OT: Joe’s weekend adventure … bo kata, sparring …

I had some karate fun over the weekend, participating at a tournament in Michigan. First tournament, never done this before. Ok, in high school, I did wrestling. Same long waits punctuated by fast action, in a make or break mode.

The school I attend is here. Great instructors, nearly infinite patience for newbies like me.

As long as I don’t screw up the player, here is the bo kata. I took second place in the over 35 group (and in the 18-34 group … long story, don’t ask, but I am happy to have done better than some of them young whippersnappers 🙂 )

I’ll put the sparring video up later. In another post.

[update: moved the video until after the break so it doesn’t obscure the right sidebar]

There are 3 bo kata in the Isshinryu style. The one I am performing is called Tokomeni No Kun.

Comments below the video


I did this kata twice in the tournament. Once with the 18-34 year olds (due to an error with the scoring team), and once with the 35+. I took second place both times. First place was taken by Brenda (I didn’t get her last name), also in the 35+ group. She was very good.

Ok … so what I did right. Looks like my stances are mostly correct. I didn’t lose control of the bo. I did go slower than I could have gone, but, as noted, I didn’t want to lose control of the bo. My strikes were again, seemingly mostly correct.

For those who don’t know, the bo is a large wooden staff. Many competitors use these very lightweight plastic bo, that give them great speed … much lower moment of inertia around the rotation axis, so changing this rotation doesn’t require a great deal of energy. The wooden bo has a much higher linear mass density, and mass. So the energy required to change its motion is much greater.

What I am saying is, it ain’t easy to take a 6 foot long wooden stick and make it move exactly the way you want it to. But when you learn how to make it happen, and you start to get it, it feels like quite an accomplishment not to give yourself a concussion …

Ok, onto my commentary. The whole kata should take less than a minute. It takes a bit longer than a minute to learn. And much longer to perfect. I think I have learned it. I haven’t perfected it.

I can say that I relaxed, enjoyed it. I was on cruise control.

29 seconds in you can see the bo nearly horizontal. My feet are almost in the right stance (crane stance). The front foot should be perpendicular to the rear foot, separated by one foot length. Most of my weight should be on that front foot. It is.

30 seconds in, I am in a seiuchin stance. The bo should be horizontal. It wasn’t. It was off a little, I need to work on that. We punch forward with the bo.

31 seconds in, I am in a crane stance again. Well, almost. Front foot is at too much of an angle. Bo is nearly horizontal in the punch.

37 seconds in, you can see the bo vertical. Here you need to switch your grip for the next maneuver. My teacher had me alter the way I do this about 2 Fridays ago. Top hand goes first, then bottom hand. Note the stance, this is a zencuchi-dachi stance. I think I have that one right again, most of the weight is on the front leg, feet pointed in the same direction.

I need to sweep to the left on the outside which blocks the lower portion near my left leg, block using the upper portion of the bo, then swing it over the top for a head strike. After that …

At 38 seconds in, I have completed the head strike, then I strike the chin, and temples. The chin strike, he had me change the night before. But I didn’t have as strong a level of comfort with it. Watch as I bring the bo back and strike from the bottom. The top of the bo goes across my shoulder. It should go to my elbow. There is a great deal of kinetic energy I have to change, and I wind up depositing it into my muscles, and if the bo strikes my shoulder, into my shoulder. Unfortunately, this could damage my shoulder if I am not careful. So I need to change this to the way I was shown.

41 seconds in, I am punching with the bo. Seiuchin stance, almost correct. What I am not sure about is the little extra rotation I gave at the hips. You can see my latissimus dorsi and deltiods contracting to provide extra power to the punch. I need to check on whether I should do this.

42 seconds in I am back to seiuchin and parrying the return blow, having retreated a half step. One of the things I have been trying to learn is how to trigger the next phase of motion. To avoid looking like a robot, the motion has to flow. But you shouldn’t truncate the motions, you should do the full motion. And more importantly, you shouldn’t move your hands until your feet are planted. So I am trying to develop the necessary synchronization between my feet and my hands. Its easy for my teachers, still somewhat hard for me. Working on it. The parry shouldn’t start until I have my feet set. This I think I did right.

