The weekend of 25th March was the first of our quarterly gradings for 2017.
During the course of the weekend and the following week, Senior Examiners Bryan Andrews 6th Dan and Lindsey Andrews 4th Dan examined the following sessions
- 4 – 6 years old
- 6 – 9 years old
- 10 – 14 years old
- Adults Karate
- Ladies Chinese Kickboxing
- Combat Ju Jitsu
Congratulations to everyone who passed and earned their new belts. We never give belts away, they are always deserved. People often have to battle nerves, fear, sickness and themselves to pass. Gradings are a test and as such one has to earn the right to pass.
For all age groups, except 4 – 6 year old, all gradings are carried out at a special grading class held on a weekend outside the normal class times. Members are grouped according to age and ability to test with their peers. A beginners grading for 6 – 9 year olds would typically consist of a lesson to recap the key points to be covered during the grading itself, following on from that the children then are asked to come up in small groups to perform certain moves, drills or forms. As the children get more experienced and older, the lesson content decreases and they eventually end up testing for the whole two hours with increased expectations for demonstrating their skills and abilities. These gradings are very much a technical test of skills with pass or fail criteria and a minimum requirement for number of lessons and weeks between gradings.
On Friday 17th February I was awarded my 6th Dan in Karate from Steve Rowe Sensei 8th Dan, head of Shi Kon Martial Arts. Quite a few people have asked me what the grading involved and whether it was simply a time served promotion. The following is a précis of my experience.
Those of you who know Steve well will know that every class, lesson or seminar with him he is testing your understanding and also your techniques, so grading with him can and often is a long involved process. He will leave you in no doubt about how you are progressing and what you need to work on. Some teachers will often tell you how awesome your are, at every class, this is most definitely not Steve’s way
The formal start of my grading for me was in December 2015 and agreeing some targets to be measured against with Steve. This sorted, my wife Lindsey Andrews kindly interjected and said words to the effect that it needed to be more challenging in some areas. So version 2 was born. (Note to self, must stop Lindsey and Steve talking about me.)
Karate Kata, Kung Fu and Tai Chi forms
I had a number of these that we chose in order to show competence on some particular technical points or principles inherent in that Kata or Form.
In terms of Karate Kata, the Shito Ryu ones selected from me were Suparinpei, Chatan Yara Kushanku, Kosukan Dai and Anan. The Shotokan ones were Gojushiho Dai, Sochin and Tekki Shodan. Some of these were ‘ticked’ off earlier during the year so I could put them to one side and others, notably Suparinpei and Chatan Yara Kushanku I continued to work on throughout the whole of the period and in fact I’ve still been working on improving these two today. I have to say that this doesn’t mean that I think I know these Kata yet, merely that for the sake of my improving some technical deficiency or skill, I worked on these Kata and when we thought I was showing reasonable competence, I moved on. Clearly as a teacher I need to know a number of Kata to be able to competently teach them, however for my personal training, I generally work on no more than 4 at a time and try to look in depth. To give you an idea I worked on Tekki Shodan for about 25 years as my favourite Kata playing lots with the Kata and how I performed it and still know there’s m0re to learn. I was given Kata from two different styles as each style performs their Kata with slightly different nuances in terms of power generation, timing, and stances.
Moving onto the Shi Kon system, I was looking at all the forms we practice from both a practical physical aspect and as a teacher working on understanding at what level of training do students begin to grasp the concept of internal principles and how to better develop students with this skill. When is it appropriate to anticipate a student being able to demonstrate that they are utilising these principles in their training and how would you expect them to demonstrate this. Finally where is the significant switch from hard to soft training in our Karate/Kung Fu systems. The beauty of the Forms is that as senior instructors we are encouraged to make them our own, so different clubs will have some idiosyncrasies of their own because of the thinking of their chief instructor, it goes without saying that we have to test and validate the forms.
I’ve been working for many years with Steve on our Yang family Tai Chi syllabus. So it wasn’t a surprise that I had the challenge of being able to apply the core techniques, dynamics and harmonies to each of the forms including The Tai Ki Form, Grasp Sparrows Tail, The Long Form, Long Boxing, 2 Person Form, Broadsword, Double Edge Sword and the Spear. Not forgetting also being able to apply these skills to partnerwork. Although a very different art to Karate, there are many similarities to explore and which have helped me to improve my Karate.
I also had a number of fitness and fighting targets courtesy of my wife to get ready for the WUKF World Championships in Dublin in Summer 2016. With a mixture of hard focussed training against the senior grades at our club, who really pushed me hard from January to June to iron out some areas I wasn’t happy with. Plus advice and feedback pre Dublin and during the matches themselves from Sensei Tricia Jordan The Shi Kon Head Coach in Dublin.
