Archive for Martial Arts

Practice (with Purpose) Makes Perfect

Practice is important, but just going through the motions is a waste of time.

When I jump on the motorcycle, I can twist the throttle and go if that’s all I choose to do. In the “it’s just like riding a bike” sense, it’s that easy. Motorcycles want to go in a straight line.

Moto Photo 1

Hey, this is EASY!

Then come those pesky turns to mess it all up.

A rider needs to look through the turns. In regular riding, his knees should hug the gas tank. He should know when to roll on and off the throttle, how much brake to apply, how far to lean, and when to up- or downshift. It sounds like a lot, but in time it becomes natural, and when a turn doesn’t go quite as planned, it’s time to break it down and figure out what can be done better next time (especially if the rider just slammed into a tree on the corner).

This doesn’t take obstacles into account, either. Ride behind motorcycles long enough, and eventually you’ll catch a rider doing some lazy swerves back and forth in his lane, or performing sudden changes in his riding line. It may be simple boredom, it may be he’s trying to warm up or clean his tires, or it may very well be the rider getting a feel for his bike. Riders can run over rabbits and squirrels, but if a child or large animal runs into the street, the rider needs to have his avoidance technique down pat.

Practice, practice, practice, and study the result.

Karate works the same way. It’s not unusual to see someone just walk through a kata and throw some weak-ass punches. They may know “step into a front stance, throw a right front kick, shift 90° left, middle block,” but it doesn’t mean it’s going to look good.

AOKFFD - Kokutsu Dachi

Years of proper practice shows.

To improve our karate, we will examine our hand positions before and after techniques, or the angle or depth of our stances. We will perform our kata in front of a mirror or video camera. We ask ourselves if that last kick would have been effective, or what exercises might improve our speed, flexibility, and/or power. It’s not just about getting the technique out there, it’s about getting the technique correct.

And yes, this applies to writing.

Dashing off a draft, calling a work done and uploading it to Amazon isn’t doing the writer, the work, or the reader any favors.

Percolatin'

A little tunage doesn't hurt the process

Writers study the craft by reading and rewriting their own work as well as reading the work of others. Word choice, narrative tricks, plot, and characterization are just a few of the tools a writer wants to master. All that grammar and sentence structure our English teachers forced down our throats? Yeah, kind of important, too. Know the rules, then know when to break them.

We have to examine our work with an objective eye. This is where reading a work aloud comes into play, or why some writers will set a draft aside for a few days or a few weeks before coming back to it. Any writer who believes their work is perfect isn’t looking hard enough.

So yes, by all means, keep punching those keys.

But punch them with purpose.

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.

Practice, Practice, Practice

It’s often said 10,000 repetitions leads to mastery. Practice something enough, you become good at it.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Every time I get the motorcycle out of the garage for the season, I feel better about my riding skill than at the same time the year before. Turns feel more graceful, shifting feels smoother, and I feel more relaxed in the saddle.

PicPlz Lenore

Lenore likes the way I handle her

Every ride is practice. I may take the long way home from time to time for fun, but it’s also an opportunity to put more miles under the tires and more time in at the controls. If miles are reps, then I’ve got some time before I hit 10,000, but I’m plugging away.

It applies to karate for sure, whether we’re talking about kata or specific techniques. My dojo stresses hard the importance of practicing at home, and when review rolls around, it’s easy to pick out the students who have been practicing and those who haven’t been. Some say those of us progressing through the ranks make it look easy, but they’re only seeing our class time, not the many hours we’re putting in at home on our own.

Shihan and I

Shihan Joseph Walker and I when I received my 1st degree brown belt

I’ve been spending more time on the weights and on the track than doing karate at home of late, but I still get my ass to class and get my practice in. Over the next two days, I plan to put in at least an hour each day as last-minute prep for a karate seminar this weekend. I don’t want to be a guy they pick out as not practicing my art enough.

It’s all about practice, practice, practice, and it applies to everything, even writing.

