Monday, April 23, 2012

Kiri age

A few weeks ago I injured my left ankle.  No, it wasn’t the sort of injury that brings with it an epic tale. It wasn't even the sort that you'd begin to tell with a dramatic declaration of ‘There I was...’  It was the sort of story that you try your best to just mumble out. A mumble that sounded much like “I was celebrating a ping pong shot...”  

So not only did it I do it to myself, I did it in a context that’s rather silly too.  Not only that, but I went and made it worse by not giving myself enough time to heal.   And so, Sam and my aching ankle enforced two more weeks of waiting and much grumbling on my part.

In between bouts of grumbling and mumbling I did have plenty of time to read about martial arts and thinking about thinking.  It also had the chance  to think about movement without actually being able to move.  

Eventually I healed enough that my injury was a limitation to try to work around.  Making me  find out just how to move so it didn’t hurt but where I was still flexing the joint and not letting it weaken too much and not having Sam command me to sit back down and ice that ankle.  With this renewed hope that I soon would be able to get on the mat again I started thinking about how movement and how much aikido’s movements resemble those of battodo minus the sword.  

That isn’t to say that they’re exactly alike. I’m not going to claim that I remember many of the names  since I am just a beginner at both of these arts, but the basics of turning, balance changes and entering are shared repertoire.  The same exact foot movements used to get out of the way of a charging uke could and were indeed used to quickly turn to face an enemy while at the same time drawing your sword so they could run into the pointy end of it.  But these were not the sort of movements I could do since they would have really hurt.  No, I was looking at a far more basic motion.

The movement in question that I was taking apart was that of a upward angled sword cut called kiri age.   I had noticed that there was something not quite right with how it felt whenever I tried it.  My elbows felt strained, my shoulders too tight and all in all there was a sensation of getting in my own way.  Almost distinct feeling that I was trying to swing a golf club more than strike at a target in front of me.   Except that with a sword would have had a very literal sort of slice.  There was something subtly wrong with my movement and I was trying to look for what it was.

While I was searching through various movements, I put the bokken down, just to change my perspective on the motion and see just where I could draw from other sources.  This is where I started looking both at aikido and my own background in karate for possible resolutions to the problem of getting in my own way, or at least trying to stop feeling as if I were trying to do a two hundred yard drive to the green.   Without the weapon in my hand, I was free to move differently and I came to a motion that looked much like the one for the cut.  Hands held low in front of one’s center, then moving upward at a forty-five degree angle or so.  But this movement also included turning the hips and moving my arms as if I were about to greet someone with a very dynamic sort of hug.  

That was it, I thought to myself.  There wasn’t any of the tension I was feeling in my shoulder and it did not feel as if I were getting in the way of my movement.  Instead it was just a perfect sort of flow.  The sensation at least, maybe not the movement.

So then picked up the bokken up again and started swinging once more.  This time it felt like the torque on my elbows was gone, and even the cut felt as if it were straighter.  Both left and right versions of the cut had changed drastically to me.   It was as if I were pulling the blade with my leading hand instead of pushing at the handle.

Instead of pushing at a stick, there was a sensation that I was holding a brush to draw an arc through the air.  I realized that part of this sensation of getting in my way had come from the desire to push with the supporting hand, instead of letting it be support -- this was particularly noticeable when cutting to the left since my right hand was the one doing the supporting and I am right handed.

Where this all leads is still a mystery to me. I could be quite wrong about this way of seeing it, but it works for now.  I’m sure I’ll adjust how I see these motions and their various pieces as I learn more and age more.  The reason it feels like it’s closer to how the motion truly must be is that it doesn’t feel strained, and it doesn’t feel like I’m making  or need to make the movements more muscular than they should be.   

It’s an easier sort of flow, but not the sort of easy that came without searching.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Intensive (Partial)

I'm back from joining at least part of the winter intensive the dojo that Sam S and me attend. It's an all weekend event, seven hours every day. It was a fantastic experience, and most certainly want to do the full thing next time it rolls around. 

