And that’s how I roll….or don’t as the case may be?

It’s was an interesting weekend for me on the martial arts front. Saturday at dojo dai san we had a plain clothes grappling and throws session scheduled and Sunday at dojo dai ichi while Sensei dai ichi was off watching UFC we were being instructed by a guest Sensei, not in Karate, but, instead, in Judo.

In the grappling session, after a fast paced warm up that got us puffing and panting (some more than others), we spent most of the time standing up or being thrown and standing back up which was more familiar territory (it isn’t uncommon for me to spend at least sometime on the ground in kumite, if I am not careful). Learning how to get someone into a choke effectively was useful as it is something I have seen but not been able to practice. The other thing I noticed was that it wasn’t necessarily a huge disadvantage being smaller and lighter than the others. I was also pleased that most of the guys didn’t take it easy on me which allowed me to get a realistic feeling of actually fighting for the upper hand.

In the judo session our warm up was mostly all about break falls, sprawls and rolls. I am always pleased to practice break falls as it is something I frequently need to employ – see above! 🙂 The rolls, however were quite difficult for me though because they made me super dizzy (like needing to hold on to something and feeling slightly nauseated when I got up kind of dizzy), so I think I need to re-habituate my vestibular system to that. Having practised falling, we then proceeded to spend most of our time on the floor without the need to actually break fall. We learned several holds / pins / arm bars etc and then moved onto rotational rounds of Randouri (free sparring) Judo style.

We started from a kneeling position and quickly progressed downward. We were even numbers but my small fry was a bit too little to participate in the sparring side of things. I got to roll with all the rest though which was an interesting (if quite exhausting) experience. You have to be pretty comfortable getting up close and personal with your training partners too, is all I can say (luckily I have no inhibitions about that….besides it seemed like everyone had showered 🙂 ). And unlike the previous day’s effort, I began to see that weight is definitely a factor to some degree; I had a much harder time getting out from under the guys and gaining the upper hand (or in some cases leg) than against the women. It’s a weird sensation having someone’s legs wrapped around your head and then trying to work out if you have wriggle room to get out of it. The one thing I noticed though, was that it felt significantly slower than kumite in striking arts like karate; it felt like there was a bit more time to think / plan things. Despite the fact that there aren’t too many feet / fists flying full speed toward your head I still managed to get a couple of decent knocks but nothing too serious…..the muscle soreness on the other hand from having used a completely different set of muscles…..well…..let’s say it’s something that in time will pass and yoga tonight helped a bit…. 🙂

Both sessions were fun and energetic.The sessions were different from each other and certainly different from what we “normally” do in class. Both sessions gave me some good and practical ideas and both sessions answered some questions I had been churning over for a while. Grappling is something I have been curious about since I started training and each time I have tried it I have enjoyed it. The standing grappling / chokes and take-downs seemed to have more practical applications. The floor based wrestling style was interesting but probably felt less practical to me (perhaps it may be useful in a rape scenario though). Possibly it was just a matter of being so different for me (more used to rolling with the punches rather than punching out the rolls), but I just kept wanting to get off the floor all the time which wasn’t necessarily to object of it at all. I think I would definitely give it another whirl though.

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Not just another one of the guys.

Where are all the girls and women in karate?

There are a few in all three of the clubs I regularly train with, but I am often the only one bravely flying the flag for the double X team in class. Why is that?

It doesn’t really bother me all that much, I have always found I get on better with guys anyway and generally had more male than female friends.

When I am in my gi (training uniform), I kind of forget who I am outside the dojo. I am a Karate-ka not a woman Karate-ka. We all look pretty similar in our gi and that is the way it should be. My gi is unisex; it is pretty much the same as anyone else my height’s is. It certainly isn’t like my gi screams “I am woman, hear me roar” (although my kiai may be somewhat of a dead give away on that front – my “roar” is loud but pitched an octave or so above most of my training buddies, and according to some, “could be scarier”….). I would say, if anything, my gi hides what curves I do have, and I would like to think that my training buddies are in their zone (like I am) and not taking much notice of that sort of thing anyway.

However, sometimes I get the feeling that I am being treated differently by my training buddies and instructors and I am not sure that is a good thing.

