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Saturday, December 7, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in Your Forties (24 hours to go)

Monday
Weight: 10st 0lbs
I cycled in to work. Today was the worst day of teaching I've had since I left City College and came to SBC. There was a lot of conflict and a lot of emotion. I was so glad to get home for some weight training.
It was my brother's birthday today. He's not talking to me at the moment but I raised a glass to him anyway.
Weight lifting, no junkfood, one 330ml can of beer

Tuesday
Weight: 10st 0lbs
I woke up dizzy. Really dizzy. After trying to sit up in bed I had to lie back down again and wait for ten minutes. Eventually I could achieve a siting position but felt really quite sick. The dizziness gradually eased off and I was able to move about. By the time I'd had breakfast I was just left with a bit of lightheadedness and a fast heart rate.
I cycled to work for a much nicer day. The dizziness had disappeared completely by lunchtime. I cycled home and couldn't wait to get to the dojo.
Tonight was a mock grading for those hoping to grade for their black belts on Sunday. We started with fast and furious basics and it was quickly apparent that my fitness training has been lacking. I was sweating and panting and struggling to keep up. I was suddenly unbelievably tired! Only my determination kept me going. I was relieved when Sensei eventually slowed things down for kata.
I was pleased with my kata. Of the three Ks it's definitely my strongest point. I felt that I got through the kata okay although Sensei did identify a missed step in Heian Yondan.
Then on to the kumite.
In the ju ippon I picked up yet another injury to a finger! This time, my little finger on my right hand was bent right back as I defended against a kick. Again, the pain was shocking but I chose to carry on rather than fuss about with ice packs. A little later, I was countering a reverse kick by grabbing his leg and sweeping. He unintentionally elbowed me in the jaw. This caused several small cuts inside my cheek where it had smashed into my teeth. I completed the rest of the mock grading with the taste of blood in my mouth.
Some more kata followed and then we were on to freestyle kumite. I didn't do too badly. My opponent was a strong young man, but only 16. He was wide open and I could have ended the fight with a strong jab to the face. However, I didn't want to hurt the chap so I kept things light. Keeping it light was not what Sensei was after and he let me know it! I was encouraged to go in fiercely with an ear-splitting kiai! I just hope I get an adult opponent in the actual grading.
Martha impressed me in the kumite. She seemed to have the better of her opponent and I could hear her splendid mawashi geri kicks landing with sickening thumps. The only thing that let her down was her smiling and giggling during the fight! I think this was down to nerves. I hope she remembers to keep her expression serious on the day.
We finished with another performance of Heian Yondan and this time I think I got it right.
I went home very tired, very sweaty and looking forward to the grading.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Wednesday
Weight: 10st 1lb
My hand was rather swollen today. The pain made it difficult to ride my bicycle in the morning. Who knew I used my little finger so much?
I organised a circuit for the sports lads but didn't join in myself (I had a mixed group of 16 students so had to be watchful this morning.)
After lessons I went along to Mr Roger's interval training session. Six of us got stuck into a strength and fitness circuit including deadlifts, bent over rows, dumb bell presses and snatches. We then did another circuit of purely core focused exercises. I'm lacking in core strength and found a lot of the exercises almost impossible - especially the v-sits! I then led the group in some stretching before cycling rather slowly home.
I cooked a chicken stir fry.
Circuit training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Thursday
I cycled in to work and back. I couldn't face running so I did some weight lifting instead.
The cuts in my mouth are making it awkward to eat.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Friday
I cycled in to work. It was a nice morning and an okay afternoon. I succumbed to the temptation of staff room biscuits and had four or five over the course of the day.
I cycled home.
Tonight's Karate session was run by Sensei Tony.
He had a packed class (a large proportion of which turned up late!) with lots of beginners and lower grades to deal with. He ran everyone through a mock grading and he spent as much time with everyone as he could. He drilled us in all the kihon combinations we would need for the grading: we performed each combination four times, turned, then four times back, turned, and then on to the next combination! I was tired. Really really tired. By the time we got to ushiro geri I could barely get my legs to work and I was unsteady on my feet. When Sensei finally let us get water I just leaned on the back wall and gasped for breath.
I'm not fit enough.
The only way I'll get through my grading is if I try to pace myself and hope that Sensei doesn't notice that I'm not giving it 100%.
Sweating profusely, I faced up to my opponent for some kumite. We only had time for ju ippon tonight which was okay because I'm in desperate need of some practice. My opponent was a young black belt (I think he's at university or studying A-levels.) He was very fast and he caught me several times. Or rather, he could have caught me but he pulled some attacks. We went through the ju ippon techniques at least twice on both sides so we had plenty of practice. I managed to counter a few of his attacks and caught him a couple of times. I couldn't get him with my punches but I got him with yoko geri and ushiro geri. Unbelievably, I hurt my finger again when trying to block one of his kicks and it was actually bleeding this time. My hands are like swollen bags of pain at the moment.
We ended the class with more exhausting kihon followed by kata, one after the other, without breaks. I felt like I could pass out, my heart was thumping in my ears.
After the session, Sensei Tony gave us some of his wisdom and encouraged Martha to give it her all. 
Martha was feeling confident on the way home, I was worried about my fitness.
Half an hour later, we picked Lucy up and headed off to see Uncle Jonnie. It was his birthday today and it was only right to have a beer with him whilst talking nonsense. We'll have a proper celebration next week.
Home for a late dinner.
Karate training, 4 biscuits, one pint of ale.

