Martial Progress

I’m coming up on two years studying Shuri-ryu with the Academy of Okinawan Karate, and I’m still surprised at how far I’ve progressed. My weight loss may have stalled out over the last year, but I’ve made huge strides in strength and flexibility.

A big part of that is my sensei has turned our advanced class on Tuesday nights into a workout class. We may work a little karate, but we focus on a mix of cardio, flexibility, and strength training. For the last few weeks we’ve done the same with Thursday night’s class; it’s not quite as intense, but we get a good workout before moving on to the night’s lesson.

Last night was a good measure of my progress: we started with 150 front kicks after our warm-up, then did 110 push-ups and 110 sit-ups in ladders. By ladders I mean we partnered up and did 1 push-up, then the partner did 1. Did 2, partner did 2, and so on, up to 10, for a total of 55 reps. We did sit-ups the same way, then counted down from 10 with the push-ups, and finally counted down with the sit-ups.

I made it all the way through without hitting failure or losing form (though I am feeling it in the abs today). I’m not so sure I could have done that a year ago, so I was very pleased with myself.

The Tuesday class has also been great for my side kicks. I’ve learned a new waza, a certain combination of techniques, that requires me to do a blocking kick immediately followed by a side kick, both above the belt. We’ve been working side kicks and stretches on Tuesday nights in preparation, and now I’m happy to report I can pull off both kicks. I don’t know how pretty it looks, especially in the transition to the technique following them, but Sensei Miller seems content so I’ll just keep practicing.

If I can perform the waza and the rest of my new material properly, I’ll be a brown belt in two weeks. I’ve been looking at sankyu, or third degree brown belt, as the next big milestone in my karate progession, and it feels great to be so close to earning it.

My first summer with karate, I was just glad to have moved beyond a few physical annoyances and cut some weight. I wasn’t really focused on black belt, or even brown belt. It was tough to see that far into the future, and I admit I was intimidated by some of the things I saw our advanced students doing. Now I’m right up there with them. Now I know what I need to do to hit the next point. Now I know how to concentrate on the things I’m lacking.

Now I am one of the advanced students, helping to teach some of the basic students. I’m thinking about what needs to be done to hit my next milestone, ikkyu (first degree brown belt), by the end of this year. I have a goal in mind for shodan (first degree black belt), and a good idea of what it’s going to take to get there. It’s starting to sink in that there are real milestones beyond that point, be it nidan and beyond or exploring other styles and arts.

I don’t look at my martial arts journey as a long road, neither in front of me nor behind me. It’s just a road.

I’m just happy I’m enjoying the trip.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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  1. Noah L says:

    Congratulations on your progress Mike! I’m glad to hear that you will be reaching sankyu soon, as well. It makes me really miss training back home