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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Sun May 09, 1999 4:25 pm 
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Posts: 660
Everyone ... (though particularly directed to the women)

There is a lot of discussion on other forums about toughening and body conditioning. We develop differently as women (muscles, body structure, etc.). Is there a different standad or measuring stick for conditioning in Uechi-ryu karate for women?

Instructors, how do you work with women in your dojo in conditioning (other than arm/leg pounding, push-ups, situps, medicine balls)? There's the makiwara, resistance training, pounding with a stick (the name escapes me ... it's says Iron Man and I purchased one at the Kalamazoo Summer Camp in '91) ...

At home I 'chop wood, carry water.' I forget about the tractor and use a hand mower (gas powered, but I mow about 1 1/2 acres or so). I carry water to my garden sometimes, rather than hauling out the hose, to work on the downward pull of my shoulders.

It's hard to draw the line sometimes between wanting to be "one of the guys" and maintaining femininity. Face it, we're all not She-Ras or Xenas or a Cynthia Rothrock..

What's tough enough?

Just ramblings on a Mother's Day ... Jackie

PS: Happy Mothers' Day


[This message has been edited by Jackie Olsen (edited 05-09-99).]


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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Sun May 09, 1999 9:45 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 25, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 181
Location: Sacramento, California, USA
Ms. Olsen:

You sound pretty tough to me! I'm not sure I could survive your gardening. And, while I too hope for response from the distaff side of this forum, your post hits upon a topic many of us skirt around in Uechi, do we all need to be able to break with our toes, kick through a bat with our shins, be hit over the forearm with a board, and be kicked full force during San Chin in order to practice this style? If the answer is yes, I have been wasting my time.

Now don't get me wrong, this is a tough style, and a certain amount of toughness appears to be a prerequisite for continued practice. But as you observe, what's tough enough?

I am very lucky to train with one tough Mother (she has two children), who can arm pound, shin kick, and one knuckle punch with anyone. But, as she often observes, there are techiques in this style she would not use. Perhaps I should say, there are applications of the techniques in this style she would never use. Why, because they won't work for her. Given her size, her strength, and her own genetic gifts, she takes from this style what she finds the most effective. This approach seems to work quite well for her, and allows her to keep control of a class full of young healthy male specimens often intent on demonstrating that no woman can push them around.

For me, having the privilege of training with individuals of varying size, quickness, toughness, flexibility, aggressiveness, etc. helps to validate a fundamental premise about this art. If karate is only for the strong, the fast, the tough and the aggressive, there would be no karate. These folks generally can take care of themselves physically without much training. But for the klutzes among us (a group to which I proundly claim membership) karate holds the promise of allowing us to develop ourselves in ways we couldn't imagine when we first begin our study. And while it may make us tougher, how tough will always remain a wide variable. Personally, I think tough enough is measured over time, and if one is still practicing when the Social Security checks arrive, one is tough enough.

As I said, you sound plenty tough to me, and I will keep your post in mind the next time I am grousing about mowing my puny yard.

Peace
Robb in Sacramento


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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Mon May 10, 1999 7:13 am 
Cheeze, I hope none of you are using Xena as a role model...

Forget about this femininity thing in the dojo, Jackie. If you know how to kick a' then just spit into your palms, rub them together, get into a fighting stance, and kick a'.

The ONLY thing I did differently when I used to spar a lot, was stay away from the chest area. Other than that, if a woman put on a black belt then she was a black belt and it was technique against technique. Sorry, no special treatment.

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Allen - [email]uechi@ici.net">uechi@ici.net</A> - <A HREF="http://www.uechi-ryu.org[/email]


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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Mon May 10, 1999 7:38 pm 
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Dear Robb:

Please call me Jackie -- Thanks for your in-depth reply. I don't know if I'm being tough or just a masochistic klutz under cover! When I started karate, I had no idea what I was getting into. If I had known, it would have been very hard for me to stay. Physical feats were not my cup of tea. I remember saying to my Sensei when he asked me why I did I want to train, "I heard it's about mind, body, spirit unity, and I truly have no idea what that means, but I could sure use help with all three." Yes, we each had our starting points ... and some of us began our training already a little further down the road than others.

I like your description of training with "one tough Mother". It isn't easy leading a class of guys. I often find I have to demonstrate my abilities first before a "newbie male" accepts me as a teacher. And, it's healthy for all of us to train with people of varying sizes, etc. I teach at two different dojos and will often visit a third, just to be well-rounded in training and not get comfortable with the status quo ... No, I'm not a "jock", I just have to work harder.

Allen:

And what's wrong with Xena :}? I love how she throws the javelin!