Yes, that’s right, you should be practicing writing. Though instead of 10,000 repetitions, you’re looking at a million words or so. The saying goes something like this:

Every writer has a million words of bullshit stuck in their head. Once he gets these million words out of the way, the real writing starts to appear.

I first heard this from Mike Baron at a comic convention, and it’s been attributed to Ray Bradbury and several other greats. Get your butt in the chair and get writing if you want to get better. Writing is a craft that can be learned, practiced, and improved, just like any other skill.

The Only Way to Write

It's cigar season again!

It pains me to look at my older work. Everything from my word choices to my sentence structure to my dialog just seems… raw. I have no doubt I’ve become a better writer over the years, and I think many of my colleagues and readers agree.

Every writer will tell a similar story. Ask Tom Piccirilli what he thinks of Dark Father sometime.  Most of us have trunk novels that we later came to realize are part of the million words we needed to get out of  our brains (I have two). Many writers who appear to have just arrived on the scene have a stash of cringe-worthy sales to now-defunct small press rags they hope will never see the light of day again.

Now, are these works really that bad? Not necessarily, but you get the idea. A writer’s craft changes and evolves. Some may contribute it to age, or maturity, or studying others’ works or taking classes, but it all amounts to practice. Keep hammering the keys until the words start to play nice. Write, rewrite, and repeat.

Which brings us to the only bit of writing advice that counts:

Put ass in chair.

I first heard it from Norm Partridge who said he heard it from Joe Lansdale. Whatever the source, you have to love its simplicity. Sit down and write. Practice your craft.

You can get better.

You will get better.

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.

Photo Friday: Headshot

Portrait headshot, anyway.

The high school I work in wanted a picture of me in my karate uniform. They’re doing a “Did you know?” section and they’re putting me in there with a “Did you know Mr Oliveri studies karate?” They may also mention my dojo, the Academy of Okinawan Karate. I brought the camera along and took a few quick shots.

Karateka

"I'm your huckleberry."

I took it from farther away with a remote, but wasn’t happy with the result so I cropped way in and made it a headshot. I should have gone with my first instinct and used my 50mm prime lens, but I brought the 18-55mm kit zoom and played with and without the flash unit.

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.

Brain Dump

Feeling hyper at the moment. Things are moving through my head at a million miles an hour. I’m going to exorcise some of it here so I can get some work done.

* * *

Part of my jaw still hurts from last week’s wisdom tooth extraction. More accurately, some of my teeth still hurt. So far I’m told this is normal and to stay on the ibuprofen regimen. I half wonder if these teeth are adjusting themselves now that the sideways bastard in the back has been ripped out.

Also, the insides of my cheeks look like I tried to eat a paper shredder. I suspect the reason I never got to see the dentist the day of surgery is he called in sick, and they brought in a substitute.

Edward Scissorhands

"AaaaaaaAAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!"

* * *

Looks like I’m running the Warrior Dash this year. I’ve been telling myself I should run a 5K sometime, so hey, why not run one with rope bridges, rappelling, fire, barbed wire, and mud pits? I must be insane.

Some of my karate classmates have run it in previous years, and now I have coworkers who may do it, too. We’re going to have a planning meeting Monday, narrow down a time slot, and then I’ll sign up and make it official.

I started running again last weekend. Tonight, I ran after weight lifting. My cardio is back in the shitter after what little running I did last fall, but hopefully not for long.

And all of it—the running and the weight lifting—is to improve my karate. I don’t want to look like this guy in my gi:

"Wa-taaahh!"

I will also need the cardio for my black belt test when it comes. It’s an all-day and, on some occasions, all-night affair at my dojo. You can’t cram for fitness.

* * *

Hell, I just want to be healthier in general. Cut a few pounds, look better, feel better. I know too many people with health problems who accept it as part of life. Cholesterol’s high? Eh, they have a pill for that.

I hate that little pill. It’s a crutch. I’m better than that. I may not be able to fight heredity, but I can minimize the damage.

Now I enjoy lifting weights almost as much as I enjoy karate. I’m getting addicted to the pump and the burn. Unlike running.

Fuck running.