Part of practising karate is learning self defence. Realistically, if someone wanted to attack me, that someone is likely to be a guy who is probably going to be bigger and stronger than me. Let’s face it….they aren’t going to be nice about it. On the flip side, if I am being attacked then don’t want to be doing anything other than trying to get the hell out of there, not having a shred of hesitation about hurting that person if that is what it takes.

I have been attacked before. I was 22, a fairly young and naive 22 at that, and it was pretty scary and also life changing. Fortunately for me, my attacker was just a nut-case out to scare people (mission accomplished there). Fortunately for him, I hadn’t done any self defence. Fortunately for me, I am a singer; I have a good set of lungs and screaming my nut off was enough to scare him away (or perhaps make his ears bleed – who cares?). But what if it hadn’t been?

Surely it is even more important for girls and women to be training in Karate or other self defence than men. Even if, when you find yourself in a dangerous situation, your defence isn’t fabulous, hopefully you will have developed the confidence to try to escape rather than submit. I probably should have signed up for a class right after my attack. Instead I avoided being alone, particularly walking alone after dark and if I absolutely had to do it, I was so hyper-vigilant, I practically ran away from my own shadow. But I couldn’t live my life like that forever, and (eventually) I decided that I couldn’t accept the fact I should feel so vulnerable just because I was born with 2 X chromosomes!

So I ask again? Where are you girls? Mums? Daughters? Sisters?

Anyway, back to that awkward moment when I hear that “Man! I feel like a woman” line going through my head. It happens when I sense a male opponent appears to be purposely avoiding attacking me in kumite or making it too easy for me to get out of a grapple or grab or hold. It happens when an instructor advises a modification of an exercise. It happens sometimes when I attempt something that I know I probably should not due to changes to my body post partum. Embarrassingly enough, it has even happened when I was being asked to demonstrate bunkai relating to a particular kata; without thinking I demonstrated the male version (which I am very familiar with), rather than the female version (which I was not).

I am sure some point or other, I have been taught the female version, however, I suspect that it may be overlooked at times, when I am the only one in class that it’s relevant to. Certainly it is difficult to find the female versions demonstrated in YouTube videos, whereas the male applications are in abundance, so by default, both inside and outside the dojo, I have had way more exposure to male bunkai than female bunkai.

Male on male violence tends to be fairly simple, i.e. hay-maker punch to the head and variations thereof. This is well documented in Dr Jason Armstrong, Shihan‘s books * which analyse street fighting statistics. Male on female violence tends to focus more on wrist grabs or grabs to other parts of the body with a view to taking the woman somewhere else. Hence, female self defence applications (of kata and in general) tend to be more focused on avoiding getting into a hold / getting out of holds / avoiding being carried / dragged and / or hurting someone sufficiently so you can run away. What would appear to be a block becomes an escape and / or strike, what may look like a push might be an eye gouge etc. I am certainly no expert on bunkai or on self defence, but the bottom line is this: the difference in what applications male and female karate-ka need to know is a cold, hard reality.

So even though I train with a bunch of guys (usually), I look like one of the guys, my instructors are guys and I mostly feel like one of the guys, underneath my gi and inside my head, I need to think a bit differently, because I am not just another one of the guys!

* http://www.downloadkarate.com/medical-stats-fighting

Almond Chai Cake

As the consistency of Sarv’s Jaffa Cake ( https://sagiashidachi.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/sarvs-jaffa-cake/comment-page-1/ )worked well, I thought I would take the base and use it for a chai cake instead.

I always have a tin of coconut cream in my fridge (you will need this for the recipe – needs to have been there at least a day for the icing to work)

CAKE

1.5 cups dried pitted dates soaked in chai tea overnight or at least 30 minutes (ie put 2 chai teabags and boiling water to cover the dates). If you have no chai I would recommend using black tea bags and adding a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom and optionally 1/4 tsp garam masala.

3 lots of almond pulp from almond milk making (that is 3 cups of soaked almonds)

1/2-3/4 cup desiccated coconut

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 -1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

liquid from tin of coconut milk (400ml tin) – reserve the white solid part for the icing

Method:

Put the dates and soaking water (minus the tea bags – squeeze them out first) and spices into the food processor and puree.

