Tag Archive for break day

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: Break Day

I’m a week late with this one. I intended to post it last week, and I was going to save tonight’s shots from my karate school’s graduation as part of this week’s entry, and tomorrow we’re hitting a hot air balloon festival, but my schedule’s been completely thrown off by work (including a day trip to St Louis), a house full of extra kids all week, and some general chaos. And pics didn’t work out tonight as I ended up helping out with graduation instead of taking pics, so the Wife handled the camera for me. Given I gave her zero guidance beyond “Just point and shoot, hon!” I don’t figure I can claim them for Photo Friday entries.

Anyway. Here’s what you missed last week:

Sensei's Empi Break

Sensei Miller breaks three boards with an empi strike

My instructor demonstrated a break at the end of the basic class, and he broke three boards with an elbow strike. He actually started from a standing position and dropped his elbow onto the boards. These are 10×12″ pine boards, 1″ thick. Not easy to break, necessarily, but safer than things like bricks, patio blocks, and coconuts.

I used a 50mm prime lens so I wouldn’t have to mess with flash. I got a little bit of motion blur, and next time I may try setting my own shutter speed to try to get a little more. There’s a fine line between capturing the subject in focus and getting the blur of the action.

Break day itself was successful, though, and you can see more pictures here. You can see me holding boards for some of our students, and you’ll find my break, a basic stomp kick where I broke three boards. Next time I’ll try three with a hammer fist or elbow, not sure which yet.

Now I’m going to get some much-needed sleep.

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.

Karate: Always Moving Forward

Karate has been quite eventful this summer. Every time I tie on my belt and bow onto the mat, it amazes me how far I’ve come in the two years I’ve been studying.

Earlier this month, my sensei named me Senpai of our dojo. This is loosely translated as senior student, but when used as a title it is indicative of a mentor relationship, often used in the sense of “older brother.” It doesn’t change the way I’ll train or attend classes, but it’s an acknowledgment of my efforts and contributions and I’m honored to have received the title.

Now I just have to get used to people calling me that…

We also had our annual Break Day last month, where every student gets an opportunity to break a board. This time I chose to try a standing empi (elbow) strike.

Too bad I cant solve problems at work this way

Too bad I can't solve problems at work this way

Sensei suggested I try one board because I’ve never done it before, and it was a lot easier than I expected. I also wound up doing it twice because we had trouble with my video camera. Of course by the time I got around to doing it the second time the video camera battery ran out, so I’m stuck with stills for this year. Ah well.

In May I was asked to be on another student’s attack team for his black belt test. I hear a lot of horror stories about black belt tests at our school, and this will be a good opportunity for me to see one first-hand and get a better idea of what to expect when my turn comes around in a few years. My job is to attack the black belt candidate in his kata, short forms, and self defenses, and while our Sunday workouts are intended to help us all prepare for the test day, they also give me a good chance to polish my own kata and techniques and pick up a few extra insights from the other, more experienced students on the team.

These are exciting times for my school, the Academy of Okinawan Karate, as well. They celebrated their 30th anniversary this week, and last night they threw a party. They covered most of one wall with photographs from those three decades, and it was interesting taking in all that history and listening to Shihan Walker’s stories behind several of them. It made me realize while I’ve come a long way, I’m just getting started.

When I look forward, I often think about one thing: black belt. This is not uncommon, as it’s the first major goal for any karateka. But what happens then? Right now it’s like looking into a fog: I know there’s more karate for me out there, but I can’t be sure of which direction it’s headed or what shape it will take.

The only thing I’m sure of is I’ll keep moving forward.

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 ’08

Mike’s Break — Tetsui
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

I’ve been looking forward to Break Day all year.

The Academy of Okinawan Karate only does break day once a year, so I made sure my travel plans weren’t going to throw it off. Even the Midget has been calling it his “favorite season” and asked me if it was Break Day before every karate class for the last month.

I broke two boards in each of two breaks this year, once with a fumi komi/stomp kick and once with a tetsui/hammer fist. I knew the stomp kick wouldn’t be tough, but I was a little apprehensive about the hammer fist.

My sensei explained we only hold Break Day once a year to allow for progression. It’s easy to get addicted to breaking boards, and pretty soon you’re trying something you’re really not ready for and it becomes easy to get injured. Case in point, though I only broke one board with a hammer fist last year, I had a slight pain near my elbow that I felt every time I clenched my fist. The only explanation I could come up with? I injured something during the break. It was more an irritant than actual pain, but I really didn’t feel up to dealing with it for the next few months.

I did the stomp kick first, because I’m told that gives one an idea of what two boards will feel like. Makes sense, but of course my arms aren’t near as big as my legs. The stomp kick felt like an easy break, and to be honest I didn’t feel a huge difference between last year’s single board and this year’s two boards.

Nevertheless, I did have a year of conditioning and practice before Break Day. Last year I only had a few months, and as a gold belt I’d only been doing hammer fist for a short time. As I took my practice swings this year, it felt a lot more natural, even swinging all the way down toward the floor.

So I took a deep breath, stepped up to the board, and let out a good kiai with my strike. The boards didn’t stand a chance.

Even better? No surprise injuries this year! My hand stung a bit after the strike, but within a few minutes that passed and now, some sixty hours later, no other pains have materialized.

Now, I’m sure some smart-ass out there is quoting Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon: “Boards don’t hit back.” They’re missing the point.

It’s not about a show of strength, it’s about confidence. It’s a good feeling to know you can do it, and it’s an even better feeling when you can see a definite progression from one year to the next. For the kids it may be about using what they’ve learned or getting in front of a crowd and doing something cool without freaking out, but for me it’s about having the confidence that my karate has had a definite, positive impact on my physical fitness.

I’m already wondering if I could have broken three boards. I guess I’ll find out next year.

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.