Sometimes running feels like my mortal enemy. I do it anyway. Every time RunKeeper tells me I set a distance record, it’s like I just kicked running in the balls.

* * *

Tonight I lifted, stretched, and then went for a run. Could have been trouble because the Wife doesn’t know CPR.

It got me up to level 14 on Fitocracy. Anyone wants to connect on Fitocracy (or RunKeeper, for that matter) is welcome. Geeking out on those sites by tracking everything helps keep me motivated.

* * *

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu athletes are the latest to cross over into music.

The first song I learned of in Jiu-Jitsu Magazine is “Jiu Jitsu” by Eddie Bravo and his band Smoke Serpent. I can take or leave the rap, but I dig the guitar track. Good song overall. I bought it and my kids will dig it, too. Has a Linkin Park vibe, if that’s your thing.

The other song… ugh. Let’s just say Ralek Gracie should stick to jiu-jitsu. Extra negative points for the lyric about broccoli.

Incidentally, Jiu-Jitsu Magazine is pretty good. I only know a little judo, but I still appreciate the articles on nutrition, workouts, and warm-ups, and there are some good technical hints I’ve been able to use. I’m stockpiling the breakdowns of specific techniques for when I start hitting judo class on a regular basis. I just wish they’d hire a copy editor who knows what paragraph breaks are.

* * *

The outline for The Pack Book 3 is coming together. Book 2, Lie with the Dead is still with my editor.

Book 1, Winter Kill, is cheap on Kindle and Nook. Or you can get a dead tree edition. Make with the clicky. You’ll dig it. I promise.

TPWK Limited Edition Cover

Horror or crime? Flip a coin.

More work coming soon. Things are in motion, but nothing to announce just yet.

* * *

That should about do it.

I’m going to go be productive now.

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.

Enter the Dojo

Some folks are putting together a series of online comedy shorts called Enter the Dojo, and it’s worth checking out whether you’re into the martial arts or not.

This is the first of five available so far. If you like it, be sure to sign up for rape class and make your kill face!

Like any good satire, it has its roots in what’s really out there, from the corny, made-up style name to the colorful dojo inhabitants to the hyperbole of questionable techniques. Surf YouTube and you’ll find plenty of examples.

Like so:

Gotta love it when the local news debunks the claims, but tries to play it straight anyway. Bonus: Keep your eyes open for Stephan Bonnar in this vid. He’s one of the fighters the reporter brings over to test the guy’s claims.

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.

Photo Friday: Trias Memorial Workout

Monday was the anniversary of Grand Master Trias’s death, and the Academy of Okinawan Karate dojos held memorial workouts in his honor. This picture was shot after the workout.

Trias Memorial Workout - After

What you can't see is how drenched with sweat our gis are

Standing in the dojo, I couldn’t tell there were two different colors of light coming down on the group. Now it’s obvious: the left half is under yellow/orange light and the right half is under white. Unfortunately I don’t have the Photoshop/Lightroom skills to fix that yet. The photographer (*ahem*) probably should have stepped in to override the group arrangement, too. Ah well. The participants are already anxious to get their hands on the photo.

I chose to shoot without flash because of the distance and distribution of the group. I used the kit lens pulled out to a wide angle and cranked the ISO up to 800 to get a good shutter speed inside, especially with some fidgety little ones in the front row.

The set with the before shots can be found here.

As a side note, I think I’m going to stop using Snapfish/Walmart for my prints. These pics came back, and they clearly altered my exposure in one shot and made the people too dark. I’m going to talk to the folks at Peoria Camera Shop and see how they handle processing during printing. Hell, maybe their classes will help me compensate for the lighting issues I ran into.

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.

Photo Friday: Roundhouse Kick

The only photo opportunity I was able to make was graduation night at the Academy of Okinawan Karate this evening, and I captured a shot of one of the little guys I work with frequently at the dojo I train at.

High Roundhouse

Hai-yaaaaa!!