Add pulp and coconut and blend to combine adding coconut liquid and a little water as needed to blend to a thick dough like consistency.

Press into lined tins (I did a 10cm and a 20cm like with Sarv’s Jaffa cake)

ICING

Solid part of tin of coconut milk from the fridge (ie scoop it off)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon maple syrup

Method:

Blend with stab mix or in mill or food processor until creamy.

Spread over cake.

Cover cake with baking paper or glad wrap if you have it and freeze overnight. To serve, remove from freezer and put in fridge for 60 minutes and then leave out (if cool) for 20-30 minutes prior to serving.

How living by the rules can help you break all your boundaries

Tonight at training at dojo dai san,  we discussed the Dojo Kun; this was excellent timing for me since I didn’t actually know the kun for this dojo and, since (a) I have been officially welcomed to the club, having trained there a few months, and (b) I am grading there in a week, I probably should have some idea!

Sensei (dai san) asked: “What is a dojo kun?”

I replied: “It’s the rules of the dojo.”

Although, literally (ie in Japanese) it does mean the rules (kun) of the training hall (dojo), “rules” feels like an oversimplification. The dojo kun are rules, but in practice they (should ideally) function more like a code of ethics, a set of group norms or a values structure. More importantly they aren’t supposed to only apply just for those times when you are in the dojo, but for always, throughout your every day; a guide for the way to live your life.

When I first learned about dojo kun (from Sensei dai Ichi and Sensei dai Ni {who I believe has one set on his skin….that is one way to remember them!!}), the biggest thing I remember was that all the rules are equally important. When you say them, you should typically refer to them all as rule number one (hitotsu).

The rules of my first dojo are as follows:

1. NO INJURIES

1. RESPECT

1. TRAIN HARD

We don’t go through them every class but Sensei dai Ichi does quiz us on them pretty regularly. I have tried pretty hard to stick to these rules (I think I have slipped up on the no injuries one a few times but accidents can happen unfortunately).

I am not sure what my second dojo kun is…..I think I should probably ask one of the Sempai next week. Oops…..

So, what are dojo dai san’s dojo kun?

1. PRIDE

1. PATIENCE

1. COURTESY

1. SPIRIT

As you may be able to see, there is a fair amount of overlap between the 2 sets of kun above. Looking at a few examples of dojo kun  on the internet, there are recurring themes which are not style specific or dojo specific; a matter of common ethos of budo? Probably.

So whilst training at 3 dojo concurrently, working towards 2 sets of grading criteria / tournament kata and potentially 3 slightly different approaches to kumite, might be both physically and cognitively challenging, 3 sets of dojo kun are unlikely to cause me any sort of cognitive dissonance or confusion.

Really the 3 rules and 4 rules listed above could be further summarised into 2 rules.

1. TRAIN HARD

(ie Have PATIENCE with yourself and others and take PRIDE in what you do. Train RESPECTing your own body and others’ bodies so there are NO INJURIES and always train with the right mindset (SPIRIT))

1. RESPECT (ie RESPECT yourself and others and always show COURTESY.)

Both of these rules can be used as a basis not only for training but for living.

TRAIN HARD – doesn’t have to mean actual physical (or mental) training inside the dojo but trying your best at everything you do whilst respecting yourself and others so that no one is harmed (mentally or physically) but conversely, is enriched by the experience (see RESPECT below).

RESPECT – is fairly self explanatory both inside and outside the dojo. Respect facilitates the best performance in all things. It fosters confidence and self worth. If you show yourself respect, others will respect you, and if you show respect to others, they are more likely to respect themselves. Inside the dojo, respect, has made a huge difference for me. If people laughed at me every time I made a mistake over the last year or so, I would have been pretty demoralised (and low on self respect) and probably eventually would have called it quits. Instead people have been patient with me, encouraged me and shown me how to improve in a very respectful way. This has helped me build confidence in my karate practise but also in general. Moreover it has given me a deeper understanding of what a powerful influence my respect can have on others.

