Sparring Notes

ktadmin Posted in Awareness, State of Mind, Styles, Training notes, Video,Tags: , ,

I have been working with my students to improve their sparring skills this month, it’s a great hot weather activity! Sparring can be a tough skill to perfect since everyone wants to jump in the ring and mix things up. Sparring is a very dynamic activity but it can be broken down to individual skills which can be perfected. A short list of these skills include: technique, stamina, focus, and self-awareness. As with any skill technique is paramount to success. Put on some boxing gloves and get in the ring doesn’t make you a boxer, the same is true for Martial Arts sparring. To often I’ve witnessed students at competitions degrade their technique to wildly slapping and kicking.

Sparring matches are won by staying in control. Control comes from confidence and technique. Confidence is something people have to find within themselves. Technique is somethings an instructor can help you perfect. I won’t delve into technique specifics as they vary from style to style, but form is critical to minimizing your vulnerabilities and maximizing your opportunities. Stamina comes with the practice and perfection of your form and technique. As we get older we need to add additional cardio-conditioning! 😉 With good technique and strong stamina you are well equip to win most matches simply by outlasting your opponent.

Focus is perhaps the more difficult thing to learn, as focus is probably the wrong word to use, since you need a lack of focus when sparring. Say what?!? If we focus on our opponent we forget about our surroundings, this may be OK in a sparring ring, but in a real fight that can be fatal. More importantly though focusing on your opponent can lead to signaling your movements. When I spar I typically spar primarily with my peripheral vision, this allows me to “focus” on movements as they occur not a specific movement. Let me give an example: if someone fakes a move with their left, then follows through with the real attack with their right… If I am focused on the person, then my focus will shift to the left fake, when the right comes in, I will have to realize it, shift my focus and then react. If I am focused on the situation, using my peripheral vision then I can more rapidly react to movements in my “sphere” of focus. Basically it reduces the thought process drag that comes from thinking to much. Relax your mind and your awareness becomes more basic, instinctual and reactionary. Hopefully that makes sense, I’ll be happy to clarify any of that.

Self-awareness is probably the most ignored part of sparring, though it is the direct result of good technique training and peripheral or sphere focus. When we spar it is important to be self-aware of your vulnerabilities. It is the only way you can truly improve your art. When you begin sparring your instructor will tell you what you are doing wrong. You should take this instruction as an opportunity to train yourself to find these corrections before you are told of them. The next step of course is correcting the problem, not always that easy. For example, two of my students where sparring and one would lean her head froward after a particular move. Her opponent realized this and he exploited it, with a downward strike to the head. A very bad way to get hit, a fight-ender. After the first hit, I pulled her aside and told her what she was doing. When she did it again I saw her realize it after it was to late. The third time her realization came a little sooner but still to late. Frustration was her enemy on the last point. She has the first part of self-awareness down and is now struggling with correcting the problem. It is a process, no different then learning your first martial arts technique.

I am including these videos for two reasons, first they are awesome! Secondly, they each demonstrate important aspects of sparring. See if you can figure out the importance of each video and post your conclusions in the comments section… Enjoy and pay attention!
[zdvideo width=”400″ height=”226″][/zdvideo]


Looking forward to the discussion…

100 Push-ups

ktadmin Posted in Fitness, Training notes,Tags: , ,

Can you drop and give me 100 Push-ups?

I use to be able to, now I am slightly embarrassed by how many I can do.  Part of the problem is a shoulder injury but that sounds a lot like an excuse even to me!  Since I have increased my training this year when I saw this, like the 200 sit-ups, I knew I had to add it to my training regiment.  This program will be added to my current training regiment.  I’ll post updates here and ask you to do the same in the comments section so we can see how we are doing.


200 Sit-ups

ktadmin Posted in Fitness, Training notes,Tags: , ,

Can you do it?

Can you drop and give me 200 sit-ups?

Neither can I, though I’m almost a quarter of the way there.  This year I have stepped up my training substantially and when I recently found this program I knew I had to try it!  So from time to time I will update my progress (over the next 6 weeks).  I challenge you to do the same, post your progress in the comments section.  Here’s to firming up my stomach so it can take more punishment from my students!