Each day is built around a particular style taught at the dojo, which gets a three hour class. The other two get two hours each. 

Today's focus was sword, and it was awesome; if swinging a wooden sword is the sort of thing you might consider a groovy activity to engage in at nine in the morning on a Saturday. 

Saturday morning cartoons? Nope, it's pyjamas and cold mats. Luckily it stops being much of an issue after you're done with warmups and then get to the that class' main event. 

The two thousand (and some) cuts.

What is this madness? It means you lift your bokken and bring it down two thousand (and some) times over the course of around an hour. That's around 1.8 seconds per slice. Not a bad pace. Now think about muscling something up and down at about that pace. It's surprisingly tiring. So it's about conditioning, but it's really about finding out just how wily you can be with how you use the rest of your body to help you swing that bokken around. 

This was followed by two hours of partner exercises in sword (having gotten all the cutting practice out of the way a few minutes earlier.) And so we swung and stepped and turned and blocked. 

There were discussions about armored and unarmored combat and about blades made for the battlefield and those for more formal occasions. Something I'll have to research and perhaps write about later.

Demonstrations by sensei were in abundance and on a few of these he decided to explain how many of these techniques were used in actual combat. It all starts innocuously enough with what looks like a high block with a step to turn and cut at the back. Instead it all goes horribly wrong (for me) when sensei executes the block, but instead of spinning away, makes his arc smaller and plants the pommel of his bokken against my temple -- gently mind you, but it got the point across. 

What's interesting to me was that the edge those samurai back in feudal Japan found were all within the same basic movement as the more rarified form taught in class. Much like basic movement of a cut contains within it all the elements required to put together the 'tricks' required to lift your bokken just one more time if one is wily enough to look for them.

As always, I walked out of the dojo quite thoughtful and had to share a little bit. You, my reluctant audience, will have to continue deal with minor floods of rambling, disconnected prose about kickpunching.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fukuda International

It was just a single day before the Fukuda International Judo tournament that I received a call from my friend Tennis, who sounded as if he was half dead from some some sort of horrible flu.  Not only did he sound congested, and as if he’d rubbed the inside of his throat with sandpaper, he also sounded disappointed because he was going to miss the the tournament.  

It was a downer for myself as well, since we’d planned on doing this for a long time.  And I was a complete noob at the whole Judo thing. Reinforcements in the form of an amiable, bearded, and short -- or maybe he just seems that way because he’s so broad -- and above all knowledgeable jujutsuka were very welcome.  Bummer.

I’d only heard about this tournament, and of Keiko Fukuda a few months before the tournament itself.  Boy am I out of touch with the world of martial arts.  Fukuda Shihan is not only the highest ranked woman in Judo, but she has also put up with an incredible amount of sexist bullshit over the years.  From other students assuming she was an easy target because she’s a small woman, to being held back at fifth dan (black belt degree) for twenty.  Count them.  Twenty.  Freaking. Years.  Since that was traditionally how far a woman could rise in Judo -- that is until Fukudan Shihan.  

This woman is a badass and a pioneer no matter from which angle look at it.  The granddaughter of Fukuda Hachinosuke, who was one of Jigoro Kano’s teachers (Judo’s founder,) she was later invited by Kano himself to join him as a student.  When it came time to choose between her desire to pursue the highest reaches of Judo or marriage, she chose her art.  

Through all of this she had to deal with sexist bullshit from the male dominated culture of Judo and japan and not just her being snubbed for twenty years -- I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s galling to know we were, and still are, that backwards. And it was not just back home in Japan, but also here in the United States.  

Sensei Mike told us story about her when she came to the States for her first visit in the 50’s.  Fukuda had come to the states and continued to train at the dojo of who would be one of Mike’s teachers.  When she arrived she saw that not only were people way bigger than her, but also that she would have trouble with the assumptions they would make about not only a woman, but one so small.  So Fukuda asked the dojo’s sensei to line up all of their students from highest rank to lowest.  Then she went on to fight and defeat every one of them, starting from the highest rank to the lowest!  

