Sloan Training Journal

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Sloan Training Journal

Post by Sloan on Sun Sep 18, 2016 4:55 pm

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Sensei George Vance came to instruct today at the dojo. I was somewhat nervous of the watchful eye moving over us. The cumulative years of the students reaching somewhere just over 10 years. Which paled in comparison to those 40 plus years of Sensei. That said, it was an interesting experience after the nerves got out of the way.

He was a kind, gentle instructor. He knew the problem you had, never said it was wrong (unless it would give injury over time), and described a new way to think about it. It was good teaching. Patient.

In training, we moved through kihon, then kumite, then kata. The majority of the training, infact all of it, focused on developing the strength of one's legs in terms of stances. Conversely, his presentation of strength was that the arms are loose, and the legs are strong.

So, I will have to teach my legs to be my arms and my arms to be my legs.

In kumite, this became more apparent. Reading the opponents movements against you required the legs to work to their potential. The phrase, if memory serves, was "your stance will take you out of dance, not your hands."

In kata, this came full circle as we let the arms flow loose and the legs move firmly. Note the legs didn't plant (read stamp) the floor. Instead, they moved with the body like an octopus on the ocean floor, or a fog over a hillside in dew.

Finally, Sensei Vance and I went to eat; so that I could ask questions and listen to his instruction. He spoke, mainly, of things to try to avoid doing/being/becoming, and I listened to him tell a few tales of him being corrected by seniors. One such instance was the story of him training with Nishiyama Sensei - and boy is that a great story! But, it is not my story to tell, so I won't place it here.

Peace.

Sloan
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Re: Sloan Training Journal

Post by Sloan on Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:56 pm

Friday, September 30th, 2016

Over the past few months, with the past few weeks in particular, I have wondered about kumite. I have thought about it in the light of where and how art and life blur. What boundary do they meet at? Does such a border exist? Are they the same thing or uniquely different? Is there even a threshold to ponder?

I think of these kumite with the life-event of death. Today, September 30th, is a family anniversary - some sixteen years in the making. My heart is heavy. I did not want to get out of bed, and I still don't want to face the day. Or write this.

Dying is an opponent we all face, and will eventually succumb to. It is immovable and inescapable in our current understanding of reality. We can ignore it until it arrives, and know it only at the moment of impact. We can think on it regularly, and see life's wonder through its inevitable end. We can ruminate on death every day, like waiting for a date to arrive, and have lived an empty life in fear.

I want to focus on the second, thinking on it regularly and seeing life's wonder through it. I want to apply this thinking to kumite.

When, rarely, I'm able to focus my mind on seeing the wonder of the life, I'm able to relate my positives to my negatives, my attributes to my limits. Therein seems to be a position to learn from, and to engage beyond the limitations of my thinking, doing, and being.

For example, to become involved in an activity, I can see what I have chosen to not become involved in, and so place my efforts and energy into the chosen activity. I find that, if I don't, then I spend my time in the former complaining that I am not doing the latter. If would be like going to a movie theatre and complaining loudly that I am not seeing every other film currently being shown. I miss what I am seeing. I miss the event in front of me. I miss the life I am living. How entirely selfish of me to think I can do and know it all while not doing or knowing anything with which I am present.

I find that kumite is similar (and so too might be kata and kihon - but save that for another time). Like watching the film, I cannot complain about the films I'm not currently watching - I cannot complain about the kumite I am not currently fighting. What am I watching? What is my focus? What do I want to learn? Why did I choose this film? Why did I choose Shotokan? Why did I choose to spar?

Like the anniversary that I'm remembering today, I wonder what it is that I am choosing to remember? Why does it fill me with such pain? What am I feeling now, and what can I learn from it? The more I think and feel on it, the more I think I do not know what I am. Who do I miss? Who am I remembering? What do I not know about them?

Likewise, the more I think of training (and of the body), I wonder if I will ever know it at all. I don't think I ever will. I think to the first rule:

"To strive for perfection of character, seek perfection of character"

While perfection is a lofty goal, I question in which direction such striving and seeking moves. Do I strive for goodness? Should I seek badness? I do not know.

I think, finally, of D. H. Lawrence's poem:

I have never seen a wild thing feel sorry for itself.
A little bird will fall dead, frozen from a bough,
without ever having felt sorry for itself.


It is short, and replete with meaning. I question the domestication of the human being, and if we are ever wild. We call killers, terrorists, and abusers "wild animals", yet here is what wild sparring looks like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulX9whCMVVY

Wildness seems still, silent, and without complaint.

I will try to complain less, speak less, and do more. Maybe I will then be wild, in some poetic measure of the phrase. Maybe my karate will be better then.

Peace.

Sloan
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