lördag 22 mars 2014

Swedish Kata Trophy, 2014

Last weekend I participated as a judge in the Swedish Kata Trophy competition in Stockholm. It's northern Europe's largest kata competition, and is held once every year. This year they had over 600 competitors originating from everywhere between Sweden and Venezuela! This is the largest competition I've been to so far, and I must say, the level on even the kids were very high!

The day was long, it started at 8.45 with a briefing, competition started at 10.00, and we finished our last class of the day 19.00. The whole competition ended at around 20.00.

We stared off with the kids. Our tatami had 2 large classes, the first class took us 2 hours to work through. As the tatami next to us was finished with their classes quite fast, we managed to split the second class on the two tatamis. It was not always easy to rule for one or the other, as the kids kept a really high standard most of the time. And I must say I was really impressed, and quite jealous of their kata standard! I was thinking to myself, one of these days I'll be as good as these kids! (I wish!)

I really liked the rules we had for the kids. They all had two shots of performing the kata, if they stopped they were allowed to start over again. If they failed a second time, we just ruled the other one as a winner and not flagging for disqualification. They were also allowed to perform the same kata throughout the competition.

Luckily we had time for a long lunch, and a well needed break before the main events started at 2 o'clock.

They began with the kata team on the center tatami, while the other tatamis rested. The finals with the bunkai was incredible, made with a lot of imagination and performed with incredible athleticism. Although, I felt myself getting irritated over the unnecessary audible cues during the bunkai. I now understand why this is signified as a foul in the rules.

After the final of the kata team female seniors final was over (which the English ladies won), we started off on our tatami with female cadets, seniors, male seniors, and then as our last class we had a special class named Old Boys. This class was for males that are 50 years or older. They were also, as the kids, allowed to perform the same kata throughout the competition. And this time I was hoping to be in as good shape as these gentlemen were, with their balance, low stances and incredible agility!

The afternoon consisted of nonstop judging, with only short breaks between classes. I remember my parents trying to communicate with me when I was switching chairs, I only saw them waving and mumbling something, but I have no idea what they said.

I must say I was surprised that I was allowed to sit as a head judge during the competition. It was a little bit nerve wrecking, and I felt myself being more focused so that I wouldn't mess up any procedures. Of course, the first bout I almost flagged for the wrong person. Our tatami manager came up and whispered "You're holding the flags in the wrong hands"...(d'oh!)

After the competition I was invited to dinner with some of the other judges and the organisers. We met up at a local restaurant, and I got a bit shocked to see both world champion Antonio Diaz and Inoue Soke being there. I must say I got a tiny bit star struck to sit across the table of a world champion that I've only seen in YouTube videos before! And also being in the presence of a living master was very humbling.

The day after I participated in the kata seminar held by Inoue Soke. It was very interesting, and he talked a lot about where the power and speed comes from and to use the internal whip rather than big motions of the hips. I was not able to take any pictures or film as I was occupied with listening to his words, and I didn't want to miss any of them. Karate by Jesse have summarised many of the things Inoue Soke brought up during the day in this blog post.

I had the opportunity to ask for some tips about the hip and technique use in our Shorin Ryu kata, Bassai Sho. But I'm not sure my sensei or her sensei will approve of the small (but effective) changes...

All in all, it's been a great weekend and I do not regret going at all. I'm actually planning on going again next year. Hopefully I can drag some of my Norwegian colleagues with me next time!

Pictures by: Gösta Danielsson

söndag 9 februari 2014

Training for judges and referees

Last weekend we had a mock tournament for local karatekas and judges/referees. No entry fees or prizes were given, just the opportunity to sparr against anyone you wanted to in the dojo. That gave us judges a great opportunity to train as well.

We spent the afternoon in Vågsbygd KK's dojo and got a solid 3 hour training session. Everyone that wanted to got to try themselves as referees, and the karatekas got to do as much sparring as they wanted to. It was a very light atmosphere and it seems like everyone had a good time.

Erik Støen, the head referee in our area, wanted me to start the day as a referee. But I got so timid, and said I wanted to sit on the chair and flag for a few rounds before I started as a referee. They tried to push me into it, and they meant well, but I'm still struggling with my confidence.

But when I finally started as a referee it felt very natural! So I really don't know why I said no to begin with. Perhaps next time I'll start as a referee if I'm asked rather than wait as I did this time.

Afterwards we mingled and had some pizza in VKK's club room upstairs. It seems like everyone had a great afternoon, and I hope we can do this again sometime. Because us judges don't get as much training at competitions as the judges up in Oslo gets. We live in a smaller area and have fewer participants, and sometimes competitions gets cancelled due to too few karatekas or judges.

