Tag Archive for judo

Photo Friday: The Karate Seminar

I selected two pictures from the International Shuri-Ryu Association’s martial arts seminar in Fort Wayne, Indiana last weekend to illustrate a point: karate is not just about standing up with an opponent and punching and kicking.

Yes, that’s where the concentration is, and to look at most of our kata, it’s easy to assume that’s all that’s going on. However, karate, and Shuri-ryu especially, can include takedowns, pressure point attacks, joint locks, pins/holds, and more. In the following photos, Shuri Cup tournament competitors can be seen demonstrating takedowns mixed into the bunkai (simply put, a demonstration of application) of the kata.


Mr Nate England takes down Mr Joey Johnston, a student and an instructor respectively at the Academy of Okinawan Karate.

While we do incorporate judo techniques into the curriculum, we don’t necessarily turn kata demonstration or sparring ┬áinto a judo match. In both cases, the demonstrators took their opponent down, but they did not go to the ground with them. Sure, they could get down and submit the opponent in an armbar, but there’s already another opponent ready to come in and attack. As such, the demonstrators stayed on their feet while eliminating their opponent.


Mr Gustavo Lugo eliminates his opponent with a throat strike.

Grappling was a heavy component of the seminar, especially in the sessions I attended. I picked up several new techniques, especially some ground fighting techniques in Shihan Joseph Walker’s Haganah session. Fortunately a lot of the basic concepts were familiar to me, and that made it a lot easier to understand what was demonstrated. I saw and learned a lot, and I feel like my own karate will be better for it.

I only took pictures during the Shuri Cup, as the rest of the time I was too busy practicing to carry a camera. In the downtime between sessions I was too busy getting a drink and jotting notes. The Friday & Saturday sessions, as well as the tournament, took place in a Masonic Lodge hall, and with the available light I opted to use my 50mm prime lens. I knew I’d be shooting rapid fire to catch karate techniques, so I opted against RAW. I set a custom white balance using my instructor Sensei Miller’s gi as the white model, then fired away. I’m happy with the above pics, as I was mostly shooting to capture the moment rather than look for a great photograph. I only carried so much over to the practice hall and had no idea what to expect in terms of lighting, distance, crowds, etc. I also didn’t want to be the guy distracting competitors with a bright flash in their face, especially when they’re supposed to be blocking punches and then aiming their own punches and kicks back at their opponents.

You can see the rest of the set on Flickr, including pictures of the rest of the competitors and the judges. There was a lot of talent out there, and it was a lot of fun to watch.

All in all I had a blast, and finding a gyro joint serving both Kronos Gyros and Vienna Beef hot dogs until four in the morning was a nice bonus. I can’t wait to do it again 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.

Taking Flight

There are two things that seem to draw the “oohs” from the crowds at a fight: good punches and big throws. There were a couple of good throws Saturday night at Throwdown IV, and I managed to catch one of them on camera. In this case, one fighter lifted the other off the mat, got him shoulder high and turned him over to throw him back down to the mat, and the crowd let out a big “ooh!” of appreciation.

He believes he can fly

He believes he can fly

Here’s the thing about throws and sweeps, though: they’re not very painful. The first thing you learn in Judo is how to fall without hurting yourself, which includes when getting thrown. Throws like this do look spectacular, but the objective isn’t to inflict damage to your opponent, it’s to get them to the ground and get a superior position from which to work a submission (or to ground ‘n’ pound in an MMA match). Now, there are times one fighter will pick up another and slam him to the ground as hard as possible, and that can be painful, but in general a takedown itself isn’t going to end a fight.

That all said, I’ve been getting more and more interested in judo and its throws and sweeps myself. There’s some judo in the Shuri-ryu karate curriculum, and I picked up a copy of Kodokan Judo to get a more complete idea of what’s involved in the art. I’m also reading a book called Falling Hard, a great book written by a British journalist who took up judo at age 50. I’m about 70 pages in and I’ve already learned a lot of interesting things about the history of the art and its founder, Jigoro Kano.

My karate school offers judo classes as part of the karate membership, so I may take advantage of those classes later this year. I need to concentrate on making ikkyu (first-degree brown belt) first because the last stripe is going to be a tough one. This just would not be the right time to shake up my schedule. Judo should round out my skills, and should better prepare me for my black belt test when the time comes.

If I do hit those classes, though, it’ll sure feel odd to wear a white belt again.

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: Airtime

I’m posting a day late, but this pic was actually taken last night at the Academy of Okinawan Karate‘s graduation.

Judo mocks your silly gravity

Judo mocks your silly gravity

Judo is something I hope to work on myself, soon. There is just enough Judo in the Shuri-ryu curriculum to give karateka a taste, but the AOK offers a dedicated Judo class as well. Once I make Ikkyu (first-degree brown belt), I hope to hit more of those classes.

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 to Come

I just dumped several pictures on my Flickr account from two recent events at the Academy of Okinawan Karate, the school where I study Shuri-ryu. Some came from last month’s graduation, and the remainder are from this weekend’s Friends & Family Day demonstrations.

These events are a lot of fun for me, not just because some of my friends and classmates are out there but because I get an idea of what’s to come in my training. There are almost always demonstrations by black belts and other advanced students showing off their kata, weapons kata, Judo, and more, and I always find myself guesstimating how long it may be before I start learning some of those same moves.

Tap out!

Tap out!

A few months ago, my sensei asked me if I wanted to be a black belt. It was tough to answer at the time, because it’s a long path to black belt at our school. I’m told it takes most students 5-7 years, even if the student makes it to ikkyu, or first-degree brown belt, fairly quickly. Some students reach that point, lose patience, and drop out or go to another school.