Saturday
The pain from my cut cheek woke me up a couple of times in the night.
Today was a rest day before the grading.
Lucy and I went shopping. I walked the dogs. I did some ironing. We moved stuff around in the back garden. 
In the afternoon, we went to sit in the warmth and comfort of the Navigation pub where she sipped wine and I enjoyed a pint of Guinness.
Home for a carbohydrate-rich dinner of tuna pasta bake.
I didn't worry about nutrition today - it's too late to try to get leaner or lighter or whatever. I just need to relax and be confident for tomorrow.
I spent some of this evening thinking about my history with martial arts. It started when I was 25 and I was fed up of being fat and unfit (and drunk.) I attended my first Shotokan Karate class in Great Barr where I met Sensei Paul Hexley. Those early lessons where a real trial - my muscles were so weak I used to shake just going through the warm ups!
Sensei Paul became an inspiration with his hard-hitting no nonsense approach to Karate. He made a point of demonstrating each kata to the class and getting involved with every kumite session. I sparred with him many times and never seemed to avoid his mawashi geri!
A 26 year old yellow belt with shaky muscles (and hair.)
I wish I could get my yoko geri up there now!

After I moved to the other side of Birmingham, I still tried to keep up with my training. Eventually, I gave in to laziness and took a break from martial arts. When I tried to return to train under Sensei Paul I was saddened to learn that he had stopped teaching. We still stay in contact, however, which I'm very grateful for.
Next, I trained with Sensei Clive in Japanese Ju Jitsu. I spent 18 months doing this extremely effective and useful martial art. It took some getting used to: after Sensei Paul's hard-hitting dojo, this martial art was more about staying relaxed and manoeuvring your opponent into a position where you could throw them. Everything got a lot easier after I stopped trying to punch everyone! I'm pleased to say that Sensei Clive is still a good friend and is encouraging me to get my black belt in Karate.
Another move meant that I ended up in Moseley and looking for another dojo. I found a modern type of Karate (which I can't remember the name of) based in a local church hall. You didn't have to wear white, nobody was called Sensei, you didn't have to bow and there was music playing throughout the session! Strangest of all, the instructors used to encourage the whole class to come with them to the pub across the road after each lesson. I never went with them so I don't know what that was all about. One thing that I did like about this modern take on Karate was that everyone had to bring their own focus pads and mitts with them. We hit the pads in every lesson and used non-traditional punches such as uppercuts and hooks. I admit that I miss doing those padwork sessions! This dojo closed down and then I found myself without a martial art and, for a little while, without direction.
Another move, and this time a permanent one. 
Martha and I had a shared love of Japanese culture so I suggested we take up martial arts. I found Ruach online and we went along to our first session in October 2013.


When we first started, we only trained once a week!
We soon found ourselves training in a family friendly environment with Sensei Ronnie Christopher and Sensei Gary Beggan keeping everyone inspired but safe.
Yes there were times when I wished the dojo was harder and that I didn't have to spar with children, and it was a long time before I actually got to spar with anyone (I was a purple belt I think!) However, this club has nurtured and supported both Martha and myself as we headed determinedly towards our black belt grading. And the teaching is second to none. I've taken many teaching techniques from Ruach and transferred them to my own classroom.
And then there was Sensei Jody! A big-hitting Karate monster from South Africa who always singled me out for the special treatment (often painful) and soon became a friend. He was only at the club for a short while but his approach changed things for me and I'm sure the club is a little different for his having been there. 
As I've mentioned before, he gave me a parting gift when he left England and I hope to be able to talk more about that tomorrow.
Unfortunately, Sensei Jody has been injured for almost a year now and hasn't been able to train. I hope he's back in a Karate dojo very soon.

So tonight I've had a healthy dinner and taken it easy with the family. I contacted Sensei Jody and got some good advice from him. A good night's rest is all I can do now.
Rest day, some junkfood, one pint of Guinness 









Monday, December 2, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in your Forties (6 days to go!)

Monday
Riding in the rain yesterday was a mistake. I had a coughing fit in the night and ended up sleeping in the spare room so I didn't keep Lucy awake.
I cycled in to work. My voice was little more than a croak. One member of staff questioned whether I was well enough to be in college today!
I did some weight training at home (as always, making sure to lift just a little bit heavier than I did last time.)
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Tuesday
I cycled in to work and back.
This evening's Karate session was a mock grading for all belts. We blasted through the kihon and then kata. We didn't get to go through all of the kumite because we ran out of time. I felt that things had gone pretty well but Martha was a little disheartened.
At the end, Sensei Lloyd approached me and was very complimentary about my kata. He actually used the word 'perfect' but I know he didn't mean it, he was merely boosting my confidence. I don't think anyone in the history of Karate has ever performed a kata perfectly, I certainly haven't!
In contrast, Sensei Joey approached me two minutes later to tell me that I was too tense in my kata!
One of Ruach's strengths is that there are many different black belts to give you lots of different feedback!
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Wednesday
I cycled in to work. In the morning sports lesson I set up a circuit of 9 exercises. The lads and I went round the circuit twice spending 30 seconds on each exercise. It certainly got me red faced and sweaty!
After lessons, Martha came in to college and we went back to the sports hall for another circuit led by Mr Roger. This was a 10 exercise circuit and we went round three times spending one minute on each circuit! Phew! I found that I was okay at the running, skipping, press ups, squats and similar, but the core exercises were really hard, especially v-sits.
I then cycled home in the rain!
Circuit training (twice), no junkfood, no alcohol

