Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sorry for those who failed today's test... Oh, I used this joke before already! :-) And again, EVERYONE PASSED! Congratulations to all of you. I'm really proud of you guys not because you passed but because I could see that you put a lot of effort to it. I'm happy to take a credit for good teaching (I hope you agree... please?), but it's ultimately your responsibility how you receive my teaching, digest and make it work for yourself. I can teach, but I can't make you learn, you know?

Up to this point, all of 8 yellow belts kind of progressed at about a same pace, but now we will start seeing some variations in learning processes. Some learn faster and progress further, while others still have trouble mastering a simple point. This is very normal and you shouldn't be discouraged just because you feel being a little behind. In case you didn't know what you got into, karate training is a lifelong process and is about your self-development. Your friend may achieve a black belt in 2 years and it might take 5 years for you, but if you continue learning while your friend quits after 2 years, guess who is better? Passing an exam is only one objective measurement of your technical improvement; with or without it, I hope you can continue enjoying and motivating yourself in learning karate as long as you live.

Today's Subjects:

  • Your own kata as warm-up/ cool-down

  • Stepping punch (fwd) & rising block (bwd)
  • In-place front kick

  • Free-style move around
  • Slide-in punch (Kizami-zuki and Gyaku-zuki)
  • Following a partner's rhythm while imagining to be in control
  • Trying to surprise with a half-attack vs. Reacting to it with a full-attack (catching "Sen")

OK, so now you all have 4 months to work on your new kata (and some new basic moves), I can really take time in teaching. So that brown and black belts don't get bored, we can spend more time on timing drills (both reaction and setting-up strategy), pads training, kata application, competition training, etc. rather than keep repeating the simplest basics over and over again. I'm not saying basic training is boring, but it's always great to have a variety of learning opportunities so that you're always aware of different perspectives.

Now it's going to be a challenge for me if a new white belt joins... Perhaps I will finally start having Jon (I mean jon) teach a separate menu to a white belt. Speaking of jon teaching, I will be away from June 15 to 26, and he will be in charge of the classes. He might have some guest instructors coming, but we're not sure yet.

Once again, congratulations to all of you for great work so far, and let's keep it up!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thursday, May 28, 2010

Wow, before you know it, it's already end of the month. We'll have our "special" Kyu exam this Sunday. Those who are testing have been working hard, so it should be a piece of cake. Good luck!

Tonight's Subjects:

Punch to stomach in Shizen-tai in place
Mae-geri in Zenkutsu-dachi in place
Stepping basics for 8th Kyu exam

Heian Shodan

Basic 3-step sparring (punch to face & stomach)
Slide-in Kizami-zuki
Slide-in Gyaku-zuki
Punch against a stable partner
Inducing an attack vs. Responding to a chance

I can't wait to go back to teaching Heian Nidan to everyone, along with some other techniques like roundhouse kick. So you guys have to pass! No pressure, though!! :-)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

VTK / NKI Dojo Exchange! (Sunday, May 23, 2010)

Thanks everyone for showing up today! It was great that we had a floor full of people; felt great spirit and 2-hour didn't seem too long at all!

I would definitely want your comments on today's training: how different or similar you felt, what you liked or disliked, etc. Now hopefully you all understand what I meant by "same stuff from different perspectives". Both Ron and Robert are great instructors and I personally thoroughly enjoyed the class today. I was hoping to get some timing drills done, but maybe next time. Oh, and not to mention, great party afterwards! Thanks everyone for a bottle of Sake!

Today's Subjects:
  • ...Too many to list! Let me just list up some points that I remember (not in a particular order, sorry!):
  • Floor connection, pure & clear body dynamics, coordinating breathing with technique, floor pressure, various body dynamics, eyes leading action, clear target / course of action, proper face / eye positioning, charging Tanden (center of mass) with "Ki" energy, apply body mass into a technique (throwing a sack of potatoes or a telephone pole), penetrate through the target, maintain the intent forward (even when backing up), etc.

