Wednesday, March 31, 2010


In case you want to see me doing some Kata:

They look so dated but are actually from last year. (He needs a new camcorder, I think...)

Speaking of videos, if any of you're interested, I have this DVD for sale:

This really is a great learning tool for karate students at any level, and I'm not saying that just because I made it! :-) Sensei Nishiyama was my teacher, who truly was a master of this martial art. I highly recommend you to get this DVD (either from this website or from me for a discounted price) or at least search his name on youtube and watch & learn how he moves! (Oh, Amy's grandma is on this DVD I believe!)

Karate Terms 101-C

Darn it, I'm still sick... I hope I can make it to tomorrow night's class. Perhaps I'll feel better by passing this virus to someone else...! (just kidding, of course)

Though I want my students to learn some Japanese terms (those listed in the previous posts), I generally use English words in class so you're not required to learn them. However, there are some terms that are hard to translate, which I recommend you to have basic ideas about:

(From 101-A)

  • Kime 極め: Focus / Delivery of force (at the end of technique)
  • Ki-ai 気合: Spirited yell (with proper breathing, to enhance whole body/mental integration)
  • Ma-ai 間合: Effective distance (not fixed, but rather constantly changing based on the situation, yours and/or opponent's intention, physique, attitude, etc.)


  • Tan-den 丹田: Center of body/mass (about an inch below navel, inward toward the spine)
  • Kamae 構え: "Ready" posture (including stance and hands position as well as mental readiness)
  • Budo 武道: Japanese martial arts aiming at self-improvement through physical training (Judo, Kendo, Aikido, Karate)
  • Zan-shin 残心: Remaining mind. After a technique, don't let your mind go off but keep it attentive to the opponent so that if necessary, you can immediately follow-up with another move.
  • Kyo 虚: mental and/or physical opening / unreadiness
  • Ki 気: mental force (which precedes physical action)
I just added a few to the 101-C above, and this should complete the 101 level karate terms! The 201 level will be more sparring-oriented terms and some advanced techniques, and the 301 level will be the competition rules terminology. Anyway, see you tomorrow!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It was a nice big room today, but with that many people in, it didn't feel too big! I felt the floor was too slippery, but some said they like that floor, so maybe it's just me??

Oh, and all the white belts looked much better today, and I thought, "Wow, they must have been practicing on their own!" ...But later I realized it's their "gi" that made them look so good! :-)

Anyway, let's review what we did today:

In-place Kihon (basics):
  • Choku-zuki in Shizen-tai (straight punch from natural stance): posture, arm coordination, breathing
  • Choku-zuki in Kiba-dachi (same from side stance): proper stance (toes, knees and tailbone)
  • Nami-gaeshi in Kiba-dachi (foot flipping?? in side stance): no side weight shifting

Stepping Kihon:
  • Gedan-barai in Zenkutsu-dachi (down block in front stance): Don't shift your weight back when stepping back! Make a side space by stepping back diagonally.
  • Shuto-uke in Kokutsu-dachi (knife-hand block in back stance): Don't shift your weight forward when stepping forward! No side space here; it's an in-line stance.

  • Heian-Shodan: Review videos and get the sequence correct.
  • Bassai-Dai: No extra arm motion: shortest course from the previous position to the next. Floor connection.

In-place Kickings:
  • Mae-geri (front "snap" kick)
  • Yoko-keage (side snap kick): small circular motion upward.
  • Yoko-kekomi (side thrust kick): longer circular motion outward.

Stepping Kickings (sideways):
  • Yoko-keage
  • Yoko-kekomi
  • Both in Kiba-dachi: Keep your head up, don't lean back too much, don't stick your butts out!!!
In Free-style:
  • Yori-ashi forward/backward (sliding): Quick front foot, immediate back foot recovery
  • Yori-ashi Gyaku-zuki (sliding reverse punch): Back foot support. Draw back when the exhale ends.

Paired-up Drills:
  • Yori-ashi Gyaku-zuki (sliding reverse punch) against stable target
  • Yori-ashi Gyaku-zuki (sliding reverse punch) against surprise/open target
  • Yori-ashi Gyaku-zuki (sliding reverse punch) against moving around & surprise/open target
  • Target-side is training (mostly mentally), too! Watch how far your partner is starting from, pay attention to when s/he is not able to react to you, etc.
Good job, guys & gals! We won't spend much time on Kata (Heian-Shodan) this coming Thursday, so continue working on it yourself so that you won't forget in a week. We'll kick some pads this Thursday.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

As promised, we worked on a lot of basic techniques tonight. Some of you pick them up very quickly; good job, guys (and a girl)!

  • Zenkutsu-dachi (front)
  • Kokutsu-dachi (back)
  • Kiba-dachi (side)

  • Age-uke (upper)
  • Gedan-barai (lower)
  • Shuto-uke (knife-hand)

  • Oi-zuki (step-in)

  • Mae-geri (front)
  • Yoko-keage (side snap)
Let's continue refining these techniques. I only need to add couple more techniques (1 block, 1 kick) to cover all the basic requirements for the first level exam. Those who have been training for the past 2 months or more will be ready to test next month!