Thursday
I used the car today because Lucy and I had to stay late at work.
I managed to fit in a full weight session tonight in a very short amount of time. I was able to lift heavier than I have for about a year!
Weights session, no junkfood, no alcohol

Friday
I cycled to work and back.
Tonight's Karate session was a mock grading for all belts. We 1st kyus got to do lots of basics and plenty of kata. We didn't practise any ju ippon, however. This is a concern but Sensei Gary assured us that Sensei Tony will be taking us through some kumite next week.
Unbelievably, I injured my fingers yet again. And it's without doubt the most embarrassing injury I've ever had. Tired, trying to keep up with a much younger black belt, and giving it 100%, I managed to catch the fingers of my left hand on the fist of my right as I blocked across my body. My fingers were bent back and the pain was enough to make me dizzy. The digits swelled up immediately but I chose to just carry on rather than mess about with ice and first aid forms.
Needless to say, the swelling and pain got worse as the night went on.
Back at the house, I found myself home alone. I somehow resisted a beer! 
A couple of hours later I went to rescue the ladies when their car had frozen solid at the train station!
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Saturday
The fingers on my left hand were puffy and painful and I couldn't make a fist. If they don't get any better by next week, there's no point grading.
Sensei Tony's Karate session was a strange one - but just what I needed: After stretching, he let the 1st kyus prepare themselves for their grading next week. This meant that we could practise kihon and kata at our own pace, in any order we wished, and take a drink when we needed it. It was great to use the wooden floors and mirrors to really work on my form. I was dripping with sweat when I'd finished and the gi went straight in the wash when I got home!
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Sunday
Weight: 10st 0lbs
The fingers were much better this morning. Still swollen, but much more mobile.
After another mock grading at Cocks Moors Woods (a very sweaty session!) Martha and I accompanied Sensei Gary on the Ruach instructors' Christmas day out! Obviously, Martha and I aren't instructors so we were very surprised and grateful to be invited along. Two hours after getting changed we found ourselves sitting in racing go-karts at a track in Lichfield! It was bitterly cold as the sun began to set but 11 Ruach racers were eager to get started on the practise laps. We had been given the safety briefing along with crash helmets, overalls and ineffectively thin gloves. The karts we were using were capable of getting up to 40mph and we were ready to test them out!
After a few qualifying laps, it was clear that Sensei Ronnie was the fastest racer and he was given pole position. The rest of us lined up behind him on the grid – just like in formula one.



We then had 30 minutes to race. The wet road surfaces glistened under the flood lights as the sun went down. The roar of the engines was intoxicating as each racer went bumper to bumper, often quite literally, with his or her fellow competitors. Young Sensei Dan was Sensei Ronnie’s closest rival and they battled it out, getting quickly on the throttle out of the corners and braking as late as possible, if at all! Sensei Gary set a more sedate pace as the menacing back marker, daring people to try to get past him. The cold was making it difficult, with many of us finding that, by the end of the race, our fingers had gone completely numb. If you fancy trying go-karting in December, thick gloves are a definite must! The pain in my fingers was breathtaking and there were times when it distracted me from the racing.
After half an hour, Sensei Ronnie has lapped many of us three times. Despite the best efforts of Sensei Joey, Sensei Lloyd and the other instructors, Sensei Ronnie proved to be a black belt in motor racing too!
After that fantastic experience, we headed off to the Potting Shed Cafe for chicken and rice with cups of hot te
a. Many of the others, including Martha, had big helpings of cake and ice cream. Although sorely tempted, I managed to resist. 
Another good thing about this dinner, as well as the lovely grub, was all the grading advice I was being given by the experienced instructors.
Back at home, I filled the gaps with homemade shepherd's pie followed by a late night bowl of no-added-sugar-muesli. I was still hungry!
Many thanks to Sensei Gary for taking us on a marvellous day out.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol


Sunday, November 24, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in Your Forties (13 days to go!)