To make things even tougher, I can hardly sit still. My family moved six or seven times when I was a kid, and now wanderlust creeps up on me every few years. The Wife and I have had three different homes and I’ve shifted through two careers (not counting writing), four employers, and a stint as a student while we’ve been married. It’s hard for me to picture what I’ll be doing and where I’ll be living next year, much less five years from now.

Have a nice trip?

Have a nice trip?

The commitment is not unlike going back to school. There’s a tuition involved, and though it’s not as steep as many schools, it’s not cheap. There’s the time commitment, and the willingness to work it into a schedule around one’s full-time job and supporting a family. I can tell you now, if I decided to return to school for a real degree, the pros and cons would not be all that different.

Like school, the outcome would be personal development. I may not be able to parlay a black belt into a larger paycheck in the same way I could a bachelor’s degree, but it would be hard to question the physical and mental (as opposed to intellectual) development. I’ve heard of similar development from some of our advanced students, and I’ve even seen the development in some of my classmates, particularly the younger ones, in the relatively short time I’ve been studying.

When a board meets an immovable object.

When a board meets an immovable object.

So far my interest in karate is still as strong as it was after my first week. I still look forward to every class, and I hate having to miss class. When I missed a full week due to travel, I felt like a stranger walking into the dojo. I pay close attention to the ranks just ahead of me, hoping to pick up a few things before I start learning their kata and techniques myself. I’ve even started reading martial arts books, such as Gichin Funakoshi‘s Karate-Do: My Way of Life and Zen in the Martial Arts.

I think I’m as hooked on karate as I am writing.

Most certainly not walking on sunshine

Most certainly not walking on sunshine

There have been times that little tickle of wanderlust appears, or friends or family will suggest we move out closer to them, and I’ll open up a real estate website and browse housing prices to satisfy my curiosity. The next search? I hit Yellowbook or surf the International Shuri-ryu Association directory to see if there are any dojos in the area, and at least once I’ve ruled out moving to an area because there wasn’t a single dojo in range.

I’d say that pretty much tears it: I want to be a black belt. I want to be a black belt as much as I want to be a full-time writer. I think it would be great to spend my days in a mix between training and writing. The reality may not be that simple, but just the same, I think it’s a goal worth aiming for.

I best start making more of the magic happen.

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.


Ten years ago, if you told me to get up at 6am to go for a run, I would have laughed in your face.

Ten years ago, if I had told my friends or family I was going to get up at 6am to go for a run, they would have laughed in my face.

Yesterday, I got up at 6am and went for a run. The world did not end, the universe did not implode, the dead did not rise to feast on human flesh. More importantly, I didn’t die. Panted and wheezed? Sure. But die? No. I compounded it with 2.5 hours of karate class in the evening, with the last half hour devoted to Judo sparring. While I mangled my big toes on the judo mat, I have no lingering soreness from the added workload.

I suspect I’m finally getting into some semblance of shape. I still have quite a few pounds I’d like to drop, but looking back at my exercise logs I can see I’m getting in a workout more often than not. There are weeks I worked out every day, and never is there a gap for more than two days (with the exception of the weeks I was very sick — damn this winter!) without some form of a workout, be it calisthenics, karate practice or class, kobudo practice, or punching and kicking the bag. I feel better than I have since I was 19.

So I’ve got that going for me. Now if only I can figure out what to do about a proper hairstyle…

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.

Run for Your Life

Tomorrow, Troy and I officially start the Cool Running Couch-to-5k Running Program. The late cold weather delayed us several times this month, but now it looks like weather for both of us will be more cooperative this week and we’re going to get started. Anyone else feel like joining us?

I spent some time the last few days preparing for the program. I’ve never been much of a runner, so I’m doing everything I can to eliminate excuses and make it as fun as possible before I even get started. I set up some running tunes on my iPod nano (lots of punk and metal), injected a little tech geekery by setting up a Nike+ account, and selected Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell” as my PowerSong.

I’m finding the Nike+ site is flexible with its goals and resolutions, letting experienced runners set up marathons and sprints or allowing folks like me to set simpler goals. For now I’ve set a goal to run 10 times over the next four weeks, which should be a piece of cake if I follow the Cool Running program properly. It recommends running three days a week, so if I stick to it I should hit 12 runs. I’ve made my progress public here, and there’s also a new widget to track my goal in the sidebar of my blog.

I’ve mentioned the plan to several of my friends and family member, and by far the first question they ask is “Why?” Two reasons: lose more weight and to increase my endurance.

I’ve already mentioned I lost about 35 pounds in my first year of karate, and there’s no question it has helped me make dramatic improvements in my overall health. However, my weight loss has kind of stalled out since December. I’m thinking I’m making a trade off by packing on new muscle, but in general I’m floating in the same five-pound range and I wonder if I’ve hit a plateau. A running program should help me get past that point and burn off some more fat.

The endurance is also karate related; when I spar, I come away gasping for breath. The matches rarely go the full two minutes allotted, and they’re mostly bursts of activity rather than constant motion because we’d trade a few blows, one of us would score, and the judge would call a quick stop to award a point and reset. The few times we’ve done Judo matches I’ve been even more exhausted, and in one match my body just about quit on me before the match was over. Don’t get me wrong, I expect to be at least winded. However, I feel like I should be able to last longer than I do, and that I should be less exhausted and recover faster when a match is over.

As a bonus it will help my endurance when we do our hundred front kicks, ideally preparing me for having to do 500 front kicks in a black belt test at some point in the future. It should also be helpful for running strings of wazas in rapid succession. For example, running the first four ippon kumite katas out of kiba dachi for my first review as a blue belt wasn’t terrible, but those numbers will increase as I climb in rank and I’ll perform the technique to multiple directions, so I had best prepare now.

So the motivation is there and my intentions are good. Let’s see if I can’t make this happen.

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.