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.....

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"tetsudai" 手伝い which means to help/assist.  It's the holiday season and while it's very important to be at home spending time with family and friends, thinking about gifts, and enjoying (some of) the time off, there's also some other things that we could do with our extra free time.

Two weeks ago, my friend organized a "Sandwich Day" which saw 8 of us spend one Sunday morning making about 130 PB&J and tuna-mayo sandwiches and then walking around the Downtown Eastside handing them out to those in need.  We didn't choose who got a sandwich, we simply walked around and offered them to anyone we saw.

Most of the people were extremely grateful but some, interestingly, were rather picky ("No rye bread??", "No chicken salad??") or tried to get more than one.  This is particularly interesting because, just as how it was easy for me to take many things for granted and overlook just how fortunate I am, they were doing conceptually the same thing, just on a different level.  I wasn't as aware of the time I myself would ask for options when, really, I should've just been more appreciative that I even had an option in the first place.  It was a simple yet eye opening thing to have done.  And it only took about 3 hours out of my day.

Another thing about "helping" is that I've noticed recently the newly graded belts have been stepping up, both voluntarily and when I ask them, to help out with the younger/lower ranking belts, be it helping them line up, fixing their belts, or teaching them a few moves here and there.  It's great seeing the kids grow into their responsibilities slowly and, with some guidance here and there, generally doing a good job.

One curious thing I've seen is how some kids will say or do things that I never noticed I did.  I guess because many of the students learned some of what they know from how and what I teach, when it's their turn to do so, they sometimes start with what they've seen me do or hear me say.  Unfortunately, that sometimes leads to moments of "Do I do that/look like that?!?" haha......  oh well, it's a bit of a reality check and gives me a chance to be critical of my own teaching since I can essentially take a step back and watch myself...  and it's helped me change things here and there as I try to improve as a teacher.

Anyways, it's two more days til Christmas and I wish all of you a very safe and happy holiday season!!  Coming up in January 22-23rd is the KarateBC Provincial Championship but I'll check in before then...  See you all in 2011!

Christmas train!!  Choo-choo-choo-choo...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"hisabisa" 久々which means a "long time".  Technically, it's got a very similar meaning to "hisashiburi" which I've written about before but, as I said in that post, "hisashiburi" seems to be used mainly more as a statement whereas "hisabisa", from what I've concluded through hearing it used, seems to be used as part of a phrase where you'd describe something you haven't done in a while (or "It's been a while since...").  Of course, you can use "hisashiburi" in a similar way as well so the details I'm not that sure of....

Anyways, one of the big shockers this past week was the snowfall in Vancouver.  It hasn't actually hit December yet but we've had below-0 temperatures and rather large snowfall which is something I haven't seen in a while.  Yes, many people in Calgary will scoff at the idea of -5 degrees being cold, but for Vancouver in November, I'd say that's a bit rare.

For the most part, I love snow.  I love walking in it, I love driving in it, I love the way it makes everything look, I love the calmness it seems to spread...  I don't, however, love what happens to the city when it snows.  Vancouverites seem to freak out and a lot of them forget that snow is slippery meaning that it's rather dangerous to travel around the city both due to hooligans and ignorants alike...

But enough griping =P...  As I said a few weeks ago, the end of November held a lot of karate and I'm glad to say all of it was rather successful.

The first big deal was the grading we had for most of the coloured belts.  I was very happy with how everyone did, especially some of the people that didn't pass previously in April.  One of the big principles I try to explain to the kids is that more important than the result is what you do with it.  Some of them certainly weren't happy with not passing before but they've worked hard these past months and they deserved their new belts, which I think they're starting to understand the value of.

Beyond that, and I mentioned this to all the students, was how impressive their progress has been.  Sometimes it's hard to see their improvements because I see them so regularly, but when I took a step back and really analyzed their work, I definitely noticed a difference from 6 months ago.  I take it as a sign that the ball is starting to roll now and if we keep it up, there'll be good things in the future =)...

The second big event was the black belt grading this past Saturday.  I wasn't being tested (read: no pressure for me haha) but I did attend to help some people practice as well as be their partners for kihon and jiyu kumite, from which I escaped unscathed fortunately because...

Sunday was the Zone 5 Qualification Tournament.  Karate BC, if you don't know, is divided into zones and each zone holds a qualifier and the top 4 from certain divisions get to compete in the Karate BC Provincial Championships early next year.  The top 3 in the provincials are also allowed onto the BC Team which will then train for the Nationals coming in the spring.

I signed up for kata but I didn't really know what to expect.  It's been a long time since I've competed (see how I tied that back in?? haha) and I don't really know much about the other dojos or competitors around the lower mainland so I went in simply to do my best.  With 6 competitors in my division and me NOT being one with a by, I had to get past the first round to consider myself "qualified" for the provincials.  And that indeed I did, edging out my opponent in the first round but in the second round, I lost to the eventual first place winner.  Ultimately, I came in third, so now I'm headed for the provincials in a few months =)...

