Tag Archives: karate

_____ is Like Boiling Water

IMG_0003Learning through practice is like pushing a cart up a hill: if you slack off, it will slip backwards. – a Japanese proverb.

Back in June, I wrote a post (The Difference Between Men and Animals) on the first principle of Gichin Funakoshi’s Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate. Today, I wanted to discuss the eleventh principle, which pertains to everyone, not just martial artists.

Karate is like boiling water: without heat, it returns to its tepid state.

The book explains that continuous study, concentration and diligence is the hallmark of success. Random practice is not sufficient.

This is true of any life pursuit. Go ahead and fill the blank in for yourself.  _______ is like boiling water: without heat, it returns to its tepid state.

banner300x300In the event you filled in the blank with the word WRITING, then perhaps you’d like to know of another opportunity for you to continue your writing training: the Liberty States Fiction Writer’s Conference in Woodbridge, NJ on Saturday March 16, 2013. This conference is for writers AND readers. Not only did I find my agent through this conference, but I also received a publishing offer (I ultimately signed with a different house, but still…magical things do happen in NJ!) There are plenty of workshops to continue craft and a book signing too.

No matter what you filled in the blank with, make sure you keep practicing it. Since this is the time of year to reflect on 2012 and prepare for 2013, this is a good time to think about how you will continue your practice.

What did you fill in the blank with?  What are you planning to do to continue practicing it? I love hearing from you! Please leave a comment below.

~K.M. Fawcett

Strength Training Okinawa Style

Thank you to my husband and sensei, Scott Fawcett, for allowing me to reprint the following article he wrote for our dojo newsletter.

A chiishi in an Okinawan dojo – 2008

Chiishi are traditional Okinawan karate training tools which are used to strengthen and condition the muscles; especially the shoulders, forearms, wrists and grip. There are many variations of the chiishi with the most common being a concrete stone of varying weight on the end of a long wooden handle. The handle length can vary but is generally the length from the elbow to the fingertips and about 1-1/2″ in diameter. Chiishi drills can also be practiced from horse stance (Shiko-Dachi or Seiunchin-Dachi) and other stances to develop stronger legs.

Chiishi are believed to have originated from either a tool used to wind thread (around the handle) during the manufacture of Okinawan textiles or from grinding stones used in the preparation of food. Both were common tools that would have been easily available to a karate student looking for something to lift when conditioning. Similar tools have been used throughout Asia for thousands of years to build, strengthen and condition the body to ready the warrior for the rigors of combat.

Tokumura Sensei teaching Alex Choo to use the chiishi.

When visiting different dojo on Okinawa, we noticed that most had chiishi. In 2008, Tokumura Kensho Sensei showed us how to use the chiishi and explained that he works chiishi drills daily to keep his body strong. He added that these exercises have helped him maintain strength into his late 60′s.

I attempted my first batch of home made chiishi a few weeks back and was pleased with the result. I am doing some research and hoping to improve them when I make my next batch.

Mixing concrete to make the chiishi turned into father/son bonding time. :)  I hope the next batch they make are smaller so that I can use them. Concrete is heavy people! Thanks again Scott for allowing me to reprint your article.

So have any of you ever made a homemade training tool? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

~K.M. Fawcett

Practice Makes Perfect

Thanks Melinda, for that fabulous introduction! And thank you Rayna, Melinda and Kathy for inviting me to blog along with you on Attacking The Page.  I must admit I struggled with what I would post for my first blog until Kathy said, just be yourself and you’ll be fine. So here goes…

The other night, after karate class, I spoke to a fellow student who mentioned that when he performs a Kata, a series of karate moves, before the teachers in our dojo, he’s never frightened. Wow. Admiration for his self-assurance and poise raced through me. I told myself what I’ve found countless times to be true: practice makes perfect. The karate student I spoke to has been studying longer, so naturally, his skills are more advanced.

On my drive home, I considered how dedication and perseverance not only allow me to trust myself as a writer, but push myself in karate training. These qualities are what keep me going. But this was the clincher for me: assurance and poise are the qualities that have helped me find my true writing ‘voice’, and I never realized they’d been in my artillery all along. For me, it was an Oprah, ah ha moment. So I sat back and smiled, knowing that in time, assurance and poise will enter the dojo with me. Until then, I will continue to work hard, and remind myself that everyone learns at their own pace. My Sensei told me, if karate was easy, everyone would be taking class. How true. The same can be said for the publishing world. If writing a good book were an easy task, everyone would be published.

