Saturday, 29 September 2012

Friday, 20 April 2012

Take The Shot

With some people, there is always an initial reservation against sparring. No matter how much shadow fighting you do (shadow fighting is nothing but mock sparring or jiyu-kumite, which you do alone in front of the mirror or on the heavy-bag so as to improve your fighting technique for an actual sparring session), sparring with a live partner makes the difference. Your image in the mirror simply reflects what you do, but it doesn't hit back with force. What one needs is the feel of a real fight.

My Senpai is one tough chap who hits with a force enough to knock the air out of your lungs and impair your thighs with his shin kicks. But if you can last a 3-minute round with him, you know you have the condition and spirit to go for tournament fights.

I spend my after-class time conditioning my thighs and my abs, so that I can take it and still stand up for the rest of the fight. It's never easy, but if you want to make a difference, you have to take that step and walk that extra mile. It's grueling but rewarding.

Injuries in karate are a common thing altogether. The pain teaches you that getting something is not as easy as it looks. Seeing videos of Kyokushin fighters knocking down each other is one thing, and actually being able to knock down one on your own is another. Heck, I haven't even managed to kick someone in the head or the thighs enough to inflict a good crushing pain. It takes years of practice to master the art, but as I had said earlier in one of my blogs, there is never an end to the journey.

Getting injured in every class does dampen one's spirits sometimes. A few days back, I hurt my toeballs while trying to block my opponent's kicks, and the pain was so bad that I came home wanting to smash everything in my way, feeling frustrated that I was too weak to take anything. But then, it takes a short while to subdue your anger and return to normal again. And the next day, I'm back on the jogging track and then at the gym, pulling weights and stretching away and foreseeing a better-built person than the one I already am.

I am shedding my inhibitions against sparring, and I engage in sparring sessions with a classmate who happens to be well-built, being a gym-instructor that he is. We look at each-other's mistakes and learn from them. We hit hard, though I get hit back harder than he does :P

It always pays to walk that extra mile against your body's reaction. Karate, as I had said before, is more of training your mind than your body, because the body follows the mind wherever the latter leads it. Take the shot, and keep no regrets for not having done so. That's bushido, the way of the warrior!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Fuel Up!

I am known to be an individual who has an obsession for something once in a while (really? I mean how many people actually know this?), and I at least know myself to pursue it feverishly.

My takeaway from my Kyokushin Karate classes is this: Buddy, you have a frail body (and this is no understatement); no matter how strong you look, you CANNOT take a punch to your chest or torso unless you drag your arse out of bed everyday and exercise (and though I am unable to do that, I at least make sure I go back to bed dog-tired). And this is not me who says that, it's my Senpai who does.

Thus, this became the starting point for my feverish fixation of developing a healthy and strong body. And these are the things I do everyday:

1. Steal time off my work-schedule to find a secluded spot where I can do some stretching exercises, because sitting in front of the god-forsaken terminal has done me no good all these years save filling my pockets, which paves way for further goodness. :)

2. Eat regularly (in other words, though I miss breakfast, I make it a point to have a good lunch) and not skip meals. It's tough when you don't find good people or the right people to have lunch with, but in view of the greater good, eating alone doesn't feel bad either.

3. Watch my diet. And this, my dear people, is one thing that I haven't had much luck with. You see, when you work out and train hard, your body uses up all reserves of energy locked within you. And my metabolism is way too high, so whatever I eat burns up just as fast. Imagine having a never-dormant engine for a stomach. I have midnight snacks too when I'm studying, so I guess my Mom would know that her son is back to the mischievous brat that he was during his teenage and pre-teen days.

4. Coconut water is a manna from heaven, and the fruit too has no parallel. So before attending class, I down 2 coconuts and dash off. It often feels like every drought of coconut water breathes life into me.

5. I have pouches of glucose and Gatorade in my office drawer and 2 cans of Protein supplements, not to mention there's a big can at home too. So everytime I come back from class or the gym, I feel good about feeding my worn-and-torn muscles with a rich protein shake.

