Tag Archive for rank

Officially an Ikkyu

Friday night, I was officially awarded the rank of Ikkyu, or first-degree brown belt, in Shuri-ryu karate at the Academy of Okinawan Karate.

Shihan and I

The director of the school, Shihan Joseph Walker, and myself

The black stripe down the center of the belt signifies the next step is Shodan, or black belt. This means I’m done testing for rank for a while, and it’s up to me to keep going to class, refining my technique, and helping other students until the big test comes.

Ten years ago, I never would have imagined I’d come this far. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since I was 19. (Yeah, I still cringe when I see pictures of myself in a gi or running kata, but I’m working on that, too.) I’m very fortunate to have found a school of this caliber so close to home, one that offers equal measures of instruction and inspiration.

Now I’m going to go cut that obnoxious white label off my snazzy new belt.

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 Midget Makes Blue Belt

New Blue Belt
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

It’s been 11 months since I first earned my blue belt and left my son in the dust, but he’s finally earned his new rank and he’s wearing it proudly. Friday night he didn’t even want to take it off, as if he were treating it like a new black belt (which tradition says you wear for 24 hours straight the first time you put it on).

Now he’ll be learning his next kata, Anaku. It didn’t change his focus in class much Saturday morning (the kid’s only 6, after all), but you can tell he loved the belt and the congratulations that came with it.

It looks good on ya, little bud. Keep up the good work!

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.