Sunday, December 23, 2007

Thinking of Okinawa: Group Shot

Traveling to Okinawa to do karate was a lifelong dream for me. I had talked about going for years, but the opportunity never really presented itself. When it finally did happen that I got to go, the trip exceeded all my expectations! The Okinawan people were some of the nicest people I've ever met. Training with Shinzato Sensei and his students was an experience I will never forget. Traveling there with a large group was probably very taxing on Sensei, but he never showed anything but excitement for us being there to train and learn karate.

I'm sitting here three years later, thinking of Okinawa, and hoping I'll be there again soon!

Thinking of Okinawa: Sai


This is near the end of the trip and we spent the session working with Sensei on Bo and Sai. It was sad to see our trip coming to an end, but I was full of new ideas to take back and work on.

Thinking of Okinawa: In the Dojo


Thinking of Okinawa: Soba


After a day of shopping, we all stopped by a little place on Kokusai Dori and had some Orion and Okinawa Soba. A good end to a good day!

Thinking of Okinawa: Shureido


One of the highlights of the trip, outside of all the wonderful karate training, was the day we went to Shuri Castle and shopping in Naha. We walked to Shureido where I ended up buying a new Gi, a pair of Sai and some other miscellaneous items.

Thinking of Okinawa: In the Dojo


We worked out pretty much every day we were there. Sometimes twice a day.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thinking of Okinawa: Phone Home


One of the more important aspects of our day was the short journey to Hotu Spar and the pay phone to call home an let everyone know how the trip was going.

It took me a couple days to figure out how to get my phone card to work for international calls. I used my Visa card to make the first call home. A couple days later I tried to use my card in one of the stores and found out that Visa fraud protection had turned it off because they saw someone using it in Japan.

A couple more calls and my card was back on in time for my trip to Shureido!

Thinking of Okinawa: First Workout

Originally uploaded by The Mad Dance Dad.

This was on the first day of training. Everyone was attentive as Sensei discussed the finer points of karate.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thinking of Okinawa: Tonkatsu


Yum! Need I say more?

Read about Tonkatsu...

Thinking of Okinawa: Shisa

Originally uploaded by The Mad Dance Dad.

Everywhere you look there are Shisa...Okinawan Lion dogs that are placed in people's yards, on their roofs, in front of their doors, on their fences, etc, to keep away bad spirits and bring good luck. I brought a set of small fired clay ones back with me. If I would have had room and money, I'm sure I would have loaded up with them. As it was, I found some small ones in this particular store on Kokusai Dori in Naha and brought them back for friends and family.

Thinking of Okinawa: KFC


KFC was one of our regular eating stops. I was amazed at how clean the place was, how much better the food was than the KFC's where I live, how superb the service was, and not to be forgotten, how well they took care of the statue of Colonel Sanders. Usually, the Colonel was posted just outside the door, but on this particular day it was drizzling rain, so he was kept just inside the entrance. One day, as we walked to Sensei's Dojo, I remember watching one of the employees shine the statue of the Colonel with a cloth and I thought how amazing that was...

Less is More

I live in the fast paced world of today just like most of you who are reading this. I have bought in to instant gratification, the latest new technology, and I have been easily swayed by fads. And, like many people, I am realizing as I age and gain some wisdom that, the more of these things I strive for, the less satisfaction I have.

This is why my favorite mantra is "Less is More." If I think it or say it to myself at just the right time it can be wonderful!

I'm out to lunch with folks from work. I want to eat the double patty, three-cheese, angus burger, super fries and hand-dipped neopolitan shake. Then I notice the grilled chicken salad and I say to myself "less is more" and I make the right choice.

I'm at Best Buy and that gift card I got for Christmas is burning a hole right through my Levi's. I see the new Bose sound dock speakers and think, wow, my ipod will sound great with these. Then I see the price...significantly more than my gift card is worth. So I think, "Less is more", and I put the card back in my wallet for another day.

I'm at the Dojo practicing kata. I have 18 or more empty hand kata and a number of weapons kata to practice. I have enough time to go through them all once--maybe twice. But, instead I choose to practice just Naihanchi with intension and intensity.