I don't conciously think about being feminine in the dojo (how can I ... minimal make-up, hair pulled back, sweaty, etc.), but sometimes I do wonder how tough a female needs to be in training. I know, some women can probably spar rings around the guys, do 50 push-ups followed by 100 sit-ups and run 2 miles before doing Sanchin (not me). As Robb questioned, do we all aim for breaking with our toes, kicked full force during Sanchin etc.? Probably not. Even some of the guys I know wouldn't be able to hold that level of training.

Though, how much has training changed since the early days?

I'm not asking for special treatment for females ... each partner, M/F, has their rank, limits or injuries ... which a
good uke and Sensei will work with. It's just hard to know where to draw the line sometimes on being too tough with a partner (M or F).

There are different levels of black belt even at the same rank. Some are much more agressive, flexible, and conditioned -- while others are more laid back. I guess you said it when you remarked that it came down to whether a person could hold their own ... technique against technique.

If there are any other women out there lurking about, please join in and let us know what you feel is "tough enough"! Especially, those who trained in the old days!

In Beauty,

Jackie


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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Mon May 10, 1999 9:43 pm 
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Posts: 891
Conditioning - especially as applies to women. Great topic!

Certain aspects of conditioning remain genderless - to my belief anyway. But it would seem that some areas are more difficult for women to work on and/or condition at all. Perhaps we can discuss conditioning on a point by point basis.

Forearms. No substitute for kotikitae. For either gender as far as I can tell. Over the last decade I've run the gamut on the forearms - from over conditioning and bruising to what I now consider to be errors in conditioning routine - specifically too hard and not often enough. Over the years I have become a serious believer in gradual consistent conditioning - not only for the the forearms but also for other parts of the body. I remember starting out in the dojo and trying to "be tough" and "hang with the guys" when it came to conditioning - consequently I ended up with too many bruises - and whenever I was out socially in the company of a gentleman - he invariably received dirty looks and glares while I received the sympathetic nods. I usually favored long sleeves in those days - even though this tropical weather is over 80 degrees much of the year...

So now I teach - and I have a few women students. They remark on the "strength" and conditioning of my forearms - and I use the opportunity to again emphasize gradual conditioning - especially for women. I've seen some men walk into the dojo brand new to martial arts and get into some heavy duty kotikitae right off the bat. I've yet to meet a female karateka who can pound like that on her forearms the first couple weeks of training. So I really push the gradual conditioning theory to women - more than men.

Consistency. My sensei always told me that conditioning would be the first to go during an absence from training - and I've found that to be so - even though I've rarely taken more than a few days off from training - usually only because of an injury and during that time I usually modify my training to work on other areas. So I carry this to my teaching - just because regular training has to stop for one reason or another - doesn't mean conditioning should. Even pounding your own forearms with your fist is better than no conditioning at all. And best to do this on a regular if not daily basis. I don't particularly feel that once a week will cut it for serious conditioning. You can use just about anything to keep up a daily conditioning routine - I've read some pretty amazing routines on the Crossing the Bridge forum - check out Maurice's morning routine! Brutal! That works for some people - I wouldn't recommend it for everyone - but at a minimum - every uechi-ka can find some type of implement and tap on their forearms and shins on a daily basis. One friend of mine used a bowling pin. I have a 3" diameter dowel rod I like. A kids plastic bat can even do some good. Again - GRADUALLY.

Moderation. I had a visitng student last year who hailed from a dojo that is in to some SERIOUS conditioning. His sensei is internationally known for his conditioning - (baseball bats and shins etc.) Their idea of fun was to go out in the parking lot after class and hit their bodies with two-by-fours and such while they were unfocused - to "explode" the nerves - the idea being that after it healed the area would be numb (dead nerves) and they could condition even further. Another thing they would do would be to soften up as much as possible before taking a hit to let the impact penetrate as far as possible. Maybe this is effective - there are certainly some incredibly tough students coming out of that dojo. But it doesn't work for me and I don't recommend it to my students either. Especially the women.

Difficult areas. For both genders - the solar plexus is a sensitive spot - I don't know whether getting hit there is worse for women or not - but I know that it can hurt - when doing punches or kicks to the stomach - I see the eyes of the women when a punch gets a bit hard around the solar plexus and I know it hurts - so I tell them to condition it themselves! Then when they do take a shot there - hopefully it won't be so bad... Same goes for the lower abdomen - and I think that is a tougher spot for women than men. Sit-ups on an incline board can help tone those muscles - but there is no conditioning the internal organs. So protect from the outside.

