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Archive for July, 2010


This photo shows the countdown clock to what’s being billed as ‘the biggest free event of the year’, in case you can’t make out the picture, it currently says ’13 days to go’. This is the ‘the tall ships races’, and this year they will be stopping off at Hartlepool, my home town, for 4 days. Our town of 90,000 people is expecting up to a million visitors.


Needless to say that this is a really big deal and the local authority and its partners have been working tirelessly to get the town ready. From developing a brand new transport interchange, to painting double yellow lines on every bit of road they could get there paint brush to. Also, every school in town has had Tall ship themed events to ensure the kids are enthused for the event.

One of the many Tall Ships displays at one of the schools we work at…

Now, you may be wondering what this has got to do with Karate…. Our club, Hartlepool Wadokai will be doing its but for the event, we are the only Martial Arts club in the Hartlepool Sporting Association (HSA) so we’ve been invited to run a karate taster class during the event. With so many people attending the Tall Ships, this has the potential to significantly raise the profile of Karate so we are looking forward to it.

The countdown clock has a double meaning for us too. It’s also a countdown for Amy and I flying out to Japan for the Wado World Cup. The tall ships event runs from 7th August to the 10th and we fly out from Heathrow on 8th… making the next 13 days or so very important.

Fun day…

To the untrained eye, this would just look like a bucket with some sponges in. However, to the trained Karate student from Hartlepool Wadokai, this bucket represents a chance to get Sensei Carl (Me!) with wet sponges whilst he’s trapped in the stocks… image

Being the Elite Karate person I am, I’ve made arrangements for my protection… Unfortunately, I couldn’t secure any of our students to ‘protect my honour’, so instead I’ve had to take matters into my own hands. I’d like to introduce you to RENEGADE….!

..tune in tomorrow, to watch how this story unfolds…

The Shiramizu magic…

Amy and I spent a year living in Japan from July 1st 2008 until July 1st 2009. We worked as the shiramizu interns, I ran the English language classes at the dojo and we both taught English for other companies in saitama and Tokyo.

Sensei Takamasa Arakawa is the owner of the dojo and anyone that knows him, or even knows of him will tell you that he is a fantastic wadokai technician and he’s also a genuinely nice guy.

The reason for mentioning the dojo?
at the upcoming Wado World Cup there will be at three former shiramizu interns competing (Louise Fisk – New Zealand & myself and Amy – UK). there is also another WWC competitor from Germany who is currently training at the dojo in preparation for the competition. This shows how special shiramizu is and how highly regarded Arakawa Sensei is internationally.

At the JKF-Wadokai Nationals, Shiramizu will no doubt have a massive club presence alongside fellow Englishman Pete Williams (the current intern). Shiramizu are often asked to do demonstrations at the big Karate events so I’ll have my video camera on standby.

Needless to say that Amy and I, and no doubt Louise will be visiting Shiramizu when we get back to Japan. I’m hoping to get as many of our Wadokai England team there as possible so that they can experience the ‘shiramizu magic’…

Shiramizu Intern ‘Official’ Blog
Shiramizu Intern Website (Japanese)
Arakawa Sensei’ Blog (Japanese)

England ‘rainy’ season

Today we’ve had some truly crazy weather, the Met office even issued a severe weather warning. In the space of a few minutes, a massive amount of heavy rain fell. For those of you who have experienced Japan’s ‘rainy’ season will know exactly what I mean. The town’s drainage pipes etc are just not cut out for som much water so the local roads were turned into rivers. More important than that though, as you can see by the video clip, My vegetable garden took a pounding!

The timing of this downpour couldn’t have been worse, it was between two of our After School Club at Brougham Primary School and our community clubs. My mother and I had just stopped by my home to collect Amy (who’d just finished work), have a quick coffee and then head to the next class. This also meant that a lot of our students were travelling to our class, though thankfully everyone turned up safe and well – if a little bit wet!

Sports personality of the year

Lewis (Centre) with his trophy...

11 year old Lewis was recently awarded the Sports Personality of the Year award for his achievements in karate at St Aidens Primary School in Hartlepool.

Lewis has worked hard for this award and his dedication to karate is inspiring. Just last week he wanted to pull out of his end of year school concert because the performance clashed with training. I’m pleased that his mother didn’t let him!

keep up the good work Lewis….

