet the fundamentals remain the same. One such fundamental is to forge weapons (or good technique). This can not be done in a short time. Only through constant dedication and proper training will true karate be understood.

This is very difficult for some people to understand, and those that do understand it have difficulties actually following this way of thinking. One will find those who preach and claim fame are also those who actually do not train. And their karate will remain that of poor quality. 

If you are a new student or an old student to the art, make sure your instructor trains more than you do. Also make sure he has ties with true budoka (traditional karate people) from around the world. This is normally a good sign if they actually know what karate is really about, or do they just like the attention that students may give them if they awe them with a few good looking kicks.

Karate has no fast-forward button. If it did, then I would rather be doing kite-surfing.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

No substitute for correct Kihon

Let us be honest, grading syllabus is not kihon. It is just a bunch of things slapped together so panel members can see a side of karate which is not shown in kata or kumite.
Yet instructors teach that as their kihon. The same instructors that will brag how many "world champions" they have.
(Note: there are either style champions or organizational champions. The only official World Karate Championships is hosted by WKF).

Back to kihon: 
When training with Mike Dukas Sensei and Bryan Dukas Sensei, they opened my eyes to what proper kihon is. In fact they even went as far as to educate me in Isaka Sensei's PRE-BASICS. 
This depth of Shotokan karate must be trained daily, or at least one aspect of it.

This past week I have been doing loads of resistance training along with my kihon. What showed me the aspect with the most faults was the rubber bands around my ankles. It really showed my yara and tanden need much more attention. Getting to move smoothly and with the correct weight distribution before, during and after was a challenge. 

My kihon sequence has been standing statically in zenkutsu dachi with tate shuto uke in extreme hanmi, then with a rubber band connected to my rear hand, pushing my rear leg and driving the gyaku zuki in slowly. I focused a lot on the feeling during the finished position with the band trying to return to slack. 

Then oi zuki with my moving leg attached to the rubber band. making life rather difficult when doing fifty each side. 
My uke sequence has been in static zenkutsu: age uke at maximum hanmi body position (each followed by a gyaku zuki with maximum shomen body position), then soto uke, uchi uke, gedan barai, then shuto uke in kokutsu dachi, which allows a visual check if one is driving correctly with the rear leg when executing the final gyaku zuki.

Fundamentals of repeating this sequence hundreds of times a week, only come out once you think you can do it well. It is like a lucky packet, always with a surprise popping out. To me it is like Shotokan throws a spanner in the works and it giggles while whispering "you know nothing yet".



I praise and respect all bujitsu karatedo practitioners, for it is a small group of people keep proper karate alive. A big Ossu to you all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I have chosen to be alone.

As of 25 June 2012, I officially resigned from the organization where I was training and teaching.

As expected much name bashing was thrown about from the instructor, but I have kept it rather quiet. I actually drew up a rough draft of things I wanted to expose, but I found I had no time because I actually trained karate.

Once again I find myself exactly where I wanted to be when returning to my home town. Just training karate. No fake karate and no issues with dealing with people who do not train bujitsu karatedo. 
I obviously am working on dan grade registration, for when I want to grade candidates, but things are all falling into place.



My training at the moment consists of kihon and kata done alone. I find I spent the last few months on a very low level of karate understanding, and therefore I have much to weed out. Obviously what saved me was the fact I was still training my karate in between everything else. 
I am doing loads of bag work and also resistance training. As for kumite, well I am visiting a Brazilian Jujitsu and MMA (mixed martial arts) to grow a part of kumite that Shotokan does not really deal with in any depth. For the plain and simple kumite found in most karate formats, I am visiting schools to make sure I do not get rusty. 

In the next week or so, I will also be visiting a Goju school for some kihon and kumite training.

Currently I am only teaching in private, which seems to bring in more money than when teaching at the school which I was at. 

Feel free to contact me for Private Lessons or visits to your dojo.

miguelharker@yahoo.com


Monday, June 18, 2012

Kata & Kihon Report

Of late I have focused my own training around a few kata, eight to be exact.
I also control the frequency of doing them and how many repetitions are to be done. 
For some reason these all just are working together, and shaping Shotokan karate or at least focusing on different aspects of Shotokan at the right time in my study of the art.

Yet I train at least half these together before. 
They are: Heian Shodan, Heian Sandan, Bassai-dai, Tekki Sandan, Jitte, Chinte, Bassai-sho and Unsu.

