Keith R.A. DeCandido (kradical) wrote,
Keith R.A. DeCandido

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karate thoughts

Shihan is on a two-week vacation right now. He's been doing that more and more lately, as the dojo is successful, which means he can afford to take the vacation in two senses of the word: the success of the dojo means he can financially afford the trips, and the success of the dojo means that there are plenty of black belts to take up the teaching slack.

It's interesting, when I started in 2004, Shihan taught almost all of the classes: a kids class and three adult classes on Monday, two kids classes and two adult classes on Tuesday, three kids classes and two adult classes on Thursday, an adult class on Friday, four kids classes and one adult class on Saturday, and two adult classes on Sunday. The only one he didn't teach was a kids class on Friday -- the sparring class that Senpai John used to teach and that I teach now.

Shihan still teaches all those classes, except for the Friday night adult class (an advanced fighting class that has kind of fallen by the wayside), but he's also added several classes to the docket, all of which are taught by other black belts: an adult class on Sunday morning (Senpai Dago) and three classes on Wednesday (one kids by Senpai Charles, one teenagers by Senpai Jorge, one adult by Sensei Gustavo).

When I started, the only person who ever assisted Shihan was Senpai Cliff (at the time, a brown belt). When he went on vacation, which usually only happened once a year and only for a week, there were a couple of black belts to teach.

Now, though, there are several of us who help him out, including me. We have several afterschool programs taught by me, Senpai Harley, and Senpai Dylan. He goes on vacation more often, and there are half a dozen of us substituting. It's a really wonderful sense of support that to my mind makes the dojo stronger, and all of us better.

On this particular occasion, it's been a bit of a perfect storm of vacations, as this week, not only is Shihan away, but so is Sensei. So Shihan assigned Senpai Dorian to teach the adult class last night.

Senpai Dorian has been studying karate for quite a while, though she's taken breaks here and there. She is a superb karateka, and I was very grateful to see her teach, as it's not something she's done much of. And she was amazing. It was an excellent class.

I remember the first time Shihan went on vacation, I really enjoyed the different style and perspective brought by Sensei Clai, Sensei Gustavo, Senpai Michael, and Senpai Joel. I think it's valuable to learn from different people periodically, because each teacher brings something different.

Senpai Dorian is one of the best performers of kata in our dojo. I've participated in three adult tournaments at our dojo over the years, and every time I've been in the same division as Senpai Dorian, which has guaranteed that I'd never finish higher than second place in kata. In 2014, there were five of us competing as second-degree black belts, and we were very evenly matched -- four of us tied for second place with scores of 29, but Senpai Dorian was in first with a well-earned perfect score of 30.

So last night, there was a lot of focus on kata. And one of the things she threw at us was this quote, which is from Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of the Shito-ryu discipline of karate and one of the first people to bring Okinawan karate to the Japanese mainland.
A kata is not fixed or immoveable. Like water, it's ever changing and fits itself to the shape of the vessel containing it. However, kata are not some kind of beautiful competitive dance, but a grand martial art of self-defense -- which determines life and death.

I love that quote, in part because everyone does kata differently. One of the things I loved about that tournament where we had the four-way tie was watching all five of us do the primary second-degree kata, Koryugojushiho. It was the same kata, but all of us did it differently, bringing our own style to it.

Senpai Dorian had us focus on our kata more than usual last night, and it was glorious. Just a wonderful class.

(And I'm totally stealing that Mabuni quote when I teach...........)

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