I exceeded my expectations and targets and after a very tough evening of fights starting at 8:20pm and finishing at 11:45pm I won a Gold Medal in the Veterans Kumite. (We had other members of the Shi Kon Martial Arts squad who also Won Gold medals in their respective divisions.)
I was really pleased with my performance, but was more proud of the fact that we, as an association were able to showcase Karate as an inclusive activity for all as part of the opening ceremony.
As an Association coach I also had a number of coaching targets, including looking at what are the best in class practices for Martial Arts Clubs/Associations in a number of different areas, Sport England Clubmark recertification, charity and community work, coaching at seminars and in clubs, mentoring clubs and coaches and improving value to our members.
Other areas being tested
Like the other Black Belt candidates at our club in Basingstoke, I had a number of other topics to work through which needed to be signed off. Like everyone else with each of these areas, I was challenged to test my beliefs, views and actions in each of these.
These areas included:-
- a monthly review of skills and areas to focus upon
- a food diary for at least a month to review nutritional needs
- a training diary for at least a month
- reviews of progress against targets
- the application of my learning to members
- progress of 2016 potential Black Belt candidates
In essence my grading was a mixture of physical techniques, a number of theory based areas around the physical skills which were demonstrable and repeatable along with coaching skills all tested and retested over a 16 month period. Additional training and testing from many members at our club in different areas and what seemed like endless private lessons with my wife who encouraged me to do better, I’m still trying. Private lessons most weeks with Steve to work on what he thought I needed to work on and lots of surprises saying “we worked on this x weeks / y months ago, show me. Monday 13th February a nice session with Lindsey looking at Kosukan Dai and being not so gently prompted to fix some issues in a couple of sequences. A wise teacher once told me, train everyone day and you will improve. I had a private lesson with Steve on Wednesday 15th February and he told me that we were going to work on the beginners Tai Chi form. The key thing from both was Fundamentals or Kihon is really the key to success.
This is what my grading involved. Someone else’s grading with Steve will be slightly different as he will get that person to focus upon their own weaknesses and areas that need improvement and will challenge them accordingly.
I’m lucky really that I’ve had some very good teachers over the years who have all helped me to improve as a Martial Artist.
Whilst living in Torbay, Dave Owen Sensei helped to set a thirst for high quality Karate and consistently set high standards to follow and exceed. A superb and much under-rated Karate technician, thanks for setting me on the right path.
Hirokazu Kanazawa Sensei who in my mid 20s introduced me to the concept of Tai Chi and soft Karate after I fought him at our dojo and lost convincingly. I stopped competition Karate immediately to focus upon this and 25 years later, I’m still trying.
Tomiko Mitsuoka Sensei, who although many years older than most of her class, 9/10 times got into the line and trained with us and outdid us in terms of effort and performance. I remember turning up to a class once and only her and I were there, I asked her if she wanted to cancel the class and go home, I can’t remember her exact words, but it was to the extent of “stupid boy of course not.” Or the course she taught for a number of very senior Black belts, my phone line buzzed for 2 weeks with the complaints “that the training was too hard and we didn’t need to train like that anymore.”
Mitsusuke Harada Sensei from Karate-Do Shotokai although of slight stature a real Karate giant with some very impressive Karate, he and his senior students like Tony Lima Sensei helped me to understand Shotokan better and want to be able to block like Harada Sensei and punch like Tony Lima Sensei.
After 22 years of putting up with me, I’d like to Thank Steve Rowe, for his laughter, admonishments and encouragement to become the best Martial Artist I can be. Above all it is else his laughter at me and with me, that teaches me. I’m not there yet, but I’m still trying and I will get there. I knew I must be improving when part way through 2016 Steve told me that my Tai Chi almost looked like Tai Chi now, almost. The same is true of much of my Karate or Kung Fu that I practice with him.
I’ve been with my wife Lindsey for 25 years now, I first met her, when I was a Sandan (3rd Dan) teaching at a club in Marlow and she came in wanting to learn Karate. Now after all these years, the circle has turned and she teaches me now just as much as I teach her, as a 4 time world Kata champion, I still wish I perform my Kata like she does. Only one thing for it, train harder and smarter until I can do it. I need to bear in mind though, something Lindsey said “Keep dreaming Sunshine.”
As a final point – I needed to buy myself a new belt for the WUKF Competition in Dublin last year, so went back to Kamae who I’ve brought my previous two Black belts from and bought one with white embroidery on it, to remind me and the people I train with, that every single day that I still feel like a beginner and that’s a good thing. SHOSHIN!
Thanks again everyone, enjoy your training.
As parents we have an ability and even a responsibility to help our children to become confident. Confidence will lead them on the path to success.
