Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reflections on Gasshuku and Promotion

I had an interesting week.  I learned a few things, re-discovered a few more, and made a ton of new friends.

First, a short list of things NOT to do before/ during promotion:

1.  Get into a car accident.  I got hit (driver side front corner) going through an intersection last Tuesday morning (promotion was Friday).  Being both male and a little bit stupid I gave my statement to the police, then walked about 15 blocks to work.  Then another mile or so to the car rental place where I got my replacement vehicle.

My instructor forced me to get medical attention the next day (she threatened to block me from promotion if I didn't get checked out, which isn't entirely unreasonable, but I still wasn't happy about taking an extra half day off work).  It turns out that I'm okay - sort of.  I have no actual injuries - nothing that should hospitalize me - but my chest and shoulder were seriously banged up.  As in they hurt enough to make me cry when I try to roll over in bed.

Instantly I went from hoping to do really, really, well on my test to just hoping I wouldn't completely embarrass myself and my instructor.  Even when I was doped up on ibuprofen, though, I could feel that I'd lost about 50% of the speed and power in my right arm.  That's one of the big things they deal with in Z Health - your body shuts down motor units when you're working through a painful range of motion, to protect itself, which is why mobility work and soft tissue work can often unleash a ton of strength you didn't know you had.

Final result:  car completely totalled.  I walked away.  The woman who hit me was hospitalized.  I'm still sore but getting better daily.  And I survived promotion!

2.  Work yourself into a nervous frenzy.  I stressed myself out again, worrying.  But I did a lot better than last time...  so, progress, I guess.

3.  Complain.  I have to admit I can be a fun burglar.  When I'm too hot, or bitten by bugs, or whatever, I have a bad habit of getting bitchy and complaining.  I make myself miserable, I make everyone else miserable, and I have a terrible time.  This promotion was at a camp at a monastery.  No air conditioning, sun beating down on us, waking up at 4 AM to meditate outside, mediocre food, long drive to get there... you get the idea.  I found myself a couple of times running a little loop of bitching in my head - but for once in my life I was smart enough to snap out of it.  I very consciously decided to NOT complain, on the inside or the outside, and try to enjoy the good stuff that was happening.

It's a good thing I did, because the good stuff was amazing.  The weather was fantastic - just as the final 2 rounds of kumite for sandan candidates (including me), the capstone of promotion, started, the skies opened up and it just poured rain on us.  I got two big guys - both bigger, stronger, and far more skilled than I, to spar with (one at a time), and they kicked the crap out of me, which was good, because that's what's supposed to happen during promotion.  The next morning we got to meditate and watch the sun rise.  We did all kinds of camp - team building type of stuff, the kind I usually hate, but all the people there were just so nice, so supportive, so skilled and diverse, that I had the time of my life.  I got to make new friends and get to know old friends much better.  I had to write song lyrics and make an ass out of myself onstage (we had to produce skits).  I got too little sleep, too much food, too much sun and bug exposure, and I had an awesome time.

In the end I also got my sandan (third degree black belt).  Better yet, my teacher says I didn't embarrass her, and while I think she's just being nice, I'll try to believe it might be true.

Weirdly, a handful of people there recognized me from reading this blog, which took me totally by surprise.

If you're a fellow Seido practitioner, Osu!  Welcome to my blog.  Please note that everything I write about here is my personal opinion and NOT the official "line" of our style.  If I write about the correct way to punch it may not be the right Seido way -  it's my opinion, and I'm NOT an instructor!  Especially if anything your teacher says should contradict my writing, listen to THEM (please!)  Of course, you can think about what I write, but I'm no authority on our style.

Here's something I've re-discovered:  the people who practice in my style are nice.  I don't mean they're weak, or soft, or anything like that, but... they're nice.  I've met a ton of people who train in Seido and pretty much all of them are super nice, super supportive, and just great to be around.  Everybody does everything they can to make everybody else better - not to show up anybody, not to show who is stronger, but just to nurture everybody else's karate.  That doesn't mean you won't get hit during kumite - but it won't be out of malice, it will be out of competition, as a part of training.

It's amazing to be in such a large group of people, all tied together by their love of what amounts to a system for dishing out violence, and almost without exception they're all super nice people.  I wish I knew how this was managed - I wish there was a reproducible recipe for this kind of karate.  I'll think about it some more, but in the meantime I'm just very glad that I lucked into this family (the karate club at my college was a Seido club, run by Shuzeki Shihan Chris Caile, who is a fantastic guy, but in all honesty I trained there because it was the only type of karate I could get to without a car - it wasn't the result of exhaustive research or analysis on my part, just blind, fantastic luck).

Bottom line:  If you ever get a chance to spend 3 days training and hanging out with a bunch of karateka, do it.  Even if there's no air conditioning, and you'll be sleep deprived, and you have to drive 16 hours to get there and back, and you'll get bitten my mosquitoes, and you're recovering from an injury, and you can't really afford it - do it anyway.  From your deathbed I bet you'll remember listening to crickets from seiza and forget all the traffic you hit on the way home.  I bet I will.

I'm thinking about what it means to be a third degree black belt.  I'll write about it at some point.  In the meantime, I have to take a break from training to let my shoulder heal, then it's back to training!


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