Tag Archive for kata

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.

Bassai Dai

For once I can show you an exact kata I’ve learned.

At the last Academy of Okinawan Karate graduation, one of the guys I worked out with on a black belt attack team, Tim Mangan, was promoted to Ikkyu, or first-degree brown belt. As a Nikyu (second-degree brown belt), we learn the kata Bassai Dai, also called the Breaking Through the Fortress form.

I’ve seen several interpretations of this kata, but this is Bassai Dai as I’ve learned it. One of these days I’ll try to get in front of the camera myself.

Making Ikkyu myself is my main goal for next year. In our style, Ikkyu is the last step before black belt. I’ll learn two more kata and a handful of new techniques, and I’ll bust my ass until Shihan Walker decides I’m ready to test for black belt.

One step at a time, though. Next up is learning the full interpretation of Bassai Dai.

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.

Building the Kata Repertoire

Kata are an intriguing part of karate and other Eastern martial arts. They’re used for everything from the reinforcement of technique and self defense to spiritual development and physical excercise. In karate, each kata has a variety of movements and meanings, and each is often interpreted and applied differently from generation to generation and from style to style. Furthermore, it’s not unusual for different styles of karate to practice different sets of kata; if two given styles have a dozen kata each, it wouldn’t surprise me if they only had six in common.

There’s no arguing that kata are difficult to master. Once one learns all the movements, it takes some time to improve the techniques. As such, I’ve read statements from many karate practitioners and instructors saying fewer kata are better because of this time it takes for mastery. Others disagree, saying it’s good to learn additional kata to learn additional techniques. In my own style, Shuri-ryu, there are 15 official kata, and through the ranks I’ve climbed so far, each is designed to teach or reinforce certain techniques. Wansu, for example, teaches us to use hip thrust to power a punch.

Personally, I enjoy learning more kata. It adds some variety to the workout, and for those of us using karate for personal development, anything that keeps us moving and practicing is a good thing.

My latest kata is Seyunchin, which I only finished learning on Thursday. It looks something like this:

This is about 98% like ours: the steps are the same, but we execute some of the techniques differently. Seyunchin was recently added to my school’s curriculum by the owner, Shihan Joseph Walker, a Chief Instructor of Shuri-ryu. It has an interesting mix of tension, breathing exercise, and full-powered blocks and strikes, and we first learn it as a brown belt.

One of my favorite workouts is to run every kata I know. We’ve done this at the dojo a couple of times, too, turning it into a half hour aerobic session. It can take me a while to get through them, as I’ve built up quite a list of kata that are both part of Shuri-ryu and from kobudo (weapons) or other styles. That list includes:

  • Wansu (Wunsu)
  • Anaku
  • Naihanchi Sho (aka Tekki Shodan)
  • Empi Sho
  • Tsue Sho (a bo kata)
  • Sanchin
  • Seyunchin
  • Ni-Cho Sai (kobudo sai kata)
  • Kyan No Sai (kobudo sai kata)
  • Sushi No Kon Sho (kobudo bo kata)
  • Nikobudo Ichi (Kajukenbo kata)

I didn’t include the Taikyoku series, as these are considered punching exercises, not kata. Also, I’m currently learning Sushi No Kon, the Matayoshi Kobudo version of the bo kata I already know (incidentally, the Ni-Cho Sai I know is a Matayoshi kata). I can interpret the taikyoku kata to sai, and I can probably fudge my way through running Wansu with the sai. Finally, I have learned two sword kata which I believe are from Iaido.

It’s quite a list. I certainly won’t claim mastery of any of them, but again, they make for one hell of a workout when run one after the other. I can also choose to concentrate on my newest kata to be sure I’m ready for the next stripe review and promotion, or I can go back and continue to develop the kata I’d learned previously.

You just don’t get that kind of variety pushing metal into the air or running around a track. Those are important excercises too, but for someone like me, monotony is the surest way to kill a fitness program. I may not get excited about the simple taikyoku forms, but I still enjoy running Wansu as much as I did when I first learned it as a yellow belt.

And I still say bring on the next one!

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.

Kata: What's in a Name?