In 2004, I started my writing journey. After publishing a children’s non-fiction book, library sales dropped, so I turned to writing romance and I haven’t looked back. In 2011, I began studying Issinryu Karate, and one year later, I feel empowered and confident. I believe practice does make perfect, and although our journeys are diverse, and may spread over different spans of time, odds are, just like me, you have qualities you aren’t aware of, and your Oprah, ah ha moment, is waiting for you too if you trust in yourself and look deep inside.

Because I’m a vertically challenged woman, on a good day I’m five feet tall, I began karate as a means of self-defense so I would feel safe whenever and wherever life took me. It’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. One year ago, fear would have riddled me helpless if someone approached me in a dark venue with the intention of hurting me. Now, I’m tenacious and self-assured, and God help the man waiting for me in some dark, parking lot…because I guarantee he’ll be the one running for help, not me.

Writing Fight Scenes

I’m deep in edits right now so thought I’d share a post I wrote 2 years ago on writing fight scenes. Enjoy! I’ll let you know how the revisions go when they’re over.

A few weeks ago a writer friend asked me for some help with her fight scene. She gave me her chapter, minus the fight, so I could get an idea of what was happening in the story. The chapter was good, but I couldn’t help her with the scene just yet. I needed more information.

To begin with, I had to know what she wanted to accomplish with the fight. Did she want the hero to knock out the bad guy? Maim him? Kill him? What are the hero’s and the villain’s experience and skill as fighters? We’ve already learned from a previous post, Perfection of One’s Character, how important characterization is. Therefore, knowing the Hero’s background is key. A boxer fights differently than a karate man. A karate man fights differently than a grappler. A grappler fights differently from (insert your style of choice here). Do the characters have police or military or combat training? Know your characters!

I also wanted to know what kind of an exchange she wanted to have happen. A quick exchange of a few blows or an all out brawl? If she wanted to knock the guy out quietly, the hero might put the villain in a choke hold until he passes out. If she wanted a lot of action and movement, then she could choreograph a fight scene with punches, blocks, kicks and throws.

Was there a weapon involved? In this case there wasn’t, but remember in a fight anything can potentially become a weapon, even dirt in the eyes to blind the other guy, sticks, garden gnomes, you name it. Just because there is no obvious weapon like a gun or knife doesn’t mean you can’t improvise one. More on improvised weapons in this post.

What is the setting? Is it day or night? Are they indoors or out? What is the lighting? The weather? The terrain? Take all these things into consideration when planning your scene. If your characters are outside a home, they can throw each other into the side of the house, a tree, a car parked in the driveway, the rose bushes, a swing set. This is your chance to create an exciting and unique fight scene. Have fun with it.

Pay attention to the character’s distance from each other. If they are further away, they might use kicks (See Melinda’s post on different types of kicks). When in striking distance, they can punch and block and slug it out (See Melinda’s post on punches). If they are in very close, they can uppercut under the chin, into the neck, into the solar plexus, or into the groin. Maybe a character takes the other guy down and they start grappling (wrestling). Arm bars, locks or chokes can be used either on the ground or standing. The possibilities are only limited to your imagination.

Just remember that a fight scene needs to be important to the story, not gratuitous. The fighting must be within character and believable. And if you aren’t sure something will work, get out of the chair, find a willing partner and experiment with your fight choreography together.

~KM Fawcett

The Uncarved Block

I’m in a philosophical mood today. The following excerpt comes from the book SIMPLE TAOISM -  A GUIDE TO LIVING IN BALANCE by C. Alexander Simpkins PH.D. and Annellen Simpkins PH.D. Give some thought as to how this relates to your attitude toward your writing, your karate, and your everyday living.  

Imagine for a moment that you are an accomplished woodworker. You look at an uncarved block of wood with a certain affection, knowing that here is uncreated potential. As an uncarved block it can be anything – the possibilities are infinite. No one can name it because it has not yet become something except what it is in its natural, untouched state, much like Tao.