Confidence is the belief in one’s ability to master your body, behaviour and the challenges you encounter in school, work and life generally. If our children believe in themselves, they will are willing to take more of the right kind of risks in life, accomplish their goals and accomplish more. Children who have good self esteem will find it easier to feel valued and accepted by family, friends and peers, they will be proud of a job well done and will feel good and thing good things about themselves and they will be more prepared for the challenges that they will face everyday.
None of us are born confident, it’s something we learn as we grow up and develop, regardless of a child’s situation or feelings. As parents we can help to improve our children’s self-confidence by giving them many opportunities to practice and master their skills. Let them make mistakes and be there to boost their spirits so they keep trying, even if they sometimes fail.
Have you heard the old Japanese saying, fall down 7 times get up 8.
These are some ideas as to what we can do to increase our children’s sense of self-worth
Create a wall of fame
Every child is good at something. Help them to discover it, encourage it and celebrate it by displaying it proudly for all to see. If your home is missing a wall of fame to celebrate their achievement your child is missing their moment of recognition. If you have a child who is not into team sports or athletic, try scouting/guiding. Everyone wins and everyone gets lots of badges. As children walk by their showcase, they can see at a glance five to ten years of achievement. This gives them a lift, especially during times when their self-confidence is faltering.
Try to expose your child to a wide variety of activities, and encourage them through the ups and downs when they find something they really love to do. Kids who have a passion — whether it’s Martial Arts, Theatre or Minecraft, justifiably feel proud of their expertise and skills and are more likely to be succeed in other things at both school and in life in general. Unusual hobbies may be particularly helpful for children who have a hard time mixing with other children at school. Try and use this hobby to help your child to interact with other children and develop friendships. For example, if your child likes to draw but most of the children in their class are into sports, encourage them to do drawing of the sports that their peers enjoy.
Focus on the Glass being Half Full
Help your child to be more optimistic and to look for positives and to continue to work hard towards their goals. Try to avoid offering glib reassurances to “look on the bright side,” or something like “don’t worry you didn’t really want to do that.” Instead encourage them to think about specific ways to improve a situation and bring them closer to their goals. For example if they are behind their classes in reading at school, offer to spend extra time with them reading their school books together. If they weren’t invited to grade this time, ask what they need to practice to be invited to grade next time and then spend some time working on it together to increase their chances of getting the result they desire next time.
Don’t forget also that the glass can be refilled, time and time again.
Watch something motivational to put things into perspective. Nick Vujicic and his positivity is a great example of what we should all aim for.
Don’t over praise your child
Everyone of us likes to be praised, but reserve it for real accomplishments, not just used as a figure of speech. If you tell your child that everything they do is “great” or “awesome” or “fantastic” then when things do get a little (or even a lot) tougher, they can be discouraged at having to face adversity.
What’s the secret to success? Hard work and lots of times things not going right and then the occasional success. The cycle repeats until the successes outweigh the failures. Then we move onto face the next challenge. Give old fashioned good honest praise when it is deserved and justified that way your child will feel good, they’ll learn to understand that hard work, spirit, effort, failures and achievement are all part of a natural cycle but one that they can conquer and receive just rewards.
Don’t give in to Fear
Sometimes we all get nervous or scared about doing something. It might be learning to drive, asking a potential partner out for a date, moving up a class in Martial Arts or starting a new job. Sometimes fear is a good thing and can help us to stay safe at other times fear can be a real limiter to our levels of success.
Fear shouldn’t be ignored, sometimes its a real valid and sensible response. Are you afraid of swimming in a rip tide at the beach, riding on a motorcycle with no protective wear, swimming in a pool with crocodiles in it, going to war, skydiving et al. There are many things to be justifiably afraid of, they are risky and often dangerous to life and limb. Fear in this case is a matter of self preservation. In some of these examples, although fear is felt, the action must still be taken, for example a solider on the battlefield generally has little choice as to whether to engage with the enemy, they have to to ‘just get on with it.’
Some kinds of fear we have to learn to recognise as not being fear of a physical outcome, but something far worse, a fear of failure or even embarrassment.
Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up quite nicely ” What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”
Take the following examples:- The child that doesn’t want to try that new activity at school or has passed a new Martial Arts belt and now has to work with a more advanced group of pupils or where they previously loved an activity and now now longer want to do it. This is what, as parents we play the part of Sherlock Holmes and start investigating a little deeper. Ask them what they do in their activity, ask them what they enjoy and what they don’t enjoy. Compare notes with the coach or teacher and see if you can identify the real underlying issue. Is their enough fun in the activity, are they still still motivated, are others progressing faster than them. Are social pressures intervening, are friends asking them to do other things? Are the games consoles calling? Is the activity getting harder to do because your child has progressed and now they are being asked to further improve their skills.
Sometimes all it takes is a little constructive support from a child’s parents to help them overcome their nerves and worries and to move forward with more confidence and to set themselves up for later life.