Thursday, 24 March 2011

Your Japanese word of the... month... is...

"keiken" 経験 which means "experience".  Firstly, yes it's been basically two months since I wrote something that tags itself as weekly.  Secondly, after searching my blog, I'm quite surprised I haven't used this word yet.

Anyways, the big news was that this past weekend (Mar 18 - 20) was the Karate Canada Nationals.  As I mentioned before, I went with Team BC and I got a first hand look at what kind of things I need to do to change my karate.

As an experience, going to Nationals was amazing.  It was a bit rough in the beginning since I didn't know anyone so even the social aspect of meeting new people was great.  The other great part was that I got to be immersed in a community of common interest where everyone speaks the language.  We can talk karate and everyone gets it.  It's nice to be able to do that sometimes.

First off, the tournament was held in St. Hyancinthe which is about an hour east of Montreal.  We all stayed at the hotel which also provided the venue for the tournament.  So really, for a week, we basically stayed inside the hotel.  However, with two friends, we did manage to rent a car and drive into Montreal for a few hours but it really wasn't worth the hassle.  Certainly not for two hours.  But we did see...  some church...

... and the Olympic Stadium hehe...

Anyways, on to the tournament...  Taking place over three days, there were kata and kumite events for a bunch of age groups (starting from 14 yrs) and weight classes.  It actually makes for really long days watching lots of events, but being in the hotel meant that we could go outside for some fresh air or a quick bite and then head back to watch more events and cheer for the team.  At the end of the day, all the final rounds were held and then medal ceremonies.

Of course, with age and weight classes, the kumite division were by far the largest so that means there are fights all day long.  That also means there were a lot of intense moments as people tied or took the lead with seconds remaining.

There were also Team Kata events, which are always fun to watch =P
In terms of the teams themselves, Quebec and Ontario brought the biggest teams and are understandably strong.  Team BC consisted of 55 athletes and we did rather well, if I do say so myself.

A member of Team BC (blue) enroute to his gold medal.
For me personally, the experience was eye opening in that it showed me how much I still have yet to learn about competing.  I came out of the tournament with lots of good feedback from coaches and officials and I really do think that, with some reflection and hard work, I can keep improving to the point where I could win a medal.  The first step, however, is getting onto the team again so I'd have a chance to try haha...  so that's what I'll be doing from now til the next selection- training.

More Team BC - Boys 16 - 17 Kata
Admittedly I still have a lot of catching up to do if I want to be competitive in the next few years, but it's not impossible.  Someone mentioned to me before that "individual" sports like tennis or golf can be difficult because it gets lonely and the burden really falls on the one athlete.  And karate can be like that sometimes in that winning or losing a match depends entirely on the one competitor.  But now there's also more support both from within Wado and from the team itself which really helps.

For the rest of the year, there's quite a few karate things happening as well.  For starters, I got a call from another Wado dojo that wants to put together an instructional video and they wanted me to do some kata for them, which will be very helpful since a lot of our students have been asking for some kind of reference as well.  In June there's going to be a big Wado training camp and we're trying to set up not one but two karate summer camps for July.  So lots of cool stuff happening this year and in the fall, hopefully I can report on some other Pacific Spirit members competing...  not just myself haha...
My favourite shot of the tournament, and Team BC (red) as well!  Men's 18 - 20 Kumite -60kg

Lastly, about the tournament photos.  Unfortunately, f4 on my Beercan wasn't enough in the venue's lighting.  I basically had to salvage what I could from the RAWs and tweaked them to be presentable.  Not all of them turned out but a fair number did so enjoy! =)

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"kawaru" 変わる which means "to change".  As some of you know, I worked at a Lexus dealership for a few years, mostly while I was in undergrad, and a lot changed while I was there.  I had changes in supervisors, changes in materials and equipment, and even changes in how work was prioritized. 

With the changes came how I dealt with them.  Much like anything in life, the beginning saw me trying to do everything I was shown mostly because, without any experience, that's really the only thing I could do.  Some time later, with a better understanding of what and how things needs to be done, I began to adapt the work to fit my work style and standards.  The latter end of my work, however, fraught with mild frustration as new people, standards, or procedures were introduced that didn't always jive with me.

Some (including me) would say that wasn't really worth putting up a fight about.  But more than that, insteading of wasting my time arguing, I tried to find a way stick to my methods while still accomodating and adapting to the new environment.  Sounds pretty reasonable but the sheer number of conflicts I've seen at all my places of work and elsewhere suggests that it doesn't happen that often.

And such is the crossroads I'm at now in terms of karate.  This past weekend was the Karate BC Provincials and, long story short, I ended up third.  But I wasn't particularly happy with how I did, having lost early on and was pulled up because I lost to the eventual second place winner.  My big issue is, as one of the coaches explained to me, that while there is nothing wrong with my karate, there is lots lacking from my competition karate.

Rika Usami - gold medal individual women's kata - 2010 Asian Games
Competition kata is judged a bit like figure skating, with a panel of judges looking for technical details as much as presentation.  The time I spent in Japan was focussed on learning karate in the martial arts sense- the function beneath the form, the uses of specific stances/positions, the more abstract as well as the concrete ideas that underlie the movements.  I still have much to learn (as a recent black belt seminar showed) but that approach has led me to be somewhat critical of competition kata at times.

This, of course, now ties in to the same adapting ideas I mentioned before.  I think I had issue with competition kata because I thought that's what some people did all the time.  But I realise now that the best martial artists can have a "competition mode" that doesn't sacrifice their "traditional understanding" (technically, the best word for this is budo 武道).  In fact, the best ones would most likely be able to blend the two together, streamlining their karate to be competitive while still keeping the core aspects and ideas of their martial arts.

Key to the next stage
Thus is the next step for me, at least in terms of competition.  There will be things that I can learn and do that will make my kata more "presentable" and hopefully more competitive.  One of the first steps is that having medalled, I can now start training with the BC Team.  This medal, then, more represents what I can do now than what I've already done.  I'm already further along than I planned for in 2010 and as 2011 progresses, I'll keep refining my goals for this and the following year.

Most interesting (or perhaps stubborn) is that it took something like to make the wholesale change in my thinking.  Guess I still have much to learn haha.....