The above doesn’t even begin to describe how amazingly awesome I’ve found out she is through just a small online search.

Her personal motto gets to the bottom of her no bullshit attitude that’s tempered by kindness and general awesomeness (no charge): Be gentle, kind, and beautiful, yet firm and strong, both mentally and physically.

Tennis’ call changed all our plans.  He’d been the one who was going to be driving, and what I’d not known is that he wanted to bring along his friend Bob Wells and drive him to the tournament.  Now he was asking me if I could pick him up.  It’s not hard to figure out just how I replied to the request. I’d met Bob before at a dojo potluck and chatted with him for a short while, though it was mostly small talks between sips of beer and bites of dahl and vegetarian pot stickers.  

So Sam and I wake up early on Saturday.  Since we’re not the sort to really wake up truly early, we ended up getting the breakfast of champions that are the breakfast treats available at the local gas station mart.  

With coffees in cup holders and with breakfast bacon, egg, and cheese grease still clinging to my fingertips, we took 680 northward and were off to Oakland.  Sam and I were still somewhat in shock from the early hour, and with caffeine still not fully energizing our minds, we didn’t really say much to one another.  There was some confusion and cursing at our GPS unit, but that’s hardly something I should mention.

Once in Oakland we met with Bob, and after reintroducing ourselves to him, since he didn’t quite remember us, we were off to the SF Community College where the tournament was being held.  

Being nosy as I can be, I started asking a few questions of Bob.  When did he join Black Belt magazine?  Which he replied to by saying that he joined when it was still a ‘thing in a garage.’

While we were in slow-moving traffic in the bay bridge he told us told stories of martial arts in the 60’s, how he had studied Judo for a long time.  Now I wish I were more of a morning person so I could write them down more clearly (or maybe even just write these damn things down sooner than nearly two weeks later.)

I listened, probably wide-eyed, feeling, well, awful young.  The perspective of years looking at the martial arts and the sheer number of people he’s met over that time was staggering.  It was also completely awesome.  We arrived to our destination long before I would completely geek out on it all and lost all ability to operate a motor vehicle with anything resembling safety.

Thanks to our trusty GPS, we managed to make it there with more than enough time to schmooze around with the judoka who were milling about outside the impressive martial arts gym that this institution saw fit to invest.   It’s always a sight to see so many competitors in one place, most of them black belts.  All of them getting ready, stretching, talking to one another.  From a larger gymnasium across the hall where I could glimpse through the half-opened door,  there were some judoka tossing each other about on a mat, practicing nage no kata.

We gravitated toward the merch table, where there were various videos, tee shirts, and a table where you could contribute to the documentary that’s being made about Fukuda sensei.  We huddled there and chatted with Bob for a while, and I honestly can’t really remember what we talked about, but I do remember listening a fair bit.  But it wasn’t at all like the listening I was about to do in a few moments.  I didn’t spot him as anyone other than an elderly gentleman with well-groomed hair and a loosely fit navy blue suit.  What I should have noticed, which thanks to hindsight now I realize, is that if one discounted the slightly stooped, shuffling walk nor the wrinkles I would have seen a man who filled the suit roughly in the same way (and same apparent solidity) that a dishwasher or small fridge might.  This man was Hal Sharp.  I didn’t find this out until Bob introduced me to him.

Bob, of course, knew him and they quickly struck up a conversation.  It’d been many, many years since the two had spoken, but they fell into the easy pace of two practitioners trading stories of the old days of the arts here in the States.  While I listened, I leaned over to Sam and whispered to her “This guy’s a legend.”  How much of a legend, again, I wouldn’t find out until later.  Though I don’t rightly know whether or not that would have helped or hindered on first meeting the man in person.

