The Week That Was. Part 2. The Australian Traditional Karate Championships (Saturday 8th April 2017)

A week ago, today, I participated in the Australian Traditional Karate Championships. This is the 4th event of its type to be hosted in my home town and also the fourth time I have competed. You can read about my past experiences on the blog if you search tournament.

I entered all the events I was eligible (disappointed that flag kumite is still restricted to under 9’s) and also tried to help out as much as I could before / after and during the event. It was a tiring but completely amazing day and the event committee did such a meticulous job organising everything that it all ran very efficiently, especially considering the event has grown considerably over the last 4 years and is now probably 60 percent stronger in competitor numbers than in its first year! This year there were over 80 competitors, ranging in age from 4 to over 50 and a decision was made to run the events simultaneously on 2 rings for much of the day.

Highlights for me were:

  1. Observing my dojo (who again turned out in force), whether watching, competing, judging, officialling, helping (or a combination of some or all of the above) exhibiting superb sportspersonship, competitive spirit, pride in our style, and offering support, not only to each other, but also to other competitors both in and outside the network.
  2. Being able to help out (as mentioned), as this gave me insight into just how much goes on behind the scenes to organise something like this.
  3. Being able to honestly say at the end of the day: “I have done my best in everything today”.
  4. Executing a convincing and well synchronised team kata with my 2 team mates and taking out first place in a strongly contested open division event (i.e. both adult kyu and dan ranks).
  5. Getting waza ari (half point) in my kumite round against a shodan competitor and not losing without putting up a decent fight. This was especially poignant, given that I had been considering withdrawing from the event up until 2 days before.
  6. Getting very positive and constructive feedback from many people about my kata execution (individual and team events), including some from sources I did not expect to notice or comment.
  7. Seeing how proud and happy our instructor looked all through the day. I know why he did.

I will finish (as I am wont to do) with some poetry!

True Champions of the Championships.

Champions come in all shapes and sizes,

Many forms, and multiple guises.

Some are overt; some wear disguises.

Some you expect, and some are surprises.

So look all around and open your eyes.

It is not just about who wins the prize.

The Week that Was (Part 1): “Grappling with the Basics”

Just over a week ago, our dojo closed for the night, and headed en masse to a sister dojo for a very special combined network event; a seminar on grappling and groundwork basics, run by the highly effervescent, energetic, and enthusiastic duo, Kurt Graham, Kyoshi and Jason Griffith, Renshi.

Karate tends to be a “stand up art”, so for many of us karate-ka, being on the ground takes us right out of our comfort zone. That being said, it’s very important to know you can get back up, if you do get taken down, whether that be in a kumite event, or, more vitally, in a real life scenario.

Kyoshi Kurt and Renshi Jason tailored the seminar really well to this perspective, and very quickly demonstrated how to turn things around when you are pinned on the ground. Conversely they showed a few ways to take people to the ground and what to do to ensure your best chances of a safe retreat.

Even though, as I said before, Karateka prefer being upright, knowing how to take a fall is probably one of the most applicable life (and potentially life-saving) skills we can learn. Even if the risk of violent attack is relatively low, more common scenarios (such as being hit by a car, knocked off your bike, falling from a roof or ladder or simply tripping over a kerb or your own shoe lace), can result in a fracture or other serious musculoskeletal injury if you don’t break fall correctly.

Kyoshi Kurt and Renshi Jason patiently gave those of us, less familiar (and / or less confident) with effective break falling techniques some very useful pointers. For me personally, one little tip on front break falls (the one I felt most apprehensive about), helped me feel so much more confident, so that I could be an uke in one of the drills, and focus on what we were learning to do, without the constant niggling worry that I might break my wrist in a not so happy landing!

Despite the fact that the network had an extremely busy week, with many of us out doing karate related activities every night, (more on that later, so watch this space), there was an excellent attendance from all dojo, with good representation from both juniors and adults (age range 4 to over 40’s), and it seemed as though everyone who attended were really focused, really enjoyed trying something  a bit new and different, and learned a lot. This was in no small part due to Kyoshi Kurt and Renshi Jason’s ability to keep it real, keep it fun, and most importantly, get around and help all participants during practice time.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a seminar run by either or both of these individuals, I would urge you to just do it. You will not regret it. If you are interested in finding out more about them or inviting them to present at your dojo you can find more information and contact details here:  Itto Shin Kan or contact Kyoshi Kurt Graham or  Renshi Jason Griffiths via Facebook.

NOTE: All photographs taken by the wonderful Brett Jefferee.

Tournament Preparation: Empty hands; clear head. Clouded heart, ……and cold feet.