Monday
Weight: 10st 2lbs
I cycled in to work.
In the afternoon, I noticed that my two smallest fingers on my right hand had gone completely numb. I had no idea what was causing it. I cycled carefully home. By the time I'd set up my weights session, I had the feeling back in my digits.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Tuesday
I woke up feeling a little under the weather. I decided to go in to work in the car with Lucy.
Again, in the late afternoon, my two smallest fingers went numb. This time they went purple too. The only way I could have injured myself was on the punch bag when I was training with Sensei Ronnie on Sunday. How strange.
Purple and numb.
I'd rallied a little bit by the time we got home so I did a weight lifting session.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Wednesday
Weight: 10st 1lbs
Lucy, Jane, Tilly, Jonnie, Jess and I travelled to Cambridge for a funeral. After saying goodbye to a much-loved family member, we had a drink with our family and friends. 
No exercise, no junkfood, alcohol

Thursday
Weight: 10st 0lbs
I'm the lightest I've been since the end of July (I put on 11 pounds over the summer!)
I woke up feeling a bit rough so I jumped in the car with Lucy. I did some weight training after work but felt more and more ill as the evening went on. I had a Lemsip before bed.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Friday
Weight: 10st 2lbs
I felt absolutely terrible and I was losing my voice. Again, I used the car, not the bicycle to get to work.
I went along to the dojo to watch Martha training. I sucked cough sweets and blew my nose a lot.
Sensei Gary was kind enough to invite me along to the seminar with Sensei Hazard but I will be at a wake tomorrow.
No exercise, no junkfood, no alcohol

Saturday
Weight: 10st 0lbs
I felt a bit better in the morning, but not by much.
We attended Uncle Graham's wake at Camp Hill Rugby Club. A minute's silence was observed and Camp Hill quite rightly won the match. I drank a few beers with family and friends.
I was back home at 5pm for Lemsip and homemade dinner.
No exercise, no junkfood, alcohol

Sunday
Weight: 10st 0lbs
I woke up feeling better than I have a for a few days. I still have a ridiculously croaky voice however!
I jumped on the bike and joined Jonnie, James and Roger in the lanes. We did our flattest route: the Honiley Route. There was a light rain all day, the lanes were absolutely soaked and full of debris and mud. It was great to be out in the fresh air with the chaps and Roger did a great job of looking after me at the back of our little group. I went along okay, it just took me a little while to recover after climbs.
I was very grateful for all the hard work that James and Jonnie were doing on the front.
Waiting for Roger to have a wee.
At Wilmcote, all the boxes were ticked: homemade cake, hot tea, and cricket highlights on the TV! It was with great reluctance that we put our wet shoes back on and cycled back into the rain.
I got home after 40 miles at 13.9mph.
After some soup and wholemeal bread, I did some ironing and then headed off to dojo. 
Sensei Gary was in charge today and I got to perform 8 kata all at full pace followed by some self defence stuff. I was a bit sweaty and my throat was raw by the end!
And then, and I really don't know why, I decided to have a couple of beers with my dinner. Why I ruined all my training by drinking alcohol is a complete mystery. It just seemed like a good idea at the time...
Cycling, Karate, junkfood, alcohol




Monday, November 18, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in Your Forties (20 days to go, again!)

Monday
I cycled into work and back and then did a good weights session. I cooked a protein-rich dinner and had an early night.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Tuesday
Weight: 10st 2lbs
I bounced out of bed feeling great!
I cycled in to work. It was a stressful day today with an actual very real threat of violence outside of the college. I made sure I was in the middle of it in case I was needed. Happily, I wasn't.
I cycled home.
At the Karate session, I was very pleased, honoured and embarrassed to receive the Student of the Month award for my efforts at the Shirley dojo on Saturdays. I should have received the medal on Saturday but I was in London at the weekend.

Wearing my medal, with a few of my best friends.

After a photograph, I got to do some sparring with Sensei Kai and Sensei Joey. Two very different karateka and both adding to my kumite experience.
Then, a very welcome announcement - Sensei Gary has put the grading back by one week! I get another 7 days to get myself fitter and faster before I'm tested.
We finished with some team kata.
Home for loads of healthy protein (fish) and an episode of Vikings!
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Wednesday
Blood Pressure: 124/87
Resting Heart Rate: 48 bpm
I cycled in to work. For this morning's fitness lesson, I showed the lads how to measure their blood pressure and resting heart rate. I used myself as an example and was pleased to have some good results (although the diastolic reading is a little raised.) Then I took the sports group out on a 2 mile run. I think the chaps are getting a little fitter, or I'm getting better at nagging at them. I still find it hard to believe how often these teenage lads slow to a walk during our 2 miles. Some of them even refuse to run uphill!
The afternoon lessons were great fun and very satisfying.
After the students had gone home, I went along to Mr Roger's fitness training class. This week was all about the dumbbells! Every exercise involved hurling dumbbells about. I tried to lift as heavy as I could, but I did find myself exchanging my heavy dumbbells for lighter ones as the exercises went on. We trained for a little under an hour before I slumped at my desk to scoff rice and chicken.
I cycled home, aching all over.
I made a healthy chicken and mushroom stir fry for the family.
I've been aching all evening, especially in my shoulders. It must be good for me, right?
2 mile run, fitness training, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Thursday

Weight: 10st 2lbs
The weather was horrible. Driving rain all day. I decided that jumping in the car with Lucy was the best option today! After work, Lucy convinced me to go for a run. I really didn't want to go and was looking for any excuse to stay in the warm. Anyway, I ended up plodding the streets for 6.3 miles. I was incredibly lethargic but I didn't slow to a walk at any point. I wobbled home in an embarrassingly pedestrian time of 69 minutes.
I hate running, I felt physically terrible when I got back, but I was so glad I did it!
10K run, no junkfood, no alcohol