Hal is yet another complete badass.  After World War II, he went to Japan to train at the Kodokan, which is the Judo dojo founded by Kano sensei.  He trained and lived there for many years, falling in love with martial arts and the culture alike.  

He photographed the great masters, has written books on the subject of Judo and is an all around Interesting Dude.

We listened to Hal tell stories about how he was asked by a senior student sent by Mifune sensei if he would become one of his teacher’s senior students.  Hal respectfully declined the personal invitation of a 10th dan master of Judo because he was quite happy training at this ‘little dojo’ in Tokyo.

Of course, as conversations between martial artists always seem to go, once introductions and storytelling are done, techniques are demonstrated.  It was my turn to throw the ritual haymaker to the head so Hal could speak about the finer points of blocking and where contact should happen (hint: at the joint.)  He may be in his seventies, but that block felt like a bar of steel across the tendons on the inside of my elbow.  Once again I was reminded of the adage about youth and skill versus age and treachery.  

The tournament proper got underway just a few minutes after that demonstration, so we said our hasty goodbyes and walked into the dojo area of the Wellness Center.  

We walked into the dojo itself just as everyone who was wearing pyjamas was lining up for the opening ceremonies for the tournament. Demonstrations of tournament etiquette were made for the benefit not only of the participants, but also for the small crowd that had gathered to cheer family members and friends; though here and there I did spot a few who had the look of having joined the gathering because they’d spotted this curious gathering of men and women in white pyjamas.

Announcements made, bows taken, the participants all moved off the mats as we made our way through that crowd to the other end of the dojo, where there was better light for my camera and a much better angle from which to watch the higher rank competitors for the first half of the tournament (the half before lunch.)

Again, all I really knew about Judo at this point was that it is both a sport and a martial art, and whatever it had been that Bob had shared with me on the morning ride.   Bob had also been prescient enough to bring one of his Judo books, which I referenced plenty of times while watching the tournament proper.

Once settled off the mat and where the lighting was good, I pulled out my camera and took a few snaps.  Then stopped and turned to Bob as the first kata that we saw was nothing like what I’d been expecting.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Oh, that’s Ju no kata.  The gentle form,” he said.  He Then informed me that it was one of Fukuda sensei’s favorites.

What I watched was Judo expressed in the gentlest way.  Focused on finding and disrupting balance.  Turning your opponent’s attacks, and turning into them, both to avoid and to execute the opening of a throw.  The movement itself looks as if the tori were bowing, except it’s while lifting the uke off the ground, their legs perfectly straight.

It was an almost entrancing thing, watching these judoka working together in the gentle form.  Then I noticed something that should have been obvious for its lack.  There was very little noise.  What made me notice this was that all could really hear were the sound of bodies hitting the mat from the other side of the dojo where the lower ranked competitors were performing Nage No Kata.
The spectators sitting in the bleachers and off on the sidelines of the mats were silent.  And by silent I mean completely quiet.  No cheering, no enthusing, just applause whenever a kata was finished and the judoka bowed and got off the mat.  

Bob, with his near infinite knowledge of Judo filled in the details.  He said it was fairly common for the tournaments to be perfectly silent.  The crowd watching on, putting all attention on the form, almost as if they themselves were judges and at the same time dumbstruck with awe over every throw, lock, and weapon disarm.  I sure as hell felt like it, even as the black belts moved to Nage no kata themselves.  Then the throws and the sound of bodies hitting the mat revealed their rhythm with each slap of a hand and every roll.

There were a pair of young orange belts, both girls throwing each other expertly.  I’d had it pointed out to me, by you know who, that they were doing an abridged version of the throw kata. The judges surprised everyone by asking them to come back and do the last three throws.  I wondered if someone was going to get their belt based on this performance.

In fact, I wondered aloud about just how many of the competitors were also here as a test for their next rank.  

“Oh, probably a few of those here,” Bob replies.  

It really does seem like he knows everything about Judo sometimes.