Picture c/o WKF Kumite

Last night was our final class before the tournament on Saturday. It’s exciting that so many of us are taking place and that those who aren’t are planning to be there anyway to cheer us on. There was a lot of nervous energy in the air and there were a few fists and feet flying out perhaps harder and faster than intended.

I know what it’s like to hit someone harder than you mean to. It’s probably one feels just as bad, if not worse than the person one just hit! What’s more, ice doesn’t help it a bit! Fortunately I haven’t done it in a while, as my ability to pull my strikes has improved over the last couple of years. We are all trying to develop this skill. Some have more difficulty than others, but to get better at it, we all have to practice, and ultimately, as much preparatory work we do without partners, we have to practise on each other!

I know I need to play my own game and play to my strengths. I know I need to be smarter, faster, and not let past experiences put me off. I know my fear is something I have to master. That said I would be lying if I said that doing practice bouts of kumite within a week of a tournament didn’t worry me at all, and that being hit with excessive force several times in a short bout doesn’t rattle me. There was a little blood, there was a little sweat, but the two were offset by more than a few tears in the hours that followed.

Some poetic catharsis was in order.


Although it’s what I wanted from the start,

And it stirs something deep within my heart,

I want to master it; to win the fight,

But something tells me: “Something isn’t right”.

And though outside me, it’s what I try to hide,

It hurts me way more deeply, deep inside.

I have the speed I need, and good agility,

But one hit reveals my exterior fragility.

The outside wounds, though slowly, still, will heal,

But it doesn’t change the inner pain I feel.

Frustration; injured spirit; loss of pride.

It hurts me way more deeply, deep inside.

In the ring, I can forget my normal life,

But in reality, I am worker; mother; wife.

Though in my head, I know I will be fine,

I train too hard to fall down before the line.

I’m ashamed; embarrassed; wounded; more beside.

It hurts me way more deeply, deep inside.

The fighting spirit makes me feel alive,

Makes me forget that I’m not twenty five!

But what if all the blood, the sweat, the tears,

Is not enough to overcome my fears?

To enter or withdraw? I can’t decide.

It hurts me way more deeply deep inside.

Rachel Sag – 3rd April 2017

Repetition is the Key….or is it?


Repetition is the key to improvement and development in many things; learning kihon, ido, kata, and anything really in karate, learning a language, changing a behaviour in yourself or someone else.

But what about when repetition is not what is needed? What about when repetition is contraindicated or even leads to a decline? What about when the root cause of your problem is in fact repetition?

Recently I developed RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), also known as OOS (Occupational Overuse Syndrome). It’s not new to me. I had it a few years ago, which on the plus side, meant I recognised the signs pretty quickly. My job involves a lot of typing (also known as keying). First time around, it developed due to a combination of keying with high repetition for many years, increasing productivity targets and time pressures (given I had family responsibilities and couldn’t stay back late at work even if I wanted or needed to). I started getting sore arms, so repetition was key….but not in a good way in this case.

I tried various things including ergonomic keyboards and mice, adjustable seating and desks, rest breaks and stretches, but in the end the only thing that banished it (at least for a while) was a creature by the name of DRAGON. Dragon (Naturally Speaking) is a voice recognition software programme. My dragon and I both needed training, but we developed a happy (though sometimes hilarious) relationship over the years. My love of words, double meanings and his tendency to misunderstand me at times, led to some classic errors (usually picked up by me when editing) and me having a right old chuckle.

Unfortunately over the years, and as a result of multiple IT updates, my Dragon started to struggle, and due to the fact that I was so busy and didn’t want to spend my entire day on the phone to technology support resulting in a pile up of work, I ended up mousing and keying way more than I should have been…..and thus…..OOS reared its ugly head again.

My boss came to visit me one day and I showed her the issues. She made things happen, booked me some time to get help with Dragon….unfortunately things got worse after that (both with my computer and my arms). I did have to spend most of my working week getting IT issues sorted, (which meant some enforced rest of sorts) and meanwhile try to sort out my arms which weren’t letting up between one work day and the next (despited the rest), and were being exacerbated by many home activities (though, thank my lucky stars NOT karate).

Things are not perfect. I am still waiting for Dragon and appropriate peripherals at home (lucky my husband is in IT too). I am still having training with Dragon, and support to write lots of scripts to get it to function better within the programmes I need to do my job. I am still doing lots of stretches, massage, icing for my arms, and I am trying to avoid using the PC and other devices at home as much as I can (hence the short post and quiet blog). I am trying to be patient with myself and let myself recover. However it is quite a frustrating, chronic, and invisible condition, and I find myself having to explain why I have been quiet or less productive than normal. Fortunately most of my colleagues, friends, and family have been supportive of me.

Thanks for your patience, and hopefully the next blog will be dictated and without any glaring dragon typos (or maybe I can do a “out take” section for your amusement).