The Woman And the Ox; four years on.

ox herding

Hi there! Kampai! It has been a while between drinks. My apologies if you’ve missed me. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and I have started a lot of blog posts which I have not finished, or finished but not published. I’m not sure what this shift towards internalising things is about, or what I am afraid of exactly. Perhaps it’s a case of once bitten twice shy, (Getting blogged down). There are a lot of things that I would like to comment on, but by doing so may compromise the anonymity of some parties, and so I stay silent.

It occurred to me the other day that I have been on my karate journey for four years last Friday. It passed without much ado. That’s okay. On the night before though, I attended a rather interesting seminar on Zen in the martial arts. (You can purchase it here: (Using Martial Arts Zen & Strategy in Life & Career Success) One of the things that was discussed was the famous ox herding pictures ( See basic information here ) shown above. I often reflect on my own journey and how it relates to the journey of the boy and the ox. I’m not sure if I have followed the exact path in the “correct” order, but I’m sure I will pass through all the stages eventually, one way or another, to arrive back where I started. I know I have reflected on this concept before (going round in circles), but I felt now might be a time to reflect on again, given that it isn’t long now until I officially start my journey. This may sound like a confusing scenario, given that I have just said I started my journey four years ago, but realistically I’ve just been packing my bags to get ready to leave. Hopefully in a couple of months it will really begin.

Given how much is going on in my head at the moment, I’ve decided again, that it’s probably best to limit myself to verse as a means of communicating my thoughts. I feel it is somewhat legitimate given that the original ox herding pictures have accompanying poetry. However, if you are not a fan of my poetry feel free to stop reading now.

The woman and the ox
By Rachel Sag
10/3/2018

When I started on this journey,
I knew not where it would take me,
I knew not it was a journey, if I’m honest with myself.
I had stepped into a world
Quite unknown, and yet familiar,
Though quite why it was familiar, was a mystery on the shelf.

I felt welcome, yet a stranger.
I felt safe, yet in some danger,
And so I blindly fought, just to fit in.
And with every block and punch,
I kind of got the hunch
That “something” I had “found” would soon begin.

When I stopped and looked around,
There was so much to be found,
I just had to go in search of greener grasses.
I hadn’t heard of style,
(And I didn’t for a while),
But my head hurt from the differences in classes.

When one door began to close,
Another home I chose,
Though I took my time to get to know it well.
And though nothing seemed a chore,
Since I first walked in the door,
How quickly I’d progress I could not tell.

I just ploughed on through the years,
Through the blood, the sweat, and tears,
And all my flaws were laid bare on the floor.
Any hang up, doubt, and fear,
Seemed to all just disappear,
I bowed in, and just left them at the door.

Though my skills were more refined,
It was changes in my mind,
That snuck up on me from behind along the way.
And though I’m far from perfection,
I see through my own reflection,
To the person who I will become one day.

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Freedom of choice

I’ve been meaning to write something like this for some time, and was personally reminded about it when a previous blog post entry, commemorating a very important choice I made about two years ago, Anniversary of New Beginnings came up on my news feed in Facebook, but, I’ve been very busy, haven’t had time to sit down and think. And then, today’s photo prompt for #fms_pad was “free choice”. That gave me the impetus I needed, and for the sake of brevity, I used verse.

Below I include my photo and entry for today’s FMS PAD.

choice

 

Free choice:

This picture was taken on Wednesday night between two commitments when I had a free choice of activities unencumbered from my “Mum” responsibility. I chose to go on a sunset beach walk.

Because I am less of a photographer and more of a wordsmith, I would like to share some words and poetry about free choice and what this picture is trying to represent; some words of inspiration from others, along my life’s journey so far, and some of my own thoughts. I hope you will hear me out.

Firstly, words from Theodore Seussal:


“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Secondly, words from an inspirational teacher and friend:


“I like to think that there is no right or wrong path, but the choices we make. Therefore, when stepping forward in life, don’t fear the negative energy you receive and don’t embrace it either, just turn it around and make it a positive pathway to your journey”

Lastly, my own reflections on free choice:

FREEDOM OF CHOICE, Rachel Sag 30/7/17

I have my freedom,
So I get to choose.
I’ve my whole life to live;
I have nothing to lose.

If mole hills become mountains,
I can give up, or climb.
If I can’t do it yet,
I can put in more time.

I can choose to be happy,
Or fight for a new way.
I can learn from the past,
And make each day a new day.

I can listen to others;
Accept and receive,
But I am the one,
To choose what to believe.

When I come to a cross roads,
I can go left or right.
I can choose to stay still;
Stand my ground and fight.

I can choose to plough onward,
Or choose to retreat.
I can ask for assistance,
Or stand on my own feet.

Each choice is different.
No choice is wrong.
So I march to the beat,
Of my own chosen song.

BUNKAI BALLAD – The crane who Smashes and Tears Calmly in the Storm.

39536719-crane-bird-wallpapers

 

One of the things I was most apprehensive about before my grading on the weekend was the bunkai component. I had 4 kata to learn, 3 to perform: Saifa, Hakkucho, and Seiunchin, and had officially learned full sets of bunkai for 2 of them. I am pretty sure I have seen bunkai for the third at one stage too, and had learned bunkai at camp for the one I wasn’t performing, and I may have even been able to remember, if push came to shove,(well more likely grab but you know what I mean!!).

You would think that all that would have made me feel very prepared, and quite confident about it all, but no, instead I felt a bit overwhelmed and out of control. I practiced whenever I could find a willing and resisting opponent (for some reason it was harder than it should have been to find someone to grab or hit me, especially given the company I keep!!), but still, had no idea what I would be tested on.

The night before my test, having been preocupied for days and in my dreams with bunkai possibilities, I made a decision: it would be what it would be and there was nothing I could do except roll with it……Probably just as well…..the bunkai I was asked were not ones I particularly had practised intensively, or had even remembered well. I got past it though and instead of freezing like I had thought I might, I was able to at least describe what the bunkai was, by looking at it and thinking it through in the cases where my memory needed help. I may have needed some pointers and encouragement to make it more realistic and practical, but at least I managed to laugh and not cry about it. And let’s face facts: it was pretty funny being told repeatedly to hit my Senpai in the groin and pinch his inner thigh harder to get him to be more “compliant” as my tori (attacker).

I do promise to write something more deep and meaningful about my experiences over the last week or two. I also promise to reflect on being on both sides of the panel table, scrutinising others, and being scrutinised myself. I promise to tell you  all how it feels to be the other side of this experience, and to be (figuratively speaking) the first in the kyu (sic), standing on the last rung of the ladder leading to the launch pad so to speak. But in the mean time there is this:

 

Bunkai Ballad – The Crane who Smashes and Tears Calmly in the Storm.

Cranes are quite graceful but deceivingly vicious.

Hakkucho looks birdlike but the bunkai means business!

I’ll escape from your hold, head you off at the pass.

Hit your face, grab your groin and land you on your……..

 

Ask me about Saifa, it means “smash and tear”.

I’ll escape, and I’ll scrape and I’ll pull out your hair.

I’ll push you away and make you lose your hearing.

At the end of the day, it’s me you’ll be fearing.

 

Pulling in battle, can help me break free,

Seiunchin has storm within calm, you will see.

Move in to move out, move around, get them down,

Once they’re on your level, take them out and to ground.

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.