Back when I first learned the kata Naihanchi Sho, I didn’t find a lot of examples of it on YouTube. However, I recently started reading a book called Shotokan’s Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate’s Fighting Origins and learned the Shotokan guys have a different name for the kata: Tekki.

I did a search for Tekki, and found quite a few examples. Shotokan is a much more well-known style than the Shuri-ryu I study, but they share similar roots. When Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan, brought karate to Japan, he changed several of the kata names from Okinawan to Japanese, thus Naihanchi became Tekki.

Here’s footage of Funakoshi himself running the Tekki Sho kata:

Our interpretation of the kata is very similar, especially given the variances I’ve seen between some of our kata and the same kata run by other schools. You can find a clearer video by a modern Shotokan sensei here. We have slight differences in the techniques at the beginning and end of the kata, but something key we share is the rotation of the hips. If you look at the video I linked previously, there is far less hip rotation in the Matsubayashi-ryu interpretation. At least there’s less by this black belt (empi/elbow strikes excepted). Of course, he displays a lot less kime, too, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

The variations in kata continue to amaze me. They seem to be very different, but at the core you sometimes find they share the same ideas and training goals. You think of tradition as being something concrete, especially given the Japanese culture it descends from, but in reality it’s very fluid, evolving with the touch of every instructor in a given lineage.

Incidentally, I’m about halfway through Shotokan’s Secret and it’s a very interesting read. The author, Bruce Clayton, gives new perspectives on the history of karate in relation to Okinawa’s political situation, particularly in the 1800s, and he cuts through a lot of the legend and mysticism associated with many of the old karate masters. If I had one complaint it’s the way Clayton seems to dismiss some of his reference material and the bias he shows toward Gichin Funakoshi (the author makes no bones about being a Shotokan sensei). He takes a brief paragraph to discuss Funakoshi’s faults, but seems to have no problem slamming Funakoshi’s contemporaries like Choki Motobu and Chotoku Kyan (full disclosure: Shuri-ryu claims Choki Motobu in its lineage).

Still, I’m very much enjoying the book, and I highly recommend it to any karateka, regardless of style affiliation. Clayton’s discussion of what he calls the Shuri Crucible and the arrival of the American Navy in 1853 are a great insight into how and why karate came to be.

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.

Sanchin: The Bonus Kata

I now get to learn two new kata before obtaining my next belt. No pressure, but there is a lot of tension.

Dynamic tension, to be exact.

Sanchin is a tension kata, and as such running it is very different from running a “normal” kata like my other new one, Empi Sho. Where we typically put our full power into our techniques like punches and kicks, we instead tighten every muscle in the body and push the technique out slowly, using passive resistance all the way. We also breathe out, slow and steady, making it both a good breathing exercise and an isometric workout for the muscles.

Perhaps it’s easiest if I just show you:

This is the Shito-ryu version of the kata, and as usual our Shuri-ryu interpretation of the kata has some slight differences, but it works the same way: run the kata with dyamic tension and controlled breathing. We’re also a bit louder than this guy, but we don’t use the same odd (to me) breathing technique as they do in the Kyokushinkai version. Sanchin comes from the Naha lineage, and if you’re curious you can find some thoughts on its history on Mario McKenna’s blog and on Wikipedia.

I wasn’t terribly worried about holding the tension. My dojo has turned the last class on Tuesday night into a more intense workout, and Sensei Miller always has us run at least one tension kata. Because it was not yet time for me to learn Sanchin, I’ve been running the various Taikyoku kata with tension. This gave me plenty of opportunity to get the breathing and isometric resistance down, which should make things easier as I inch closer to brown belt.

Not that it made learning Sanchin easy, mind you. I’ve been watching my classmates run Sanchin for months, and there aren’t a lot of steps to it. However, the weekend I learned it I found myself asking Noah Legel, another Shuri-ryu student, for a quick review via email. I remembered it right, but the application feels strange at times, especially with tension thrown into the mix and having to nail down the peculiar Sanchin-dachi stance.

I think I’ve got it down, though. Now it’s just a matter of refining the technique, making it look good and making sure it has the desired effect. It’s also cool to see characters running tension kata in movies like The Executioner and knowing both why they’re doing it and how it feels, even if it does look a little awkward on the screen.