The Taoists believe that we return to a state like the uncarved block of wood, we find Tao.

Human beings are often in a hurry to acquire the finished product, the carving. But once the item is produced the limitless Tao is lost. A carving of an object is only that one thing. It has a name. It has come into existence. Eventually it will become worn, broken or lost, going through its cycle of existence-nonexistence. But the original uncarved block is nameless, beyond definition, quietly open. The sage tries to be like an uncarved block, open to potential without being limited to one definition.            

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment.

~K.M Fawcett

The Difference Between Men And Animals

“Do not forget that karate begins and ends with rei.”

This is the first of twenty principles passed down from the father of modern day karate, Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi brought his Okinawan martial art of self-defense to mainland Japan, which contributed to its introduction to the rest of the world.

If you’re wondering what karate has to do with the difference between men and animals, stick with me. You’ll soon understand, Grasshopper.

Rei means respect. Respect for others and respect for ourselves.

We demonstrate this respect in karate class every time we bow…onto the dojo floor, to our sensei (teacher), or to our workout partner. The bow is a sign of esteem, respect and courtesy. The bow signifies our willingness to learn and our appreciation for being taught. It assures our partner of our desire to work together to advance both our training; we are not facing off in combat.

Though anyone can go through the motions and bow when they are supposed to and at all the correct times, if they do not have a sincere heart, they do not possess true rei. As it states in The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate by Gichin Funakoshi, “True rei is the outward appearance of a respectful heart.”

In this book, Funakoshi guides us in the spiritual aspects of martial arts. Yes, contrary to what most American’s think, karate is much more than striking, punching, and kicking. Karate-do is a way of life. A philosophy. And these philosophies are not only meaningful in martial arts, but in our everyday lives. These principles encourage us to take a deeper look at ourselves, at how we live and how we treat those around us.

By now I’m sure you’ve made the connection between the title and the blog post.  Only man can show respect and courtesy. Funakoshi’s book states, “The difference between men and animals lies in Rei. Combat methods that lack rei are not martial arts but merely contemptible violence. Physical power without rei is no more than brute strength, and for human beings it is without value.

All martial arts begin and end with rei. Unless they are practiced with a feeling of reverence and respect, they are simply forms of violence. For this reason martial arts must maintain rei from beginning to end.”

I believe everything must maintain rei from beginning to end, whether its school, career, religion, relationships or time for fun. If we treated everyone and everything with reverence, respect, and courtesy, the world would be a much nicer and safer place to interact.

Are you living your life with true rei? Do you treat yourself and others with courtesy, esteem and respect? Do your characters? What changes can you make right now to demonstrate the rei in your heart? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

FOR FUN: What Spider-man quote relates this statement from The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate by Gichin Funakoshi? “The difference between men and animals lies in Rei.”

~K.M. Fawcett

Body Mechanics

Good friends at Sensei Advincula's seminar

I just returned home from another great seminar given by Isshinryu karate master, Sensei A.J. Advincula. Today he discussed and demonstrated body mechanics, which is one of my favorite topics. I find it fascinating how accurate positioning of the body, and proper tensing of the correct muscles can double or even triple a person’s strength. Since I’m a small person, I need all the strength I can get. Conversely, if your positioning is off by a little (even by a half inch) your strength is minimized.

At the seminar, we experimented with many different arm positions to determine how to get the most power from your punches and blocks. I’d like to share some video clips with you on Thursday’s blog (assuming I can figure out how to do that) to demonstrate what I’m talking about. Then you can try it at home and see for yourself what proper body alignment can do for your karate.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the video on body mechanics.

On a personal note, I’d like to wish my grandma Gert a very happy 95th birthday today! I love you grandma!! :)

~K.M. Fawcett

Scream And Shout

Pacific Ocean 2010

In Monday’s post, we discussed that the goal of self-defense is not to win, but to not lose. If you haven’t read the post and are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, click here.

In the comments, someone had shared her story of being attacked years ago and being so stunned at the viciousness, she couldn’t fight back. All she could do was scream. She kept screaming as he punched her in the face. She kept screaming as he yelled at her to shut-up. And because she kept screaming, he feared she’d gain attention from the on-coming cars and he ran off. In other words, she did fight back…using her voice.