Try it yourself! Less is More!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Shurijo - Thinking of Okinawa


3 Years ago I was preparing for my trip to Okinawa. I must have packed, unpacked and repacked my suitcase 100 times.

It was an amazing experience to go to Okinawa and train. This picture is of myself and Sensei Paris Janos standing in front of Shuri Castle.

It's been 3 years and I wish I was preparing once again to go to Okinawa.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Slow Time of Year

It's been very slow lately at the Dojo...just a few of us training right now.
I'm hoping it will pick up a little after the holidays...

I actually don't mind it being slow. Without a full class to teach, I can spend more time working on the things I need to work on. Believe me, there are a lot of them.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Other Okinawan Weapons

Along with the Bo and Sai, we also practice Nunchaku, Tonfa and Kama.

Note: Kama practice is reserved advanced students only due to the danger inherent in its practice.

Rokushaku Bo

Originally uploaded by The Mad Dance Dad.

We also practice Bo.

Read more about Bo at:


Originally uploaded by The Mad Dance Dad.

The sai is one Okinawan weapon that we practice at Tallahassee Karate Club.

Read more about the sai at:

Almost Green Belts

Originally uploaded by The Mad Dance Dad.

This picture is of 2 students practicing prearranged sparring technique in order to prepare for their green belt test.

It is very important to practice a variety of sparring techniques in order to learn about distance, timing and use of power.

Beginning students practice prearranged sparring technique often and learn to focus techniques at a safe distance from their training partner. As they advance, the focus distance becomes smaller because the student learns to control the technique.

Safety is always the primary concern whenever practicing any sparring technique.


Originally uploaded by The Mad Dance Dad.

I attended the 3rd annual Tallahassee Asian Festival on Saturday, Sept 29, 2007.

The festival is held in the downtown Tallahassee parks. This was the biggest one so far with more martial arts demos than ever before.

There were Tai Chi, Karate, Naginata, Arnis, and Kung Fu demos. Lot's of fun!

Click the picture to see more pictures...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Koshi Hojo Undo - The Mirror

There are many ways you can use a mirror to help you in your training.

Here are some obvious ones:
  • Watch yourself perform a kata or a specific move or moves from a kata
  • Watch yourself perform a punch, kick, block or other technique
  • Watch yourself do a stance or move from stance to stance
The key is to use the mirror to your best advantage. Watch yourself as you perform each of these things in the following ways:

  • The normal way you do it
  • Fast
  • Powerful
  • Slow, relaxed, graceful
Now try some additional ideas...

  1. Do the technique in very slow motion. Focus on each particular point throughout the range of motion. What is your center doing? How do the movements of your arms connect with the motion of you waist? Is your koshi compressed? Are your lats compressed? Do you feel a connection between your koshi and your arms via your lats? Are the lines of your body arches or angles? Which is stronger? Are you relaxed, yet dynamically compressed? Do your hands only tighten at the point of Kime or are they tight throughout? Is your stance strong yet ready to move in any direction at any time? Are all the parts of your body moving in unison.
  2. Do the technique really fast this time. Do you find your techniques getting less precise? Can you go fast and still feel connected? Ask yourself the same questions as #1 above. How is your performance of the movement different this time?
  3. Try again this time with as much power as possible. Where does the power come from? Are you using your whole body to make the power? How is the technique different from #1 and #2.
These are just some ideas. Come up with your own and let the mirror be your teacher.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

July 28 2007 Special Training

July 28 2007 Special Training Group
Originally uploaded by The Mad Dance Dad.

Today we had our 2nd special training of the year and what a momentous occasion!

Class began with Sensei Paris Janos leading us through a series of warm-ups and working our way through Naihanchi Shodan and Nidan, Fukyugata Ichi and Ni, Pinan Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan and Godan. We started out doing them slow and soft but they quickly became very vigorous. After warming up with the kata we worked on Naihanchi more intently and Sensei Janos worked with us on principles of using dropping power to make more effective technique with less effort.

