Friday, September 28, 2007

Sparring - Bugo Kuma Ite

Once you get to purple belt, at Steve Lavallee's East Coast Karate, bugo kum ite or sparring becomes part of the program. When I'm feeling good, I love the B Days (sparring days). When I'm injured, tired, or not right...I won't even show up. It's a bad idea to be on the floor on the sparring days when I can't go 100%.

The sparring is super-controlled. We wear head gear, 16 oz gloves, chest guard, feet and shin pads, and a cup. We only hit above the waist, never the face and we "tap-tap but never rap". Still, it's a contact sport. And that's what makes it fun.

For a view of what really good sparring in our school looks like, check out the second half of this youtube video of Edward Mercer on this 3rd degree black belt test. I think I can make out Jonathan Weeks, Raul, & Gavin as his partners. For a less impressive sparing display (ie, it's by me), look at the video on the bottom of the Black Belt Testing 2 article.

What makes sparring so enthralling is that there are so many details and strategies that need to be done at the same time. It's about getting the basics right while being quick and creative and reactive. and having great endurance (Cardio is king!). And the feedback on mistakes is immediate and direct....

My Guidelines to Better Sparring - Only Four Things to Focus On (Sept 07)

1. Keep my hands up. Specifically, my left lead hand falls and my head is wide open. I've been sparring for 3 years and still, I can't seem to keep my guard up. I would feel stupid except I see other high reds (rarely blacks) who can't keep their left hand in guard. So I'm not too deliquent on this one. But it's my highest priority. This is so important.

2. Keep my hands up and do NOT take them down to parry kicks or body shots. My partners have commented that it's simple for them to kick, watch me drop my hand to parry, and leave my head wide open. Ideally, I should parry quickly and get them back up. I've been told that better yet is when a front kick is coming in, I should turn my body or hips slightly to deflect it and avoid routinely downblocking or parrying low. It was fine against lesser competitors but against the blackbelts, it's inviting them to practice combinations on my head. As Jonathan Weeks explained; "When I kick or body punch, you usually shouldn't parry. You need to learn to move not just your shoulders but the body and hips so that the front kicks slide by. When it's that easy to get you to drop your hands, you're just lucky that I'm not supposed to hit you".

3. Pace Myself. I need to be quick and on my toes with my hands up in guard the entire match. This means that I need to pace myself. Kicks are surprisingly exhausting. a Even though I'm in good shape, I need to pace myself to perform for a full 120 seconds. I find this amazing but it's true. My goal is to be t my most intense in the last 30 seconds and so far, that is rarely the case. Sometimes, especially on the candidate classes, I'm just out-of-steam before the end of the match.

4. Stay on my toes and circle to my right (or, if I'm playing with a leftie, towards their jab, away from their cross). I hear this week after week, match after match. Still, I tend to circle towards their power side.

Those are the most vital lessons for me. If I can keep my left hand 100% in guard, and circle right while on my toes while keeping an even or accelerating pace thru a match, I've moved up a level.

Of course there are many more lessons (many many many more lessons!) but I need to make sure that I stay focused on those top four. Hands up, hands up, dancing, and pacing.

5. Combinations, not single shots. I've learned this and in over-emphasizing it, I'm failing to go in and out. Still, my list of effective combinations is too short. So far:
- jab, cross, semijab while stepping right and front round house
- semijab then left hook as they parry
- front kick, jab jab
- jab low, jab high, cross
- several kicking combos with the left such as round, side, side or front, side, round

6. In and out. Angle out. Don't charge in against the taller guys (ie Gavin). There will be a place where I am within reach of them but can't counter. My approach to charging thru that vulnerable spot created more problems than it solved. Stay balanced and shuffle thru.

7. Get out. I used to be leery of staying inside and boxing, always relying on my reach, kicks, and wheels. Since the spring, I'm coming inside comfortably. This past week, too comfortably and I'm letting it become a slugfest. As KC put it: "Don't be staying inside with Jonathan. If you keep hitting him from inside, you're not going to like where that goes."

8. Learn to bob & weave. Before I can stay inside, I need to have much better defense including ducking and bobbing which so far, I ain't got. Angel is amazing at this. Despite my reach, he could hang inside with me and I mostly miss his head. I parried some of his punches effectively and I can back-out really fast, I haven't figured out how dodge, duck, and bob. So, tap, tap, tap.

9. Keep my elbows in. I seem to have been blocking some kicks with elbows. Oops. Big oops. I'm mortified. Sorry.

10. My blocking of front roundhouses is still not right. Jonathan was showing me that I've been leaning into them including with my head which is not right. I should just tuck my head forward (chin into the chest), protect with my hand, and step in while crossing. The good news is that I've stopped turning so I'm not taking the kick in the back anymore.

