Mark Terry

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

This Is A Writer's Life?

July 25, 2007

This week has been a bit odd. We're having a new floor put in our kitchen, dining room, entryway, half-bath and laundry room. So at the moment (third and final day!) the washer, drier and refrigerator and kitchen table and chairs are all in the living room and there's a guy pounding and thumping around and using a nail gun above my head.

I put the photo over there because I had something cool happen last night. I've been studying Sanchin-Ryu karate for about three years. I knew I was up for my first-degree brown belt (next level is black). How this is done in Sanchin-Ryu is your instructor (Master Vicky Clay, in my case) decides if you're ready for the next level and gives you an application form, which you fill out and send back to the main office. They go over your app, probably talk to your instructor and generally for the higher belt levels (there are three degrees of brown in Sanchin-Ryu; in fact, it's white (very beginner), orange, green, purple, 3rd brown, 2nd brown, 1st brown, then black with something like 10 degrees of black, although in fact, in Sanchin-Ryu, once you get up around 4th degree black the belts are no longer black...), that is to say, brown and up, you get invited to a black belt class.

At the black belt class the district manager or sometimes even higher levels, Chief Instructors, etc., will check you out and make a decision as to whether or not you're really ready for the next level. Tae Kwon Do and other styles have very specific testing criteria, which makes sense in those styles because they have a competitive sports component to them. Sanchin-Ryu doesn't so every individual's learning is scaled a bit different. (It's an interesting philosophy, different from many martial arts, although not all, and I've studied a few others).

Well, last night was our workout. In the summer we work out at Stoney Lake Park here in Oxford, typically on the beach (a great place to work out). The district manager, Master Mike Clay, who yes, is married to Vicky, showed up. He does that from time to time anyway. It didn't really occur to me that he might be looking me over, although when he asked the brown belts to do "form as kata" I should have had a clue. Our style of karate is built on 10 basics, 10 combined basics advanced (CBAs, which are just what they're called, taking two or three of the basics and putting them together, for instance the first one is a cross-body punch followed by a backfist). Then comes 10 forms, which are a series of somewhat complex strategies that typically have 20 or 25 steps. Then you get into katas, of which there are 10, and there are also weapons katas and other things, but at my level we're primarily working on the 10 basics, 10 cbas and 10 forms and their various (and varied) applications.

Anyway, "form as kata" basically means do all 10 forms, 1 through 10, fluidly without stopping, as if it were a kata. (Or, if you don't know all 10, do as many as you can).

Anyway again, at the end of the class Mike said, "Well, I didn't really come here planning on doing this," then they called me up and awarded me my first degree brown belt. That's really cool.

Oh, and sometimes brown belts are referred to as "pound belts." I'll let you figure out why that is.

So am I any good? Well, I know enough to get myself into trouble. And hopefully I know enough to get myself out of trouble. I think of Sanchin-Ryu, like many arts, from music to writing to painting, etc., as a constantly receding horizon. The more you learn the more you realize there is to learn and there's no THERE there. Which is part of what I like about it.


Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Congratulations. That amazes me. I have no coordination at all. You've advanced quite a few levels. How long have you been working at this? Are the black belts considered "Expert" degrees or something of the sort?

8:18 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

The general public perceives "black belts" as being experts, but almost every martial arts style I've come into contact with seems to think that "black belt" means "you've got some grasp of the basics and now you can really start learning."

I've been studying Sanchin-Ryu about three years. Sanchin-Ryu is a very different style from what you see in movies, etc., and Tae Kwon Do, with their high kicks and near-gymnastics. Sanchin-Ryu is an amalgam style although its biggest roots seem to be in the Okinowan style of Isshin-Ryu. The focus is on "in-fighting" which is to say, getting inside your opponent's reach. Sometimes it's referred to as SOS--skin on skin--because part of the training is to get used to fighting very close. That's different than standing back three feet and kicking someone in the head, and it seems to minimize your opponent's size and strength.

I focus less on the self-defense aspects of things (although it's a component) than the other aspects: balance, range of motion, technique over muscling, and the artistic aspects. I also pretty much figure that if I get into a situation I can't talk my way out of or run away from things have gone very, very bad.

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