Tag Archive for karate

You’ll Believe a Fat Man Can Fly

I tell people I like karate because there is a lot less high kicking and jumping than in an art like taekwondo.

Then I made black belt, and last week I learned this kata:

We run this one slightly different, but there’s still a 360° jump and a jump kick into a 180° turn with a four-point landing. Swell.

I’m not giving up, though. I’ve said “I can’t” in karate before, and before long, I could. This is why I’m still doing leg day this morning, even though my publisher is on his way down for a meeting. This is why I’m thinking about investing in a solid stand for box jumps. This is why I’m looking at tweaking my stretching routine.

I may not be as graceful with kicks and jumps as some of my instructors and fellow black belts, but I will be able to do this.

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.

White Belt Wisdom

Inspiration comes from the strangest places.

Three of us were promoted to black belt together, and last night it was my turn to demonstrate at the dojo’s graduation night. I chose to demonstrate an empty hand kata and a sai kata, then break a few boards. I could probably run these kata in my sleep at this point (I certainly had enough dreams about them as I was first learning them), and I’ve done this break before, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal.

Yet I’m not a fan of demos and tournaments. I can do readings, panels and presentations at conventions all day, but put me in a gi in front of everyone—especially families and strangers—and I get this funky self-consciousness thing going on. I also have this added false pressure that says, “You’re a black belt now, don’t screw this up.” The demo reflects on me, my instructors, and my school. As such, I had a case of the shaky nerves as we got closer to showtime.

Shortly before I was set to take the mat, we had the white belts all lined up and ready to walk out for their demonstration and promotion. This seven- or eight-year-old boy looks out at the crowd and asks, “We don’t have to go out there by ourselves, do we?”

We assure him that no, they will all be out there demonstrating their punches and kicks together, and he breathes this huge sigh of relief. I tell him I have to go out there all by myself, though. Kid says:

Yeah, but you’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have! It should be easy for you.

Kid was dead on.

So I went out there and rocked the shit out of that demo.

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.

2013 Reboot

It’s been a long year already. Most of my plans have been derailed, but now it’s time for a fresh start.

Here’s the deal:

Late last year, my karate instructors told me they wanted to put me up for black belt in March. Two other candidates and I put together our attack team and we started training on Sundays. This also meant attending more classes, practicing and studying more often at home, and following the New Year the three of us started additional weekly training separate from our team.

Writing karate papers today

My writing and studying through the first quarter of the year looked like this

Training soon trumped everything, including writing. If I were a full-time writer, it wouldn’t have been an issue. However, I still have obligations to a day gig and I have a family, so something had to give. For the time being, unfortunately, that meant the writing.

I didn’t want to mention it here because I didn’t want to jinx it. See, my dojo doesn’t play games when it comes to black belts. It’s earned, no question. I felt confident I would pass the test, but there’s always a very real possibility of failure. I had to write three essays, take a 120-question written test, attempt the various physical requirements several times, and the test itself took about eight hours and covered just about everything I’d learned from white belt up to that point. I certainly didn’t want to be the guy talking up my upcoming test in public, only to turn around and have to admit I failed it.

Fortunately, I passed.

Our Kamiza

Our brown belts left on the altar following the kamiza ceremony

All three of us passed, in fact, and I scored better than I expected to. Two of us attended a seminar for our style, Shuri-ryu, the weekend following the test, and then this past weekend we had our formal promotion ceremony to receive our black belts and make things official.

It’s a huge load of pressure off, and it’s nice to finally have real free time again. My karate training will continue, but now I’ll be able to dial things back down to a sane level again. I’ll have my Sundays freed up and I’ll have more time for writing in general. I’ll be able to fiddle around with the camera again, and I can revisit my writing plans for the year once more.

Back on Track

Back on track, in more ways than one

I’ve resumed my normal fitness routine, too. I got back on the weight bench last week, and this morning I went out for my first run of the season. It was short and not near what I hoped, but I’m glad I could get back out there. I’m hoping to run the Warrior Dash again this year if my schedule allows, and I can’t let this stubborn Winter slow me down any longer.