More kata, more time passed, and we talked our way into getting sandwiches on the house.  Then back into the dojo to watch the rest of the competition.  Around this time is when we noticed these two young judoka, one a black belt, the other brown.  Their last names were Oishi and they were plain amazing.  

Crisp movements, precision, and definitely endurance. We commented Sam and Bob and myself about just how good they’d grow to be in the coming years and just how much these ‘young tigers’ as Bob would put it would shine.

Just before the end of the tournament, Fukuda sensei who was sitting on a wheeled out of the dojo for one reason or another.  As she went past us I kept hearing ‘gomen nasai, gomen,’ from her.   Then on her way back, she was apologetic even as those who were scurrying out of the way would stop then bow briefly.   

I couldn’t help but do the same, especially after watching just how gentle and beautiful this side of Judo could indeed be.

There was also a reminder from Bob that you could see the beauty of it all and still be gently irreverent, as he commented how it looked as if Itsutsu no kata really would have something extra to it if the performers were in kabuki style outfits.


Tori: ( Tori (取り?) is a term used in Japanese martial arts to refer to the executor of a technique in partnered practice. The term "tori" comes from the verb toru (取る?), meaning "to take", "to pick up", or "to choose".

Uke: ( In Japanese martial arts, the uke (受け?) (IPA: [ɯke]) is the person who "receives" a technique.

The exact role of uke also known as a partner, varies between the different arts and often within the art itself depending on the situation. For instance in aikido, judo kata, and bujinkan ninjutsu uke initiates an attack against his partner, who then defends, whereas in competition judo, there is no designated uke.

[Pictures coming]


Kyuzo Mifune:

I’ll let the internets do the talking for me here.  This is him at seventy year’s of age:

Ju No Kata:
Nage No Kata:
Itsutsu No Kata:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Made it back to the dojo today for a group class, instead of the early morning practices with Tennis and Maija -- I'll be back to those next week!

So instead of focusing on sword, I got to be all fu-nerd ADD and do both sword and Jujutsu.

Boy have I got a lot to learn when it comes to the not-punchy side of things. The rudiments of joint control are there, but I've no formal training in how to best manipulate them, or balance. I've a hodgepodge of tai chi, judo mixed in with my karate knowledge ( along with a good helping of anatomical knowledge thanks to my dad .)

That helps in a pinch, and when you have to think on your feet, but there's a fascinating methodology to this. It's not quite about getting a hit in, or kumite ( waa-chah .) It's like a lab where you learn with live subjects the dynamic behavior of the body as a system.

It's neat.

This, got me to thinking that I have got to slow down. It's such a different mindset from the quick movement, and strikes side of the martial arts tracks. It fills in the gaps by being taught in what to me feels like it were being told in Entish.

The sound of a clue landing hard follows.

Right. Slow down, enjoy the techniques for what they are, and remember fact other folks are willing to let you toss them around for your anatomical and martial enlightenment.

So, yeah, good class.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lies To Children

There is a concept out there which is called lie-to-children, also called Wittgenstein's ladder (thanks Wikipedia!,) which I learned about while looking up information on Discworld characters and concepts. I realize this is an odd thing with which to start a conversation on martial arts, but bear with me.  

The concept, in a nutshell, is that sometimes it is easier to simplify, or gloss over a difficult concept while trying to teach a more general one.  Once you've gained aptitude, it's time to revisit the concept which was glossed over and move to understand it so one may gain a full picture of what is going on.

I've come to a similar place in my knowledge of martial arts.  It is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.  The realization which struck me is that the style which I practice, Goju-Ryu Shorei, is what one may call an orphan style; it is not a school that is recognized by, as far as I know, any of the major karate organizations.  

You see, for years I had not looked beyond what I heard, or knew as common knowledge within our dojo: that our style had arrived to Argentina with Seibum Uchima Sensei and that there was a fairly direct line to Choyun Miyagi.  Beyond that, I was convinced that the Goju-Ryu which I practice was nearly the same as the sanctioned version of it.  

