Friday, April 30, 2010

VTK Logo!

Well, you all must be tired of looking at the designs by now, but I think this is it. I combined the top of D with the bottom of C. I had to make the bottom smaller to fit the top, so the balance improved.

The only concern I have , as I stated earlier, is the fine color scheme which appears clearly only on the web and with very expensive printing, so this is not going to work on T-shirts, for example. I will continue working on to come up with a different set of colors that are printing-friendly. For example, a black & white version would look like this:

Even this may not be so great for printing, if the levels of gray are hard to adjust. But anyway, the basic design is finally DONE (unless someone strongly objects...!)! Who wants to drive around with this logo on the car door? Anybody?? How about a bumper sticker??

Thank you so much to Eiko for working on this project with (against?) me, and to everyone who gave us some inputs!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

So we started practicing Heian-Nidan tonight. I kind of like this Kata, even compared to the next 3 Heian's. It's simple enough, yet has some cool moves. I'm sure you'll all enjoy it! The white/yellow belts have 4 more months to work on it, so take your time...

Tonight's subjects:

Kihon (in place):
  • Kizami-zuki, Gyaku-zukiMae-geri
  • Yoko-geri kekomi
  • "Wall push" isometric training with all the above techniques

Kihon (stepping):
  • Kokutsu-dachi, Shuto-uke

  • Heian-Nidan (First 12 moves out of 27 total)
  • Heian-Shodan

  • Move around, back foot ready
  • Move around, react with a punch
The moves we have to pick up from Heian-Nidan are, Uchi-uke (inside block), Uraken-uchi (back-fist strike), and Nuki-te (spear hand thrust).

Just a quick point: difference between Tsuki (punch) and Uchi (strike). I think PJ asked me once. A punch is a thrusting motion that your fist travels to the direction of the forearm (both shoulder and elbow joints are involved). In a strike, your hand together with forearm pivots around the elbow joint, making force perpendicular to the forearm at the end (shoulder joint may or may not involve). A strike is more of a snappy, quick action and may not be strong enough to "kill" someone, so to speak, and usually aimed at face only. A punch is better supported with the whole body right behind it, so it's easier to make it heavier/stronger and can be aimed at stomach or face level.

See you Sunday! We'll continue working on Heian-Nidan, including those techniques mentioned above. But I want to spend more time on timing drills, too. I'll try to develop your Kumite skills quickly, so that I can spar with you guys soon!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2010 Western Regional Championship

It was great seeing some of our students at the tournament on Sunday. We did great as a dojo: 4 competed and won 2 golds, 1 silver and 1 bronze! Thanks for your support! Check out our dojo website (announcement) for details if you haven't done so yet.

I expected a little more participants this year, but it was a small tournament again. This year the nationals will be bigger, since each region (there are 10 of them) can send in 6 athletes per category. That means there are going to be some not-so-well-trained wild ones, too. I think I'm going to skip Kumite and focus on Kata...

Those who watched our tournament for the first time, let me know what you thought about it. I have to admit that it's pretty boring to watch, if you don't know what to look for. You all have been training a bit, so hopefully you could catch some fundamental elements (or lack thereof) among some of the athletes' performance.

A competition, just like an exam, is just a part of our training. It forces you to be under pressure and lets you realize how poorly you perform in such a condition... It's nice to win, but more than that, it's really important to learn from the experience and to use it for your future training. It's not for everyone, but it's pretty fun and relatively safe. Our region is planning to host small tournaments possibly a few times a year, so I'll try to spend some time on subjects related to competition in class, if any of you are interested.

The national championship is going to be on June 11-12 in Seattle, and the world championship is going to be in November in Brazil. I plan to participate in both of those, and am looking for sponsors or a travel buddy who can share a hotel room with me!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Here are the final 5 choices. Click on it to make it bigger:

A & B have been presented before and some of us voted on them. C, D & E are newly modified designs. Please carefully think and choose, that this logo will be used on such things like:

  • T-shirts
  • Letterhead
  • Business card
  • Sticker
  • Website
  • Print ad (flier, post card)
...and eventually on the door of our own dojo storefront!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'm sorry for those who failed tonight's exam... Wait, EVERYONE PASSED! Congratulations to you all! See? Didn't I tell you that it wasn't a big deal? But I'm sure you all were nervous and tensed up a little. I get VERY nervous when I test or compete, so I know how you felt. But you all did pretty good. And those who are testing in a month now know what to expect, and can relax a little (but continue training hard, of course!).

