Tag Archive for anaku

Rockin' the Green Belt

I made green belt tonight! The official title is gokyu, which roughly translates to fifth-level student. Purple and three levels of brown belts are still ahead.

I’m eager to learn my next kata, Naihanchi sho:

It looks like a fun kata to learn and perform, but it also lets me geek out about karate history and my style’s lineage a bit. The last Okinawan in the Shuri-ryu line, Choki Motobu, felt this kata taught everything one needed to know to become a fighter. Motobu in turn learned it from Anko Itosu and Bushi Matsumura, both of whom are important names in almost all styles.

In other words, this is the first kata I learn that many other Shuri-te-related styles appear to interpret the same way we do in Shuri-ryu. Unlike the two Chinese kata I know, Anaku and Wansu, I feel like I could show up at another dojo, perform Naihanchi, and not get a bunch of funny looks from the crowd.

Cool stuff. To me, anyway.

The only killer is I probably have to wait until next week to start learning it.

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.


I hit a definite plateau in my weight loss recently, holding the same weight from late December through the middle of February. I thought I was going to have to start the running program before I saw any change, but then I got sick. That fever and infection knocked seven pounds off me in a week, and I’ve only gained one back since I started feeling better on Monday.

The good news is I didn’t let that plateau discourage me. I practiced my karate as often and as hard as ever, and I continued to set the same weight goal for January and February rather than trying to compromise and find a middle ground. Now that I feel better, I may up the intensity of those workouts and see if I can’t sweat a little more.

I expect the running program will be the next real breakthrough, though. I like that it’s simple and realistic, especially given that I normally hate running. I like how the goal is just to do it, not attach any kind of speed or time limit to it. That should help me burn some weight as well as build up my endurance for sparring matches and our more intense karate class workouts.

I’m also happy to report the same plateau didn’t hit my karate progress. I learned a new speed form that I struggled with at first. Given I spent all of last week on my ass, I worried I’d have some trouble with it again. Fortunately on Tuesday night, the first of two review nights this week, I was able to bang it right out on request, and I nailed it the first time through. Same goes for the two new Judo throws I had to demonstrate. Not too shabby.

Tonight’s the second review, and I’ll finish it by interpreting my kata, Anaku, and doing some form sparring. I’ve been reviewing the interpretation in my head most of the day, so I should do fine. If all goes well, I’ll make my next belt in April.

If anything demonstrates I’m not stuck on a plateau, I would think a new belt would be it.

This weekend I buy some new running shoes for the running program. The high school staff at the district I work for surprised me with a Visa gift card, so I’ll be taking that to the local Dick’s to grab a pair of Nike+ shoes and the Nike+iPod transmitter.

As soon as the warmer weather hits, I hit the track.

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.

Blue Belt, Blue Kata

We just finished review week at my karate school, and I’ve officially been promoted to rokyu, or blue belt, in Shuri-ryu. With it comes a new kata called Anaku, which I learned in class yesterday and which I’ll be practicing intensely for the next few months.

You can get a look at Anaku (aka Ananku) on YouTube. Shorin-ryu and Shotokan are similar to Shuri-ryu in many respects, and as such our interpretation of the kata is very similar to what you see in the video. The pattern is the same, but some of the blocks and strikes along the main axis are different. I’ve been practicing the yellow belt kata Wansu (aka Wanshu) for 18 weeks, and there are two adjustments that I’m going to have to work hard to change for Anaku.

First is what we call an augmented shuto uke. This is a knife-hand block, and we bring both hands together at the ear to build tension before firing the block. If you watch the linked video, it’s the slow technique where Shimabakuro moves his hands outward with his fingers straight (we execute it fast like a block, but I’m guessing their interpretation is a scan). In Wansu, this technique is executed from the left side and is used a total of four times. Running a quick-and-dirty calculation, I’ve executed it that way a minimum of 1600 times since becoming a yellow belt, but probably closer to 2000 or more.

Now I have to execute it from the right side. One wouldn’t think such a small change would feel so awkward, but it really threw me the first few times. It’s the first movement in Anaku following the opening gestures, and if I’m not concentrating I automatically fall into doing it from the left. This throws off the entire kata.

The second change comes at the finish. In Wansu, there are three points where you execute a simultaneous oyugo uke (swim block) and punch, then immediately follow it up with a reiken zuki (backfist punch) to the groin. I now automatically flow from the combo to the strike, especially after several runs of Wansu in rapid session, or with attackers. Like the knife-hand block, I’ve probably done that 1500 to 2000 times now.

In Anaku, the swim block-punch combo is the final technique before doing the augmented shuto uke (and a return to the left side) as a scan for more opponents. Furthermore, it involves a 180-degree turn rather than another step forward. This too has really thrown me for a loop.

This is after day one, of course, but it’s a good demonstration of how muscle memory works, how it develops, and how strong it can be. The retraining will probably be tough for the first couple of weeks, but that’s no different from how it felt learning Wansu the first time. It also proves that in a few months it will all become second nature, particularly if I continue to run Wansu with Anaku (which I intend to).

In addition to the new kata, I’ll be learning several new techniques, more self defenses, and some judo. It will almost double the variety of moves I can practice in a workout session, making my home workouts that much more interesting and engaging. This variety keeps me working, which in turn keeps the movements from stagnating. That, in turn, keeps the body from stagnating.

Which was the whole point of this endeavor in the first place.

For those who are curious, there are five more steps before black belt in my style: green belt, purple belt, and three degrees of brown belt. It’s at ikkyu, first-degree brown belt, that things slow down. As my sensei put it, it’s when things “come to a screeching halt.” If I nail every review from here on, I’m looking at about a year and a half before I hit ikkyu. From what I’m told, it could be three to five years after that before I’d be looking at black belt, dependent upon when Shihan Walker decides I’m ready. In that sense, it’s almost like going through a college program, and thus it’s not hard to see why some think the martial arts is a young man’s game.

A lot of people get their black belt and drop out, and there have been several ikkyus in our program who got tired of waiting and gave up. There are several black belts at my school, however, who are as passionate as ever about their karate. They approach their new katas with the same excitement and energy I approach mine, and they still find they learn new things in all they have learned thus far. These are the people who feel that, at black belt, they are just beginning to learn.

I hope to be one of them.

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.