Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is it breaking with tradition?

In my down time, I enjoyed studying other interesting martial arts on You Tube, such as I Liq Chuan. ILC incorporates a lot of spiral movements and embraces the idea of coiled energy. Once in a while I'll find myself unconsciously trying out techniques in sparring I've seen but never practiced.

An example from my first sparring session after returning: Rather than meeting my opponent's jab with a hard block, once or twice my leading hand would move in a spiral motion like scooping ice cream. At the same time, I pivoted on my rear leg to angle back and outside of the attack.

The result was my opponent's hand would continue on its trajectory, but not in a straight line. The scooping, spiral motion caused my opponent's hand to angle down and cross their other hand, looking rather like someone tried to braid their arms together. It was weird, but effective.

So I suppose it leads naturally to the question of tradition. If I discover a move from a martial art other than the one I study, and it's not illegal to use, is it fair (and respectful) to incorporate it into sparring?

I think so. Until I develop more speed, I think it's OK to drop a few surprises now and then.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sparring #2: Hey, watch it!!!

Monday night sparring was quite sweet. Only 6 of us in class, so we all had ample opportunity to go a few minutes with each other.

The new knee isn't quite up to full strength when it comes to sideways forces, such as quick take-offs or retreating from an opponent (never in a straight line, right?) As a result, I've found it more comfortable to spar southpaw, with my right (operative) leg and hand forward. After almost 7 months of consideration, I've also adopted a fresh attitude about sparring.

Don't jump out of the gate like some hyperactive young buck; study your opponent, figure out their 'style' of attacks, then anticipate the attacks and go for the targets they leave. Above all, SMILE--it really seems to put an opponent off balance, especially if you compliment them when scoring a hit!

It seems so simple, but I have found it amazingly effective to enter the class with the right attitude. I'm not gonna best the energetic 13-18 year old black belts, but I can at least cover my butt. Sometimes I actually sneak in a good, clean shot, and can stretch out a matchup rather than simply be a punching bag for a 30-second, 5-0 bout.

There were a few dicey moments, however.

Fireball G, a non-blackbelt 13-year old with a killer blitz punch combo, didn't anticipate that I'd follow up a side kick with a second one. He lept for a blitz attempt, and caught my right foot squarely in the ribs as though he'd just run into a fence. I felt horrible, but found out later I'd simply got him squarely in the spot tenderized earlier that evening from sparring with another 13-year old.

Danny Longlegs, a fellow ACL tear recoveree and second degree blackbelt in TKD and Hapkido working through the curriculum at my school, had a tendency to go for spinning kicks without any punches or other combos to follow up. Telegraphing the spins, I was often able to parry his effort by stepping in for a jam, or a side kick to the waist to unbalance him when he was halfway around.

It was using my operative leg as a shield that gave me pause to think.

Danny executed a turning side kick that went off early. Rather than striking my torso, the early side-kick nailed my knee while I had it up for shielding, jolting it uncomfortably sideways. It's fine, no damage done, but his kick did smack me right where the lower screw is installed in the shin. Ouch!

A good bit of icing and things are just fine as far as I can tell, and now I know what NOT to shield against with that leg.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Batting .333

First sparring class in November, 2007: Rolled my foot, re-spraining an ankle.
Second sparring class in December, 2007: Tore my ACL trying to recover from a fall.
Third sparring class in June, 2008: No injuries.

Injury-free sparring class stats: a solid .333. Not bad, eh?

After last Friday's green light from Dr. K, I made a point to feel my way through full contact pad hits at Saturday's morning class. Everything was fantastic, no soreness in the knee, so I decided to attend sparring class Monday night.

I had a blast!

I made my instructor a bit nervous, kicking away at the punching bag while he finished teaching the beginner belt class, but assured him that my goal was to survive injury-free and I'd go easy. We warmed up with hopping drills, working on slide kicks and blitz punches for point sparring. So far, so good, and the operative knee was holding up just fine.

As we drilled on specific techniques with partners, I concluded that while it's the stronger one, my right leg didn't care to be in back. Throughout the evening I switched up stances, and it felt more comfortable with my right leg in front. If it stays that way, I may have an advantage in future matches, since my back would be towards most people's kicking leg--not a legitimate target in point sparring. We'll see.

It wasn't really until Tuesday's class that I felt any soreness at all, though I've been faithfully spending time with the cryo-cuff after classes. Things were just dandy yesterday and today, so I think I'm at a good pace right now.

The next challenge: Summer goals! Here's what I need to achieve between now and August 31st:

- Attend at least 12 regular classes
- 1000 push-ups
- 1500 slow kicks
- Minimum 150 times going through form
- 45 minutes of aerobic activity per week

Keep in mind that any of this activity done in class does NOT count. Should be easy, and the master of our school system will be presenting patches at the end of the summer for those who make their goals.

A little 5-7-5 of thanks to all you readers:

"Pop" went the weasel
My fighting spirit, broken
Your spirit heals me

Friday, June 6, 2008

Surgeon's Report: 3 Lovely Words

I had my final visit with Dr. K this morning.

His exact words:

WELCOME TO GRADUATION!

No more restrictions--even if I played football, he'd have OK'ed me for full contact.

The sky doesn't get any bluer, nor the light any greener than that. AMEN.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Just for fun!

Here's a Karate demo video of my school I created from the local main street art festival a few weeks ago.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Everybody hurts sometimes

So. My first report since returning to karate.

I gotta say, things are going fantastic!

I am resigned to non-contact exercise until I speak with Dr. K Friday morning, but that doesn't mean I can't have fun!

My first class last Friday with new students and lower belts went well. We worked on punches and elbow strikes a ton, with no leg movement save for shifting weight and proper hip rotation to put force into any given strike.

Saturday morning was an all-belt class, and in deference to my non-contact status, we worked with X-Ray paper. It makes effective targets, is durable, and offers a great snapping sound when you smack it! That class incorporated not just round kicks and hook kicks, but combinations and spin kicks as well. I proceeded cautiously, and by the end of class my knee gave no signs of trouble whatsoever delivering moderate effort kicks. It handled being the support leg on spin kicks just fine.

Monday I opted again for a lower belt class in lieu of sparring, which occurs immediately after class. Black Belt Lindsay brought birthday treats of killer cake and homemade ice cream, and we worked our stances.

Tonight's class was form work, and we ironed the wrinkles out of the middle section of the form where there's some odd front-back-front stance moves that challenge your thinking a bit! Class finished with body pad kicks, and I took that time to do my favorite slow-count kick drills. I'm impressed that most of my flexibility remained after slacking off of stretches the past 6 months.

So there's the first report since returning, folks.

Everything is far better than expected, and I'm much more relaxed since getting back into the swing of things. As my PT pointed out, I have some good experiences to use as feedback Friday morning when I meet with Dr. K.

And the knee? Haven't given it a second thought except to remember the all-important post-workout ice down. Truth be told, my knee is the one part of my body that isn't sore, and that's a good thing.

To quote R.E.M., "Everybody hurts, sometimes..."