What we practiced tonight:

Kata: Heian-Shodan, Nijushiho, Hangetsu
Kihon: Kizami-zuki / Gyaku-zuki, Mae-geri

  1. Attack against a partner
  2. Try to sense/catch initiation of attack when being attacked
  3. Avoid an attack by sliding back
  4. Slide-back, then a follow-up counter punch
What did you think about training with (big, black belt) Ron? Someone like Michael, Chris and PJ may be able to relate to his movement better than to mine, since his size is closer to you guys. A short guy like me has easier time keeping everything compact/connected, but as you could see, even a tall person like Ron can really connect his long limbs as a result of hard training. Sensei Nishiyama once told me that Ron's punch is "strong" and Sensei Nishiyama rarely gave such a compliment to any of his students.

So we will have NO training this Sunday since we will have our regional tournament in San Diego. As announced previously, you should come watch it or even compete in it if you have time. Usually our local tournament is really small with not so many participants, so you all have a good chance of winning (that's how I became a champion, ha!). Our training focus has been the first exam for the last couple of months, but if some of you get interested in competing in future events, I will spend some time on competition training maybe someday.

Next week we will have a Tuesday night class instead of Sunday. I forgot what time, so please check with Jon (or wait and check your junk mail box later...!). If our shiny yellow belts show up, I will start with the second kata: Heian-Nidan, and even white belts get to practice it! Here is a nice example of it:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It really is a joy for me to see my students improving! Even though I have been teaching karate for 15 years or so, I never had my own student who started as a complete beginner, until I started teaching you all. Just like a baby growing, the first few months ~ few years you will improve rather quickly, but it's in this period of time that you either develop strong awareness about your body coordination, connection and alignment or you don't, in my opinion. And once you get that, you have so much more potential when you become black belt. I'm really excited and confident that you all can be very solid black belts within a few years (if keep training, of course)!

So the exam is this Thursday, and I'll stop making it a "big deal". It's the first exam for this dojo, so I and Jon (the black belt) are very excited, too, but we'll pretend as if it's our business as usual, so that you three feel as though it's just a part of your regular training. And you really should feel that way, too.

What we covered today:

In-place Kihon:
  • Kokutsu-dachi Shuto-uke to Zenkutsu-dachi Gyaku-zuki
  • Mae-geri and Yoko-geri Keage

Shifting Kihon:
  • Yellow belt exam sequence = Step punch, Rising block, Outside block, Knife-hand block, Front kick, Side-snap kick, Side-thrust kick

Basic Kumite:
  • Face punch vs. Rising block
  • Stomach punch vs. Down block
  • Focus on stances, hip rotation & shifting

  • Heian Shodan, Bassai-dai, Nijushiho

Mock Exam:
  • Kata
  • Kihon
  • Kumite

Timing Drills:
  • Following the opponent (rhythm, distance)
  • Breaking the opponent's rhythm & distance (bring out the opponent's "off" or "Kyo")
  • Confirm the opponent's "Kyo" by touching a shoulder

Last Drill:
  • Respond to a signal with a technique (minimize the time between signal reception and your technique initiation)

See you all Thursday! Thanks Chris for volunteering to videotape the exam; no need for fancy editing/CGI/sound effects (unless you really want to add some)!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Woops, I was so focused on the logo design, I almost forgot to update the training blog...!

So yesterday, we covered:

Soto-uke (outside block): in place & with stepping
Stepping: hips square, hips turned
Mae-geri (front kick): in place & with stepping
Yoko-geri Keage (side snap kick): in place & with stepping
Yoko-geri Kekomi (side thrust kick): in place & with stepping
Kata: Heian-shodan, Bassai-dai, Niju-shiho

...Is that it?? I have such a terrible short term memory, I easily forget what I did a day ago. I remember that I wanted to do a bit of timing drill but didn't get to it. Other than that, I covered what are weak for those who are testing, and you guys are doing pretty good. Is everyone going to pass? Sorry but I can't tell you, and I'm not even an examiner this time!

