A little departure from my usual Shoto Budo ramblings this time as I prepare for the Great Scottish Run half marathon . . .
In my last update, I mentioned injuring my back during our course at the start of the month. Three weeks later and it is still a bit stiff when practising martial arts. The twisting and turning still puts a bit of a strain on it but after three weeks of careful training, I think I am just about ready to up the level next week.
First of all is the small matter of 13 miles around the streets of Glasgow at the weekend. I last did a half marathon in 2001 but have been a regular runner since then, albeit in the three to six mile range. Despite my legs being 15 years older, I have really enjoyed training for the increased distance over the summer and am looking forward to the run. The back injury worried me but actually didn't impact my running training too much, other than a few inactive days. I guess the type of movement in running hasn't put the same strain on the back muscles that were injured. A good pair of Asics running shoes probably helps lessen the impact too.
Whilst my fitness has improved greatly through my running, does it lend itself to Shoto Budo? My non-scientific opinion is...sort of. My overall cardio is better but it definitely is a different type of fitness compared to doing groundwork, sparring, kata or pads (which in themselves are four different types of fitness). I think it gives me a good base level of cardio fitness and that in turns lends itself to the requirements for Shoto Budo. I also think my general level of endurance has improved by virtue of running continuously for two hours.
So everything feels good for the weekend. I don't have a time in mind but based on training, anything under two hours and 15 minutes would be awesome. The weather even looks like it might cooperate to make for a good day. I'm not the only club member running as Emma is also going to pound the pavements. Which one of us talked the other into this is still a matter of some debate.
It will be back to Bearsden Academy on Tuesday for training and, hopefully, my legs won't be too sore. As we get into the final month before the National course and, potentially, me grading, I will be taking a look at how I think my skills are developing.
The club hosted the Shoto Budo organisation for a course at Bellahouston Sports Centre over the weekend of 10th and 11th September. It was my first course for some time and given my fitness level has been good, I was really looking forward to this.
We had a good turn out on Saturday and rather surprisingly, I was asked to take the warm up. I started with a few runs around the hall, some kicks to loosen off and then went into some sport-inspired moves, such as basketball throws (imagine squatting down to pick up a ball), hurdle jumps and American football stances. I got these from the (aptly named) Insanity workout and always found it gets the body moving. That seemed to be the case here and I choose to take statements like "that was hard" and "I'm knackered" as compliments...
It was then on to Eric to take the course and he focused on parrying. We started with some slow paced parrying with a partner and along the way adding some sticky hands and leg parrying. I did feel we could have used some more instruction on the techniques Eric was looking for. In our club, we've been working on leg and close parrying for several months but it was apparent that some others had never seen these moves so I think they would have benefited from a bit more explanation.
Somewhere in all of this, I hurt my back. It felt like a pulled muscle so when I went to get my gloves from my bag, I struggled to get back up. Not good. I sat out the next few practices and tried to stretch out.
The last hour or so was a change, with each of the third Dans present taking small groups to instruct them. All very different, and I particularly liked Chris Foley's demonstration of looking for space and Alexis Reid's chair based defence. The day finished with each group giving a demonstration of the skills just learned. It was interesting to see that the seven different third Dans had all taken different approaches. Good variety! I was taking part sporadically at this point as my back was getting worse.
Unfortunately my back really stiffened up overnight so I was not able to go on Sunday. A few days later and it's still pretty sore but I'm at least moving better. I am absolutely gutted to get injured now after such a good year of training, both in martial arts and running and I really hope this is only a minor setback. The timing is rubbish, with a half marathon only three weeks away and the next national course in eight weeks time so I am worried that my fitness will not be good enough for one or both of these events. I did some light training on Tuesday and Wednesday, mostly doing kata, some locks and hand strikes on pads and felt okay so hopefully I won't lose too much momentum in training.
Despite the injury, it was a good course and I enjoyed the different instruction from different black belts. One thing I did miss on Sunday was our very own Diana Flynn's successfully grading to green belt. Congratulations Diana!
With both Hugh and Eric unavailable this past week, John Marley took the class on Wednesday night. I love training with John; he is a highly skilled black belt and has an interest in quick, simple, and effective ways to deal with an attacker so I was really looking forward to this one.
It began with a very energetic warm up, with the first four katas, followed by two rounds of the breakfall kata, and then the next three katas. We then added some rolls with the challenge to bounce up and deliver a high kick. I was certainly warmed up by the end of this.
Onto the various locks and moves and as it transpired, I was John's demo partner for the evening. This usually goes something like this. John will say "throw a punch", I oblige, and something fast happens and I end up face first on the mat, upside down or tapping out to some sort of unexpected lock. This pattern repeated itself numerous times.
John instructed us in blocks of three moves to try before moving onto a practice where one person would be in the middle of the mats and would be attacked by the other members of the club, either punches, kicks or grabs. I was up first and this was a really fast paced and tiring practiced. What I liked about the moves was their simplicity. In the heat of the moment, a complex move doesn't always work and in trying to apply it, you may actually end up in a comprised position where an opponent could take advantage.
In this practice, the focus was on movement and dealing with the attack before it becomes a struggle. Having a fresh opponent ready to attack as soon as you have dealt with the previous one gets very tiring very quickly so part of the learning here was to avoid getting into a prolonged encounter with each opponent.
This is where John's favoured moves are so effective, with quick locks or strikes proving an efficient way of avoiding an opponent. Having said that, it was still a tiring experience even though I may have been defending for just a few minutes.
We then moved onto some pressure points which can certainly provoke a reflex response when they are struck. John advised that the outer and inner thigh had pressure points that may be a good place to attack if you are in a headlock, with the reflex possibly being enough to allow an escape. So far, so simple...at least until I tried to find them. Practising with Emma, it must have looked very strange as we tried to find the points that John had found with ease. Is it here? No. Here? Nope. How about here? No. Other leg? Aaaargh.
Clearly some more practise required.
All in all, it was a splendid lesson. It was a warm night and with the intensity, I think my gi was just about see through with sweat by the end, but as so often happens in training with John, I came away having learned some new things.
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.