Now if only I could shake that dorky feeling when I run it at home…

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 Evolution of Kata

Something I’ve heard a lot about my new kata, Empi Sho, is that it is closely related to the kata Wansu, if not just another version of the same kata. However, the way we run it in Shuri-ryu, there are only a couple of movements they have in common. They share a block/strike combo and have a morote (double) technique near the end, but for the most part it’s hard to see why they’d be labeled sister kata.

Then I recalled some of the varations of Wansu I’ve seen on YouTube, such as this one:

The embusen, or step pattern, through the majority of the kata is almost identical to our version of Empi Sho. Now I can see why they’d call them versions of the same kata.

It’s strange that the two interpretations of Empi could diverge like that, yet the idea that they are (in essence) the same kata as Wansu would persist. I think it’s a good example of how karate as a whole is a living, breathing, evolving entity. A master dies, his students start changing things (or they remember things differently). Those guys die, and their students start changing things (or they remember things differently), and so on.

The core is there. The physical movements change, but the philosophy persists.

It’s strange when you consider how karate — and most all martial arts, for that matter — pride themselves on tradition.

Or maybe I’m still too much of a rookie to expect otherwise…

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.

New Belt, New Kata, New Challenge

Last night I earned my purple belt in Shuri-ryu.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. A lot of new material comes with the purple belt, and several of our higher ranks have told me purple belt is when our karate really starts to come alive. I’ll also learn a new kata called Empi Sho (aka Enpi).

The Shotokan version of the kata is a bit different from ours, but the general steps are the same (reminding me once again that I need to take a video camera to my dojo and post some of our kata). I’ve been watching purple and brown belts run this kata in class for months, and I served as an attacker during another student’s point method interpretation of the kata, so I understand the basics. While I think my green belt kata, Naihanchi Sho, is more interesting, Empi Sho looks like a lot of fun.

However, it brings a new challenge with it: the jump.

About 56 seconds into the video, you’ll see him execute a double palm-heel strike (or so it appears to me) and then perform a 360-degree jump in the air. Our version of the kata includes that same jump, though starting from our style’s signature low horse stance and then landing in that same low stance. Now, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the phrase “white men can’t jump,” correct? I am the personification of that phrase.

There’s a saying I heard about karate the other night: “The only time our feet leave the ground is to kick.” Welcome to the first exception. Because we don’t jump, I have not been doing a lot of jumping in my training. We’ve done it occasionally during workouts (mostly to help our existing purple belts’ jumps), and I’ve done a little bit of leg training at home in preparation for this kata myself, but despite huge improvements in my fitness this past year and a half, I’m still a far cry from being a jumper.

I’ve tried a couple of times on my own. While not terrible, it’s definitely not sharp. Also, about every fourth jump or so ends in disaster. I’ll have to make sure to clear some space on the mat when I run this kata so I don’t crush a yellow belt. In the interpretation for the jump, the practitioner is jumping over a fallen opponent; I’m going to have to practice on BOB so I don’t crush a fellow karateka.

The next few months will be interesting.

Assuming I don’t break an ankle.

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'm Riding the Lightning Now!

I spun the motorcycle up to 40 miles an hour today. Yeah, I’m flying now! I best be careful before I break the sound barrier and piss off the neighbors.

Okay, in all seriousness, I’m finally putting in some real seat time after several weeks of storms, rain, trips, and projects, and my comfort level is growing fast. In fact, today I felt more eager than nervous when I fired her up, and that 40mph jaunt, though brief, was not as terrifying as I anticipated.

That’s right, I said terrifying. It’s tough to shake the idea that I’m straddling an engine and someone stole a couple of my wheels. Granted a Virago‘s engine is about as small as they come, but sitting on top of even 21 horses is a very different feeling from strapping into a cozy chair with a sturdy firewall and floor separating me from the engine and all the spinny bits. It’s also a lot of fun, but like my father-in-law told me, you’ve got to respect it or it’ll turn on you.

Because tempting fate by pushing new heights of speed wasn’t enough, I took her out into some heavier traffic today, too. This was another exercise in channeling fear as I made sure I had plenty of time to get moving. My bike will still accelerate better than a lot of cars, but I also have to keep in mind my shifting ability (or lack thereof). Missing a the gear with a semi bearing down on me wouldn’t be any fun now, would it?