Chest. To quote my friend Tony - "forgetaboutit" - I tell women students to learn damn quick to keep their elbows in and protect themselves the best they can. Even considerate guys will miss once in a while - but I'm kind of the mode that if you get hit there it's your fault. Can't condition that area so you better learn to cover it. Or get chest protection and wear it. Personally I hate chest protection - and will only pull it out when letting the students practice hitting me full contact. I've yet to wear it in a test or tournament situation - but I suppose that if I got heavier into the kumite side of tournaments I would probably opt to wear it. Kind of feels funny looking like wonder woman though.

So - this is getting too lengthy. How much conditioning is enough? I like Rich-san's comment: <blockquote>Personally, I think tough enough is measured over time, and if one is still practicing when the Social Security checks arrive, one is tough enough.
</blockquote>

I saw a 79 year old sensei from Okinawa lead an incredibly powerful workout yesterday - he had us exhausted - and he did everything we did - including the pushups! That's conditioning.

And a comment I am truly taking to heart - (and to the dojo) is one I heard from Tomoyose Sensei yesterday in his seminar (YES! I was incredibly lucky enough to train with the one and only Tomoyose Sensei yesterday!) about conditioning. He said that traditionally - in his dojo - kotikitae was done with every single student who showed up for workout. This way - seniors worked not only with seniors - but also with lower ranking students - varying the level of conditioning and also kind of a marathon session when lots of students showed up. So much for one or two kotikitae between sanchins! He said that even if 50 students showed up - kotikitae would be done 50 times - no matter how long it took. Now THAT's a conditioning routine.

Peace,
Lori

[This message has been edited by Lori (edited 05-10-99).]


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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Mon May 10, 1999 11:28 pm 
Go ahead, Lori.

Keep it up and I'll ask you to write a chapter for my next book!



------------------
Allen - [email]uechi@ici.net">uechi@ici.net</A> - <A HREF="http://www.uechi-ryu.org[/email]


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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Mon May 10, 1999 11:29 pm 
Jackie,
<OL>
Allen:
And what's wrong with Xena :}? I love how she throws the javelin!
</ol>
Threatens my masculinity, ‘eh, ‘eh, ‘eh.
<ol>
I don't conciously think about being feminine in the dojo (how can I ... minimal make-up, hair pulled back, sweaty, etc.), but sometimes I do wonder how tough a female needs to be in training.
</ol>
Don’t even concern yourself with it. Just BE yourself and everything else will work out around it. Use Uechi-ryu as a tool to propel yourself to go wherever you want to go.
<ol>
I know, some women can probably spar rings around the guys, do 50 push-ups followed by 100 sit-ups and run 2 miles before doing Sanchin (not me). As Robb questioned, do we all aim for breaking with our toes, kicked full force during Sanchin etc.? Probably not. Even some of the guys I know wouldn't be able to hold that level of training.
</ol>
Example: I knew a guy once who was the absolute best he could be in the martial arts. He was always peaked out, a fine-tuned engine, and he liked it that way. Did this mean he could beat the karate greats of his day? No, I say. He was getting out of it what he wanted and the heck with everyone else.
<ol>
Though, how much has training changed since the early days?
</ol>
My opinion, generally speaking, is that it is easier to make Uechi shodan today. A few reasons for this statement is that I see less hours required; I see less dedication; I see a drastically changing skill index comparing TKD new shodans vs Uechi new shodans, possibly my best gauge. But what do I know, because in my younger days all I could see was CRUNCH and gravitated toward those of like mindframe. Maybe there were ‘c’ and ‘d’ level instructors and dan students except I never looked for them therefore never saw them.
<ol>
I'm not asking for special treatment for females ... each partner, M/F, has their rank, limits or injuries ... which a
good uke and Sensei will work with. It's just hard to know where to draw the line sometimes on being too tough with a partner (M or F).

There are different levels of black belt even at the same rank. Some are much more agressive, flexible, and conditioned -- while others are more laid back. I guess you said it when you remarked that it came down to whether a person could hold their own ... technique against technique.
</ol>
Jackie, think only about matching stature: height, weight, skill levels, and those types of attributes else if you look up too much you will only disappoint yourself.

Also, within the last several years, I have met a few younger Uechi-women who have not trained in the old days and are very, very tough. Only my pride kept me from saying "go easy" on the arm pounding while I really let into it for them. I’ll still put my bets on most Uechi women brown belts against most TKD women shodans today. THAT’s beauty!

------------------
Allen - [email]uechi@ici.net">uechi@ici.net</A> - <A HREF="http://www.uechi-ryu.org[/email]

[This message has been edited by Allen M. (edited 05-10-99).]