Finding Your Limits

ktadmin Posted in A Zen Thing, Training notes

“If the body is the limit,
the spirit can go even further

Shigeru Egami

There are dangers in learning to control your Self.  As Martial Artists we strive to control our physical, mental and spiritual selves.  Obviously this is a perpetual journey since to be in total control of those three aspects of your life is first impossible however it’s pursuit requires never ending practice.  Religious beliefs aside, even the Dali Lama must practice everyday is disciplines, ironic for those with wit, yes, but never the less it makes the point that practice needs to be a way of life if we are ever to approach perfection.  But as I stated there is a danger, one I know to well.  With every skill we gain comes responsibility, to others and to ourselves.  In learning to control our Self in any or all of the three areas that control can be used for good or for bad purposes.  The bad purposes for personal gain by harming others seem pretty self explanatory so I will skill that discussing.  Let’s face it if you don’t get that part then anything I write surely isn’t going to dissuade your misguided life.  But what bad purposes can we apply the skills we gain to controlling our Selves that could cause personal harm?  Simply stated by using them to facilitate self-abuse.  I am speaking from personal experience now.  I have used what I have learned in the Martial Arts for a lot of good but I have also used much of what I have learned to compensate for some of my personal weaknesses.  In my case physical (health) weaknesses.  This is something that I am just now acknowledging though I have known it for a long time.  My purpose here is to ask you to reflect on your own actions in perspective to mine.  Currently I am healthy and have been for a long time now, however I have bad habits from when my health was less than good.  During that time in my life my body was very limited in what it could handle but my mind and my spirit wanted more.  I learned through self-control that I could use my mind and spirit to override my body’s weaknesses.  I learned to push myself well beyond it’s natural limits, obviously this came with a price.  For me, five major surgeries, 28 weeks *in* the hospital and countless more time recovering at home.  That life is fortunately behind me and with Jesus’ blessing it will stay behind me yet I know how to push my body to extreme exhaustion and through significant pain.  Some might think this a great thing and in the short term they might be right.  I imagine that is the ability that Silvester Stallone envisioned when he created the Rocky character.  But what if Rocky applied that ability to every aspect of his life?  Whether out of necessity or not it could become a detrimental habit. And as we Martial Artists know all to well it often takes far longer to overcome a bad habit or incorrectly learned technique then it does to just learn it correctly the first time.  I’m happy to say that I’m living proof that you can succeed and in doing so learn to use your skills for the good of yourself and others.  But like everything else it takes practice, perseverance and self-awareness.

Now I know that is not what Shigeru Egami meant in the above quote but the truth is that while the spirit can go further than the limits of the body, the body can easily be driven past its limits by the will of the spirit.  As I’ve outlined there is a danger in this however it is also a necessary ingredient in the life of a Champion, my goal is to turn my focus on improving my life as a Champion not a chump!

The Meaning of the Brown Belt (3rd – 1st Kyu) – Revisited

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Styles, Training notes,Tags: ,

Previously I posted the meaning of the Brown Belt, the first of three brown belts in our Dojo.  I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and have written a different perspective of the meaning here that flows from the meaning presented for the previous two belts.  Here is the revisited meaning, post a comment with your opinion on both:

Now the brown represents the deep brown of fertile soil, so rich it almost looks black.  Ever more fertile the soil works with the heat of the Sun to push the plants growth.  Now a source of nutriment the student needs little assistance in this final step of training.  The training at this stage is just as arduous yet seems easier to the student.  There is a synergy of the physical and mental aspects of the art, things are clearer and seen from many perspectives.  The student is becoming a master.  At this stage there is usually one task left to perfect, one task that is unique to the student.  Like a fertile plot of land in the middle of the wilderness gone is the similarity as they stand distinct from their surroundings.   The student is higher in rank, he/she acquires more detailed knowledge and so the brown belt student learns to be more cautious and humble as his/her knowledge and physical abilities increase.