Overcoming boundaries while living by the rules:

Being a fairly “rules-oriented” type of person, having another set (or 2 or 3) of them is something I am pretty comfortable with (bordering on reassured by!). What has surprised me though is how this set of “simple” rules has helped me break down many boundaries I had set up around myself.

Twelve months ago I was not the person I am today. I was stationary. I had become “stuck” in a routine. I had fixed ideas and a somewhat stagnant mind.

I have moved forward a lot since I started training. I am not talking about progress in my kata or kihon here, although I feel I have improved in that also. What I mean is things like:

1. I am no longer afraid to push myself. I don’t make excuses.

1. If I find I am getting comfortable, I know it is time to move out of that comfort zone and push myself to take the extra step.

1. If I want something, I have to make it happen rather than sit around waiting and hoping.

1. Only I can decide how to react to a situation and how it will make me feel.

1. My respect can benefit others significantly.

I hasten a guess that in 12 months time, having continued on my life’s journey, with those 2 simple principles (my own version of a kun, if you will), I will have made further inroads and discoveries. I look forward to reflecting on my progress.

Cherry ripe slice

Cherry ripe slice and Peppermint Crisp Fudge slice.

I was making a batch of my chocolate peanut butter caramel slice (CPBCS) (which seems to be a favourite in our house as well as a few other friends) – recipe is here: https://sagiashidachi.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/chocolate-peanut-butter-caramel-slice/, and I discovered I had quite a lot of extra dough left as I rolled it thin to make a roll rather than traditional slice.

So I decided to make another filling with cherry and coconut to spread on the rest of the dough. I have been toying with this idea for a while and last night I thought I would give it a go.

To make this just this slice I would halve the chocolate layer ingredients from the CPBCS or if you want to make both the CPBCS and this or even the peppermint one (here: https://sagiashidachi.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/peppermint-crisp-fudge-slice/) you could just make the 2 fillings different fillings and use the whole recipe from the chocolate part of the CPBCS.

CHERRY RIPE FILLING

1 cup frozen cherries (defrosted or semi defrosted) – just take them out before you start is fine

1.5 – 2 cups decicated coconut

small piece of fresh coconut flesh (optional – I used as I had some and it did give a nice rounded flavour – it was about the size of 6 squares of chocolate)

1 tsp rice malt syrup (optional)….you could use  2-3 soaked dates

a little water as needed to achieve thick consistency / allow to blend (I used some spare date soaking water)

METHOD

Put about 1/2 desiccated coconut into food processor or mill and blitz until it starts to stick together and begins to form coconut butter. Add the rest of the desiccated coconut, fresh coconut and cherries and blitz to combine, add rice malt syrup or dates and a little water as needed to form a spreadable paste.

Spread evenly over rolled out chocolate layer and then put another layer of chocolate on top (see peanut butter slice recipe for further info).

Freeze over night and then cut into small squares and store in freezer (or fridge if you prefer it less firm).

NOTE: I think this is a new favourite with Mr 6. I suspect Ms 4 may also enjoy it, since clearly, anything that has PINK filling in it must be good!

Citrus infused cocoa

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate at the end of a day? I would have to say that a hot drink after the kids are in bed is part of my wind down routine and I feel weird if I skip it. I am not the greatest at winding down at the best of times but I like to think cocoa helps me relax. At my brother’s I tried a hot chocolate infused with orange and it was great (and vegan and gluten free) but the first ingredient was sugar. I don’t really eat sugar much but couldn’t resist the thought of jaffa as a hot drink. It was as delicious as I expected.

So I thought…..it can’t be that hard to recreate. And it isn’t.

RECIPE

Desired quantity of cocoa (I have a really large mug which holds about 800 mL so I use about 2-3 heaped teaspoons – I would suggest 1-2 heaped teaspoons for an average mug)

1-2 teaspoons of citrus zest (I prefer orange but have tried it with lemon and lime and that works too)

desired amount of sweetener of choice

boiling water

non dairy milk of choice (I like almond but soy would be fine)

METHOD

Boil the kettle.

Put cocoa, citrus zest and sweetner into mug

Pour in 3/4 cup or more boiling water, stirring to avoid lumps

Add milk

Sit down (preferably) and enjoy.