I feel happy about my performance, and it has given me another nudge to participate at the competition in Stockholm in March. All that is left now is just to find someone that can take care of my dog that weekend, and I'll be set!

Next Sunday it's time for the annual Shorin Ryu Championship. This year its being held in Søgne, west of Kristiansand. I'll be our club's coach this time. We usually have low attendance at competitions from the club, and we have recently had a few people that's been injured for a long time so I'm hoping this can be a good place for us to start up again and getting the club some confidence and inspiration.

Photographs from: Maren Hardeland Øvsthus

söndag 26 januari 2014

Foot, leg and head!

I've had to start training karate with my budo shoes again. My arthritis is acting up and is making very difficult to walk around as the lump sometimes hit the nearby nerve endings. That is creating agonizing pain shoot straight through my foot and making me scream out some very nasty profanities. And on top of that I'm walking weird again, which is making the leg pains I had a year ago come back slowly.

The gel I used to put on the arthritis is no longer working, so now I've gotten some pills from my doctor. I'm very sceptical to this, as it still won't solve the core issue. But I'll give it a shot!

So far this week I have gone to the dojo once, and today I will go to the gym when it opens at 4 o'clock. I would say karate training this week was sort of a disaster. I had switched work days from Tuesday to Thursday, so my plan was to go to the dojo on Tuesday instead of Thursday. But I was so tired after not being able to sleep and a not so pleasant dentist visit, that I decided to stay home and recuperate.

On Thursday I was convinced by a friend to go to the dojo, even though I would have much rather spent the night on the sofa. I was thinking to take it easy at training, and not push myself too much. Well, that failed and I felt myself get more and more tired in the head. When there was 20 minutes left of training I took a "wrong" step and I had shooting pains in my foot. It made up a good excuse to sit down for a bit until end of class.

Afterwards I was wiped out, and I came to the conclusion that I'm not ready to go train on the same day I have to work.

tisdag 14 januari 2014

Starting up

Today was the first karate training of 2014. It was a 2 hour session with Maren sensei. I didn't think I would last for the whole session, but it was actually easier to keep up than I thought it would. I still feel a bit wobbly in my techniques, and I'm slow as hell. But I should perhaps not expect more than that at the time. I should just see it as a success and walk from it with a feeling of improvement.

My goal for this first period is to go to the dojo once a week, and then do 1-2 short sessions at the gym. If that works out, together with my three days at work, I will try and increase the training.

I still feel more tired in my head than in my body after a training session, and I still yawn and feel a bit dizzy when too much is happening. So sometimes I just have to take a breather and collect my mind for a bit before I move on to the next bit. Specially the coordination gets messed up, and things that would be logical before (and still sometimes is in my mind) isn't working for my body. But that will come back with time.

I don't feel ready to go too crazy with free sparring at the moment, but would rather like to build up my confidence again with drills and kumite technique training.

On a side note. The Norwegian judges and referees has been invited to The Swedish Kata Trophy on March 15th. The competition will be on a Saturday, and on the Sunday there will be a seminar with Yoshimi Inoue, 8 Dan JKF, the kata teacher of Antonio Diaz and Rika Usami. I'm thinking about going, since Stockholm is my hometown, and both the competition and seminar looks very interesting!

I will try to keep this blog a bit more updated with my progressions both in the dojo and at the gym!

tisdag 17 december 2013

Training with mental struggles

I don't like calling it depression, because to me I'm not depressed and I've never once said I was. I've said I've crashed and burned mentally, am having mental struggles or have gotten knocked down.

During this time I haven't been able to work out as often as I used to three months ago. Because, what's the point? I stand there, in the dojo, and get confused, start off on the wrong kata, head starts to spin, all the techniques feels half arsed, and in the middle of all I start yawning. And the people not knowing what's going on starts asking me why I'm sitting down and not participating. It's not that I don't want to, I just can't, and I'm afraid to miscalculate a kick or a punch and hurt my opponent, or misstep and make myself go flying into someone or the wall. More often that not I exit the dojo feeling like I've been punched in the head several times, even though all we have done is kata and kihon.

Even going to the gym is a struggle. Just knowing that I will fight myself through the two or three exercises I can do without getting tired is not very motivating. And to just think, before this all started I was about to increase the weights and/or reps on every exercise in my full body program! And now it feels like I'm back on square one, just starting off again like I did 2-3 years ago. The worst part is, I know I need to work out to avoid all the different problems I already have with my body. Hip flexors, shoulder strain, arthritis...

I told Terje sensei at the annual SKAN championship a month ago, that I haven't lost interest. I just can't find the motivation. And that is completely the truth. Every time I see someone training karate, I remember I used to have that joy on my face and in my mind not too long ago. I want to get back to that place! And that's the only motivation I have to keep trying, and never to quit.