6. Running 800 metres in 4 minutes and then breaking into a 100 metre sprint immediately afterward (in my last sprint, I clocked 15 seconds, much to my surprise). This is anaerobic exercising, and it's importance lies in the fact that in a fight, you do not get time to breathe when you exchange blows and kicks. So, it's essential that you train to fight in a condition that challenges you to breathe. Besides, another advantage of anaerobic exercising is that the body uses up the available glucose and fat in your body, instead of oxygen in case of aerobic exercises, to produce energy. Now I appreciate my father for often telling me that the best way to lose fat is to run for all you are worth. Hats off, Bapa! Swimming and gymming are part of the regimen too.

7. Mental attitude counts a lot to be able to fight well. No matter how good you are on the punching-bag (it's a mean one, I must say), you can never know what it is to fight unless you fight a live human being, because a punching-bag never hits back. Whatever exercises you do, do not do it just for the heck of doing it. Ask your opponent to kick you and punch you harder, and take it well. Run the gauntlet, fall short of breath, let your muscles ache and yet, all this while, always listen to your mind telling you to go on and on. Punish yourself for a greater reward.

All things said and done, yet more needs to be said here. These are only the tangible things that I have talked about. Above all else, there has to be inspiration, too, alongside perspiration. Having a source of inspiration matters most to a fighter. My mother and father have been such sources of mine, and I'm sure yours are, too, for you. Bringing children up and making them life-ready in such difficult and corrupted times is a challenge beyond imagination, and no one knows that better than the parents themselves.

Besides, you never limit yourself to a few people. Life is full of examples just waiting to be seen and taken inspiration from. You might draw inspiration from a man of frail stature but immense courage to never back down despite the outcome, or from a girl who lives her life to the fullest not knowing whether she has cancer or how much time she has left to live, or from a female dog (I have reservations against the word "bitch") who would protect her offspring from a horde of angry male canines waiting to rip up the latter. These are people who are fighters, and they know that since their opponents wouldn't give them a quarter, why the fuck should they lose out on what they have! Having something or someone to love dearly and fiercely is reason enough in itself to fight for that something or someone. That is the FIXATION, the OBSESSION that drives an individual. Everything else is auxiliary. My obsession : to fight harder, live stronger and love better.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

My First Promotion

Dear White Belt,

You have been a great companion of mine. I have had you since I started learning Kyokushin. And you have held up my spirit to do more and more, besides giving me the feeling of a firm and fervent grip around my waist while I learnt and swot and persevered to no end. You have made me feel that there's a lot more to a fighter than just the colour of his belt, and indeed, the depth of the dirt on you is a measure of how much I have learnt and imbibed.

I shall never wash you, for two reasons: firstly, you contain my spirit with which I have trained hard, both inside and outside of the dojo, and secondly, I must never wash you, for you are the keeper of my experiences. Thanks for being a very good friend of mine and a constant supporter.

Now, the time has come when you shall take up a special place in my hall of fame which, though small, is accommodating enough for the relics of my life. I hereby take you off my gi and place you among my other artifacts as I don the symbol of my next level of learning: the orange belt.

Though my belt examination was not as I had expected it to be, but nevertheless Senpai Syed considered me worth it, and though I have a lot to prove as a Kyokushin karateka, I shall not leave any stone unturned in my path towards perfection.

There is no adieu, my friend, for whenever I open the doors to the hall of fame, I shall chance upon you and remember the times we have been together, sweating and toiling away. Now it's time for you to rest and watch me progress ahead.

To my shiro-obi, OSU!


Friday, 9 March 2012

No Mae-geri for some time, but there's more too!

Now this is the part about learning Martial Arts that really sucks.

So I was practicing on the pads with my partner, and I realised that I had injured my toeball and I wasn't able to exhibit the proper Mae-geri (front kick). How bad is that! And what's even worse is, it's not just one, but both the toeballs! Damn! When shall I be able to unleash the full wrath of my front kick with both the legs! :(

Anyway, my Mawashi-geri (roundhouse kick) is still immaculate. Shouldn't be an issue!

There's one great thing about learning Martial Arts. Your body gets conditioned unconsciously, and what normally would have made you cry in pain, does not affect you much when you are conditioned by degrees.