Even searching through readily available and curated lineages in the archive, I could find very little information save for a page reserved for 'offshoots' of the main style.

While the words of the editors of the site show respect for these various new branches in the ever-evolving world of martial arts, now the words mean something different than when I first read them a few years ago.  Now that I am far more aware of our lack of ties to larger organizations, I realized that, we are our own school, a distinct style born of Goju-Ryu.  

For a while I felt adrift, as if an intellectual safety net had been cut away.  I would have to learn our history anew, with new eyes that recognize the differences in styles, but tempered by a mind that understands they are all a continuation of a constant state of learning.  

While I had embraced the idea of not dismissing other martial arts, I did not seek out further experience in the field, believing that I could rely on the history of my style to back me up, as if the past could lend veracity and velocity to my words and strikes.  The past can teach me, but it cannot reach out and smack someone in a physical sense.

I still feel adrift, a little lost, but with a renewed interest in the history of Okinawan martial arts (and all martial arts systems in general), the styles which led to it, and the future of it.  The refinement of our style as well as the application of bio-mechanical analysis to improve, or at least understand, why some techniques work and others do not.  These are all fascinating facets which I'd neglected through my sitting on the laurels of my style's ancestors.  

These realizations do not obviate the fact that I have trained both diligently and not over the course of my life, and that I have earned my nidan.  I will not wake up tomorrow to find that I have lost what skill I have nor that I have forgotten most of the kata -- the latter took a very concerted effort of not practicing them.

What these realization bring to the fore, though, is that I should not take what I believe I know for granted, that I should examine this knowledge as closely as I would the minute motions in a kata that hide deeper techniques so cleverly right where everyone can see them.

Move quickly.
Sound, and calm mind.
Be light in body
Have a clever mind
Master the basics

-- Gogen Yamaguchi

Time to listen to these words, but not feel so romantic about the past that I forget to look forward to the future I can build.


kata:  Literally a set of steps to accomplish something, a ‘form’.  In the context of martial arts it is a series of movements that help in illustrating possible usages for the various techniques of a style.


Shoreikan Lineage -

Five Secrets of Goju Ryu -

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning a Kata

One of the important aspects of karate which I've neglected are kata.  There are a few which I remember and practice quite often, such as Sanchin and Tensho.  Those, with their diminutive space requirements are quite easy to practice in the limited space of an apartment living room. While relatively short, they still have enough application fodder and exercise to them that they’re effective in keeping my skills, if not sharp, at least from growing too dull.

However, those which require more space are memories of thought that have eroded with time.    

Okay, perhaps it's not as dramatic as that, but while I remember short phrases of the kata themselves, I could most likely only string the whole thing together if I were under hypnosis.  I remember stances, movements, application, but the whole shape of the kata is fuzzy at best.

How, then, should I go about memorizing the form, committing it not just to the memory of thought, but also that of motion?

Find Space

Any space will do as long as you’re not trespassing.  It should be large enough to move around freely without running into furniture or passers by and relatively flat, too.  A bit of variation in the terrain is just fine; got to work on that balance sometime.

Find Someone Who Knows It

This is most certainly the best way to go about it, though it can also be costly, or it may take time to find a teacher.  If you've no experience with a kata, it's probably best to find a teacher willing to share their knowledge.  

Since we live in the future, there's also the possibility of using video chat to actually converse with a sensei or fellow student .  While it won't replace them actually correcting your posture with touch, they may help to remind you of what's next.

On that vein, there's always YouTube, which is a fantastic tool to find all the karate kata videos you want.  But at one point you'll probably notice that there are various versions and myriad variations on the same kata.  A quick search for Sanseru gave me 206 results, and the first three are all basically the same, but quite different in their execution.