When we think about self-defense, we tend to think about blocking and striking. But as we discussed in past blogs, self-defense is also about using our brains (common sense is the first step to self-defense) and heeding the warning of the little voice whispering inside us when something doesn’t feel right. Self-defense is also about using our VOICE. Screaming to gain attention from someone who can intervene or call the police is as important as striking our attacker. Remember, he does not want to get caught.

Our voice is so important to self-defense that we even have a name for it.

Kiai (Kee-eye). It’s a spirit shout. And it has a few purposes:

  1. It helps draw attention to our situation.
  2. It can scare our attacker.
  3. It tightens our muscles to prepare us to take a hit.
  4. And it fires us up. (Don’t athlete’s do this before games? “Come on!”  “We got this!”  “Go [insert team name here]!” Of course they do.

You might recognize a kiai as the “hiya” from old karate movies. However, it can be any word or sound that you want to make. Swearing a string of profanities at your attacker counts. Or shouting, “Fire!” or maybe for a child, teaching them to scream, “Stranger, stranger, 911!”

It doesn’t matter what sound you make. Just make some noise. Even if it’s a high pitch girly scream (which I admit I do when someone scares me. Yes they laugh, but I can’t help the sound. I call it my auto-response kiai.)

Like singers train their voices or drill instructors train theirs, martial artist also train their kiai. Usually a new person in the dojo has trouble making any sound at first. Perhaps they feel silly or self-conscious, but after a few weeks they are shouting with enthusiasm and much spirit.

What sound you make isn’t as important as using your voice to fight back.

~KM Fawcett

A Writer’s Favorite Game and Self-Defense

Today I was in a gym surrounded by big, muscular karate guys. Guys with many years of training under their black belts. And I started to play a writer’s favorite game, What If. What if one of these guys attacked me right here, right now? Could I really, truly defend myself? Could I beat my attacker? Could I win a fight against them?

Then I remembered that traditional Okinawan karate teaches that, “The purpose of karate is not to win, the purpose of karate is to not lose.” In other words, the goal of self-defense is not to fight until I “finish off” my attacker, the goal is to fight until the attacker loses his will to continue.

Statics show that fighting back (even with no training) gives you a 50% chance of survival. This is because your attacker has 2 fears; getting caught and getting hurt.

Therefore, I don’t have to keep fighting until I win. I have to keep fighting until I don’t lose.

Don’t believe me? Then check out this video of a seven-year-old girl who was grabbed by a stranger at a Georgia Wal-Mart.

Did she win? Well, she didn’t knock him out.  Didn’t subdue him.  Probably didn’t even hurt him much.

But did she not lose? You bet she did! And THAT is the goal of self-defense!

No matter how big, strong, or scary your attacker is, keep fighting until you don’t lose!

~KM Fawcett

What Does it Feel Like to be Hit

Recently, we at ATP were asked what it felt like to be hit. Here are our answers.

Punches to the face:  While none of us are prize fighters, we do spar in karate. Even an accidental blow to the face HURTS. Eyes water reflexively. Noses bleed an extraordinary amount. When hit in the eye, even lightly, vision is blurred or cloudy for while afterward. Blows to the jaw can result in loss of consciousness (boxers refer to this as the “glass jaw”). In a street fight, the damage would likely be much worse as the person isn’t trying to score a point. His intention is to hurt his opponent.

Hard blow to the stomach:

Melinda: It effing hurts. Vomiting is common. Breathing will be difficult as the air is “knocked” out of you. I took a solid kick to the solar plexus in my sparring test for my 1st degree, through a padded rib guard, and had to bow out for about 5 minutes. My lungs felt like they wouldn’t expand. I returned to the mat, but my knees were shaky and I felt winded for the remainder (about 30 minutes) of the test. I was so glad to limp home and ice everything.

Kathy: Earlier in my training, my husband (who is also my teacher) kicked me in the right side and I swear it felt as though my midsection shifted two feet to the left (like you’d see in a cartoon character) before returning to normal.  It hurt for a while but I was ok.  Last year I got kicked really hard in the ribs and thought they were broken it hurt so bad.  They weren’t though.