I decided that I will NOT make you guys wait for the results of the exam, so you will find it out that night.

On Sunday, I will make you guys do an entire exam sequence as a mock exam. Maybe I will have 3 of you come up front and do it all. Don't expect Thursday night class to focus on the exam materials, because it's too late to fix anything on Thursday! So Sunday is the last chance you receive the detailed pointers from me, should you need them.

After the exam, we'll go back to our "regular program" for a couple of weeks, and again, 1-2 weeks before the next exam (which we plan to hold at the end of May) we'll start focusing on the exam materials. But those who will test next month have already gone through a lot (and you get to see 3 people testing this month, to find out what to expect), so you guys should be fine.

Keep strong spirit, strong stance and strong Ki-ai!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Thank you for the overwhelming responses (2...) to the logo design project. Looks like people unanimously prefer the design #1 or #2.

And I must say that the more I look at the other designs, the less they appear attractive. That's not a good quality for our logo! And the comment about "Van Halen" for #4... Obviously that was not my intention, but funny!

So anyway, I still like the fonts used in other designs over the ones used in #1 & #2, so I tried to combine the design #1 with #6 and came up with the design I below:

Design I:

I like it, but then, I felt like our dojo name appears too small. So I swapped the dojo name and "traditional karate" kanji writing at the bottom, and came up with the design II:

Design II:

Hmm, now the dojo name is bigger but doesn't appear so strong because of the color... Why don't I swap the top and bottom, to make the dojo name appear in red:

Design III:

...Or perhaps I can simply switch the colors between top and bottom:

Design IV:

Not bad. Or maybe I can make the design I's Kanji line smaller, then that would make the dojo name appear stronger:

Design V:

Pretty good. And now I ran out of the modification ideas. So again, what do you think?? These are very minor changes, but if you pay attention, you can appreciate the differences: just like a small change in a foot angle would make a huge impact on your stance! :-)

Colors would be changed, depending on the use (website, T-shirts, flier, etc.), but I want to establish the basic design first. Again, let me know what you think. If not many responses, I, Eiko and Jon will make an executive decision by ourselves.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I actually like that smaller studio, mainly for the floor. I feel that there is not enough oxygen in the room, but I'm glad no one passed out. Perhaps the training was not hard enough??

So here is what we covered today:

  • Heian Shodan
  • Stance/Step practice - Front stance & Back stance

Kihon Kumite:
  • Stepping fwd/bwd, reacting to an opponent (me)
  • Oi-zuki fwd/ Age-uke bwd, reacting to an opponent
  • Oi-zuki fwd/ Gedan-barai bwd, reacting to an opponent
  • Basic 3-step sparring: Jo-dan (face attack) & Chu-dan (stomach attack)

  • Kicks: Mae-geri, Yoko-geri Keage, Yoko-geri Kekomi
  • 3 kicks continuously, in place

From Free-style:
  • Yori-ashi (Slide)
  • Gyaku-zuki (reverse punch) with Yori-ashi
  • Kizami-zuki (jab) with Yori-ashi
Kicks actually looked pretty good today, so let's keep working on those. We'll do the basic kickings (as you step: front-stance for front kick, side-stance for side kicks) for you to get used to the exam drills. Outside-block is another weakness, so we'll cover that this Thursday.

I don't remember if we offically announced, but these people will test this month:
  • Ron
  • Amy
  • Jon

And these, I hope, will be ready by the end of next month:

  • PJ
  • Chris
  • Vonzell
  • Nate
  • Michael

We will have an exam every 4 months, so our next regularly scheduled exam (after this month's) will be in August/September, however, since there are enough of you who will be ready very soon, we will hold a special exam next month. (Wait, didn't I announce this already? I think I wrote it on the blog earlier, but Nate didn't know and asked me about it today, so here it is.)