It’s also catch-up time. I owe a few people a few different things. It’s about time I handle that, too.

So here I am with a fresh start on 2013. And it’s Spring Break, so it’s a good week to kick it all off. Stay tuned here this week for more news and updates, and thank you all for sticking around while I’ve been quiet.

Your patience will pay off!

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.

Progress Report

Yes, I’m alive. I’ve just been too busy to post to the blog.

Most of it is due to the extra time I’ve been putting into my martial arts training lately. I’ve got a big day coming in March and I need to be prepared. To do so has meant extra training with fellow students, extra classes, and both studying and practicing at home. It’s been like this since Fall, so I’m looking forward to more breathing room this Spring.

It goes back to making the time we need: I make some time to write, and that’s more important than making time to blog. There are a few things I’ve been meaning to post for a while, including a follow-up to my Gone Digital post, but there are other, more pressing projects that require my attention.

There’s an announcement coming soon on one of those projects, and I’ve recently turned in the latest draft of a work-for-hire project that’s consumed a chunk of my writing time (I’m waiting to hear from the editors on whether it will be the final draft). The final edits on Lie with the Dead have suffered as a result of the extra karate practice, the unannounced project, and the work-for-hire project, but it will be back on the high priority list this week.

There’s more in the works. I want to re-release an old short story through Kindle, and I have plans for more The Pack short stories as well as the third novel. I’ve got a crime opportunity I’m working on, and plans for separate projects I can’t talk about yet. After said Big Karate Day in March, things should open up dramatically for all of it.

I’ve also learned the Cadence in Decay anthology is officially dead. Relics & Remains is still out there, but I haven’t heard any news about how it’s doing. If you’ve read it, an Amazon review would be appreciated.

So, yes, I still live. And now I must dash off to a few hours of karate classes, as well as the dojo’s annual Chinese New Year party. Afterwards, I plan to camp out at a Starbucks and get some work done.

Tomorrow? Motorcycle show! \m/ I should be home in time for—you guessed it—more karate practice with the team for the Big Karate Day. Yep, it’s been a big commitment.

It’ll be worth 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.

The Karate Rap

This kind of shit is why most people don’t take martial arts seriously.

On one level, whoever wrote the song seems to have at least a basic understanding of what they’re talking about. Sadly, they had no idea how to write a song, and they should be flogged for the parakeet rhyme alone.

Yes, parakeet. But I’d be shocked if most of you can make it that far into the video.

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.

On Busted Thumbs and Heart Attacks

Most of you have met Lenore.

Brick Road

How're YOU doin', beautiful?

I took her to get her chain tightened—and, as it turned out, replaced—today, just as the Illinois weather decided to make up for the early warm weather it gave us by dropping back into the 40s and 50s. Ah, well. That’s what leather and sweatshirts are  for.

Then I learned it’s damn near impossible to manipulate turn signals with a busted thumb. Last night while sparring in karate class, I somehow managed to block my opponent’s knee using only my thumb. My thumb lost, and now the first knuckle doesn’t want to bend and it’s swollen like a sausage on a too-hot grill. My scream of agony every time I manipulated the switch probably did a better job of catching surrounding motorists’ attention than my turn signal did. I thought about switching to hand signals, but these days I’m pretty sure there’s only one hand signal that most drivers recognize, and that one won’t do me any good.

Then I stared death in the face.

I left Lenore in the tender care of the mechanics at Grayboy in the Heights and asked them where I could get breakfast. A big dude runs the service desk, and he pointed out the window to a shabby gray structure two doors down from their main building.

“Go there,” he said. “If you like meat, they’ll give you plenty. You won’t even be able to finish it.”

Challenge accepted.

Understand, I’m standing in a spot two blocks from downtown Peoria Heights with its high-end eateries like French Toast and Noir, and its array of trendy little boutique shops. The Silver Dollar, on the other hand, is a dark little bar in the other direction. On the plus side, chances were it would be more affordable.