Friday
I cycled in to work. It was a brilliant day at college with a good morning lesson and lots of paperwork done in the afternoon. I cycled home and got ready for Karate.
Unfortunately, I was asked to teach this evening. I had the white belts, orange belts and two absolute beginners to inspire and try to develop. It was hard to think of things for them to do. I hope it wasn't too boring.
So I didn't actually get to do any training myself!
After dinner, the fact that I hadn't done any exercise today wouldn't let me relax, so I set about doing a weights session.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Saturday
Weight: 10st 3lbs
A walk in the park with the dogs in the morning.
This afternoon's Karate session was a very stop-start affair with Sensei Tony making sure that everyone understood what they were doing and that they were performing each technique correctly.
At the end, I stayed behind to tire myself out with some Jion and Heian Godan.
Tonight's dinner was homemade chicken and chickpea curry with lots of spinach. Training fuel!
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Sunday
Weight: 10st 2lbs
Up at 7am for a three-egg breakfast.
After taking the dogs out for a very cold walk in the park, I headed off for my first Karate session of the day. Initially, my heart sank when Sensei asked me to go through kata with some white belts, but it was only for a short while and I was doing some proper training soon enough!
We warmed up with plenty of high-speed basics before moving on to a kumite competition. I was pleased to win all of my fights but I was only up against young teenagers. I was the only senior adult training at Cocks Moors Woods today.
I got home to eat a banana and do some ironing. An hour later I was back in the dojo, this time at Tudor Grange.
We did Karate circuit training! This involved ippon kumite, ju ippon kumite, freestyle kumite, kata, press-ups, sit ups and bag work. Phew. And my partner? No less than chief instructor Sensei Ronnie Christopher, World Champion medallist, and the man who will be overseeing my grading in exactly three weeks time! At the end of the first circuit I was out of breath and feeling dizzy. Then we went round another three times!
We did some kata in between each circuit too! By the end of the two hours, I was gasping and desperate for a sit down. I had been determined to keep up with Sensei in the sit ups and press ups and had given my all in the bag work. I was exhausted.
I realised at the end of the session, when Sensei gathered the students round to give them feedback, that the man wasn't even breathing hard. I know that Sensei is more than ten years my senior. His fitness is outstanding.
I went home to fill up on homemade Sunday dinner with the family and to somehow resist the lovely beers lined up in the kitchen!
3 hours of Karate training, no junkfood, no alcohol.







Sunday, November 10, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in your Forties (20 days to go)

Monday 28th - Thursday 31st October
It's half term. Lucy is away on a short holiday in Europe.
I lift weights every day and eat healthily, but I also treat myself to a couple of beers every evening.

Friday 1st November
Lucy is back.
In the morning, I do some weight training.
In the evening, we have a house party with loads of family, friends and fireworks!
I drink loads of beer, eat junkfood, and dress up as Batman!

Saturday 2nd November.
Get up early to watch South Africa defeat England in the rugby world cup.
I wish I'd stayed in bed.
The rest of the day was a complete waste, with comfort food and a few ales.

Sunday 3rd November
I walked the dogs in the fresh air.
In the evening, I had a bit more comfort food and three ales.

Monday 4th November
Weight: 10st 6lbs
Back in training, back at work. I cycled in to college and back.
At home, I did a satisfying weights session and then scoffed loads of eggs in my dinner.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Tuesday
Weight: 10st 5lbs
I cycled in to work and back and then went to the dojo.
Sensei Gary quite rightly gave me a telling off for not training at the weekend! I assured him that I wouldn't miss another session. 
Sensei Mark took the higher grades for a kumite lesson. He had us practise the changes made to the ju ippon drills that were introduced to the club on Sunday. 
Yes, 4 weeks from the grading and the club has changed the ju ippon attacks! There is now a short step before launching into the techniques properly. This enables the attacker to close the distance much faster and more efficiently. Sensei Mark gave us plenty of opportunity to go over this change and practise against a partner.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Wednesday
I cycled into work. 
This morning, I did a very challenging circuit of 10 exercises with the sports lads. We went around in pairs, performed each exercise for 30 seconds and we went round twice. I was red faced and perspiring by the end of it!
At 4:30pm, I went along to Mr Roger's interval training session. This time, he wasn't focused on getting us strong or making us sweat. This week he had very kindly focused on the skills that I need as a martial artist. We practised balance, footwork, stance and reaction times. All extremely useful stuff although I was a little disappointed not to break a sweat.
I cycled home and made a healthy curry of tomatoes, chicken and mushrooms made with all fresh ingredients.
Circuit training, no alcohol, no junkfood

Thursday
I cycled to work.
The ICT department took two of our groups for a visit to the Apple store for a free lesson on how to make films using their iPads. It was a good day out!
On the cycle home, I had a bit of a motivational failure: I just couldn't find the strength of will to go for a run. I settled for an hour of weight training instead.
Weight training, no alcohol, no junkfood

Friday
Weight: 10st 3lbs
I cycled to work, tried to stay awake in a meeting and then cycled home.
Martha and I went along to the dojo for another session with Sensei Mark.
The session was great - lots of chopping and changing to keep things interesting. 