In my early teenage days, I was shit scared of conditioning. Our Sensei would tell everyone to line up for conditioning sessions, and that would scare the shit outta me (as if his face was not scary enough), but nevertheless, there was no escape. It was tough keeping a hard tummy for your opponent to kick on, so the only way out (at least, the best and most sensible of the ways) was to breathe out upon impact. I have been scared to attend classes because I was in mortal fear of being killed (I know, even I laugh now thinking of those days of struggle), but this proves one thing which we all remember the saying for: whatever doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger! Well, I'm glad that part was true.

Kyokushin fascinates me for its dedication towards building a stronger and fitter body that is ready for combat. I have seen videos showing Kyokushin karatekas engaging in brutal sessions of body conditioning: one such activity is practicing on the makiwara, which is a plank of wood with a padding of jute rope, upon which a practitioner lands punch after punch to condition his/her fists. The roughness of the knuckles after practice satiates his/her soul as water does a parched throat. The bruises are bad, but they are only on the skin, not skin-deep. What is skin-deep is the essence of learning and endurance which the karateka has absorbed over years of perseverance.

Breaking piles of tiles is what a lot of people (let's just say, most of them) associate with superhuman strength. Correction, people! It might look superhuman, but at the base of it, there are only two ingredients: Physics and Determination. I haven't tried this activity, which we call tameshiwari or board-breaking, in its full glory. But I have every ounce of belief to prove that it is possible to break a pile of 5 1/2-foot thick stone or cement blocks, one on top of the other, with a single fist. It does not take superhuman strength to do this, believe me! What it does take is dedication towards learning, perseverance and a calm mind. The real strength lies not in the body, but in the mind. The mind is what leads the body to do more than what it is capable of, and this is not a joke.

Karate is not only for the body, or mainly for the body. It is chiefly a means of training the mind. Remember Matrix? Before leaping off from one building to the next, Laurence Fishburne tells Keanu Reeves to let his mind go free, to believe. Though it was fiction, it did drive home a point. There is nothing on this earth that you cannot do if you just follow your heart and your mind. The body is merely a vessel; the mind drives it.

What dampens my spirits is the lack of awareness that people have about martial arts. They only recognize it as a way of inflicting pain and the reason for a lot of broken bones. I know of software firms where the higher authorities consider this sport to be injurious to an employee's health and physique, and hence they don't allow for it to be taught within the establishment's premises. Bollocks! Though it makes me laugh, it also enrages me (not to mention, it invokes my pity on these people, too) I say, people die more out of sitting in front of a dumb terminal, coding their life away and softening their spines, than by engaging in sports in which they burn more calories and earn life-points by burning away the cholesterol that comes as a benefit package with a sedentary lifestyle. Honestly, some people have a reputation for softening the human spirit insomuch that it is rendered incapable of fighting back. Regarding injuries, you can fall down the stairs and break more bones in your body than you might ever break while sparring.

What's even more depressing is that they believe that martial arts is only about brawling and unnecessary fighting. Maybe that's the way the world has become these days......we have lost the will to fight and gained complacency for life instead, unwilling to battle out for what we know is right and choosing to play safe. But there are still many who fight it out everyday, in one way or another, and they are the ones who keep the spirit of fighting alive, who still serve as a beacon of belief that no matter how brutally you might be hurt, there is still a reason to stand up for, and that you will never stand down, you won't ever back down, on that reason.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Seienchin Kata

Kata is the Japanese term for a form of shadow-fighting wherein a number of techniques are applied in a series of memorized patterns. In the layman's terms, it can be called a fight pattern without there being the presence of another opponent. Almost like a dance, but a martial dance in which you display and apply full power as if you would had you been in a fight. For now, this is probably all I can use to explain katas.

The kata "Seienchin" has fascinated me a lot, and I've always wanted to learn it. This kata is fascinating particularly because of the immense amount of patience and perseverance that is required to perform all the steps and techniques perfectly. The kata was practised by the Japanese Samurai when they used to go to war far away from their homelands. Staying in isolation away from family and loved ones would dampen the strength and spirit of the warrior. Under such circumstances, Seienchin served as the reliever. The term Seienchin means "the calm before the storm" or "the storm within the calm". Executing this kata for hours and hours helped build up the strength and spirit before war. Maybe that's why Seienchin was also referred to as "conquering or subduing the enemy over a distance".