After a short break and much needed water, we started again with Sensei Steve Harless. Sensei Harless worked with us on Wankan. This was a special treat, I'm sure, for a couple of the TKC regulars who hadn't learned this kata yet. Sensei Harless spent copious time and energy drilling us on the nuances of each movement. After much drilling, Sensei Harless had each of the groups (Panama City, Gainesville, Tallahassee) go up and perform Wankan for the rest of the class. Everyone looked so awesome doing the Kata and it was really cool to see the subtle differences between styles of performance from group to group.

After another break, I took the next segment and we worked on applications for movements from Naihanchi Shodan. This was the first time I had shown some of my "unique" kata interpretations to my teachers. I will need to ask them off line what they think and hopefully they will be honest (and maybe nice) in their response :)

For the last segment of class, Sensei Janos worked with us on Bojutsu/Suji no Kun. Having 17 people do Bojutsu without destroying the Dojo or hurting each other was very difficult, but it worked out ok. Sensei Janos stressed keeping the Bo close to your body at all times and also using the dropping/floating idea to make power that is coordinated with the strike.

When class was over, Sensei Harless and Sensei Janos had Hal and Dori from Gainesville line up to perform their promotion demonstrations. It is always difficult to do a promotion performance after a few hours of hard training, but Hal and Dori performed flawlessly through a series of standing and moving basics, prearranged kumite, advanced kata and saijutsu kata. For their efforts, Hal was rewarded with a Yondan certificate and Dori, his senior student, received her Nidan ceritificate.

It was bittersweet, however, as Hal is moving out of state next month and this whole event was indeed a good bye party. Hal has taught karate in Gainesville for years and has attended many special trainings in both Tallahassee and Panama City during that time. He will be missed at future events, but I know he will continue to teach in his new locale. I hope Dori will continue to teach in his absence and carry on the Kishaba Juku tradition in Gainesville.

As with most special training events, we ended the day with dinner at a local eating establishment...this time we went to Sonny's Bar-b-que.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, these are the things that make special trainings "Special."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Kishaba Sensei in the House

Originally uploaded by The Mad Dance Dad.

Here's myself, Carol and Obie with our almost life size poster of Kishaba Sensei doing Rohai. Thanks Laurie. I told you we'd put it up eventually!

NFA Shomen

Originally uploaded by The Mad Dance Dad.

This is new the Aikido Shomen. I gotta get these guys to come decorate my house or help me with my plans for a Japanese garden. I mean, wow!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Most Important Training Device - The Mirror

Our dojo has many supplemental training devices. We have a makiwara, a wavemaster, striking targets, an unmounted heavy bag, numerous sizes of wooden weapons, and others. In time, I would like to write about all of them and others.

In this post, however, I would like to focus on perhaps the most important training device: the mirror...

First, let me say that in our previous location we had great mirrors that ran the full length of one wall. This was an awesome configuration. unfortunately, none of these could be salvaged from the fire so we are dealing now with having only a single mirror that is situated away frorm the main training area.

We went a few months without any mirror and that was rough for me. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I brought one of mine from home.

So, why the mirror is so important and how can we utilize the mirror to enhance our training experience?

Look in the mirror next time you train and find out...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

North Florida Aikikai Promotions - May 1, 2007

Group Shot - After the test
Originally uploaded by lucasbv.

I had the privilege this evening of watching the NFA promotions. It was fantastic! I've always admired Aikidoka for the way they move and their command of body dynamics and circular movement. Watching their tests tonight certainly helped reinforce this for me.

I enjoyed it so much I took 462 pictures! To see some of the pictures, click on this picture and go view them on

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hachi Kyu Promotions - April 2007

Hachi Kyu Promotions - April 2007
Originally uploaded by lucasbv.

Hachi Kyu promotion demonstration went great this evening. Thanks to all who participated.