Some of the fantastic Karateka at the Friday Tudor Grange session (with our young white belt student of the month.)
At the end, Sensei asked me to perform Jion for my module. He was very kind and said some very nice things about my kata. He signed off the final element in my module.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Saturday
I got up early to complete a weight training session.
A family member isn't well so in the morning I travelled down to London on the train to see what I could do. I don't like the place. I know it has a rich history and lots to see but I find it cramped, noisy and unfriendly. 
As it turns out, I couldn't do any good so I got on the 6:05 train from Marylebone. I lasted until 7pm sitting on the floor of the packed train. Then it was just too much so I felt sorry for myself and cracked open the beer I'd been carrying around with me all day!
Back at home, the family were brilliant and cheered me up with chicken and noodles, Strictly Come Dancing and 2 more beers!
Weight training, no junkfood, 3 beers

Sunday
There was a mix up in communication today: Sensei Gary told me there was no early morning training but it turns out that there was a session at 8am run by Sensei Lloyd! Oh well, I took the dogs for walk in the sunshine instead.
Martha and I went along to the 1:15 session at Cocks Moors run by Sensei Joey. Despite some badminton players being rather reluctant to get off the court, it was an enjoyable session which covered the three Ks and kept everyone entertained. Martha and I went home for 40 minutes of rest before heading off to Sensei Ronnie's 2 hour session at Tudor Grange. 
We worked hard at the details of our basics. He singled me out because my movement backwards needs to be improved. Of course, at 1st kyu, we don't perform our basics backwards, but we could be asked to do anything in the grading!
The advanced half of the session focused on the new ju ippon step attacks which we practised on Tuesday. It soon became apparent that it put the defender at a massive disadvantage. It's so hard to make allowances for the extra step and still get the block and counter in. Plus, Sensei has stipulated that the step should be a small one but all the black belts were using it as an excuse to launch themselves halfway across the dojo when they attacked! And using timing against these attacks? Forget it!
I've got 3 weeks exactly to find some sort of defence and counter against these new attacks. There were times today when I considered postponing my grading until April, but then I remembered that everyone is in the same situation: we've only just been shown this change and we all only have 3 weeks to work with it. Surely Sensei will take that into account on the big day.
Martha and I went home for loads of homemade shepherd's pie and piles of green vegetables!
3 hours of karate, no junkfood, no alcohol











Thursday, October 31, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in Your Forties (34 days to go)

Monday
I woke up feeling a bit ropy after three beers last night - I'm not used to it these days!
I drove the car to work.
Tonight's weight lifting session was good. I've switched to a very wide grip for shrugs and this is really working well on my traps.
Loads of eggs in my dinner.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Tuesday
I cycled in to work and back.
Tonight's Karate session was awesome. Sensei Lee had travelled all the way from Tamworth for tonight's session. I've never seen him at a Tuesday night before. Then Sensei Eric turned up and I hadn't seen him for weeks. Next, there was a very capable black belt who I don't even remember seeing before. I knew something was going on but I didn't know what.
And then, Sensei Ronnie Christopher walks in wearing his gi! I haven't seen Sensei at a Tuesday session for at least a year, maybe two or three!
We did some light one for one sparring to warm up and then Sensei took charge of the senior grades. He had us working on ju ippon for the rest of the session! Excellent stuff! It was just what I needed to practise and get clear in my mind in readiness for the grading.
Sensei told us a story about training in Japan and the Japanese flag. It's a story I've heard before but enjoyed hearing again. He also told us about the findings from his 'research' outside...
The emphasis was put on being on the toes, not flat-footed. Sensei repeated the importance of this and then gave us plenty of opportunity to practise the techniques he'll expect to see in the grading. Invaluable stuff!
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Wednesday
Weight: 10st 4lbs
I cycled in to work in thick fog.
Mr Roger is away so I ran this evening's circuit training session for staff. I kept it close to the stuff that Mr Roger does with us - the medicine ball and dumbbell work, lots of bodyweight exercises and everything by the clock. The only differences were that I included a warm up and I also made the duration of the exercises shorter each time we completed a full circuit. This gave everyone the feeling that they were getting some energy back even though they were still working hard!
I cycled home slowly with aching, shaking legs. On the ride, I noticed that the headset on the cheap mountain bike I'm using at the moment has become very loose. Dangerously loose in fact.
I made a huge chicken and mushroom stir fry.
After dinner, I practised last night's ju ippon techniques in the kitchen.
Circuit training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Thursday
I cycled in on the road machine. I didn't trust the headset on the Apollo and my mountain bike still has a flat front.
At work I was hungry! I'd eaten half of my lunch before lunchtime and finished the rest off by 12:30. I was sorely tempted to go to the canteen for pasta and crisps (I was craving carbs) but instead I tried to enjoy a banana and a fistful of mixed nuts.
I cycled home and then set off for my weekly 10K. Again, I failed to make it around the 10K course but this time it was due to the fact that I was desperate for a wee! I cut the last corner which meant I only ran for 5.7 miles instead of 6.3. I was slow anyway at 10m 27s pace.
After a shower, Lucy presented me with homemade pizza! It was absolutely delicious but devoid of any healthy source of protein. I found myself thinking that I may as well have enjoyed those crisps at work!
5.7 miles of running, no sugary foods, no alcohol