We will have a guest examiner for our regularly scheduled exam, but I will be the examiner for the special exam next month. Be prepared well, because I ain't gonna give you an easy one...!

We have been focusing on the exam a lot lately, but that's just because this is our very first one and none of you really knows what to expect. So I want to make sure that you are all becoming confident about your first one. But again, testing is completely optional, and you can choose not to test at all ever. I also want to apologize that it is not very cheap, but this is the standard fee schedule of our national federation, and the dojo is not making much profit from it. After the first exam, we'll go back to our "regular program" and try variety of fun stuff (not that the basics are boring, but I hear some people want to spar... Eiko??).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dojo Logo Contest

As our dojo grows, we will need some marketing tools, and a nice logo would be a good idea, I think. We can put it on a T-shirt or something, and if every student buys 100 shirts each, hey, that's a lot of money we can make! Maybe I can quit my daytime job! ...Wait, I don't have a daytime job now! :-)

So anyway, I designed some logos, and Eiko challenged me with her creations. So here are some designs we came up with so far.

Logo #1 (Kanji reads "Traditional Karate"):

Logo #2 (Shotokan Karate):

Logo #3 (top line = "Valley", bottom line = "Traditional Karate"):

Logo #4 ("Valley Traditional Karate" at bottom):

Logo #5 ("Traditional Karate" on top):

Logo 6 (Traditional Krate):

Logo 7 ("Valley Traditional" + "Karate"):

Why these colors you may ask? I just took them from our website, which is designed by Eiko, and I kind of like them.
So which one do you like? Any comment?? Please help us make a great logo. I know we have some creative heads in our dojo, so if you can come up with a better design, please present it! I like a simple design with 2-3 colors (you can change the color scheme if you want to). If you provide us a good idea, I'll give you an extra point during your next exam! ...Uh, maybe not.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

OK, so finally we got to do the Basic Sparring; no big deal, right? We'll go over that again next week, then those who are testing this month should be ready!

So Basic Sparring (Kihon Kumite) = Kihon + Kumite = Kihon techniques + Kumite spirit.

Tonight's subjects:

  • Move around freely

  • Yori-ashi (sliding) forward / backward

  • Gyaku-zuki (reverse punch) with Yori-ashi

Partner drills:

  • Keeping the same distance

  • Sliding back against reverse punch to face

  • Slide-back ~ counter attack (reverse punch) against reverse punch to face


  • Step in Oi-zuki Jo-dan

  • Step back Age-uke

  • Step in Oi-zuki Chu-dan

  • Step back Gedan-barai

Kihon Kumite:

  • 3 steps Oi-zuki Jo-dan vs. Age-uke
  • 3 steps Oi-zuki Chu-dan vs. Gedan-barai

OK, guys & gals, see you Sunday at 5PM!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Private Lesson

Amy & Jon, I hope you enjoyed the lesson tonight! Now you two are ALMOST ready for the exam... :-)

So here is what you have to perform in the first exam:

Kata: Heian Shodan
Kihon: Oi-zuki, Age-uke, Soto-uke, Shuto-uke, Mae-geri, Yoko-geri Keage, Yoko-geri Kekomi
Kumite: Basic 3-Step: Oi-zuki (Jo-dan) / Age-uke, Oi-zuki (Chu-dan) / Gedan-barai

...And a paper test with 100 questions, covering the history of karate, terminologies, etc... JUST KIDDING! I do want to give you some kind of a questionnaire, but its score has nothing to do with the Kyu rank exam. Maybe I'll start that on the second exam.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter everyone! It was a smaller class today, but hope you enjoyed it. I was going to go over the basic Kumite for the exam, but since 2 candidates for this month's exam were missing, I changed the subjects a little.