The Meaning of the Brown Belt – 2nd Kyu

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Styles, Training notes,Tags: ,

Here the student has advanced their skills and their self, having removed much of the parasites, stones and weeds.  Finally the soil is ready for the seeds the student has held until ready.  This begins the first planting of the seeds of their skills and understanding.  This is a critical step in the development of the individual for the soil is not giving life on its own yet but needs external nurturing and nutriment.  The extreme physical requirements continue relentlessly as the student works to protect the fragile first crop.

The Meaning of the Brown Belt – 3rd Kyu

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Styles, Training notes,Tags: ,

At this point the student has mastered the basics and developed deep roots in Kokushin-Kai.  Brown is known as an earthy color, such as dirt or soil.  The brown belt signifies the soil in which the roots of mastery begin to take hold.  This brown signifies virgin soil never worked or perfected, never enriched or aerated. The previous belts provide the seeds however they find themselves unwelcoming soil to foster growth.  Like the task of the farmer to tame the land, so does the student need to begin to their self, to remove the parasites, stones, and weeds.  To let in the Green of life, the Blue of the sky and the power of Purple to make this fertile ground.  This is as great a physical task as it is mental task for the student but no Mastery of the art can be attained without it any more than a seed can grow properly on unwelcome soil.

Nervous yet?

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Awareness, Training notes,Tags: ,

Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I’m from, this shouldn’t be a problem….

This really caught my eye because it is so true!  Unless you are a practiced public speaker getting up in front of a group of people, even people you know can be a stressful experience.  Why?  Because, every time we speak in a public forum we put ourselves up for examination and potentially ridicule. Yet if we all feel this way then why should we feel so much personal anxiety?  Confidence.  Not confidence in public speaking, but confidence in what we are about to say.  Our thoughts are just that, our thoughts, when we share them we expose part of ourselves.  This is fairly easy when conversing with another person, it is intimate and comfortable.  But add a few people to the mix, especially strangers and it takes the easy out of it.  We begin to worry about how we sound and what people will think, if we will make a mistake, or if anyone will be interested.  So what is the solution?  Be confident, well I can say that but it doesn’t usually help…Duh!  Actually one of the best ways to conquer this fear is to listen.  That’s right, learn to listen.  If you are listening to those around you, they are more apt to listen to you.  If you are listening you are not worrying about what you may or may not say, removing much of the stress.  Listening gives you a better grasp on the situation at hand making you more confident when you speak.  Listening the confidence builder…who knew!


ktadmin Posted in Diet, Recipes and Health Facts, Training notes,Tags:

I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

I am a pretty fit guy but I love to eat, don’t we all?  Like most people I have a couple pounds I could stand to loose, five to be exact.  As a guy who loves to eat I can eat large portions with the best of them!  Lately I have been realizing that I don’t just eat when I am hungry, something else makes me want to fill my face, boredom.  We all know stress can lead to overeating but boredom?  It is true.  When I am home I rarely snack or overeat, but when I’m in the office most days I feel incredibly hungry!  Since I am doing less physical activity there are only two explanations, stress or boredom.  Most days it is not stress since I deal with that pretty well.

The next time you go to put something in your mouth just ask yourself, and I hungry or just bored?  If you’re bored put down the food and excite your mind with a new activity.  Yes you will still feel hungry but you have a strong warrior spirit, focus your mind on your new activity and wait until meal time.  Discipline is the key.

Useful Training

ktadmin Posted in Fun Stuff, Training notes


It’s funny how some people perceive the Martial Arts.  But how do you perceive your Martial Arts training?  Is it only useful in your mind?  Or is your training a real value to you?

I am not a big fan of breaking boards since I have never met a board I didn’t like.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t some merit in learning to break stuff.  Breaking can help a student learn to overcome their minds desire to protect itself from sudden impacts.  Breaking can help a student understand the physics behind the art.  Breaking can help a student realize their inner strength in addition to their physical abilities. While the masses at large may joke at what seems to be a useless and showy desire to break stuff.  Let them laugh.

One note about breaking stuff.  Breaking can help a student build their confidence however this I feel is a bad reason to break stuff.