I walked in and a friendly woman behind the bar handed me a type-written menu. A quick scan turned up Mikey’s Special: a toasted biscuit topped with a sausage patty, three eggs over easy, and cheese, all smothered in sausage gravy.

It looks like this:

The Mikey Special. Holy shit.

Holy shit.

If my doctor were sitting with me, he’d have punched me square in the face and tripled my cholesterol meds for the next six months. That plate is bigger than my iPad. I took out  a fork and cut into this thing, and it bled bright, golden egg yolk. I could already feel my heart cringing against my spine and begging me not to eat it. My brain reminded me I’m running the Warrior Dash in three weeks, and this wouldn’t help the cause.

My belly said “Pump it in!”

As evil as this thing looks, it tasted even better. The sausage patty was thick like a quality hamburger, and juicy without being greasy. Few places get gravy right, but the Silver Dollar nailed it: thick and peppery without being gummy. And yes, I finished the whole thing. When I returned for Lenore, the service guy was astonished. He advised me to not fall asleep while riding this afternoon.

Now my blood runs like sludge in my veins.

It’s a good thing I have at least two workouts coming today. I’m going to need 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.

If Cost A < Cost B, Then VIOLENCE!

Today I learned I can mathematically justify karate.

This weekend, the Wife locked the back door into the garage. Note: we have no key to this lock.

Last night the Rugrats left the van’s gate open, then closed the garage door on it. This morning, the garage door opened two inches, the rails on the door hit the van’s gate, the opener felt the resistance and quit. We had a 2″ gap to attempt to squeeze a van and a motorcycle through.

The windows on the side of the garage are locked. We have no other way in.

Locksmith? Nobody local, going to cost bucks. Furthermore, the Wife has no sick or vacation time. The hours waiting mean lost wages.

The cost of a door? Not too bad. We almost had to replace it once already.

Cost of Locksmith + Cost of Lost Wages < Cost of New Door

Therefore?

Karate!

I delivered a front thrust kick just right of the door handle. Bang, crack, crash. Wood flies, door opens.

And thus violence is mathematically justified.

Update: The photo requested in comments.

The busted door jamb.

Oops.

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.

The Feedback Loop

When studying our own work, it’s difficult to be objective. Most of the time we’re either too easy on ourselves or too hard on ourselves. While the latter may be more preferable in some cases, it can still be counter-productive.

This is when it’s time to seek an outside opinion.

In riding a motorcycle, I simply have someone follow me. It may be my wife following in a car, or I may take a short trip  with a more experienced rider. When I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s riding class, our instructors watched us ride around the course and told us what we were doing right and what we could improve.

In karate, my instructors watch us in class and offer pointers. Even when they say nothing and move on to the next person, it tells us we’re doing just fine (for the moment). It’s also not uncommon for us to ask our fellow students to watch for something specific as we perform a kata.

Then we have writing, where feedback gets a lot messier.

Road Warrior

Yet we keep at it anyway.

First and foremost, we have to understand who we are seeking feedback from. Your mom, for example, is probably not going to give you an objective opinion. If that writers circle at the local coffee shop is full of romance writers and you ask for a critique on your splatterpunk opus, you’re not going to get an objective opinion.

Second, fans and reviewers are great, but don’t take their feedback individually. Know up front that no matter what you write, your work is not going to please everyone. You won’t even please all of your fans all the time! Don’t let a glowing, five-star review inflate your ego (too much), and don’t let a mean-spirited, one-star review shatter your hopes and dreams. Look instead for trends. There’s a big difference between one reader saying your protagonist is an unlikeable prick and half your reviewers saying they just didn’t care about your characters.

Third, not every editor is truly an editor. Examine their track record. Take a good look at what they’re asking you to change or what questions they’re asking about your work. Pay special attention if you’re getting the same feedback from several editors or agents during the submission process. I’m not just talking about laziness or inability, either. Some editors simply want to rewrite your manuscript the way they would have written it. This is your work and they should be helping you develop your voice, not molding you into their clone.

Fourth, stay out of the comments section on news and review websites. Seriously. It will save your sanity. Forums can be iffy, too, with their frequent circle jerk and sympathy threads. There’s a fine line between participating in a community and drinking their Kool-Aid.