To me, getting to know many different people who I'd never have a chance to know otherwise (unless you go to a cuddling party...) is one of the biggest benefits of being involved in karate, so I truly enjoy an event like this. We have these local connections as well as regional, national and international networks. I hope to continue having more parties, I mean trainings, with many more karate people from everywhere!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sorry again for a late update... Now that I'm done with school I have so more free time, but I'm spending much less time in my room or on PC, thus having difficulty updating this blog immediately after the class.

So tomorrow is our 1st Dojo Exchange training! I'm hoping for a big turn-out. When you're getting tired of same-old instruction by the same (and) old instructor, it's often nice to train with different people. Since our dojo belongs to the same lineage as the visitors' dojo (NKI), the subjects shouldn't be anything new, but definitely from different perspectives. If you find some points that you never saw me covering, please let me know and I'll try to cover them (assuming they're important points) in our own classes.

Thursday's Subjects:

  • Zenkutsu-dachi, Kizami-zuki ~ Gyaku-zuki
  • Zenkutsu-dachi, Soto-uke ~ Gyaku-zuki
  • Mae-geri, Yoko-geri Keage & Kekomi
  • Free-style, move around
  • Same as above, plus front foot reaction/move-in
  • Same as above, plus block
  • Block against Kizami-zuki to face: no "covering", stop the attack in his space, keep elbow inside, apply "body snap", the other arm ready for counter attack
  • Same as above, plus counter-attack
  • Heian Shodan (cool down)
Since there were 2 "trial" students, I tried to keep the lesson plan simple, and I thought it went smoothly.

VTK executives (?) went to take a look at possible permanent dojo space this morning. but it was not as goo as we hoped; good size (2000 sqf) and price, but the building was old and dirty, no signage, no street parking, not enough windows, no traffic visibility. Search for our perfect "dream dojo" space continues...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I couldn't log in to this blog on Sunday for some reason, so I'm updating now. Sorry for the wait! The problem now is that I don't remember exactly what I taught...

Sunday's subjects (as far as I can remember...):

  • Oi-zuki
  • Age-uke
  • Soto-uke
  • Shuto-uke
  • Mae-geri
  • Yoko-geri Keage
  • Yoko-geri Kekomi
  • Yoko-geri Keage separately, focusing on proper course of action

  • Heian Shodan, focusing on hip action as per Vonzell's request

  • Basic 3-step sparring, focusing on distance
  • Free-style: Catching "Sen" against a half attack
...and some "secret training" that Jon, Amy and Mike will never know... ;-)

The exam for 5 of you is coming up soon. Some still have unsteady stances, so try to lower yourself one more inch in every stance and don't let go the tension in your legs. At this stage, your legs should still get tired after a class; soon they get used to the stance and you can maintain a proper stance for long duration without much effort. Then that's one less thing you have to worry about, and you can focus on other points!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good to know that some people are actually reading this blog! Please feel free to make comments sometimes, so that I don't have to feel like talking to myself...!

Tonight's subjects:

  • Heian Shodan
  • Focused on 1) eyes leading the direction change, 2) establish the support foot asap.

  • In-place Choku-zuki in Shizen-tai
  • In-place & stepping Kokutsu-dachi Shuto-uke
  • Worked on "body snap" maximizing the peak of technique with forearm twist (pronation)

  • Go-no-sen Uke-waza: knife-hand block against a punch, followed up by a counter punch
  • Use "snap" for block without losing elbow connection, full hip rotation for punch.
Thanks for taking me out to a restaurant that has the name of a male body part in Japanese tonight. A question was raised regarding what federation our club belongs to, and the answer was the ITKF, which stands for "I Think Karate is Fun". Thanks Ron, I didn't know that...! Actually, some general questions including one like that are covered in VTK Student Handbook that is going to be available soon. It's pretty much all written already, and I just have to add the final touch and make copies.

