While I was up in Newcastle for a wedding, me and Mrs Gale wandered down the Quayside and found a market selling everything from football memorabilia to soap, artworks to bags of sweet. But one thing particularly caught my eye: Grandad’s Magic Puppet.
In a small stage area, a red, smiling rectangle acted out a dance routine and I thought: “It’s a dojo!” It was like the rectangle was performing a kata. I asked the proprietor selling these dancing shapes if magnets were involved and he shook his head. It was magic! “Here, take my money,” I said, and £4 lighter of coin, I had my own Grandad’s Magic Puppet.
This week I realised I have a major obstacle to overcome with karate. Breathing. I hold my breath while working through katas and become very red faced – like Grandad’s Magic Puppet! Dizzy too with the concentration. In the main karate session this week I had two senseis all to myself as my fellow martial arts students were otherwise engaged. You can make giant steps with one-on-one teaching; even bigger with two-on-one. But my breathing was flagged up as a concern.
I’m a shallow breather and a silent breather. Karate is the opposite – noisy and deep breathing is encouraged. This might be a new trick this old dog can’t pick up.
We went pretty much straight into katas – all of them apart from kata kihon. It’s funny that it was just a year ago where I thought I’d never be able to learn kata kihon and now I regard it like a Ladybird book for tots. Obviously you’ve still got to put the graft in for kihon but we never ventured there tonight, concentrating on the meatier offerings.
Sandan, Nihan and Shodan were drilled and although I usually work through these at home on the night we’re at the dojo, on this day I’d tried to nail heian yondan in my conservatory so I had a bit of brain freeze with the other katas. Again I was told to not overthink everything, to let it come naturally. I wonder if I’d properly taken up karate as a kid, would I have a completely different personality today?
Yondan is more tricky than I’d initially thought. There’s a lot of pressure on the upper arms and switching from back stance to forward stance while already at maximum leg stretch is merciless.
We tend to finish with a fun section – usually a pub situation where some boneheaded local has taken a dislike to you and you break one or more of his extremities. Right hand grabs at your right wrist. Move to the side to the break the grip with palms up. Take assailant’s right right hand at thumb and twist hand to submission. Nice! Alternatively… your right wrist is grabbed. Rotate the hand then dagger hand downwards through the wrist. A surprisingly affective quick defence move for maximum wrist damage.
I haven’t quite implemented the radical lifestyle change that I was talking about last week, but alcohol intake is the next step to tackle. I’m a terror for a couple of glasses of wine after a hard day, an easy day, after sport… all reasons are accepted by me. As for Grandad’s Magic Puppet and his mysterious dancing, well, his secret’s safe with me but soon my heian yondan will give him a good run for his money.