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Term 2 Update

Posted by texperkin on 18 July, 2019 at 20:10

What a busy term at the karate and indeed a busy year so far! As usual, the end of term is a good opportunity to review how we all went, update you all on what’s going on and setting up for next term. In this post:

• Timetable over the next few weeks

• New instructors

• New system and direct debits

• Updated syllabus and student resource guide

• Programs

• Plans for our karate school



Holiday Timetable

Standard term timetable ended the week before last and as usual, we finished with normal classes on Saturday 6th July followed by the grading for those who have been invited. For those who are yet to be invited to grade and who would like to know what goes on, please come along after the adult’s class finishes at 11:30am. We’re starting at midday however it’s a bit of a rolling feast as we’re testing some at that time and others a little later, as agreed with those families.


We decided that normal classes would continue into the first week of the school holidays with the break only occurring in this, the second week. Students came prepared for a few surprises – fun and games. Therefore, key dates are as follows.

Saturday 6th July Normal classes and grading

Monday 8th – Sunday 14th July Holiday classes on normal timetable

Monday 15th – Sunday 21st July **HOLIDAY BREAK - NO REGULAR CLASSES**

Monday 22nd July onwards Normal classes resume


For your reference, the standard timetable is always up-to-date on the website at https//www.akasydney.com/timetable



New Instructors

We have some new black belt instructors at the dojo. It is the school’s policy that we will always aim for an appropriate ratio of instructors to students so that every student has access to expert instruction. Therefore, I would like to introduce these additions to the team properly.


Ahmed Da’Na – Shodan

Ahmed has been in Australia for about 5 years and is studying a Bachelor in Industrial Design at UTS. As a student, physical activity has helped Ahmed keep his mind clear and calm, and of course keep him fit and healthy. Ahmed achieved his 1st dan (black belt) at the age of 11 in karate in Shorin Ryu Karate Do and from there he involved himself in as many sports and activities as he could including soccer, rugby and even wake-boarding.

Ahmed says: “Now I'm back to my roots of karate, ready to learn more and grow while being able to teach is a great joy. Looking forward to the future of The Australian Karate Academy Sydney”.


Nitya Mohan - Shodan

Nitya came to Sydney in Feb 2019 to pursue a Master’s degree of Architecture at UNSW after having completed her Bachelor of Architecture in India and then working for a little over a year in an architecture firm.


Nitya has always believed sports are an integral component of a well-rounded individual's life. They not only instil discipline but also sharpen focus and improve self-confidence. She started Karate at the age of 6 and received her black belt (1st Dan in Shito Ryu) in 2015. During those years, Nitya was part of many inter-school, inter-state and national level competitions culminating with an opportunity to be a part of the judging panel at a National Championship in 2015.


Nitya says: “I am thrilled to be back and I hope to learn and grow as much as possible. I am delighted to have an opportunity where I can give back as a teacher to something which has so greatly contributed to my well-being. Look forward to an exciting journey with AKA”.



New System and Direct Debits

As the school grows, our systems need to keep pace. From our application procedure to our floor space even to the process for turning on the lights, we are constantly reviewing what’s best. With this in mind, we are implementing a new student record system called Club Manager which we expect will, among other things:

• Make the sign-in process easier, more efficient and more effective

• Make the application process faster and more accurate

• Give us a better platform for communicating with our students

• Allow us to smooth our payments



Also, while we’re on the subject of payments, if you haven’t already done so please apply for your NSW Government Active Kids Vouchers. There is now a second voucher available for this year!



Updated Syllabus and Student Resource Guide

Students received an updated adults and children’s syllabus as well as a student resource guide. While everyone receives a copyof these documents they first joined, they do change from time to time so it’s important that everyone stays up to date.