So we'll have exciting second half of month: 1st Dojo Exchange with NKI is taking place on the 23rd, and a Kyu exam is going to be on the 30th. We'll have a lot of fun! And soon the national championship is coming up; better get myself ready for that!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Looking at yourself on video is really a valuable study tool; you may not know what you're doing right or wrong until you actually see it objectively. According to some learning theory model (I forgot which one), there are stages of learning that you have to take one by one:

  1. Unconsciously doing wrong
  2. Consciously doing wrong
  3. Consciously doing right
  4. Unconsciously doing right

So unless you know what you're doing (wrong), you can't transit from the 1st level to the 2nd. I can help you find out what you're doing wrong, but ultimately you have to realize it yourself so that you consciously fix it (level 3). When you reach the level 4, it just "happens" and the feeling of it is different from "forcing" it. Perhaps some of you have felt it one time or another during our training (i.e., "I don't know what I did, but it worked and felt effortless"), and all you need is to increase the chance of that happening. The key? "Regular training"!

Today's subjects:


  • Age-uke, Gyaku-zuki
  • Soto-uke, Gyaku-zuki
  • First 3 moves from Heian Nidan


  • Heian Shodan
  • Heian Nidan


  • Kizami-zuki
  • Gyaku-zuki
  • Kizami Mae-geri
  • Mae-geri
  • Pads (with above 4 techniques)


  • "Sen" timing against a half attack

Just to let you know, I'm available to teach private lessons. Amy & Jon have taken it just before their exam, and Nate & Chris are going to take one this Tuesday. I charge $30/hour and can teach 2 at once, or 30 minutes each for 2 people, so that you can split the cost. I can also teach 30 minutes for 1 person for $20. We can rent the studio (you have to pay, of course), or I can travel to your place if it's reasonably close. Group lessons work well for most of you, but some of you can definitely benefit from more personal attention. Let me know if you need some pointers for the coming exam!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Today's topics:

Warm up:
  • Heian Shodan

  • Mae-geri
  • Yoko-geri Keage (tried it on the floor, focusing on knee snap... did it work for you??)

  • Heian Nidan, up to 12th move
  • Application of move #1 (2 variations)
  • Application of move #2

  • Reaction drill

I was thinking of doing some pads drills but I ran out of time. Sorry! I'm not used to teaching kata application, so it was hard for me to estimate the time needed to cover those moves. But anyways, I hope you enjoyed a bit different aspect of karate training tonight. As I said, there are some cool moves especially in advanced katas, and some people really love exploring varieties of kata applications. For me, it's fun to try out a bit once in awhile, but it is not my main focus. I hope I can find someone to teach us a seminar or two about kata applications maybe one day.

We will continue working on Heian Nidan and more sparring drills (and pads, I promise!) for next 1 week, then we will go back to the "exam prep" mode again. Remember, no matter what you're practicing, the underlying principles remain the same and the external actions don't matter much in the end. So theoretically, you can improve your Heian Shodan by practicing Heian Nidan! I hope this theory applies to you all! :-)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hope you all enjoyed the class today! I'm really happy that sometimes my teaching really "hits the spot" and I can see the immediate improvement. For example, after that "resistance at the initiation of a punch" training, you all looked much better with Kizami-zuki/Gyaku-zuki (1-2 punch), with more connected initiation. Of course (sadly), most of you will go back to the same old habit by the next class, but at least you understand the right approach and can continue reinforce your body toward that direction. So keep on training...!

Today we covered:

  • Your Kata (Heian 1, 2, or Nijushiho?)


  • Kizami-zuki/Gyaku-zuki

  • Same, with resistance at the initiation

  • Mae-geri

  • Same, with resistance at the initiation (knee lifting)

  • Yori-ashi Kizami-zuki

  • Yori-ashi Gyaku-zuki

Kumite Drills (with a partner):
  • Punch against a stable target

  • Punch against a target that shifts away

  • Combination attack (2 punches), focusing on catching "Kyo" in between motions

  • Combination attack (Kizami-zuki, Kizami Mae-geri), focusing on quicker switch between 2 techniques

  • Heian Nidan
Kumite is fun, right? Unfortunately there is no "Hado-ken" that works like a magic, so we have to develop a lot of tools that you can pull out depending on a particular situation. We cover different case scenarios every time, to see what works when. As you continue working on different options, you'll find what works for you the best, and then keep working on it until it almost becomes your second nature. I don't know much of your athletic background, but everyone seems to be in a pretty good shape and I can see some of you get to be killer sparring partners very soon! But when that day comes, I'll make sure to have you repeat your Kata 100 times before you spar with me...!