I love this kata because it helps me be calm and patient, and also because I feel good about the fact that my legs get pumped up and strengthened due to staying in kiba dachi (the horse-stance) for a long time. A good conditioning exercise and a very excellent means of meditation!

So long for now! Osu!

Solitaire-y Reaper : Playing the cards well

The game of Solitaire has an amazing charm, or maybe it's just me. I'm not much of a card-game enthusiast, because they often remind me of a lot of complicated things. But Solitaire stands apart from the rest; as a companion and a teacher.

I don't have many games on my laptop, so Solitaire is just about the only game I play. Anybody would say, "damn dude, you got a laptop with all the configurations needed to play a 3-D shooter game like Crysis, Battlefield 3 and the like", but I simply don't have the time to indulge in them. Besides, the addiction to these games is can never leave the game till after you have spent 5 hrs on it. I have spent 2 hrs at a stretch playing one of these on the PS3, and though it satiates your desire and fantasy of being in possession of an army to command and a weapon to fire, your mind craves for more once the game is over or when you sense you can't afford an hour more (cuz you have spent about 200 bucks). Your fixation for the element of fantasy takes a heavy toll on your mind. I know it because I have experienced it, and it's not good.

So, coming back to Solitaire, this game has some struggles. You can't expect to command an army or fire a weapon, but to sort the cards out properly is quite a task. Most of the times, I am stuck up in the middle of the game without any means to proceed, and I'm forced to quit. And that's the difficult part. You know that this arrangement has a solution, but you're forced to quit because you have exhausted all yours as well as the computer's logic in trying to find a way out.

You badly want to solve the case, but you can't. And then, like a flash of lightning, it strikes you that you can do some tweaking. You might need to pull down a few cards from the deck and then bring down the set of cards that are covering the hidden cards, because most often, the cards that you need in the heat of the moment are the ones that are hidden and covered by a pile of cards that you can't seem to fit in anywhere. A typical roadblock! I badly wanted a Jack of Diamonds, and that smartass was happily nestled among one of the hidden cards, unaware of the struggle that I was going through in order to find him and of the anger that might have caused me to kill him had he been of flesh and blood. What pisses you off even further is the smile on this Jack-ass's face when you reveal him.

Solitaire does test your patience and persistence. There are so many moves and so many permutations and combinations that you need to decide when and where to make a move (not that you are gonna be blown up by a booby trap if you fail to do so). If you play it as seriously as I do, you'd wanna restart that particular game rather than start a new game altogether, because that is what I do. I just know that victory lies ahead, and I'm not gonna leave any stone or card unturned till I see the last four kings happily rested on the deck. You do lose a lot on your statistics, but hey, what matters more is that you finished the job despite the odds! That's what we call attaining inner peace.

The same thing applies to relationships as well. Very often, people involved in one are unable to move ahead (and I'm not talking about the relationship of lovers only), and they are unable to make head or tail of where it's leading them to. Relate this to a game of Solitaire, and you'll understand that sometimes it is required to just sit down, keep a strong head and start making changes here and there to fine-tune the relationship, all the time determined "never to give up"! Your mind has to breathe, otherwise it ceases to think. It is a difficult thing to breathe in times of stress, but if you just breathe, you will understand more, and you won't suffocate others too, especially the ones whom you love and care about. It's just like swimming: if you panic and beat around frantically, you will grow exhausted and ultimately drown. You know it, yet the fear of drowning compels you to drown. In a relationship, fear makes you do what is not apt or just for the moment. It makes you spoil what has taken years of effort to create.

Fear has destroyed many a mind, broken many a bond, cost many their loved ones. The only way to battle it is peace and the will to overcome fear. Big talk from someone like me who has played Solitaire to correlate the facts of life to a mere game, but on a serious note, it does click somewhere, whether in a small way or large.