Programs

There are several ongoing programs which you may not be aware of, including:

The Leadership Program is a very exciting initiative and we are piloting the program for the rest of this year with a select group of senior students. The program is intended for students aged 10 to 15 years of age who train multiple times a week and who we consider would benefit. It is a structured program and includes training in goal setting, instructing, teams, group management, public speaking and of course karate. It spans a 12 month period and it is our hope that it will ultimately progress the student to instructor level. Stay tuned for updates.


Our Referral Program has been running for most of this year however we don’t talk about it as much as we should. If you have someone you think should give karate with us a try, bring them in! New students who are referred by an existing member receive a special introductory rate and there are benefits for the referee as well!


Our Parents Program has also been running for most of this year and we will continue this next term. Any parent of a current student can also train for three months for free. We will cover the cost of the training but also of the insurance and association membership. We do this of course in the hope that they will enjoy it so much after the three months that they join up, remembering that there is a family discount for second, third and fourth family members. If parents happen to train for the three months and then decide to stop, we are happy that they will at least have had some basic self defence instruction in case it's ever needed - and that’s the whole purpose of the school. We can’t make anyone an expert in that time, but even 3 months instruction is enough to make a big difference.


For similar reasons, we are now offering a Bullying Program. Anyone who is a bully or who is being bullied will receive three months of training for free. There is a lot of research into this but in essence a lot of the reasons people engage in bullying and a lot of the reasons people are victims of it boil down to confidence: physical, mental and emotional. Martial arts training helps all three! Understandably, this has to be in consultation with the child’s school as it needs to be part of a wholistic solution and it needs to be an identified issue. If you know someone who would benefit, please let us know.



Plans for our karate school

We started the school in January 2018 under the (continuing) guidance of the Australian Karate Academy in Brisbane and the Seitokukai in Osaka, Japan. At that point, we only trained on Saturday mornings in the Maroubra Senior Citizens Hall and by March we had a grand total of 1 student who wasn’t a family member (we offered a chocolate for anyone who comes and whispers the name of that student to Sensei Ben after class - to this point, only the student themselves has a chocolate!). At that point, the only solid thing we had was a high-level goal to continue the McMahon and Mitani family traditions of teaching technically excellent, world-class karate in a positive environment, bringing its benefits to as many people as possible.


We hope you’ll agree that we are achieving this goal and we have built a school all of you should be very proud to be a part of. Coming into this year we put in place a number of goals and we are proud to say that we are achieving them all while still keeping in sight who and what we’re doing it for.




Goal 1 Jan 30 June Goal (current) 31 December


Location Old Maroubra ID new location New dojo

Location (Botany dojo running!)


Students 1 50 (now over 70) 100


Classes 4 7 (currently 10) 13


S:I Ratio* Kindy: <7  Kindy: <7 (now ~5) Kindy: <7

Kids+:<9 Kids+:<9 (now ~5) Kids+:<9


Leadership 2 Instructors 4 Instructors 6 Instructors

1 Assistant 2 Assistants (done) Leadership Program


*S:I Ratio: This is student to instructor ratio. ie. the number of students per instructor. This needs to be low enough to give every student expert attention. Obviously the higher the ratio, the more students you can jam into a room. For reference the NSW Government mandates a ratio of not less than 1:24 (https://app.education.nsw.gov.au/sport/page/1085?returnpageid=1114). We believe this is far too high.



I think you’ll agree that we seem to be well ahead of where we thought we would be. We believe that must be because we are doing something right, however perhaps these things can be summarised as follows:

• we always strive to be the best karateka we can be and to teach that to others

• we always listen to our students and parents

• we are always positive in our criticism and make sure we praise

• we take the extra time and effort to get it right

• We are professional



That’s all for now. Hopefully you made it all the way to the end of this update and for those who did, remember our special prize if you whisper that particular name to Sensei Ben. In the meantime, hopefully everyone had a restful week off (from the 15th July) and we look forward to seeing everyone next week starting 22 July.


Funakoshi's Precepts #5

Posted by texperkin on 7 June, 2018 at 1:05

Returning to Funakoshi's 20 precepts....