Key points:
  1. Always coordinate your action with your breathing: exhale as you execute a technique (as you contract the whole body and squeeze the air out), and inhale in between techniques (as you relax and let the air fill up).
  2. Check your stance each and every time until you know where your body parts are located: pay attention to the feet/toes and knees, as well as the hip position (In Heian Shodan, hips side for blocks, straight for punch).
  3. Posture, posture and POSTURE! Tailbone (pelvis/sacrum) tucked in (up & forward), shoulders wide, suspend the head up, and pull your eyes behind. Vertical spine and firm connection around the core.
  4. Maintain all the above points so that you can support your technique with the whole body, not just with a limb: shock against the target travels from the contact part (fist for punch, wrist for block) --> center/core (Tanden in Japanese) --> back foot --> floor.
This coming Sunday, let's work on a few of these basics we covered today, but also play with some timing drills and perhaps a bit of pads training (you want to kick, right?). See you then!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Heian Shodan

I'm not going to say that this is the best Kata performance, but it looks pretty clean and sharp. A good visual for learning this basic level Kata.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thank you all for coming to the class today! It's always good to have many people training. I know it was hot and steamy in that little space, but I hope you had good sweat!

Today's menu:

1. Free-style:

  • Shifting: Yori-ashi (sliding)
  • Hand techniques: Kizami-zuki (front-hand punch), Gyaku-zuki (reverse punch)
  • Foot techniques: Kizami Mae-geri (front leg front-kick), Mae-geri (front-kick, with back leg).

2. Pads:

  • Kizami-zuki
  • Gyaku-zuki
  • (Sorry, I forgot to work on your kicks...!)

3. In-place Basics:

  • Age-uke (upper block)
  • Gedan-barai (down block)
  • Block to punch, in Zenkutsu-dachi (front stance)

4. Kata

  • Heian-shodan: Turn the hips for blocks, straight/square hips for punches. Aim at proper target.
  • Bassai-dai: Aim at proper target. Adjust stance to allow for body dynamics (hip rotation).
  • Enpi: Correct stance (check your toes). Stronger/tighter Hikite (pulling arm).
  • Kanku-sho: Work on better/more solid stances to support each technique. Lead with your eyes when turning. Oh, and try to jump higher!

On this coming Thursday, we'll work more on the basics, especially on those required for the 1st level exam. I think I'll generally try to cover more basics on Thursdays and more sparring training (timing drills, pads, free-style shifting) on Sundays. I'd like to pay more individual attention to each one's Kata, but it's difficult to do so with a larger group. Let me know if anyone is willing to take a private lesson with me!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Karate Terms 101-B

Jo-dan 上段: Face level
Chu-dan 中段: Stomach level
Ge-dan 下段: Groin level

Heian Shodan 平安初段: Heian (peace/calm) Level 1
Gedan-barai 下段払い: Down block
Age-uke 上げ受け: Upper block
Shuto-uke 手刀受け: Knife-hand block
Oi-zuki 追い突き: Step-in punch
Tettsui-uchi 鉄槌打ち: Hammer strike
Zenkutsu-dachi 前屈立ち: Front stance
Kokutsu-dachi 後屈立ち: Back stance

Kizami-zuki 刻み突き: Front-hand punch (short punch / jab)
Gyaku-zuki 逆突き: Reverse punch (counter punch)
Mae-geri 前蹴り: Front kick
Mawashi-geri 廻し蹴り: Roundhouse kick
Yoko-geri 横蹴り: Side kick
Kekomi 蹴込み: Thrust kick
Keage 蹴上げ: Snap kick
Soto-uke 外受け: Outside(-in) block

Karate Terms 101-A

Kata 型: Form
Kihon 基本: Basic
Kumite 組手: Sparring

Tachi (-dachi) 立ち: Stance
Tsuki (-zuki) 突き: Punch
Keri (-geri) 蹴り: Kick
Uke 受け: Block
Uchi 打ち: Strike
Kime 極め: Focus / Delivery of force
Kiai 気合: Spirited yell

Ma-ai 間合: Effective distance

Rei 礼: Bow
Seiza 正座: Kneeling (Japanese formal sitting)
Shomen 正面: Front
Sensei 先生: Teacher / Instructor
Otagai お互い: Each other
Yame 止め: Stop / Break

...and learn how to count from 1 to 10!

Training Blog

This is the fist blog entry! I plan to update it either before or after every class (...well, neary every class) to inform our students about what we're working on.

It has been hard for me to prepare a class plan in advance, since we never know when a new student pops in. I now have kind of a standard training plan for the very first karate class for complete beginners, and every time we have a new student in our class, I follow this training plan. I still try to make some variations to what we do, but I apologize if you feel like repeating the same beginners class over and over again...!

Some of the very basic topics/ key words we usually cover are:

Posture: image, joint alignment
Stance: front stance (Zenkutsu-dachi), back stance (Kokutsu-dachi), free-style with proper "Kamae"
Breathing: to aid whole body coordination, floor pressure
Body Dynamics: hip rotation, body weight shifting
Technique Execution: effective distance (Ma-ai), maximum focus/ delivery of force (Kime)

Then I will add some timing drills with a partner in the 2nd lesson or even in the 1st lesson if the students are up to the task and that we have some time left. Also I may introduce the first Kata "Heian-Shodan" then. Then at the next level, we'll work more on the basic blocking techniques, either in-place or while stepping forward/backword, to get used to the yellow belt level examination requirement.

I don't want to go on right here to explain each subject above, since it's your job to catch them in class and come up with your own understandings. But of course I welcome any questions! See you in class!