Then came the hat trick: I also marked the farthest distance ridden yet. Okay, so it was only a mile from home, but I’ve zipped around quite a bit within that range. It’s all about seat time for the moment, and my comfort level grows with every turn. Just like when I’m learning a new kata in karate class, I’m building up my proprioception, or muscle memory. Pretty soon shifts and turns will be automatic, just as they are in a car.

That mile distance took me to the local gas station. The tank was looking a bit empty, so I decided it was about time I topped her off. I didn’t look at the pump meter until she was full. The total?

$3.95!

I rounded her to four bucks even, just shy of a gallon of gas. If the previous owner had reset the tachometer with the last fill-up, I’ll easily see 50 miles per gallon out of this bike, probably more.

I can definitely get comfortable with numbers like that.

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.

Wandering Karateka

I had a good time at Wizard World, but man did I miss karate class.

I walked into the dojo for the first time in a week tonight, and I hadn’t done so much as a punching exercise or push-up in the meantime. A week may not sound long, but I felt out of touch. I found myself reviewing my kata, Naihanchi Sho, in my head while I stood in line. Lucky for me muscle memory kicked in as I bowed in and I made it through my kata and its interpretation without difficulty.

It’s going to get worse, though. I’ll miss three consecutive classes visiting family and attending a wedding this month, and then I’ll miss three consecutive classes again in early August on a family vacation. That also includes a review week, which may cause me to miss an opportunity to advance a stripe (and thus throw off my goal of achieving sankyu, or 3rd degree brown belt, by the New Year). In order to help keep things sharp, or to at least get a workout on the road, I started looking for karate schools in the areas I’ll be visiting.

As with many things martial arts, there are those for and against the idea.

The main problem is a question of style. Attending a kung fu or tae kwon do class probably wouldn’t do me much good, but there are Shotokan karate clubs not far from where I’ll be. I study Shuri-ryu, and both styles have their roots in Shuri, Okinawa. They each have a signature style, but they share a large part of their lineage.

In a recent blog entry, Sensei Charles Goodin says he doesn’t take students from other styles. He has several reasons for the policy, but in general he compares it to mixing gasoline and diesel fuel in a car: it just doesn’t work. The visitor will not gain anything from the visit, and their presence may only be a distraction to the dojo’s regular students. He describes it further:

“There is a saying that ‘you can’t catch two rabbits.’ The rabbits tend to run off in different directions. For this reason, if a student wants to join our dojo, I would expect him to only practice our style of Karate. Practicing two styles at the same time is very difficult. You have to empty the bucket before you can fill it.”

On the other side of the coin, Sensei Stephen Irwin compares karate to driving lessons: no matter your style, you’re learning the basics and it’s up to you to apply them. To pull a quote from his blog entry:

“Regardless of the vehicle driving is driving. Regardless of the art fighting is still just fighting. The presentation of driving/fighting skills might vary, but the underlying principles are the same regardless.”

Sensei Irwin’s post does not address the issue of visiting students, but I would guess from this post that he isn’t opposed to the idea. Which one is right? Both, I suppose. They each follow what works for them in their respective dojos, and I understand both points of view.

Personally, I think I would enjoy working out with another school. My school also teaches Haganah and Judo, and it’s always fun to get a glimpse of those arts. I like seeing how other karate styles interpret their kata, and it would be interesting to get a taste of their kumite or self defense methods.

From a student point of view, however, would it be a good idea? My sensei once said he would welcome students from other styles, and they would run their kata their way so we could discuss the differences. However, would other sensei tell a student his style is wrong? It hardly does me any good to show up at a Shotokan school if the sensei in question were to just turn his nose up at the way I’ve been taught. Even if I get a good physical workout, it wouldn’t be any fun to walk out of that dojo hurt or angry. In that case I’d have been better off skipping a week.

So what’s a rookie karateka to do? Two things:

  1. Work harder to get off my butt and get those personal workouts in. It’s not like I’ll be facing a con schedule during the next two trips.
  2. Call those dojos, talk to their instructors, and hope for the best.

Some of our school’s black belts travel frequently for their jobs, and they tell me they have attended classes with other dojos and it’s gone well for them. With luck it will be the same for me.

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.

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.

Plateaus

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.