5: Spirit First, technique second


We have talked about this in the dojo in the guise of ‘attitude’. The correct mind-set is key to karate and if this is right, then good technique will follow. This is not to say that technique is not important of course, but one will lead to the other.


This can be illustrated through the example of kata.


As unbelievable as it, many martial arts schools continue to teach technique as an ending in itself without any acknowledgement that what they are teaching should be effective in whatever context they are teaching. There is definitely a whole other topic here but the outcome of what you are training for must be front-of-mind before you can proceed to do that actual training. For example, if you are training for competition success, you must train specifically for that purpose. This means that you don’t need to be concerned with effective self defence techniques at close range, nor whether the kata you’re practicing is technically perfect. Instead, you will train for things like evoking trained responses and making sure you are scoring points regardless of the following technique.


A technique can be perfectly executed but lack effectiveness if it is not committed or if it is not executed in the correct context. This is seen in kata as it is very easy to think of kata as a dance or just a series of steps to learn, when in fact the mind-set should be that you are training for confrontation. Every technique should have the same intensity as when you are hitting a pad or sparring and ultimately in a self-defence situation. The effectiveness of a technique is greatly increased if you are thinking about what you are trying to accomplish while executing it. What is your intention in sparring? It is to ‘fight’ using an offensive or defensive strategy where appropriate? Is it for self-defence? Basics and kata should be seen in the same light. By thinking of them in these terms, your movements will have purpose and power behind them.


Taking this further we should also understand that at a more basic level, unless you approach your karate practice with the right attitude (i.e. to learn and put in the required effort regardless of external influences and discomfort) then you will never truly be doing karate.


Your technique will ultimately improve provided you train with the correct spirit.

Funakoshi's Precepts #4

Posted by texperkin on 28 February, 2018 at 22:35

Continuing our investigation into Funakoshi's 20 precepts, here's my take on the fourth. Any comments more than welcome!


4: First know yourself before attempting to know others


When engaging in any challenge, it is a really good idea to understand what that challenge actually entails. Not knowing who your enemy is in any context means that you’re going in blind. You would likely not take a driving test without a thorough understanding of the road rules, vehicles in general, the specific car you’re intending to drive in the test, the general area where the test will be conducted and many hours or practice. Similarly, it is unwise to consider engaging in a confrontation with an opponent without doing everything you can to understand how that opponent will react and what motivates them. This includes dojo sparring and karate competition as well as criminal and domestic violence. More importantly, you need to know how you will deal with the opponent or the challenge.


Knowing yourself means knowing how you will react to stress, where your physical limits are and what your own underlying motivations. Without knowing this, it is impossible to control yourself and if you cannot control yourself, how do you expect to be able to control a potential opponent. Another way to translate Funakoshi’s quote might be “first control yourself before attempting to control others”. Know exactly where every part of your body is at all times and be able to put it where it needs to be. Be confident that you know you react to the stresses of physical confrontation by testing these in the dojo. Know how hard you can hit. Know your rights. Know your surroundings and your companions. Only then will you be able to react appropriately when someone means you harm, whether this be by de-escalation, escape or violence.


Further to this, it is possible to know your opponent before you encounter them. In a competition context, others will have faced them before even if you have not and they will be able to tell you about their preferred tactics, weaknesses and strengths. With a high level of control, you may thereby will be prepared with appropriate training and tactics.


In an encounter with a stranger who means you harm, you may not know them individually but you can know what you’re up against. Studying the way attackers act, the different threat levels and escalation points, the way criminals act in concert, potential weapons that might be brought to bear and crime and violence statistic arms us with most likely scenarios which we can train for. Violent crime isn’t what television and Hollywood portray and we need to train for what actually happens. There are a lot of myths around violence and we need pragmatism and common sense in our training.


