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Friday, July 24, 2015


Friday, July 24, 2015.     0640
Omagari, Japan

If you weren't taxed to the max by yesterday’s training, you aren’t human.  It was raining outside all day, as it is again today, so the humidity was at least 90%.  Once your karate gi becomes saturated with sweat, it never evaporates.  The sensation is that you are doing karate with a wet canvas blanket around you.  It is no wonder the Okinawans used to train in shorts, jembai (spelling?), loin cloths…anything that allowed ventilation while training.  Yesterday after training, I actually weighed my karate gi and it weighed 3.2 kilos.  And it is the lightest KI Mugen gi I could find.

We started with 45 of the longest minutes of moving basic combinations.  I learned long ago to never look at the clock while training because that makes a time warp happen in which time seems to start moving backwards.  Unfortunately, there is a huge clock built into the wall of the Budokan, so it was unavoidable to not see it when you turned 180 degrees during these seemingly endless moving combinations.  Time stopped moving!  Trapped like a rat in the time warp.

We have been working hard on the timing and Kime (physical focus points) of our katas, and not just the power.  That beautiful off-timing and flow is what actually attracted me to Goju-Ryu karate many years ago.  It is very nuanced and very difficult to absorb into your movements, but once you do, it results in a beautifully lethal art.  At that point you begin to approach mastery.  Fujiwara Shihan has been stressing that those Kime points are similar to writers powerfully and artfully ending a scene before beginning a new one.  Beginners tend to do everything at the same power and pacing, which is understandable, but as you advance in rank, you begin to absorb that timing and those Kime points and your kata becomes more and more amazing, which usually means your ability to use that timing in fighting is an internal, intuitive thing.  Many practitioners of karate wrongly see kata and Kumite as two different mutually exclusive physical activities.  My experience is that the are part of the same whole.  I believe that in traditional karate the best fighters also do very strong kata.

The caveat is that getting the nuances right, you break down the moves and do them over and over and over and over again.  That is Fujiwara Shihan’s method, and that is what we do until you are absolutely certain you can’t do one more repetition, but then you do.  There is an old Zen saying that “You may talk about water, but the mouth will not become wet.”  It is only in the doing that we absorb the lessons.  In teaching, words often fail us, but actively watching a masterful kata, such as Fujiwara Shihan’s, is worth a thousand words.  Then comes the hard, sweaty work of a thousand reps to emulate  it until the correct way becomes internal.

Well, today is day three and tomorrow is our rest day.  I’m looking forward to resting the legs and doing some exploring of downtown shops.  Haven’t really had time to do that since arrival.
I just talked with my wife and son back home via Face Time and realize how much I miss them.  It’s been a week now since I departed and doesn’t seem like a day over six months…
Time to get ready to walk to the dojo.  Come on legs…do your thing.

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