Friday
Weight: 10st 3lbs
I got up with a bad back. I had to be very careful - if I leaned over too fast then I experienced what felt like little electric shocks at the base of my spine. Even cleaning my teeth over the sink was painful.
At 10st 3lbs, I'm the lightest I've been since I rebooted my training on the 26th August. I don't know the significance of this.
I cycled gingerly to work.
It was one of those pointless 'training' days so I had a relaxing day in my shorts and t-shirt chatting to colleagues. There was homemade cake on offer which I managed to resist.
I cycled home against a 15mph wind.
Tonight's Karate session was a bit of a mock grading to start with. Lots of kihon up and down the hall. We did some kata too but didn't have time for kumite.
In the kata training, Sensei made me aware of a change to Bassai Dai which I had somehow missed (I don't attend enough advanced sessions on Sundays due to my love of cycling): The first kiai point is no longer a thrust kick, it has been changed to a short strike which in turn is meant to demonstrate a take down. Let's just say that I hope I'm not asked to demonstrate Bassai Dai in the grading.
After the session had ended. Martha and I stayed behind for a bit more kata work. Martha recorded me performing Kanku Dai. I was very disappointed in the result: I'm not moving anywhere near as sharply as I think I am! Also, the change from kekomi to keagi kicks still makes the middle of the kata look sloppy to me (although I'm sure it's more effective.) The old way looked so much tidier.
Anyway, here's an old man's wobbly, out of breath kata:



Back at home, I found it necessary to wear my weight-lifting belt to support my aching back.
We had a huge chicken dinner.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Saturday
Up early to take Lucy to the airport.
My back felt so much better!
After dropping her off, I went over to Jonnie's place to watch England's glorious victory over the All Blacks. Then I headed off to the bank to put some cash in my account.
I received some bad news on the way home: a member of the family had passed away in his sleep. The family gathered at Jane's place for the day.
Back at home in the evening, I did a very late weight training session.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Sunday
Roger, Jonnie and James joined me in the lanes and we cycled off on the Petticoat Route. Roger was back on the bike after about 6 weeks where life got in the way of his riding. He had requested a fairly easy reintroduction and the Petticoat Route was just the job.
The lanes were wet! Even though it was a beautiful, bright dry day, the recent heavy rain had left the lanes with huge puddles everywhere. These puddles would stretch right across the lane and some of them carried on for quite a way. It was quite a task to keep the socks dry. I tended to hit the puddles at a fair speed and then tuck my feet up on the top tube as I wooshed through. It seemed to work.
We refreshed ourselves with two types of cake at Wilmcote as we watched Wales succumb to South Africa in the rugby world cup.
Soon after, we were back in the lanes. James did some fantastic work on the front and dragged us along for a couple of miles at a good pace. However, I became aware that Roger was starting to struggle. As he said himself , "I've put the wrong legs on this morning!" You never know how you're going to feel on the bike until you start pedalling. We've all been there.
So we slowed the pace and had a chatty ride back.
About four miles from home, we saw a group of about five riders stopped and staring at a very large puddle that extended along the lane. Jonnie was in the lead and he simply wooshed past them and through the water without a moment's hesitation. We all followed him and got soaking wet socks as we went along! It was a deep puddle!
What none of us could work out was what the other riders were waiting for. Why were they all just looking at the puddle? James suggested that they were waiting for it to evaporate!
We enjoyed a cup of tea at Jonnie's place and then I headed off home for a healthy lunch and to get ready for dojo.
Today's karate session was mainly kata with some kumite at the end. Sensei Ronnie spent a lot of time explaining techniques, the correct approach, the required attitude and other such priceless stuff that other karateka just wouldn't be exposed to. It's good to have a world champion as your instructor!
He picked up on every little mistake I made, which I'm very grateful for, and then showed me how to put them right.
In the fighting, I wasn't as bad as I usually am and Sensei Joey had some nice things to say about my technique.
At the end of the two hour session, I told Sensei that I was thinking of grading. He replied "good" and gave me some advice about my kumite. Obviously, we both recognise fighting as my area for development. I asked him if I should focus on Kanku Dai and to my surprise he said not to! Apparently I need to develop Jion in readiness for the grading! I was under the impression that Kanku Dai would be the grading kata and I've spent a lot of time developing it. I now have 34 days left to get my Jion up to a black belt standard!
Back at home, after being a good boy all week, I allowed myself some chocolate and 3 beers while watching a film about cycling (Le Ride) which was recommended to me by Jonnie's mom!
35 miles of cycling, 2 hours of Karate, junkfood, 3 beers


Monday, October 21, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in Your Forties (41 days to go)