As Sun Tzu says in The Art of War:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Funakoshi's Precepts #3

Posted by texperkin on 4 February, 2018 at 23:05

Continuing our investigation into Funakoshi's 20 precepts, here's my take on the third. Any comments more than welcome!


3: Karate is an aide to justice


If you contextualise Funakoshi’s 20 precepts, you’ll realise that he laid them down at a time and place where society as he knew it was crossing over from the Feudal system to that of modern, European-style Japan. The Meiji Restoration of the late 19th century brought about many changes and a profound, if not obvious one was the introduction of the Police Bureau in 1874. Funakoshi (1868-1957) was too young to have seen the actual immediate effects of this event however changes would have been ongoing throughout his life. Therefore, I it is likely that this precept refers to the need of the civilian to step directly into the fray in the aid of justice, especially in support of the nascent official Government response.


In latter times, this kind of response would be and continues to be frowned upon as in Japan and most other modern countries the police service is well trained and resourced. The karateka, no matter how well intentioned can actually be counterproductive in their efforts and suffer the physical harm or prosecution in their pursuit of justice.


Nevertheless, the intention of the instruction remains. Karate training is an aide to justice. By immersing yourself in Karate completely, you will be more able stand up against adversity in the modern world to make it a better place. As good citizens we must always be vigilant in defence of the weak, stalwart in the face of oppression and, to put it bluntly stand up to bullies. Your training must be used for the good of society and to protect those that need it – never to further your own interests.


This is effectively illuminated in conjunction with Kano Sensei’s three levels. Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) was the founder of modern Judo and he and Funakoshi shared a mutual respect. Further his three levels of Judo can be extended to all martial arts, including Karate. Kano Sensei said:


- The objective of the lower of level of Judo is to practice methods of attack and defense.

- Intermediate level (of Judo) is the improvement of the spirit by using every opportunity to practice. By being considerate of things such as observing others' practice patterns, forging the body and spirit through various techniques, and nurturing my own courage, one could say that it is if I am able to control my own body, spirit, and feelings.

- Concerning higher level Judo, using the energy of body and spirit acquired through lower level Judo most effectively, one can say that the world benefits.


Put another way, the higher level martial artist seeks to benefit society through study of the physical and thereby improvement of the character. Through hard and persistent training, Karate can be an aide to justice in society.

Funakoshi's Precepts #2

Posted by texperkin on 30 January, 2018 at 22:40

It's been a couple of weeks so I'm getting back to Funakoshi's 20 precepts. Here is my take on the second one.


2: There is no first attack in karate (Karate ni sente nashi)


While not actually original to Funakoshi, this is perhaps the most controversial of his 20 precepts and is, perhaps not surprisingly, the most famous. I believe it is also the most misunderstood. This misunderstanding revolves around whether the instruction is moral or tactical.


A superficial understanding here would seem to indicate that karate practitioners should all aspire to be pacifists. That under no circumstances should a karateka permit themselves to strike first. This gives potential assailants an obvious advantage and is particularly relevant today where there are many notable examples of assailants getting only one strike on an unsuspecting victim which renders the victim seriously injured or even dead. One punch can kill! Therefore, under scrutiny, this ‘tactical’ way of thinking about this precept is flawed. Why would we, as people who spend their time learning how to ward off an attacker, intentionally give the advantage to that attacker?


This apparent paradox evaporates in light of the fact that this is a moral instruction rather than a tactical one. To put the precept another way: A good karateka should never be the cause of violence.


Training in karate has obvious physical benefits but its social benefits are also there. It was on this basis that Funakoshi managed to promote karate into the Japanese school system. It is true that we should never promote violence and that we should not instigate an attack but this is not to say that we should allow an attacker the first hit either. In any situation we must always avoid violence where we are able however if this proves impossible, always take the initiative. Get in, neutralise the threat and get out. This is of course the very last stage and you will have tried to avoid danger, be aware of developing situations and if one does arise, de-escalate or escape. However there is a tipping point at which an attack is inevitable. In this case you MUST strike hard, fast and first.