Tonight my first deshi, David Gibson-san reminded me of a saying I used to tell him: 
"Nearly Karate time. I think we do basics, more basics and then we practice basics on each other." So therefore I will include the kihon I am working on. 

Besides working on stances and moving between either of, I focus much of my kihon doing oi-zuki. Maybe because it is Yahara Sensei (my favourite karateka of all time) kihon? From here the rest of the kihon develops.
Oi-zuki; gyaku-zuki (shomen body/hips each punch), then statically train with emphasis on the preparations and of course in the applications of each of the following blocks in extreme hanmi of the body (hips), followed by an extreme shomen of the body in gyaku-zuki: age, soto, uchi, gendan and shoto-uke.
(One hand does the first punch and all the blocks; the other hand only passive hand preparations and all the reverse punches)

What I would like to focus more of my own training is to more basic kumite.... all the variations of kihon kumite that Kanazawa Sensei does, but like Yahara Sensei would do it.


Bryan Dukas Sensei and I training Kihon Kumite at Murakami Sensei seminar


Karate is just never ending.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Smashing training sessions

For some training has taken a back seat, to either studies or just to winter. For me however, I have started putting more effort in. 

Friday I had my first deshi, David Gibson, come visit for training. If you do not know him, when doing kumite, 95% of all his attacks will be kicks, either to the target of choice on the body, or plain and simple to hurt his opponent's limbs. 

Needless to say we ended up at the hospital because David kicked Angus Louis so hard that he needed stitches to close the split on his jaw. As I always do, I did not give Louis-san a minute to rest. He continued until the end of the class, before we all made our way to the emergency unit.

Saturday we had a gashuku out at a farm, which to me is the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my home town. There during my session, a girl also got bashed, which resulted in her getting stitches. But this was just from not listening and doing the wrong things.

Today is father's day in South Africa, yet at 10am, Louis-san and I were in the dojo, starting to warm up for a rather intense one on one training. We focused on Tekki-Shodan, then Bassai-dai. 

The second half of the class we worked kumite drills, from the default to where adaptions can be added to make it a more decisive ending technique. When we ended off, I spent some time recapping on the past week's trainings and trying to show how everything has actually linked together. 


For now I am off to go spend time with my dad in a typical South African way, BRAAI.... (in English barbeque). It is time to make a huge fire and loads of meat.

 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Karate as it is now….


With my move back to my home town, there have been a couple of negative things that came along with it. The most negative or depressing would be the fact that I cannot train karate all day. Instead I had to get a day job. After six years of only doing karate, this has obviously been a huge shock to my system.

Nevertheless, things are on track again. I am training and / or teaching six days a week. But with having to work all day, makes me have less energy for training than I am used to. Besides that, I think I am getting older too. Moral of the story is, life is always difficult and as long as I train karate, I will be alive.

Lately I have made more time for research and study of Shotokan, something I have lacked since leaving Pretoria. To put you in the picture, my social life has been a priority over studying, because I missed these people for the past six years. But now that things have levelled out, I seem to find much time for research. Another moment of honesty came about recently, when I admitted to myself that I really miss training with the likes of (excuse me for not putting “SENSEI” in front of each name) Sensei Malcolm Dorfman, Mike Dukas, Bryan Dukas, Che Jagger, Shane Dorfman and all the karateka back at the DKI dojo, especially Wesley Dyssel.

Alright now back to the topic…. Of late I have turned down a few very nice offers. Of them being the national coach of the WUKO team. Then I turned down being the WUKO African chief referee. Both have come along with people telling me how silly I am. Well my view is that getting involved in these things will take me away from why I train karate.

So besides me upsetting people, I have been spending a lot of time on plain and simple tough Shotokan karate. FSK (Federation of Shotokan Karate) does a different brand of Shotokan to what I have molded my karate into. So thankfully Sensei Michael Kliment (chief instructor) has allowed my brand to be a part of the FSK Honbu Dojo teachings.

So besides the stock standard Shotokan that I teach in scheduled classes, I teach my karate on weekends and on Mondays. Which seems to have only the best and the toughest karateka from the organization returning to train more. Which is something I like, because I tend to get very irritated with explaining the same thing over and over to the same people. I also get annoyed with people who do not do hard-core karate. I like blood and bruises every class.