Even though these mental struggles has taken a toll on my self confidence, and has demotivated me, I haven't stopped working out in the dojo or at the gym. I've shown up at training on the days that hasn't consisted of meltdown, and I've participated on things I feel I can handle. Sometimes I've sat there looking at everyone else and feeling that I miss it, that I want to be there with them. I just can't.

Some weeks I've trained 2-3 times, other weeks zero. But that's counting physical training. Every day I have been working out mentally, either if it's just having a walk, going to work, or even writing! Not all training gives soreness in your muscles, it can also give soreness in your mind.

When I failed the black belt exam this summer, my thoughts were to try again this Christmas. But after less than half this semester, even before the first knock down, I had doubts about making it in time. And after the bang, I knew I had to drop something, and it was a given choice to drop the exam. I'm glad I dropped it. Karate isn't a race, it's a marathon. And if I'm not there mentally I shouldn't even attempt shodan!

I have decided to take the exam again Christmas 2014. I'm hoping that will give me enough time to get back in training and to find the motivation I need to pass.

To make this happen, I have taken another step back. I've resigned as an instructor in the club, and will act as a temp if another instructor is sick or has other obligations. When I said this to the other instructors, they were supportive of my choice and understood why I had to do it. I love being an instructor, but if it means that I will be able to work myself up to participate in training again it is a good choice. And I actually feel relieved to not having to come to the dojo with students waiting for me, but doing it in my own time.

I believe working out has kept me strong for a longer time than without it, and not completely letting all this negativity seep in. I also believe that without karate and martial arts I would never have become as self confident as I was half a year ago. And now it will help me to rebuild myself and make me find the motivation and self confidence again. I just have to take it one step at the time.

Taking a few steps back once in a while is not a defeat. It can actually be healthy, and will help one see the bigger picture.

lördag 5 oktober 2013

No one to remind me

Karate training is not going according to plan. At most I'm at the same level as during the spring, if not worse. I feel there is no one to remind me to become better than yesterday, to push my boundaries! The only place I feel I have developed is my strength and stability, but that is because I train more at the gym nowadays.

I know I most probably have to try and push myself to become better. But I tried doing that during the spring semester, and it didn't quite work out as planned. I need someone to push me to become better and better. I don't have that drive myself.

At the moment it's hard to focus on the good things and remember them for the next training, staying motivated to continue to the (what I see it as) the finish line. I know getting the black belt is just the beginning. But to me I see it as becoming free of belt exams and just training at my own pace, perhaps going for nidan when I feel like it. Right now it feels like I have to, to get acknowledged in many parts of the martial arts world.

I know I cannot compare to most of the people training martial arts. But there are many reasons why people train. For me it has always been that it makes me feel better, I get to achieve something.

Somewhere along the road this past year I have lost the achievement part. I don't feel like I have achieved anything important, and now I'm just putting things off that I could have done yesterday.

I don't feel the support from the club as much as I did before. No one seems to want to become better at karate, but would rather just meet up to hang out. Social aspects are important too, but can't that be done while training martial arts?

This afternoon I was thinking of maybe putting off the black belt exam for yet another year, just because our sensei is on maternity leave and won't be back until next autumn. I don't feel like I can achieve this dream I have in this current situation. We don't have black belt potential in the club as it is right now. And I can't blame anyone for it. I don't wish to either. It's just how it is.

When I started training five years ago I never saw myself getting a black belt. Not until I got my brown belt did I see that maybe I had potential. But this year has been so unfortunate with the arthritis in my foot, strained chest muscle and not having enough job to fully support myself. And on top of that the source of inspiration in the club is taking a break (which I fully understand).

To say the least, this year has had some very very bad turns and it has hit my confidence pretty hard.

tisdag 10 september 2013

What doesn't kill me makes me stronger!

It's not a secret that I failed the black belt exam this summer. Of course I'm disappointed, mostly in myself for not pushing myself more in the kumite part. And I'm still processing the emotions that keeps popping up every time I think of the exam. So I haven't really been that keen on sharing it here on the blog, as I don't really know where to start.

During the summer I took a complete break from karate and focused on getting my general strength up instead. So I joined the near by gym and got a good strength training routine from one of the Personal Trainers there. I felt and immediate effect, and will continue training there.

Last week I got a new program to build up my endurance along with my strength. I tried it out this weekend, and it's truly heavy duty! Will be fun to push myself and feel that I'm getting stronger.

I will take the black belt exam again this Christmas. So the plan is to visit other clubs in neighboring cities that are a bit better than us in kumite, and learn from them, as well as train at the gym 1-2 times per week. I don't feel the need to train more kihon and kata than just repeating it at normal training, as I'm quite strong in those areas already.