Monday
I cycled to work and back and then did some weight lifting. My back was a little tender but nothing to worry about.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Tuesday
I cycled to work and back.
The first half of tonight's Karate session was all about speed. We were blasted through basics up and down the hall and we were expected to be lightning fast. In the second half, we did some more work on Kanku Dai. I had to slow it down because I just didn't have the energy to keep up with Sensei Kai and the brown belt kids. (Cool name for a band: Sensei Kai and Brown Belt Kids. A laid back jazz band?)
I had a bit of a sort throat when I got home so I had a Lemsip in bed.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Wednesday
I woke up with a sore throat. I cycled in to work. At work, my sore throat got worse to the point where I started to worry about losing my voice.
In the morning, I took the sports group out for a 2 mile run. Although some of the lads are not as fit as they should be, they all put in a decent effort and all but two of them completed the course.
My back was stinging at times, particularly when I was running uphill.
After lessons, I went along to Mr Roger's interval training session. Tonight we had to complete ten different exercises including work with medicine balls, kettlebells and dumbbells. We had to spend 60 seconds on each exercise and we went round 3 times. With only 15 seconds rest between each set, it was an intense, sweaty experience.
I was exhausted! At the end of the second circuit I could hardly believe that Mr Roger was telling us to go round again!
I made sure I had a lifting belt on as tight as it would go in order to protect my back.
I led the group through a warm down and then cycled slowly home!
Another Lemsip let me sleep but I woke up several times because my throat was so sore.
2 mile run, interval training, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Thursday
I'm sick. Sore throat, headache and runny nose.
I cycled into work and back but couldn't face the 10K run in the evening. I ate healthy stuff and sipped Lemsip in bed.
No exercise, no junkfood, no alcohol

Friday

I felt even worse after a terrible night's sleep when I kept waking up between vivid dreams. My throat was raw and it was hard to swallow.
I wasn't up to cycling so I drove to work.
Today, Jonnie, Russ, James, Roger and I signed up for the Mad March Hare sportive for next year.
This evening, I took Martha to the dojo but I felt too ill to train. I was a spectator. I couldn't help offering little bits of advice here and there to those in earshot. Sensei kindly involved me towards the end of the session when he asked my opinion of the class's kata performances.
In the evening, after a healthy dinner, I started to feel a little better. I hope I can ride on Sunday.
I was up until midnight after picking up Lucy and Dodgy from a dinner party.
No exercise, no junkfood, no alcohol

Saturday
I woke up feeling a lot better. Jonnie came round to watch England's convincing victory over Australia in the World Cup Rugby. Lucy made a wonderful breakfast for us including my favourite tomato sausages! After Jonnie had left to tend his garden, I cleaned the man cave and took the dogs for a walk before heading off to the dojo.
Today, Sensei Gary had us working hard on our kihon with some kumite mixed in. We finished off with a chudan punches only kumite competition. My team lost!
Back at home, I did some ironing before enjoying Lucy's fantastic homemade curry and tonight's episode of Strictly!
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Sunday
Weight: 10st 5lbs
Up early for cycling. I was pleased that I'd managed to sleep through the whole night uninterrupted. I still had a sore throat and a runny nose, however.
James called for me and then we cycled up and called for Jonnie. 
We decided to ride Jonnie's Route which is something he cobbled together after being on an organised ride with Sally in the summer. It's a nice route apart from 1.2 miles on a very busy A road.
We set off at a chatty pace which was okay for a while but Jonnie was on a charge! He spent the first half of the ride off the front leaving myself and James to work hard behind. My sore throat was becoming a sore chest and to make matters worse I had left my drinks bottle containing water, fruit juice and aspirin at home!
We cycled along some lovely lanes and watched the grey sky become blue. We really do live in a beautiful part of the world. Even in October.
Suddenly, as my thoughts were turning to hot tea and cake, Jonnie suggested we ride up the Average Destroyer - the steep hill in Haselor! When we got there, Jonnie and I struggled up the climb and watched James disappear over the top. 
We cruised through Temple Grafton, over the A road and then bombed it up the Billesley Wall climb to claim our cake. We arrived after 23 miles at 14.3mph.
We were very pleased to find two cakes waiting for us - carrot cake and coffee cake. My favourites!


Would you like carrot cake or coffee cake?
Yes.

On the way back home, we were riding into a headwind and heading uphill. Hard work. Jonnie wasn't as sprightly as he was earlier in the day but James was feeling good. He did most of the work on the front to get us home which I'm very grateful for.
Surprisingly, even though Jonnie seemed to be having a hard time, he suggested that we make the route even harder by riding up The Farm on the way home! We obliged and wobbled our way up the steep climb into Tanworth in Arden.
As well as having some loose spokes on his back wheel, Jonnie was also struggling with his front derailleur. It was resisting going up onto the big ring and required some coaxing. Each time, it took him several seconds to get it to jump on. Seems that the Trek is in need of some TLC.
On the descent to Tom Hill I noticed that I was having to brake to stay behind James. The reason for this is that we both weigh the same - we are both 65kg. The difference is that I'm 5 foot 6 whereas James is over 6ft tall! I offer a much smaller profile into the wind so have to touch the brakes to stay behind him when descending. Obviously, he left me for dead going up Tom Hill!
We got back to Jonnie's and we all decided to drink water. Very healthy - training like athletes. We watched some actual athletes play rugby for a while and then called it a day.
Back at home: lunch, hang the washing out, walk the dogs, do some ironing, bring the washing in.
When Lucy returned from Nottingham, she reminded me that I didn't have to teach in the morning. So I had a beer! Cheers!
38 miles of cycling at 14.1mph, junkfood, alcohol