Tag Archive for sankyu

That Which Does Not Kill Me…

I survived graduation night.

I got recruited to help out, so I spent most of the night lining up the new graduates before they went out onto the mat and helping tie their new belts onto them. This worked out well because it kept me busy rather than sweating my own pending performance. It proved an interesting experience in itself, too, with some of the lower ranks calling me sir and oohing and ahhing when they noticed I had just earned my brown belt.

My own kata went smooth. My biggest concern with Empi Sho is always the leap at the end, and my heel landed in a seam between the mats. Of course I sank right down into it and my leg wobbled. I had a sudden image of falling on my ass in front of the crowd, but I managed to keep my footing and finish the kata. Some friends in the crowd assured me it looked fine.

Either way, Shihan Walker tied my new brown belt around me a moment later and all was right with the world.

There are more pictures from the night on my Flickr account. Some are a little fuzzy because I left my wife with a prime lens and a low aperture without having the time to explain how to manage it. She caught me dropping an elbow on an imaginary opponent during the kata, though, and it’s in focus enough to see I need to concentrate on kicking my heels out a little more in kiba dachi. I’ll blame the nervousness.

I’ll be learning two new kata as a Sankyu: one called Seyunchin, which was only recently added to our curriculum, and Tsue sho, a bo kata. I learned Tsue sho Saturday morning and it’s not particularly difficult, especially after seeing it run in class so many times and having participated in interpretation drills for it with higher ranks. I only found one video of it here; it’s very sloppy so I almost hesitate to link it, but the moves are the same and you’ll get the idea. I hope to learn Seyunchin this week, and this is what I’m in for:

I’ve seen it run several times and have always thought it looked like fun. I suspect it will be a little more difficult to learn, but I’m up for it. If nothing else it will bring more variety to my workouts 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.

Crises of Confidence

Tonight I was promoted to Sankyu, or 3rd-degree brown belt, in Shuri-ryu karate. That’s not something I’d ever thought I’d be able to say in my lifetime, but man does it feel good.

Not that it was an easy review or test, mind.

While I practiced my butt off for it, I have a bad habit of getting nervous and choking during the actual review process. I could (and should) have made it all the way through the review process on Tuesday, but in working through a set of techniques called ippon kumite kata #10, I kept stepping back with the wrong leg at the end. I did it wrong the first time, then did it right, but second-guessed myself and ran it wrong yet again because the people around me were making my same mistake. By that time I was completely thrown off and got sent off to work on it.

I was extremely upset with myself because I knew better, and though my muscle memory was trying to tell me I was doing it wrong, I let my brain dump a big load of doubt on me and that was all she wrote. Fortunately I was able to take another crack at it and passed, and I was able to finish the rest of the review process and earn my belt tonight.

I have the same crisis of confidence with other things. Call it performance anxiety, stagefright, or whatever, it’s generally when I’m on the spot that I start getting uncomfortable. I have no problem doing panels at conventions these days, and I still enjoy standing behind a busy table. Yet I start second-guessing myself if I’m the center of attention in other situations.

In fact, I’ve been more worried about performing my kata, Empi Sho, tomorrow night than I was about earning the belt in the first place. I get out to Peoria dojo about once a month, so I don’t run my kata in front of the other instructors and students very often. Not only do I have to look like I earned my belt, I have to make my Sensei look good as both a martial arts instructor and an employee of the school. Not to mention all the parents, siblings, friends, etc., of other students will be there watching. No pressure, right?

Honestly, there shouldn’t be any. I’ve been running the kata for 18 weeks now, and while that’s not total mastery by any stretch, it’s enough that I have the movements down and can get through it without getting shredded by other karateka. Ill even admit I’ve kind of been hoping I’d have a family conflict rise up so I could get out of it.

But brown belt’s a big deal. I should be there to receive my belt, and I should be there to support the other students from my dojo who were promoted. So I’m going to call it an exercise in self-discipline and just suck it up and head over there. The Wife is going to come along to take pictures, so I’m calling it a photo op as well. Believe it or not it helps, and tomorrow I plan to share some photos here on the blog and on Flickr.

Watch this space.

As for the future, if yellow belt was the first big milestone in the belt progression, I consider Sankyu the second. There are two more levels of brown belt between here and black belt, and Ikkyu, or first degree brown belt, is the next major milestone. My goal is to make Ikkyu by the end of this year, but I’m going to have to bust my ass to do it. Once I make Ikkyu, it’s a working and waiting game until Shihan Joseph Walker decides I’m ready to test for black belt.

It’s a long way off, but it looks a hell of a lot closer now than it did when I first put on a white belt two years ago next week.

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.

Martial Progress

I’m coming up on two years studying Shuri-ryu with the Academy of Okinawan Karate, and I’m still surprised at how far I’ve progressed. My weight loss may have stalled out over the last year, but I’ve made huge strides in strength and flexibility.

A big part of that is my sensei has turned our advanced class on Tuesday nights into a workout class. We may work a little karate, but we focus on a mix of cardio, flexibility, and strength training. For the last few weeks we’ve done the same with Thursday night’s class; it’s not quite as intense, but we get a good workout before moving on to the night’s lesson.

Last night was a good measure of my progress: we started with 150 front kicks after our warm-up, then did 110 push-ups and 110 sit-ups in ladders. By ladders I mean we partnered up and did 1 push-up, then the partner did 1. Did 2, partner did 2, and so on, up to 10, for a total of 55 reps. We did sit-ups the same way, then counted down from 10 with the push-ups, and finally counted down with the sit-ups.

I made it all the way through without hitting failure or losing form (though I am feeling it in the abs today). I’m not so sure I could have done that a year ago, so I was very pleased with myself.

The Tuesday class has also been great for my side kicks. I’ve learned a new waza, a certain combination of techniques, that requires me to do a blocking kick immediately followed by a side kick, both above the belt. We’ve been working side kicks and stretches on Tuesday nights in preparation, and now I’m happy to report I can pull off both kicks. I don’t know how pretty it looks, especially in the transition to the technique following them, but Sensei Miller seems content so I’ll just keep practicing.

If I can perform the waza and the rest of my new material properly, I’ll be a brown belt in two weeks. I’ve been looking at sankyu, or third degree brown belt, as the next big milestone in my karate progession, and it feels great to be so close to earning it.

My first summer with karate, I was just glad to have moved beyond a few physical annoyances and cut some weight. I wasn’t really focused on black belt, or even brown belt. It was tough to see that far into the future, and I admit I was intimidated by some of the things I saw our advanced students doing. Now I’m right up there with them. Now I know what I need to do to hit the next point. Now I know how to concentrate on the things I’m lacking.

Now I am one of the advanced students, helping to teach some of the basic students. I’m thinking about what needs to be done to hit my next milestone, ikkyu (first degree brown belt), by the end of this year. I have a goal in mind for shodan (first degree black belt), and a good idea of what it’s going to take to get there. It’s starting to sink in that there are real milestones beyond that point, be it nidan and beyond or exploring other styles and arts.

I don’t look at my martial arts journey as a long road, neither in front of me nor behind me. It’s just a road.

I’m just happy I’m enjoying the trip.

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.