The Modern Sensei - Part 1

I swaggered into class the other day with my new Motorola Q firmly hooked to my side in a pose vaguely reminiscent of the old black and white cowboy movies. I strode through the entrance, paused to bow, and then moved briskly to unlatch my weapon and place it on the window sill so I could change into my karate attire and teach class. Suddenly, the device lit up blue and a played a short, happy ringtone announcing the receipt of another email or text message. I read the email...a new message had arrived from one of the martial arts forums I subscribe to...

It was at this time that one of the students, already sweating from vigorous kata practice looked at me and said: "Ah...the modern sensei!"

I had to stop and think about this for a moment. I guess it probably was an interesting sight. Me with my cell phone/pda/mp3 player/? device, walking onto the mat for practice, then checking an email about karate.

continued in part 2...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Special Training, March 17, 2007

Originally uploaded by lucasbv.

Today was our first special training in the new dojo. It was very well attended with guests from Panama City, Gainesville, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, as well as a number of locals we haven't seen in a while.

Thanks to Sensei Janos' insightful teachings we have much to work on between now and next special training.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Care and Usage of Wooden Weapons

It is good to always take care of your wooden weapons. Before you buy any weapon such as a bo, do a little research and find out what kind of wood it is made of. You will want to get wood that is pliable enough to not be brittle, strong enough to take punishment and has a good balance and weight. Most of my weapons are red oak, white oak and ash.

The first thing I tell students to do when they get their bo is to sand off any existing varnish. A bo that is varnished may look nice, but it is next to impossible to use effectively, especially doing Yamane Ryu bo kata. After they have sanded the weapon down with a medium, then a fine grade sandpaper, I have them oil it with boiled linseed oil to protect the wood. Oiling should be done periodically to ensure the long life of the weapon. Follow directions and take care to clean up as described on the linseed oil can as it can be dangerous if not used properly.

In our dojo we practice weapon against weapon technique in order to get the feel for hitting the weapons together through blocking and striking techniques. For this reason, students should try to acquire a good quality weapon that can take the abuse of another weapon hitting it.

Students should learn Okinawan weapons only from a qualified instructor and should take extra care when practicing alone. Students should never practice weapons that they have not received instruction in yet, especially Kama.


Originally uploaded by lucasbv.

Kusanku kata is always one of the more vigorous to practice...especially in the hot Florida sun at the end of a 2 hour workout!

This was shot at Sensei Steve Harless' house yesterday where we worked out then cooked out.

I have been eating Sensei Harless' chicken wings for about the last 20 years. They may be the only thing better than his Karate :)


Dojo Floor
Originally uploaded by lucasbv.

This picture is of the new floor under construction this week at the Dojo. I'm not sure of the actual area this floor will cover, but I believe it will be close to 1500 square feet of springy, raised, matted workout space.

The area directly in front of the double doors seen in the picture will be occupied in the future by the Shomen.

The Aikido folks told me that they believe this will be one of the largest and best Aikido Dojo in the country when it is complete. It's more than ample for our class.

Our first special training in the new Dojo is on Saturday, March 17... on the new floor!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Small but Awesome Class

There are 5 of us training now at Tallahassee Karate Club! It's a small group, but I think we're having a good time.

There are definite advantages to having a small class. Students in a small class get much more personal attention and one-on-one time with the instructor. Also, the instructor can spend more time teaching to the needs of each individual. For a while in December and January, the folks coming to class were pretty much getting private lessons...not bad for them!

There are probably some advantages to having a big class. I've never really taught a big class, so I wouldn't know much about those advantages. I'm sure from the perspective of keeping the Dojo open and making improvements to the facility, a large class is probably better.

I'm hoping we end up with a medium-size class...Just enough people to keep the rent paid and make improvements to the facility, but not so many as to lose the "personal" touch that makes our style unique.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Dojo Progress

The Aikido folks are still working on the floor, but things are coming along. They sealed the floor last night and are supposed to lay about 1000 SQ FT of mats down temporarily tomorrow night until they have decided on a permanent design for the floor.

In the mean time, we have been working out in tennis shoes on concrete. I'm hoping to move some training equipment in this week or next such as my makiwara and a couple bags.

Just a few people training right now...