Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Conference With My Sensei

I spent last weekend working out of town--at a meeting with editors from around the globe for my news organization. I missed my family, it was so good to get home, though difficult to have to go right back to work. To keep up the cardio, I did do some workouts in the tiny fitness center of the inn the event was at.

Last night, I had a conference with my sensei. (As I've said, while this school no longer calls itself a karate school--and few karateka would call it that either--it has retained a lot of the form of karate.) The meeting followed a kickboxing/sparring class--one of my first involving kicking since my ACL injury and operation. I was pretty disappointed with my sparring--I was facing another brown belt, a left-hander, whom I haven't sparred with before (he used to attend another school in the same organization). I haven't sparred with too many lefties, and I know they're supposed to be difficult for righties, but I thought ... I would do better.

My sensei said I should take things a step at a time, focus on feeling comfortable with my knee, and once that happens, we can talk about training and testing for the black belt.

He said it looked like I felt comfortable with the basics in grappling, though I will need work on the more advanced moves.

Best of all, he said that my hands looked terrific in sparring. He said I could probably rely mostly on my hands and just do a few simple kicks--roundhouse kick, front push kick, and occasionally a front-leg round kick to the opponent's leg, which is mostly to see if they'll drop their hands.

I was really pleased to hear his assessment--after all, he's a Muay Thai champion. But I pointed out that I felt like I hadn't sparred well that night. After years of work, I'm still dropping my hands, for instance.

He said I have to remember that I'm coming back after a severe injury and long layoff, and that in any case, it's really hard for righties to fight lefties--they encounter them so rarely, and their punches seem to come from the wrong angles.

It was interesting to hear him suggest relying mostly on my hands. Before my injury, I was more reliant on my kicking than most people in my school, and I felt my hands were a weakness.

But in my recovery from ACL injury, I did lots of shadow boxing and bag workouts, and I studied boxing. (Photo above, from Million Dollar Baby, with the fabulous Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. Cool movie, very tough ending though.) It's nice to hear all that work improved my hand work. I want to also keep up the defensive movement I have begun to learn in the past few months.

It was a reassuring message from my sensei.


Michele said...

It sounds like you had a good meeting with your Sensei. Your comments regarding your hand work are interesting. I also find myself relying on my hands rather than kicking during sparring. I consider it a natural result of my injury. I need to focus on my strengths, which at this time are my hands. My knee injury has changed my entire approach during a fight. I do not feel comfortable using my right leg (new ACL)as the supporting leg. I am hoping that one day I will have enough confidence in my knee to kick freely again.

BobSpar said...

Hi, Michele,

At this point do you think it's an issue of needing to build strength, or a psychological issue, or both? Can you use your right leg as a support for a straight kick that doesn't twist the knee? It must be a very frustrating feeling.

Michele said...

I think it is both a strength and a confidence issue. It is very frustrating. I need to keep working on quad strength because it is still not 100%.