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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Tue May 11, 1999 4:55 am 
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Posts: 891
Jackie-san,

About the femininity issue - that is a challenge. Forget how we look in the dojo - gi's are definitely not the the most figure flattering apparel - and as for hair and makeup and all those feminine trappings - doesn't work in the dojo does it? I remember in my earlier days coming to the dojo after work - hair styled and makeup left from business hours - didn't quite help matters to have makeup dripping into my eyes after working up a good sweat! Through the years I've watched female students go through the evolution of showing up coiffured and made up - and as they continue their study and get more serious about their training - the makeup lessens and the hair styles get simpler - but the teenagers preservere...

Not that I completely abandon any attempt at femininity - and I do have certain rituals that I keep up that let me celebrate my "feminine side" if you will - and no J.D. I will not describe them here! Image

My sensei always told me that he knew when his female students were getting serious because they trim their nails - we joke that I've never been serious about my study because I tend to wear them longish - but I justify their length as part of my weapons arsenal...

Allen-san:

You are too kind! I've actually been working on a book of my own... but a collaborative effort sounds nice! I'm honored you would even entertain the thought...

J.D.-san:

And here I thought that you were disappointed in my conditioning given that I was still nursing a back injury when we worked out last. Well, never fear. I'm stepping up my conditioning routine after working out with Tomoyose Sensei yesterday...and by your next visit we should be able to work a bit harder!

Keeping up with the guys:

Yesterday at the workout with Tomoyse Sensei - there was an ikkyu there who I knew right from the start that he didn't expect me to be able to hit him hard enough - because I'm female. He comes from a dojo with an incredibly conditioned sensei - the man is a brick wall - (ask Tony how his shins feel today!) anyway - this ikkyu with the - I hate to say "attitude" - but that's what it was after all - started "instructing" me on how to hit him in kotikitae etc. - now, I'm not that hung up on the rank thing - but an ikkyu giving instructions to any senior is not something I'm used to - so... he asked for harder - and I gave it to him. His eyes kind of opened a little wide in surprise at first - and I don't believe I hurt him - but we were really slamming - and of course - that's right when Sensei Tomoyose showed up behind us - and said "ok - that's good!" I felt somewhat chagrined for beating on a brown belt that way - but hey - he asked for it! And he's going into the marines so he better get used to it eh? Anyway - the point of this little anecdote is more instruction on conditioning from Tomoyose Sensei - he told us that conditioning should be done OFTEN and GRADUALLY - with all different ranks. No point in breaking down the body he said. If you have to take a week off from training because of over-conditioning you just set yourself back.

By the way - I actually got to kotikitae with Sensei himself. How amazing is that!

His sanchin is a beauty to behold as well - incredible. What an amazing man. I can't even begin to describe how it was to work out with him.

Peace,
Lori


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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Tue May 11, 1999 5:26 am 
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Posts: 891
J.D.-san:

Just re-read your post - great input on bones and muscles and nerves. Thanks for the post.

Interesting point about medically demonstrating the effects of conditioning... I could think of a few candidates for those studies myself - as could a few parents of teenagers I'll wager! But seriously - your explanations from a physiological perspective were excellent. Thanks.

Peace,
Lori


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 Post subject: Are We Tough Enough?
PostPosted: Tue May 11, 1999 2:42 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 24, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 312
Location: Washington DC area, USA
I would think that a woman would need to be tough enough to have:'

1) good aerobic fitness
2) good flexibility
3) slightly above average strength for her gender and size but not too much--some weight training perhaps or calisthenics
4) the ability to take SOME punishment but not be a human punching bag (I don't want to be one for that matter)
5) a strong stomach from lots of sit-ups or crunches
6) the ability to have good sparring technique that holds up to her rank--just like a male student

I have never done fore-arm pounding since I am not an Uechi-ryu stylist, but in TangSooDo and Taekwondo there is the knuckle push-ups deal, finger push-up deal and such. I have backed away from that type of training (in addition to trying to toughen up the palms and such) because I do not want to lose sensitivity. The thing that has helped me be able to take blows better, besides having large parents, is my flexibility and strength. My body gives when it is hit due to flexibility, yet not to the point where I'd damage something due to strength. I've taken a kick to the eyeball and slipped that and other vital area injuries because my flexibility allows me to roll with the blow automatically, then the reflexes kick in, then the conscious mind.

One would think that women would be naturally more flexible but I have found that that is not a 100% thing. I've seen some women whose leg flexibility is just as bad as the average guy their age. Being flexible helps avoid injuries in other physical activities as well as the martial arts.

What I'm getting at is I think that flexibility is one avenue of conditioning that is underrated. True, us Korean stylists have the lower body flexibility for kicks, but sometimes the upper body and back are neglected by us.

Any thoughts????



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