Kihon (in place):
  • Kizami-zuki, Gyaku-zuki in Front Stance
  • Mae-geri in Closed Stance
  • Yoko-geri Keage in Closed Stance
  • Yoko-geri Kekomi in Closed Stance
Kihon (stepping):
  • Oi-zuki Jo-dan
  • Age-uke
  • Oi-zuki Chu-dan
  • Gedan-barai
Kata (Heian Shodan, Enpi, Kanku-sho, Nijushiho, Hangetsu)
  • Focusing on stance, initiation from the floor, end-support with the floor (back leg)
  • Free-style, moving around
  • Combination attack with sliding: Kizami-zuki, Gyaku-zuki, Kizami-zuki, Gyaku-zuki (1, 2, 1, 2)
  • Combination attack facing the opponent
  • Combination attack, with the opponent counter-attacking at last
  • Combination attack, focusing on the timing of initiation (move around and find/create a "Kyo")
  • Combination attack, focusing on the final "Kime" with firm support/base

Thursday, we'll definitely cover the basic Kumite, so don't miss it!

If you want to take a private lesson with me, it's $30 for 1 hour, $20 for 30 minutes (plus studio rental fee: $11~/hr). If you get together with another person, I can teach 2 at once or can split time and teach 1 person for half the time then another for the other half, for the same price. Generally a group lesson is great because you can interact with other students, but once in awhile you can benefit a lot from receiving a private attention. Let me know if you're interested!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

First Ranking Examination @ Valley Traditional Karate

It has been 5 months since we started training at our current location, and it's about time for some of our students to test for their yellow belt!

Date: Thursday April 22, 2010
Time: 9pm (immediately after the class)
Place: As usual (I hope we'll have a big room...!)
In order to test, you must:
  1. Be training with us for more than 2 months (3 months or more is preferred)
  2. Have attended our classes more than 15 times (20 or more is preferred. Up to 3 private lessons may be counted.)
  3. Be our monthly-paid member
  4. Be a current AAKF member ($30/year)
  5. Pay $50 for a test

For the exam this month, we only have 2-3 candidates (contact me if you're not sure you're one of them). However, there are 4-6 more who may be ready by the end of May, so we're planning to schedule another exam on either end of May or beginning of June. After that, we will continue holding an exam every 3-4 months.

Upon successfully passing this exam, you will be a registered 8th Kyu, receive a certificate (from the national federation) and a yellow belt: one step closer to becoming a black belt! In case you fail, you're eligible for a re-test in 1-2 months.

I must tell you that testing is NOT mandatory. If you prefer not to test for any reason, you can continue training with us and I will teach you more advanced techniques/kata/points as appropriate. However, it is a great way to motivate yourself and to measure your improvement objectively.

I will post the testing curriculum soon. Let me know if you have any questions. See you Sunday at 1pm!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I hope you enjoyed the very basic class tonight!

  • Mae-geri
  • Yoko-keage
  • Yoko-kekomi

  • Mae-geri
  • Yoko-kekomi

In-place Basics:
  • Soto-uke (in natural stance)
  • Soto-uke ~ Gyaku-zuki (in front stance)

Stepping Basics:
  • Oi-zuki
  • Age-uke
  • Soto-uke
  • Shuto-uke

  • Heian-Shodan

Extra Point:
  • Stepping: Legs are always connected to the center, so keep the connection while stepping by squeezing the knees/inner thighs together as your legs pass each other (when stepping or turning). Keep the center of gravity path straight (no swaying), yet the feet travel slightly in-and-out (But they don't completely come together because that's a sign of lateral body weight sway, which is a no-no!).

Let's go over the basic sparring on Sunday. We've done some more advanced sparring drills already, so the basic sparrins should be a piece of cake!

Karate Terms -Extra-

As per your request...

1 = ichi (itch)
2 = ni (knee)
3 = san (sun)
4 = shi (shee)
5 = go (go)
6 = roku (rock)
7 = shichi (shitch)
8 = hachi (hatch)
9 = kyu (cue)
10 = ju (jew)

Then 11 = 10 + 1 = ju ichi
12 = 10 + 2 = ju ni

...And 20 = 2 x 10 = ni ju
21 = (2 x 10) + 1 = ni ju ichi

So 99 = (9 x 10) + 9 = kyu ju kyu
100 = hyaku
101 = 100 + 1 = hyaku ichi
200 = 2 x 100 = ni hyaku

Q: How do you say "911" in Japanese?
A: "119" : That's the emergency call number in Japan! ;-)