Finally, it’s okay to pay an editor or book doctor. Not every rejection letter is going to come with comments and suggestions, so you may need to find an objective third party to help you out. Just be sure to get references first, and don’t be afraid to talk to their other clients. Just as anyone can claim to be an editor, any hack will be happy to cash your check in exchange for reading your manuscript.

Practice is critical, but nobody thrives in a vacuum. Seek feedback, but learn to separate the good from the bad.

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 (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.

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.

Thanks for, you know, “Stuff”

I am thankful to be alive after trying the BK Chef’s Choice Burger from Burger King last night.

We did our first round of travel Wednesday night and hit fast food on the way out. Despite knowing I should have stuck with the safe chicken filet sandwich, I tried this new burger. Utter crap. The sauce is okay, but the bun and burger patty felt like mush and whatever seasoning they use to create that faux charbroil taste overpowered everything. It tasted like a broiled turd going in, and it came out far worse. I spent most of Thanksgiving Day listening to my guts gurgle.

I am thankful my mom is a much better cook. Turkey, stuffing, corn, potatoes and biscuits. Pumpkin pie and ice cream. Om nom nom nom. Tastebuds and innards much, much happier.

I am thankful my editor at Evileye Books rocks. I mentioned via Twitter that writers love having an editor they can trust and an editor who trusts them in return, and that’s what I have. After spending most of Wednesday and a chunk of the road trip poring over Lie with the Dead edits, I received far fewer corrections than I anticipated, and he pointed out a handful of areas that could use a few tweaks. All very sensible and easy to deal with.

I am thankful for my friends & family. No mushy stuff, I’ll just throw up the horns for them all. \m/

I am thankful for my karate school. My workouts and studying have helped me get healthy and inspire me to do even better. Twenty pounds down since summer and counting. Rock.

I am thankful 2011 is almost over. What a pain in the ass this year has been. Gonna finish it strong, though.

And now, I leave you with the following words of wisdom and a video to reinforce it:

Angel dust is a helluva drug.

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.

Yes, I Survived the Seminar

I attended the 20th annual International Shuri-ryu Association Martial Arts Seminar in Fort Wayne, Indiana, this past weekend, and I’m just now coming up for air. The seminar was up against the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, and though it would have been nice to see John, Cullen, and the rest of the Evileye crew, I think I made the right decision.

This is the first year the Academy of Okinawan Karate brought brown belts to the seminar, and I really learned a lot. I didn’t get a lot of new techniques, but I refined a lot of what I already know and I was able to make a lot of new connections and look at some of my karate in a whole new way. It reinforced how good my teachers at the AOK are, and how fortunate I am to have such a great school so close to my home.

This was a Square Sculpture...

This was a square sculpture until Shihan Joseph Walker struck it with a backfist punch.

The seminar structure is simple: students (mostly black belts) spend three days attending workouts and breakout sessions with the top instructors from our style, as well as from other instructors who had worked with or been influenced by Grand Master Robert A. Trias. It was amazing watching some of these guys move and soaking up their knowledge, and it’s clear these guys have a true passion for the martial arts.

Friday night also included the Shuri Cup, a kata tournament open to black belts. I’m told the competition was small this year, but the competitors put on a good show. I took several pictures, and I’ll be talking more about that for this week’s Photo Friday.

 

This Bench...

This was a solid stone bench until Shihan dropped a hammer fist on it.

We enjoyed our time in Fort Wayne, too. It reminded us a little of Peoria, and though we didn’t stray far from the hotel and convention center, we did find a local bar that became our favorite haunt, and I found a joint that served Kronos Gyros and Vienna Beef hot dogs until the wee hours of the morning. For a while there, I thought I’d discovered Heaven.

Like the writing and comics conventions I attend, I came back exhausted but re-energized and excited about what I do. I already look forward to the next one.

For now, though, I best get a good night’s sleep. I’ve got a lot of writing to do if I want to keep being able to afford these things.

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.