Have I made any progress? Sometimes, I need to remind myself that I have....
- I don't signal my kicks by first dropping my hands anymore.
- I don't signal my head jabs by glancing upward prior to punching anymore
- My hands are probably in guard close to 85% of a match now
- I'm not throwing punches without intent and into space
- I'm using my cross (not enough)
- I have a repertoire (small) of combinations
- Some of my kick combinations are good
- My front kick is a great defense
- My balance is much better. It's been six months since I fell overbackwards while connecting on a front kick (which I used to do regularly)
- I think I've been on my toes 100% of the time over the last month
- I sometimes angle out, I sometimes circle right. Mostly against lesser partners, I tent not to when it most matters.
- I'm usually aware of blatant openings from partner's dropped guards and I take advantage of it.
- I'm not popping my head way up so much anymore (but I still do).
- I've starting punching to the body although it still feels like it pulls my hands too far down.
- I've increased my hand speed so that feeling of not even being in the game is gone.
- I've learned to breath and not hold my breath although I sometimes relapse.
- I've finally learned to throw a hook (left hook headshot mostly)
- Sometimes, I remember to change rhythms and to show some explosive speed after a slower period.

Further reading:
- Any ideas?
- Sparring Strategy
- Sparring Hints
- Sparring Tips (my favorite)

PS - A note on the term bugo kum ite - Is it bugo kum ta? Bugokumite? bugokumtai?bugokumatai? bugokumathai? bu go ku matai? bugo kuma thai? Bugo kuma tae? Bugo kumatae? bugo kumatae? bugokumatae? boogo cuma tae? boogokumatai? boog go ku matai? boogo koom tae, bugo koom a tai? bugo koom tae, boog koom tai, buggo kum tae. boogo kuma tai, boog go kum tai. Why this long list? I've told people they could find this site by googling "bugo kuma tai" but sadly, no two people seem to have the same idea of how to spell it. So if I add enough permutations, I'll cover the possibilities. bugg okum atai? boogg ocuma tai? bugokumite bugo kumite? bugo khom ite?

"Bugo" seems to be used to refer to a type of martial art, generically for fighting, or to be used sometimes as a term for your "fighting name". While bugo shows up in google, bugo does not show up in American dictionaries. Kumite seems to have to do with "armor" so bugo kumit is "fighting with armor" or perhaps "with amour" which would translate as fighting with love. Go figure.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Two mile timed run

One of the conditions of earning a black belt is to run 2 miles in under 16 minutes. I thought this would be easy but when I did my first timed run on a brutally hot day after an hour of sparring and having received many body shots, I clocked in at 16:19. I was over by 19 seconds!!!

So I started running and training with some intensity. One week later, on a cool evening, I clocked in at 15:40 :-> Hurrah, no more worries. Let the games begin.

So, I started chasing better times using as my target, Agnes. She was only about 25 seconds ahead of me.....

To make a long story short, my progress has been steady and dramatic. Last night, Sept 21, I did my personal best (again!) on the timed two mile run at 14:09!!! Yes, this is more than two minutes faster than when I started getting timed. I partially got there by deciding to stay next to Jennifer Melrose and then, near the end, seeing a chance to catch and pass young Steve Lavallee (the nephew, great guy).

But Agnes is still nearly 30 seconds ahead of me and her progress remains inexorable. She is fixated on trying to catch up with Kathy. Meanwhile, we are becoming one of the fastest running candidates classes in recent history since ahead of Kathy is some kids (12 years old) who as far as I can tell, is running in untied sneakers and going very fast.

I know that I'm going to beat 14 minutes before I'm done. What else?

I should mention that I'm strong in this one area. For many, maybe most, the sixteen minute two mile run is a huge personal challenge. They struggle hard to get their time down to 16 minutes and for many, with leg and hip problems, it is their waterloo. For others, it's just too fast. I struggle with flexibility, recovery time from classes, pushups, kicks, and situps but all those years of soccer left me with real wheels. It's said that in a soccer game, we use to cover 8 miles and while I was never the quickest, I always built my endurance up to be a source of strength.

Sports Nutrition

You are never too young to pay attention to what you eat. Well, that's not entirely true since there is far too much worrying about nutrition and skinniness by the people I know who are mostly great eaters with great figures. If you eat proper family meals and are not a fast food family, then STOP Worrying.

Still, at 49, I've started to do some reading on nutrition. So far, I can't say that I've truly got a feel for it. I have started to eat after my hard workouts. Oddly enough, my reading has convinced me that a glass of low fat chocolate milk is a sensible nutritious choice.

I still feel like I'm carrying an extra 10 pounds and 2 inches around my waist since four years ago, thru a combination of alot of running and a soft atkins diet, I worked myself down to 180 and stayed there for a year (feeling good too). But the literature is generally against it....And I seem to have the lost discipline to not eat the toast that comes with the cheese omelette, to stay away from the bread, and to take my burgers with no bun.

What reading seems worthwhile?

Sports Nutrition Overview
Nutrition After Working Out (this is where the chocolate milk idea appeared)
How much protein?
Gatorade Sports Institute Articles on Nutrition and Performance.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Two count basics

While this is not a full kata, it is a common and important drill.

Horsestance (in chamber).
Inward block with the right, outward left, upward right, and downward with the left.

Punch with the right on the 45 left switching to a hard bow.
Punch with the left on the 45 right switching to a hard bow the other way.
Circle kick with the left (rear) leg from the right to the left finishing with a punch from the right and another hard bow.

One: (now we do the opposite)
Horsestance and inward left, outward right, upward left, and downward right.

Left punch, right punch, circle kick with the rear right leg finishing with a punch from the left and another hard bow.