A few things I noticed though.  First off, and this may sound really obvious, but training and teaching are two entirely different things.  I'm going to have to get back on it if I'm going to be competitive in 2011 and onward, plain and simple...

The second thing is that it's rather interesting to be the new boy in the relatively small community that is a Karate BC zone tournament.  Everyone else in my division knew each other and have probably competed against each other many times.  Then I step up and I just sensed everyone watching quietly and intently to see what the new guy would do.  It was strangely quieter when I was up for my two times than anyone else...  or it could've just been the nerves...  hmm... =P...

The third and final point ties into the second- that Wado is unfortunately under-represented in BC in terms of adult competitors, if not in general.  That's changing slightly with the growth of some clubs (mine included), but one of the problems that's reared it's head is that for the zone tournament, I was told I could only perform kata from my own style.  Higher level Wado kata simply isn't as competitive as higher level kata from other styles, both due to the comparatively few kata Wado has as well as the philosophical approach Wado has to karate in general.  That makes Wado kata, depending on your perspective, look less complex or less flashy/showy.  Either way, that puts us at a competitive disadvantage right off the bat...

I'm going to find out if I'm allowed to perform kata from other styles for the provincials because I do have a few non-Wado kata that I can prep.  If not, then I'll just be training what Wado kata I have because being less competitive and being NOT competitive are two different things...

Not me =P...
The last thing I haven't done in a long time.......  gone skiing!!  I just picked up some new boots since my old ones didn't fit right last year and after my skis get a good tune-up next week, I'll be ready for the slopes.

Hope you're all ready for December and I'll check in with you all soon =)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"sanka suru" 参加する which means "to participate".  This past month, if I'm honest, I haven't really participated in much.  I've been tutoring a bit more and karate's been going strong but there's lots there that's happening this month.

First off, the Pacific Spirit grading week is this month, so we're busying preparing all the students for that.  The weeks that lead up to grading are always interesting because although it comes across as a "test" of sorts, it doesn't really work that way.  For instance, while there are minimum performance levels each student has to meet for their next belt, it ultimately is partly subjective whether they pass or not.  Some may argue that they should pass because they know a certain kata or can perform a certain move, but I value effort just as much, if not more, than the product.  And while I do strive for all my students to do better than the bare acceptable minimum (and I push them with that in mind), it's also sobering to keep in mind that not everyone is capable of everything and, as an instructor, I think it's important to keep that in mind.

The next big event this month is a black belt grading.  That's not happening at Pacific Spirit but rather at a larger grading where higher ranking black belts will run the test.  I'm not, however, going to be grading for another dan but I will be helping a friend with hers.  It'll be nice to be at a grading without the pressure of being graded for once haha.....

The last big event is the Karate BC Provincial Championship Qualification round.  The actual championship is early 2011 but you basically have to qualify to be in the round.  Karate BC is separated into zones and each zone runs their own try-outs and in the provincial championships, all the qualifiers vie for the top spot.  I've never competed in any Karate BC tournament and the last time I competed was in 2009 at the Kanto area Wadokai Championships.  I'm sneaking in training time before and after classes but it'll be interesting to see how I, and the other students from Pacific Spirit that are competing, will turn out.

Of note is that, as the way these things happen, all three events are happening the same week.....  exciting =P

And in keeping with the karate theme, Richard sent me a video of the quarter final match of the WKF World Championships 75kg men's kumite.

In red is Rafael Aghayev, a multi-title winning -75kg fighter from Azerbaijan.  I was lucky enough to have watched him fight in the 2008 WKF Worlds where he won the -75kg and the Open classes.

In blue is Ko Matsuhisa, also a decorated kumite fighter that's also in the Wadokai.  The year before I went to Japan, he taught at a kumite seminar that my dojo participated in.

Anyways, enjoy the rather epic fight.  Of note is that the scoreboard is flipped but this video is kind enough to show you a running tab of the scores.  Anyway, enough blabbing, enjoy the fight!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"wake" 訳 which means reasoning/meaning.  As part of one of the last phrases in Japanese I ever learned, it's quite useful when you're talking about just how futile or unlikely something could be.  For example, "aruku wake wa nai" basically means "no point in walking" or, depending on your tone of voice, "No way I'm walking".  Another example is "kaeru wake wa nai" which would be "no reason to return" which, again depending on your tone, is synonymous with "Why would I go back?".  Anyway, like any language, there are instricacies to it but that is essentially how "wake" is commonly used.

