2013 was a year of mixed fortunes when it came to my training. On the one hand, I graded for brown belt and really enjoyed it. I felt fitter than ever and was looking forward to preparing for First Dan. Then I injured my neck and what I thought would be a minor inconvenience, wiped out almost five months of training. When I started again in October, I was out of shape and tentative about the injury so it was, at best, a 50% effort.
Into 2014 and refreshed after a further four week break over the festive season, I started training again this week and after two good sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, I feel like my body has healed and I am ready to start again on the road to First Dan.
Both of this week's sessions had a high level of intensity and worked up a good sweat. We have club members who are preparing for either Kyu grading in February or First Dan in March and this means they get put through their paces. This also means that everyone else comes along for the journey and ups their own intensity and fitness levels.
Both nights kicked off with some pad work, first with hand techniques and then the kicking sequence we have been working on for a few weeks. This lead into some parrying sessions with different opponents.
I do feel that sparring is, by far, my weakest skill and it continues to need work. I think I lack confidence in my techniques that I can find a good target and in particular feel that I use my kicks either as "range finders" or as a defence to keep my opponent away rather than forcing them to need to parry. The upshot of this is I find myself on the defensive (or worse!) in most of my parrying sessions. Whilst I was out injured, I watched a few training sessions and funnily enough I can see other people making similar mistakes so it is additionally frustrating to recognise the problem but struggle to resolve it. This will be an area I ask for Hugh's advice.
After sparring we spent some time on takedowns and wrestling.
I hugely enjoy the takedown sequence practises. It's a tremendous aerobic workout as well as developing a library of skills to handle different types of attacks (punches, kicks and grabs). This was the one area of the practise where my lack of training caught up with me - both in terms of stamina and how sore I felt on Thursday morning. Six months without taking bumps will do that do you.
Onto the wrestling sessions and again this is something I really enjoy. Funnily enough, if you had asked me before I started Shoto Budo what area I would likely enjoy most, ground work would probably have been the last thing I would have said. I am not sure why that would have been the case, yet learning the movement and control on the ground is fascinating.
We finished off with some kata and stretching, with Wednesday seeing my first tentative steps into Hangetsu Den. As I move up into the higher katas, I find it takes a lot longer for them to sink in (that might be an age thing!) so this is going to need some work. I think I just about have the basic movement but it is a long way from being ready for a grading.
So all in all, a good first week back and no ill effects on my neck. Plenty of things to work on over the next few months before I grade and hopefully you will join me on the journey.
Until the next time, keep your guard up!
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.