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dress up – karate

April 2, 2008

After training Judo for two years, my school’s Judo sensei left (wasn’t re-hired). I started looking for Judo clubs or schools within my area. How many did I find? Three. Other than that, it was all the way Karate. Shotokan style karate.

While looking for Judo schools I ran across an “International Martial Arts” school otherwise known as Yuushinkai – “The gathering of courage and truth.”

Here’s the kanji on my outfit.

If I ever have a martial art school it’ll have the kanji for “slow to wake up in the morning”

Yuushinkai practices a Kyokushin style of Karate. Now, for those of you mighty Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioners out there who believe karate is for thin wimpy guys in the 80s doing manual labor for Japanese WWII vets think again.

Unlike Shotokan (Kata baby, yeah!), Kyokushin is full contact Karate. There are no punches to the head, no elbow strikes and no groin strikes. Everything else is legal.

In a typical Kyokushin tournament two fighters in a match usually blast away at each other until one fails to continue or gets KO’d. I saw one of the brown belts knock out a guy with a leaping knee to the head. I saw the same brown belt perfectly time a sweep that messed up the other guy’s ankle, it bent in a way that an ankle is not supposed to bend.

If Judo’s the hardest martial art I’ve practiced, then Yuushinkai’s Kyokushin was probably the toughest.

What lead me to Yuushinkai in the first place? Well, since it’s an “international martial art” school they also practice a little bit of kickboxing, Combat Sambo and (Gasp!) Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. That was why I originally signed up, they did jiu-jitsu. Or just spider guard because that’s all the BJJ I “learned” from there, which I already knew.

“International” means teaching Combat Sambo & BJJ which – funny but true – have Japanese origins

I did not stay very long at Yuushinkai. Less than a year actually. But I learned some very important things (besides the lovely techniques of Combat Sambo and Kyokushin Karate) during my time there.

Knee-on-the-Belly ain’t got a thing on Spinning-back-kick-to-the-Gut
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a martial art of pressure. Provide the right amount of pressure and an arm breaks or someone gets choked out. Not enough and someone escapes side control.

Kyokushin Karate is a martial art of badass-ness. Really. Anytime you have a martial art and its training method is to get punched bare-knuckled in the stomach is badass. Kyokushin demands that you take continuous punishment and keep on going. It’s a happy day in Kyokushin-land when we take bodyshots, and kicks to the gut, over and over and over. Sure Knee-on-the-Belly sucks, especially if the person applying it is heavier or knows exactly how to apply it, but it’s not that bad.

And after Yuushinkai, I’m never complaining about getting smashed or slammed again.

If you’re not training Alive, you’re not training
Alive training and Aliveness. Best explained by this article by Matt Thornton. How does it relate?

Well, one of the things I noticed about Yuushinkai was that it never did any kind of sparring on the ground. And when we learned throws, we never even did randori.

Yes, they taught amazing Combat Sambo takedowns and leg locks. Yes, they taught BJJ. But they were terrible at them. I pulled off their takedowns and throws way better than they did. When it came to grappling, I had to severely hold back because I didn’t want to embarrass belts higher than me. That’s because they never did anything more than just teach a takedown or ground technique. Learn a technique, do it a couple times, then move on to the next one.

No drilling. No sparring. No Aliveness.

Size 5 gi-top, size 6 gi-pants – all the makings for a weight loss commercial

The only time I did sparring in Yuushinkai was when I did Karate. It was the only thing they trained “alive” in. That’s why their stand up was so phenomenal. That’s why they were damn good at throwing kicks that seemed to come from nowhere. That’s why I got my ass kicked by a 12 year old boy.

And Yuushinkai’s devotion to stand up sparring proves the importance of training alive, which Brazilain Jiu-jitsu does on a regular basis (insert smile here). There’s no way Daniel-san from the Karate Kid could have gotten so good just by learning wax-on wax-off. It’s probably why a lot of people assumed they could be hardcore Karate ninja masters.

Live training means growth, refinement of skill and – believe it or not – training that way is so much more fun.

The Importance of Gameplans
Probably the most important lesson I’ll take to heart from training at Yuushinkai; gameplans make or break you.

Let’s go back to that statement I made by getting my ass kicked by a 12 year old boy. That is completely true. I did get my ass kicked by a boy whose balls didn’t even drop yet. Why? I played his game.

Three months into Yuushinkai they let me get some hard sparring in with some other white belts. After seeing that I could hang they sent the youngest black belt in after me. Yeah, the 12 year old. So there I am standing toe-to-toe with a kid and he does a spinning back kick which I defend pretty well, but he follows it up with a fake-low-to-high kick combo. I go to block the low kick leaving myself open for the high kick. It catches me clean on the jaw. I stumble and after a few follow up leg shots I go down to the ground. Not one of my better days.

Guaran-damn-teed if we were playing my game I would have kicked ass. Sure it would have been a win over a 12 year old boy but I would choked him out nonetheless.

This is exactly the same in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, more so in MMA. If your strong suit in BJJ is a high and tight close guard, it does not makes sense and it does not benefit you to play X-guard especially during a tournament. Training and practicing X-guard is one thing, but it’s something completely different when you have to do it correctly and on demand – especially if X-guard is not your A game.

In a tournament (or when you really want to see what level you’re at when you spar) you stick to your gameplan, whether it be your A game or B game. Basically it’s playing to your abilities, doing whatever it is you do well and when the opportunity presents itself you do what you do best.

Plain and simple, when it’s game time don’t be trying for a gogoplata if your money submission is a triangle. Unless of course you use the gogoplata to set up the triangle, then you’d be using your money submission anyway.

One of the techniques I learned was how to look dangerous while kicking at someone holding a camera

And finally…

Respect for other Martial Arts
Yuushinkai maybe a Kyokushin Karate school at heart but they realize the importance of other styles, of other kinds of delivery systems. I mean, they could have just settled on teaching either Sambo or BJJ, but instead they teach both arts openly and without judging. Which is incredible, because Japan is notorious for its “one way is the only way” kind of narrow minded thinking.

Other martial arts might not be what you personally practice. They might even have different approaches to a common technique. But it’s all the same. We wear funny outfits that we normally never wear. And do things that not everyone else does.

Respect, cause we’re practitioners of combat.

The ones that do alive training anyway.

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4 Comments leave one →
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