I also enjoy it when people fall over from exhaustion…. Which is to me how I show “genkai made” pushing to the limit. If this does not happen in my classes, we tend to refer back to the blood aspect that I enjoy very much.

Lately I have started finding a certain brand of karate rather appealing. And for the first time ever, it is not a Japanese karateka. If you are reading this, I hope you are trying to guess who it may be.
Besides his ability and knowledge, I really enjoy his outlook on karate matters.
This karateka is none other than Andre Bertel Sensei.
(Be sure to visit his blog on a regular basis www.andrebertel.blogspot.com)

But with saying this all, I must add my karate will always be a hybrid of Yahara Sensei Karate. Or as I like to refer to it: Yahara-ryu.
Always having in mind ichi-gekki hisatsu.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The year is in full swing!

The past while has been a rather hectic few weeks. 
Me working in a normal day job for the first time in six years has really taken a lot out of me and obviously taken time away from me day dreaming or general extra daily training.

The FSK Honbu Dojo had a senior training for Art in the Park at the end of January. 
Now for those who do not know what that is.... well it is a tradition in Port Elizabeth that once a month people get together in St. George's Park to sell their crafts or what ever it is they have that they want to sell.
Families go there to stroll around the park and eat on something small. Others love going there for picnics.

The training was good, but a small turn out was in the back of my mind the whole time. 
We trained stances, focusing on thrusting of the rear leg when moving forward. Then how the foot should move / leave / be placed on the ground.
Focus quickly turned to the "flight path" of blocks. 





With half the time left, I taught Kanku-Sho. As usual this kata is always well received by those learning it for the first time.

Then more mid February FSK (South African Federation of Shotokan Karate) had it's annual gasshuku. Note that all the trainings occurred outdoors in Gail-force winds. 
(Typical Port Elizabeth)
Classes were presented by Sensei Michael and myself, as well as sensei's Evan Louis, Luciano and Nicole Benini. Sensei Erwee Tiran was officially accepted as a Dojo-Head and was also asked to present a class.

My theme was to get basic drills along with all the fundamentals taken into very advanced karate. My favourite was obviously the kaiten uraken waza (spinning back fist techniques). But the one that caught most of the attention was the kicking drill which is six different kicks, all with one leg and absolute control between and during the drill. 

The HPK (High Performance Karate) classes have been running well. Last Friday these trainings became the national squad trainings too. It was great to have Despatch Eagles Karate dojo come join us for the training.




My personal training lately has been just trying to get my body able to train for extended lengths of time. The attitude of training until you want to fall over, then resting a short while and then pushing harder has been on my mind week in and week out.

Soon it will be the Kyu Grading, so the teaching themes will revolve around this.

Friday, January 27, 2012

South Western Districts Provincial FSK Gasshuku

Last weekend, well actually 21 January to be exact, was the South Western Districts Provincial Gasshuku. Sensei Johannes invited the honbu directors to come teach.

Firstly I want to say they did a great job of hosting us. Everything was just perfect. Well done to the two George deshi's, Neo and Tyrone.

We got stuck in some bad weather, that made us a little late on our four hour drive. When we arrived we were welcomed and we thanked everyone for inviting us. We explained the believe of training comes first, and committing 100% to every training is how the honbu runs.

The theme for the gashuku was:
Do not train until you get it right. Train it until you cannot get it wrong.

Sensei Evan Louis took a fantastic class of kihon. Focusing on maximum usage of hip. His ability was great and his quality of teaching was superb. Everyone understood how important kihon is to making good karate.

Sensei Craig Barthorpe had a crash course on the Heian series and Tekki Shodan. Which was jammed packed with detail, most of which was not taken in.

My class I started with Mae-geri and worked it up to a matomo nidan geri.... with breaking it up into the most rawest form of kihon. They learned how to kick mae-geri like white belts. 
We then moved onto tobi-geri. After showing how good karate comes from good kihon (an extension of Sensei Evan's class) the karateka got to put it into action during shiai.

Sensei Michael took a quick basic class to get loose then moved straight into kumite. As always, this was received well by all training.



I would like to thank sensei Johannes, sensei Monre and also our newest dojo in George, sensei Peet. A big thank you to Bernadine who arranged and controlled this all.
We look forward to visiting again late July.