Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reflecting on my journey so far

Just over a year has passed since I took my first Karate lesson and started on this journey. I guess that led me to reflect a little.

I've never regretted taking that first step and I continue to thoroughly enjoy my involvement with all three of my chosen disciplines. Why three, and such very different ones, that's a lot of classes? My sister agrees that a gene runs in our family that if we do anything, we do it full on :-).

The answer to why I chose the ones I do is a bit longer. I had a brief taste of Karate when I was in High School in Germany. We had a chance to choose the sport we liked in year 12. Karate appeared on the menu for the first time so I put my name down for it. I enjoyed it very much until, not long after, we emigrated to Australia. A combination of (relatively remote) places where I lived and my pig-headed obsession with all matters related to horses meant that I didn't follow up on any of the martial arts.

Since our last move, we are withing striking distance of Ballarat with all the opportunities offered by a decent sized town. I went through deep disappointments and disillusionment relating to my horse/riding/breeding involvement and I needed something new to focus on. Of course, there was no question that it would be Karate I would want to return to, so I did. I value all the things involved in practicing a traditional martial art, and the more I learn the more I enjoy it.

Coming from a background of physical activity (and don't believe people who tell you that having horses means you just get to sit on them and be carried around the countryside!), I had a reasonable level of fitness. But it still was a bit of a shock for my 40+ year old body :-). Well, the body is in much better shape now and I can do things I couldn't do when I was 20. Oh yeah, it's cost me a lot of sweat and then some, but it's well worth the effort.

True to my genetic heritage, I figured that where one martial art is good, two are better. As the Ballarat Martial Arts Centre offers PFS classes as well as Karate, I gave that a go. While initially my joining the PFS classes was a result of opportunity, I've long since come to see the uses of that type of training and with a year of learning, reading and researching, I think I'm reaping the benefits of this incredibly useful system. Weapons & disarms, boxing/striking, kicking, footwork, trapping, grappling and more :-). We are a small group only (I often wonder if the rest of the Dojo think we are mad), but we have an excellent instructor who keeps it interesting and challenging. It is totally unlike Karate in just about every way and I think it complements it very nicely. And I love the Kali sticks!

The grappling sessions in our PFS classes introduced me to takedowns and groundfighting. To my surprise, I liked it. Considering I'd always been worried about falling over, viewing the ground as dangerous territory (probably comes from all my years around horses) and liking a lot of interpersonal space, I took to it well. My takedowns are still inelegant, but once we're down, the ground is my ally now :-). Our grappling sessions are all no-gi and sometime we incorporate striking, giving it a very MMA-like feel. Through our PFS instructors I found out about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at The Ballarat Dojo. To satisfy my curiosity I just had to try it out. Needless to say I liked it, and have been going to classes for about 5 months now. Things are different when you wear a heavy gi while grappling but it opens up a whole lot of new possibilities! Chokes r us ;-)

I feel that the grappling complements the kicking & striking art I am learning. So all in all I think I've really struck it lucky in finding these three very different arts. They will keep me challenged and amused for a very long time. So much to learn!!!

I will admit to the occasional frustration about times when things don't progress at the rate I wish. But then I'm impatient in general, and I like the feeling when something works well. So, when I feel particularly flat footed or unbalanced, when the brain doesn't seem to drive the body or the body says "you cannot be serious!", when those combinations we practice simply don't flow, then I get mad with myself. But that seems to be the only real downside to coming to training.

The upside is that I enjoy the learning itself and trying new stuff. I've learned a lot, and the more I learn the more I learn that there is so much more to learn yet! There is the realisation that some of it is now feeling good, here and there things are coming together, as not only the brain, but the body remember. I'm now looking at refinement in some areas, I'm working on accuracy and speed. I'm no longer bedazzled by trying to remember a new technique. Sure, there are loads more techniques to learn, and as I'm trying my hand (and the rest!) at three different martial arts, there is an endless stream of new techniques. But many build on other ones already learned. With that comes a better understanding of the hows and whys of techniques and what logically follows what. There are marked improvements in making the feet (=delivery system) work together with the hands (=weapons system) during the stand up stuff. And the groundfighting is no longer quite so exhausting because I'm learning not to waste my energy in futile matches of strength. Instead I'm getting my head around which technique is appropriate when, how to use is, and when to abandon and go for another attack, it if it's not working. And then occasionally, it all comes together, and everything just happens just how it should. Be it a combination during sparring in a Karate class or practising sumbrada or sinking a near perfect RNC after a good roll.

I'm having a ball of a time. I have been fortunate to find several excellent teachers and so many fellow students who are great partners during drills and sparring. My sincere thanks to all of them.

There have been many funny moments (no, I'm not going to mention names :-) ). Like someone watching me try for a takedown (very early in my training), and commenting to the instructor that they're turning me into a monster. Thankfully that didn't seem to stick as a nickname. Then there was the class when we all heard a ripping sound when doing squats during warmup. Someone left hurriedly shortly afterwards to get a new pair of gi pants. Here is one that I laugh about every time (albeit sometimes painfully..): practicing chokes on one another, eliciting frantic tapping and choking sounds, while congratulating one another saying "that was great!" Cough!! "it was really bad!". Oh, and once I stupidly asked my partner if I had applied an armlock correctly. As I was sitting on his head at the time, the muffled "I can't see" was fair comment. I guess you had to be there...

I'm thinking of writing a paper about the coloration and maturing rate of bruises on humans :-). I sometimes look like a victim of abuse, with multicoloured bruises from one end of the body to the other. Bruises in places where nice girls don't have bruises! Add to that occasional blisters on the feet, skinned knuckles, bent fingers and a shoulder which has had a bit of a rough time recently, and you get the picture. And I thought I led a rough life handling and riding a bunch of horses!

But swap all this good fun for nights in front of the TV? No way! As a friend of mine used to say: more fun than a bucket of grubs!

Friday, March 20, 2009

John Will seminar

BJJ seminar with John Will at The Ballarat Dojo.

Well, what an eye-opener that was :-). We all enjoyed two full hours, learning escapes and armbar variation. We were also treated to some excellent advice and some general pearls of wisdom. Plenty to go home with and think about and work on. I highly recommend going to one of his seminars to any martial artist.

And we've been practising the sidecontrol escapes and the armbars!