43 seconds. Stand the bo up, switch hands, and do the same thing all over again on the other side.

The end of my bo moves too much. This is a control issue, one I have to work on.

Ok, 49 seconds in, we get to one of the neater parts, where stuff starts happening fast. Stance is good, but my right hand needs to be on my obi (belt). When I make mistakes like this, it means I’ve been practicing it wrong.

We are going to be setting up a few strikes going forward … these are thrust punches, then turning arround to deal with the attackers in the rear. There is a “KEEYAH” you might be able to hear … Then I get down onto one knee and strike knees and temple of the attacker in front.

The bo should be perfectly horizontal during the front thrust punches. Not quite, but close.

At 55 seconds, I am in a cat stance. I am about to do a punch and turn to face the attackers in the rear. The front foot stomps as the weight transfers to it, and I do a shoba konata (will check) kick to take out an attackers front leg. Then stuff happens real fast.

But, at 56 seconds, my punch is up. This is wrong. It should be horizontal.

At 57 you saw the shoba konata kick, but then I altered the foot position for the next set of strikes.

Still at 57 seconds comes the first “KEEYAH!” you may be able to hear. This strike should temporarily clear the attackers behind, giving me a few seconds to deal with the attackers in the front.

You actually hear the “KEEYAH!” at 58 seconds. Go figure.

Ok, at 58 seconds, I am down on one knee. I strike knee, do a block and hit the attackers temple.

At 1:00 I stand up from there (not bad for an old guy, eh?), do a push block, and set up the next head-chin-head-temple-temple strike. Then the punch, the parry, and the momentary pause.

One thing I have had trouble with and have been working on, has been maintaining a good grip on the bo. When it is moving as fast as it is, with this much inertia, you really need to be able to control it. My teacher showed me a better way to hold it than I had been. This has made an important difference in my level of control. At 1:02, you might be able to see my hand on the right. The fingers are locked around the bo.

The punch at 1:03 is slightly off, the end of the bo wanders too far. And my feet are not in seiuchin stance. They should be.

Now, at 1:05 we come to some of the cooler looking techniques. Step back after looking (notice, I actually look!) and then toss the bo over. Switch grip, sit down a bit, and swing it round your head.

I missed a part of this. In the swing it around my head, I needed to keep it level. I didn’t. On the other hand, we were instructed to try to make a “whoosh” sound with the bo … keep the speed up and under control. And stop it horizontal. At 1:09, you can see I am at a slight angle.

At 1:12 I am about to do some of the cooler strikes.

At 1:14 I prep the rightward strike. Should be at 45 degrees to my front, and about even with my arms. I am supposed to go as far back as I can, but my arms get in the way. At 1:15 I did the strike.

Now I have to get the bo onto the other side for the leftward strike. This involves a block over the head and a hand switch. Which I changed two weeks ago, because I was doing it wrong. Step through that and watch the hands. I think I got that right.

At 1:18, I am preparing for the second “KEEYAH!” and strike of the attacker in the rear. It will be the end of the rear attackers, and bring us quickly to the terminus of the kata.

Step, strike, rotate prep for return and strike, in one continuous motion.

At 1:23 step in to seisan stance, 3 temple strikes, Then feet together for final temple strike. Return bo to start position and bow out. I am not convinced my feet were in seisan stance.

This was very comfortable for me. I enjoyed it. I have (as you might see) a great deal of cleanup to do. But it was fun to compete with it.

We have 2 other bo kata in Isshinryu. Hopefully I can start on the second one around mid-year. I want to clean this one up a bit.

By the way, the tall guy (his name is Ty) in the black gee standing behind me at 1:39 is my competitor in sparring.

If you want to see another version, somewhat different than what I did, here it is

This is from another Isshinryu site.

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