For me, well, it's more like I have no reason/excuse for not updating my blog recently.  If I'm honest, the time has sort of slid by unnoticed because the days blend into weeks then blend into months.  But I'm back and all is well =)...

One of the things I've been doing recently is going out for walks/hikes.  There's a local hiking trail here called The Chief which consists of 3 different peaks.  I've done two of the three so far and will soon doing the final one.  Pics of that coming soon.

Another place I went to is Lynn Canyon in North Van.  It's a great area with a huge variety of trails ranging from gentle "nature walks" (aboev) to the steep climb to its peak.  I went a few days ago with a friend and, seeing as it's October now, decided to try and capture some autumn colours.

Some of the leaves had started to turn and fall but for really great autumn pictures, I think a few more weeks is needed.  Of course, that's a hard balancing act in Vancouver since fall usually means rain and if I wait too long, there won't be any more leaves to take pictures of.  In the meantime, here are some other ones I got...

One of the best parts of the Lynn Canyon park was that even in the bright sunlight at midday, the canopy casted amazing shadows all across the forest floor.  The lighting was never too bright nor too dim and certain patches would always be illuminated in the places lesat expected.  This, along with the serenely quiet forest atmosphere and the atypically abundant ferns and mosses made it feel very special indeed.

And then, of course, are my personal favourites from the day, including:

A tone mapped picture of a maple leaf.

This one that I call, "Fall"

And my personal favourite from the day because I think the lighting really makes the picture.

Anyway, I promise to be more consistent with these posts.  We've also started a Sunday evening karate class at Pacific Spirit Wado Kai so I'll let you know more about how that class develops as we grow it.

Stay tuned!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"ame" 雨 which means rain.  Even the pictograph kanji looks sort of like water falling from clouds.  That's the interesting thing about kanji...  they seem to bear more resemblance to what they're representing the simpler the kanji.  Although, on second thought, maybe that's not overly surprising...  Anyway haha...

What I meant to talk about was my recent trip up to Lund on the Sunshine Coast.  It's not particularly far but you are at the mercy of the ferries, which means early starts and, if you want to make sure you get home, earlier returns.  But we actually stayed the night in Lund so that made it much more relaxing.

As you can see, quite a lot of twisties which makes the drive rather fun.  The roads on the last leg up to Lund get a bit more broken but for the most part, it's nice and smooth which is always comforting.

After arriving, we had a bit of time to relax and around 6pm, we (me, my parents, and 7 others) all boarded a boat that one of them chartered.  It's basically a privately owned charter company and the owner/operator will plan out a tour based on what you want to see.  You can do multi-day trips, you can do a short half-day or full-day trip to anywhere to see or do anything.  If you want to go fishing, he'll take you to some great fishing spots.  If you want to see waterfalls, he can take you there as well.  For us, we went on a tour around Desolation Sound which included a dinner prepared by his wife (they run the business together).

One of the surprises of the boat trip were the prawn traps that our guide laid out the day before.  The haul wasn't particularly large (though more than enough for the 10 of us) but the more adventurous of us ate a few fresh from the traps.  I must say, they're particularly delicious like that haha.....  very tender with just a tiny bit of the sea salt flavour.

Of course, no trip through a provincial park would be complete without a lot of wildlife being spotted.  Highlights include seals and dolphins (the latter which I wasn't fast enough to grab a shot of) and bald eagles.

And this rock which resembles a seal...

With all that done, we headed back to the quaint shore-side hotel which had one of the most comfortable beds I've ever slept in.  Although that could also be due to the long day that we had...  who knows heh....  oh, also, if you manage to be in Lund on a clear day, the sunset is amazing I'm told since the pier faces west and looks out towards Vancouver Island.  Unfortunately for us, we were hampered by clouds...

The next day we headed back with a stop at the Ruby Lake resort.  And, despite the occasional downpour, what started as a brief rest turned into an all afternoon photography session by everybody because of the sheer amount of flowers and interesting bird-related items hidden around the acreage.  In fact, the resort's a bird sanctuary so going on a clearer day would probably net you quite a few bird sightings if that's your thing.  Here are a few of the flower pics I took.

Capping it all off was lunch at the Italian restaurant at the resort where the chef served us an absolutely delicious meal of pasta with a seafood platter of mussels, scallops, prawns, and clams in a tomato sauce.  As always, there's something to be said for simple, hearty, skillfully prepared meals.

And that was it- a pleasant two day trip right in our own backyard.  It's actually easy enough to get to that I'm considering going again.  It's even possible to head out to the restaurant for lunch and easy make the ferries back for home...  and it's worth it too!

Anyway, now that September's hit, it's back to the normal life which includes yet another season of Pacific Spirit Karate.  We've got some changes coming along and one of them includes a blog which will be online in a few weeks.  So check back for that!