Knowing when this point is can often be obscure and good training can definitely help. Scenario-based training is a great idea as is research-based knowledge of the stages of violence. This is a bit beyond the scope of what I wanted to cover here but make sure you are getting the instruction you need.


One final side point - you need to make yourself aware of the legal situation in your jurisdiction. Each state or country is different so there are differences and don’t just rely on rumour or hearsay.


Nevertheless, the point remains that a good karateka should never be the cause of violence.

Funakoshi's Precepts #1

Posted by texperkin on 15 January, 2018 at 1:35

Gichin Funakoshi is often referenced as the father of modern karate since he was the main force that drove karate into the Japanese school system and was the founder of Shotokan, one of the 4 main styles of karate. As I write that there are a number of points we could investigate there and I'm happy to discuss however one of the great things Funakoshi did was write prolifically. Amongst these writings, Funakoshi laid down 20 precepts for karate and it is these that I would like to explore.


1: Karate begins and ends with courtesy


I have seen the original translated as 'bow' rather than 'courtesy' but I think the intention is that you need to be courteous. This is the first precept for a very important reason as it should underpin all of your training.


In most dojo, students and teachers alike bow as they enter and exit. This continues through solo training, with a partner in drills, in sparring and grappling and even (especially!) in pressure testing and reality-based training. The reason should be obvious in this context however to be clear, training courtesy and respect for yourself and your fellow karateka helps ensure relevant, safe, and effective progression. We need to be able to trust each other and that we each have the ultimate well-being and improvement of the others in mind with everything we do. Seniors need to be patient and forthcoming rather than looking to ‘win’ and newer students need to be mindful and attentive in order to be able to assimilate knowledge and to progress. Similarly, trying to ‘score a point’ on a senior student won’t do anyone any good.


Following on from this, being attentive to others’ limitations, well-being and physical and mental state helps keep everyone safe. Surely the reason we train is to keep mind and body together, running smoothly and injury free. Yes, this is true if we’re ever in danger outside the dojo but what irony to be injured inside the dojo in the pursuit of safety.


Finally, Funakoshi often extended karate outside the dojo. In fact his eighth precept can be translated as “Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.” Taking these two precepts together, I would contend that Funakoshi would say that in order to be a true karateka, you must use courtesy in every single aspect of your life. Not only is courtesy a better way to diffuse a potentially violent situation when confronted by a thug looking to ruin your day than mirroring his anger and discourtesy but being courteous is not a bad idea in business, family life and any other relationship.


Therefore, when training (and when not) it really is necessary to give your own and your partner 100% of your focus, showing yourself and others respect and courtesy.

Original Traditional Karate

Posted by texperkin on 5 January, 2018 at 1:30

What does 'traditional mean'? Cheyne made the point in the original Facebook post that we teach "ORIGINAL traditional karate" as opposed to what most refer to as "traditional karate."


The basic difference is that what many still believe is traditional karate was an innovation in the early 20th century. It was the vision of Anko Itosu first and then his student Gichin Funakoshi to expand and protect the legacy of karate by bringing it into the PE curriculum of the school system, first in Okinawa and then in Japan itself. The focus was more on things like producing good, strong citizens and less on the brutal self-defence aspect. Quite sensible really since teaching children to punch in the throat isn't responsible behaviour.


To a large extent, this was the 'traditional' karate that was propagated throughout the world which is where we get the military, count-by-(Japanese)-numbers karate. Practitioners can spend many hours punching and kicking with no resistance and no time at all falling, locking, breaking or wrestling. There is also a well-documented tendency not to ask questions and never to deviate from the teachings of senior grades.


This is very good for developing a disciplined, physically fit person but arguably not as good for developing someone capable of defending themselves.


'Original' karate goes back to the art practiced by those prior with the very pragmatic primary objective of self defence.