None of these will necessarily be wrong, -- unless there's something obviously boneheaded going on mid-kata -- but instead reflect differences in the schools from various locales.  Watching how others perform it may even open your eyes to an application you'd never considered.

Kata change all the time. Consider Sanchin kata, which has been around in various forms from its roots in Fujien, China, where it was practiced with open hands.  It has variously been changed to include closed hands (though many Okinawan styles outside Goju have conserved the open hand movements,) and there are versions with turns...

....and without:

For an extreme example of how katas can differ between styles, we can look toward Ishimine Ryu’s Kuma-Te Sanchin.   As Mark Bishop describes in the book “Okinawan Karate:”
Kuma-te Sanchin is unique to this style and is imitative of the bear (kuma). The stance is solid and bigger than in the Sanchin katas of other styles. The movements also resemble those of a bear; for example one of the arm movements is representative of a bear scooping fish from water.  The butt of the palm is the primary weapon and, because the finger tips are curled over, the hand resembles a bear’s paw.
If you're trying to re-learn the kata, as in my own case, I just find the ones that remind me of what I used to do, or the ones in my own library of videos --  most of which are on YouTube, which makes me wonder why I keep the collection around.

The videos you find are only guidelines, and each practitioner will have a slightly different interpretation of the form.  Some will look picture-perfect, others may look a little sloppy, but what you have to focus upon is not getting hung up on the technique and how it’s executed by them, but by your own execution of the technique.  Like a cover of a rock tune, or the taste of soylent green, each kata subtly will vary from person to person.

Write it Down

First you need to keep in mind that the written version is not the true version, since it can never quite capture the subtleties of a movement that are so much more easily explained by a teacher.  But as you write it down you give yourself yet another reference to the movement, and the thought behind it; it’ll help you build a larger set of pointers to the knowledge and make it harder to lose in the future.  

Try to commit to memory the movement itself, even as you try to capture these in prose while keeping in mind that your words cannot carry with them the actual movement or a demonstration of it.  It’s a hard juggling act to keep these nearly contradictory ideas balanced.  Try to describe movements as simply as possible without falling prey to lyrical obfuscation.  While ‘swoop like a swallow to the left’ may be quite lovely to read, you may find yourself wondering just what you were trying to say when you come back to read your notes later on in life.

Since the knowledge is heavily internalized, why go out of our way to write things down and to express in our words the forms which you’re learning?  You’re teaching yourself, in your own words by writing it down.  Not only that, but you are contributing to the body of knowledge of your art!  You make sure that there’s a record that is, in a small way, part of your legacy as a martial artist.

Try as best as you can to learn applications for the katathe aforementioned videos often include sections on bunkai (application, analysis, disassembly) of the various parts of the kata.  These are extremely interesting to study as well as giving your mind yet another reference to the material you’re trying to learn.

Even if you forget it again, the pieces of it will remain, waiting for you to affix them to the scaffolding that the kata provides and to once again give them a framework wherein they can flow freely into one another.

Try, also, to give further context to the technique.  At the top of my notes, I'm writing a short blurb on the history of each kata.  So far they've been easy to track down, since they're quite recent; later, older ones will most likely take plenty of hunting around through articles, history books, as well as everyone's favorite go-to, wikipedia.

In Closing

Practice and study.

Practice not in the way that you usually think of it.  Practice is a more of a full meditation on the katanot just each step, but the flow between them, their application, and even how their prose sits upon the page.   This is also study, because in this mindset you will want to answer the questions that come up when going through the motions, or pondering them after training.  Seek answers and seek further questions for yourself or others to help answer.   

It’s not just going through the motions.  Go forth and train!

Some Links:

Mark Bishop’s Okinawan Karate book is quite the read.  Short, but it gets across the point that one should approach the arts with an understanding that each style is not compartmentalized, but that each is a different interpretation of how to make use of one’s body mechanics:

The search for Sanseru (it returned even more links than when I wrote this piece just a few days ago!):

A fantastic article on bunkai and how to approach it: