Last Friday evening karate class in Shanghai was great & a good workout; If you do not want to read the detailed recount in my online workout journal, I give you here a brief highlight of the class before telling you what happened last Saturday during sparring with the black belts:
Make it count.
Hitting the pads is not a leisurely activity, if you are not ready and willing to pummel the crap out of the pads to make it feel like something real is happening, get outta here! It was not worded that way, but close; the meaning was unmistakable.
Several times Mr Ding, the 2nd Dan giving class, came to show me a better lower kumite position to assume to hit the pads – I did not seem to get it! Indeed, I had all my joints locked in max flexion (ankles, knees, hips) and he was insisting that I get lower… He took me aside at the end and showed me… raising my back heel makes it easier to go lower… Okay, got it, I’ll do that, I just thought that I had to keep my heels grounded; thank you!
Sparring day Saturday: I am told to step aside!
Today is kumite; I feel a little stiff from last night and got up early to loosen up that old body.
My heart skips a beat with a mix of excitement, anticipation and fear when I find close to 50 black & brown belts on the mat Saturday morning: I expect to be tested, but what an opportunity to measure & calibrate where I am at!
Seiza, warm up; we are asked to find a partner. I stand in front of a brown belt; I bow and osu, he looks from side to side visibly distressed; he utters “oh my God” in a tone that unmistakeably means “oh sh*t! why me?”
I bow and OSU again, loudly enough; an uncomfortable calm replaces the few giggles; I’ve made clear that dojo etiquette won’t suffer an exception!
I am wrong; I only provoke more frantic drowning looks from my “partner” that tear a now embarrassed silence for help.
The 3rd Dan in charge comes towards us & asks me to step aside. I stand to attention, bow & osu; he is going to tell the brown belt that this behavior is out of place…
Wrong again! Without a word, he pairs the disrespectful idiot with someone else and resumes class, leaving me there in shock!
Like a Mexican in Texas!
Not quite: Mexicans don’t lose face, but close enough I feel!
I am in the middle of the mat in Oi Dachi wondering what is going on? I do not know. I make my way to the side of the mat for what is going to become a very painful 90 minutes; I am not alarmed yet, surely some explanation will come and I will be paired with someone and be able to participate in the class – That’s why I am here after all!
I take interest in the self defense moves; they are different from the ones we learned in our dojo, and practiced with more intensity. Shihan arrives and takes over the class, the rhythm increases a bit as does the order; from very good, the demonstrations become crisp and excellent and come with sensible explanations.
I try to learn by observing, but from the sidelines, it is not easy. Martial arts require practice, you can’t learn them in a book or online! That is why I am here after all! Everybody knows that: any time now someone is going to ask me to join in, I’d better remain ready and keep doing some warm up exercises.
Kumite! I move towards the heavy weight group and I produce a real effort to stand in the way of the group; not quite bumping into people, but I make it very hard to ignore me “HEY GUYS, I AM HERE, I CAME FOR THAT!” — “HELLOOOO, CAN”T YOU SEE ME?” — Short of crossing a line, I can’t do much more than that… Not to avail, I am transparent, being ignored for some reason!
What is going on here – what is wrong with these Shanghainese?
That’s it, I get it! They are waiting for a few rounds to go by, allowing me to get a feel of things, like Shihan Patrick Teo did when I was in Singapore last month! That was indeed helpful to allow me to see and adjust to the level of intensity and contact before letting me have a go with his senior ranks; very sensible.
This is not my Kyokushin!
Class is nearly over: everyone is visibly exhausted. I make a last attempt at staying warmed up and ready; but by now I am just hoping for that circus to end: my muscles are cold; asked to jump in now, I would injure or make a fool of myself, likely both. I am not in the mood any longer!
Cool down, seiza, the class is dismissed!
I head to the changing room and pack away; I am about to exit the premises when a someone asks me why I don’t join the class and points to a group of orange, blue and yellow belts, mostly kids & teenagers, doing warm up on the mat…
Are you freakin’kidding me!?
My mind is screaming “THIS IS NOT MY KYOKUSHIN!” together with some well thought out silent retorts while I politely reply: “no thanks, we have plenty of those at home!”
I bow, I osu and I leave!
Of note: we worked Friday on a descending (actually an up, then down “straight” punch that targets the collar bones and upper chest. It lobs over the guard and descends fast like a lifted tennis ball just behind… I got corrected until I got the feel of it… I saw that on the face of my brown belt partner holding the pads for me. Then it was his turn… there is a lot of power in this punch and it can cause some degree of discomfort on the receiving end…