Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Second Trip to MAUI

I've never been to Hawaii and I'm not sure that I'd like being in such a laid-back place. But I've now been to my second black belt precheck at Martial Arts University International and I got a huge thrill out of both visits.  For those of you who don't know, the MAUI building is used for our black belt tests.

The first visit was for the first precheck for May candidates about four weeks ago, the focus was kata.  The candidates from all the South Florida dojos were there with Kyoshi Steve Lavallee and the five senseis: KC Lavallee-Ft Lauderdale, Craig Halley-Lighthouse Point,  Ian Hewitt-Boca Raton, Frank Scaccia-Coconut Creek, and Dennis Emond-Palm Beach.  (Did anybody get a photo of Kyoshi flanked by the five of them or other good pics?  If so, mail it to me and I'll post:  bbat50@gmail dot com)

Last night, the occasion for my second trip to MAUI, was a sparing precheck.  Since blogs lend themselves to a confessional format and besides, why bother reading a blog if it's just a sanitized PR job, I think I'll share a few indiscretions about my sparing.  And if you can slug through that, I've some great news to share at the bottom (Heh, all you aspiring journalists, note that I'm committing a classic journalistic error here; I'm "burying the lead" but heck, it's fun to have a hobby blog where I can indulge my writing quirks and not have to do it right).

1.  I'm not in the cardio shape that I think a second degree candidate should be.  This past week, there were two sparing classes where they turned up the intensity on us (ie spotlight matches) to get us ready for last night. In both cases, I ran out of juice way too early and the last matches and the end of matches were..... humiliating.  So I approached last night with some trepidation and  I devised a strategy. It was based on the fact that each match inevitably has a second half so I had better plan for it.  For the first three quarters of a match, I was a counter puncher. I tried only throw hand combinations, limiting myself to maybe half a dozen kicks until the last thirty seconds of each match.  I would have liked to be in shape to truly go for it but this week, I proved to myself that I'm not. This strategy worked pretty well for me.

2.  My sparing skills are not what I'd like them to be.  One blatant problem is that I often move stiffly and too slowly. This means that I don't connect and that I get too tired.  I've found that I'm more relaxed and quicker  when I'm in stance with my hands slightly extended (Chuck Liddell-style). But, the instructors keep pushing me towards a more classic style with hands much closer to my head with my knuckles pointed straight up.  This improves my blocking but I'm less comfortable and tense.  On the flip side, I now have a range of combinations that I'm comfortable using and I recently added the use of a combination that starts with parying their jab down with my right and with the same hand quickly crossing to their body while following with a jab to the forehead.  If I'm feeling energetic, I sometimes finish with a 180 round house. Since I was mostly trying to be a counterpuncher last night, this was my bread and butter.

Here's the great news. For three years, I've been doing timed runs at the dojo with a 14 minute two miles being the target. When I was a candidate in the summer and fall of 2007, I got close with a 14:08 and 14:06 but I never made it.  This morning, with no class to tire me out before the run and a crisp cool windless morning, I whipped through and KC said as I crossed the finish line: "14:01!" I'm pleased, very pleased.  But, being who I am, I also know that I didn't make it in under 14:00. I still haven't heard that words "thirteen something something" spoken for me as I cross the line. Stay tuned. I fully intend to make it between now and the end of April

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Improved my Defense in Class Today

I love it when I learn something new in class. And with this blog, I can hammer it home in my mind.  This morning was a candidate sparring class. Translation: it was a class only for people trying to earn their black belt or a higher rank black belt this year.

Master KC had some sparring drills where one side plays defense and the other side attacks. Pretty standard. The novelty today was that the defensive players were NOT supposed to back up.  They were supposed to either crowd in or crowd in and angle.  This was new to me and very cool. 

Usually, if someone comes at me, I back up. When I'm superquick, I can back up faster than they can advance or even angle out in ways that befuddle my attacker. More often than not, I seem to back up into an optimum spot for people to kick me.  With this moving-in-approach, when the going gets tough, the idea was to move in closer and then angle one way or the other. By staying real close, it's very hard for the other person to get get off a good kick or even, a good jab. When you stay close, you really only need to worry about crosses and hooks. (Our school doesn't allow uppercuts, knees, or elbows so this get-close defense works exceptionally well).

A great class this morning. The second half of class was pure sparring and at full speed, I found that crowding in a viable defense and a useful addition to my arsenal.

The other big focus of class today was footwork. I like it. I could do a lot more footwork drills. Today was simple step and slides forward and back with a little work on angling with footwork.  There's room to work on how, when shelled up and on your heels, to still have good footwork. It's a challenge for me that I find myself flat on my backfoot defending and unable to move since I'm flatfooted and hunkered down on my back leg. I know conceptually what to do and that starts with, don't get into that position. I'm not sure what drill would help me isolate and solve that problem.