I a perfect world I’d have backed off a bit and not cut off his foot, but I was shooting with a 50mm prime, was backed up to a wall, and he was standing fairly close. The main reason I like it, though, is this little guy is throwing a nice roundhouse kick to head level. For a kid his age, who just learned the kick, this is pretty impressive.

Probably not by coincidence, he’s also one of the more attentive and conscientious kids in class. Good job, kid, keep up the great work.

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.

Photo Friday: Sensei Smash

I finally uploaded the photos from last Saturday’s Break Day at the Academy of Okinawan Karate’s Eureka Dojo, and I selected the photo of my instructor, Sensei Trent Miller (nidan) for this week’s Photo Friday entry.

Sensei's Break

Four boards hammer fist

Shot with the 18-55mm kit lens on my Digital Rebel XSi. No flash. I cranked the ISO up to 800 to compensate for the indoor lighting. Normally I’d go lower, but the overcast day meant even less light than usual in the dojo. I spread the autofocus across the boards and the front of Sensei’s uniform as he prepared, then used continuous shutter to capture the motion.

I managed to capture all of the students’ breaks this year, so I’m happy with the results. I may experiment with capturing motion blur in the hands, but the actual Break Day isn’t the time for experimenting. Maybe I’ll work with my instructors on that another time.

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.

Break Day Vid

Saturday was Break Day at the Academy of Okinawan Karate, and this year I broke three boards with a hammer fist strike. I had a student record it on my phone. He held it at a funky angle, but you can see what’s happening:

The cheering you’re hearing is the word senpai, which roughly translates to senior student. In a sense it’s what we’d think of as a mentor or big brother. I help out around the dojo, help teach, and substitute teach when Sensei is gone, so I get a fancy title.

The break was easier than I expected. I cut out the boring parts of my practice strikes, so there I am psyching myself up for a moment before doing the strike. Next time I’ll have to decide between doing three boards with a vertical punch, or moving up to four boards with a stomp kick. Any time a student wants to break an additional board, our school has the student perform that break first with a stomp kick to get a feel for the strength of the stack with an added board. If I do four, I’ll have a little more freedom of choice for breaks during demos or future break days.

The board is a simple pine board. They grab pine planks at the lumber yard, have them cut into the boards, and we bust ’em up. There is no other prep like pre-cuts or baking. Younger students get smaller boards, but they still break pine. It’s all an exercise in boosting confidence, so the instructors make sure every student is able to perform their break.

It’s a lot of fun, and I’ll be posting our students’ break pics in the near future.

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.

Photo Friday: That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

This week’s Photo Friday comes from last weekend’s East Peoria Throwdown Round 8, a local MMA event that comes around two or three times per year. I’ve posted the full set to Flickr, but my favorite happens to be one called “Ouch”:

Ouch

As Joe Rogan would say: "He's got a little mouse under his eye!"

The fight got called between rounds for safety reasons. A pro fight would probably have meant a cutman draining the contusion and putting the fighter back out there, but this is amateur bout and they don’t take chances.

I shot the whole set with my 50mm f1.8 prime lens, and this time jacked up the ISO to 1600 and left it there. The pictures came out much better than previous experiments, so I will probably stick to this routine. The only thing left to battle is focusing through the damn cage and on the fighters.

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.

Photo Friday: Haganah

It was graduation day last night at the Academy of Okinawan Karate, and once again I was there to take pictures. This time I chose a photo from a demonstration of Haganah self defense techniques, which are also taught at the school.

Hand-to-Hand Defense

Someone's about to have a very bad day

Here Pat Golden, on the left, is defending against a hand-to-hand attack. Through the course of the night he demonstrated defenses against empty hands, knives, and guns, generating a lot of oohs and aahs from the crowd. Had I been more familiar with the techniques I might have been better prepared for subsequent action shots, but I think you get the idea.

Shot with the 18-55mm kit lens and my SpeedLite 430EX external flash. There are a few more pics in the set. I had focusing issues all night, and I really wish I could afford a faster, more flexible lens.

Someday.

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.

Kung Fooled

Hilarious:

Be sure to stick through to the end.

Thanks to Dave Taylor for the link!

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.