..let’s talk about the weather

So, my shiny new phone has basically got  ‘Big Brother’ pre-installed, no not the really bad TV program, the secret service!  My phone knows who I am, where I am and what I’m up to… one of the benefits of this is that the phone can tell me what the weather is, where I am, and also where I’m going.

Today’s weather in Hartlepool, my home town has been a scorching 25 degrees celsius, with lows of 16 degrees… Tokyo, where we’ll be in a few weeks has been 33 degrees celsius, with lows of 27!!!

It’s actually hotter there at night than it is here during the day.

Needless to say that i’m probably going to melt when we land in Tokyo…

Hartlepool Wadokai Fun Day

This coming Saturday our club is running its first ever fun day. The day has been organised by Julie Salmons, the club volunteer coordinator and her army of volunteers. We’ve got a lot of things planned including games of rounders, kids vs parents games, and apparently I will also be stuck in some stocks whilst the students throw wet sponges at me…. should be…. interesting!

Hartlepool wadokai kata course

Yesterday our club ran a wado kata course with Sensei Peter May and Sensei Lee Minion at the Belle Vue sports centre in Hartlepool.

This was the first time that we’ve invited both instructors up at the same time so we wanted as many of our students as possible to train with them.

We split the course into three different sessions and students could choose to attend one, two or all three sessions. I think splitting the event like this helped because it fit into other peoples schedule better, this meant that we got 40 people to the course.

the non-camera shy from Session 1

Session 1 was a general  training session, this allowed our younger and low grade students to train. The session covered various types of resistance training as a way of getting your stances right. Then it moved onto sparring. The session was a good warm up for the more experienced, and the younger kids loved every minute of it.

Sensei Minion explaining what not to do during kumite practise

Session 2 was a masterclass in Pinan Godan. This is the first round kata for the August JKF-Wadokai Nationals in Tokyo. A lot of our students also need this kata for their next belt test so this was a logical choice for this session. At the end of the session all the competitors demo’d Pinan Godan and got some more feedback.

The non camera shy from Session 3

In Session 3 we started off with Seishan, this is the compulsory Kata for the Wado World Cup in August. After a short break we moved onto Kushanku, this would be testing everyone’s endurance because at this point we’d all been training for over four hours! Once again, at the end of the session all the competitors heading out to Japan demo’d Kushanku, and once again got some much needed feedback.

I’d like to thank kobukan Darlington, Derby Karate Academy, Teesside, Lincs Aiwakai, and Carlisle for supporting the course.

the non-camera shy from Session 1

Throston After School Club break up

Group shot of some of the kids at their last After School karate class today before breaking up for the summer holidays. We usually have about 20 in the first class, and 7 or 8 in the second but with it being so close to the official school summer break, a lot of kids have already gone on holiday.

The kids at Throston School are great, they range from 5 years up to about 8 and we’ve been teaching the same group of kids since September last year. I think what is really great is that they are all still white belts, and they are still training just as hard as when they first started! How many kids do you know that would be happy staying a white belt for a year? Anyways, we’ll be having belt tests in September ready for the massive influx of new kids to the classes. Good times…

This post was a test to see if i could upload with my phone, and after some tinkering, i’ve figured it out. (all I had to do was ‘tick’ a box at the bottom 🙂

HTC Desire

After a lot of searching the internet, asking friends for advice etc… I’ve finally picked up my shiny new phone. It’s a HTC desire on the Orange phone network. I’m not going to repeat the sales pitch, if your really interested check out the HTC Website.

The phone is really cool, i’ve finally figured out how to work it with my stubby fingers. I’ve downloaded tons of apps which allow me to update all the social networking sites, the Tokyo subway maps, the wordpress app to update this blog, my email…. obviously and some really cool games like sudoku and more importantly – it’s in sync with my google calendar which means that i can remember where we happen to be teaching each day.

Meet the competition…

There’s not many Wadokai kata videos to find on the internet, and the official DVD’s that are available tend to be focused on ‘instruction’ rather than ‘performance’. This makes it difficult to compare your own performance to a high quality benchmark outside of your own group. The following are two Wadokai videos available on youtube.

The video is of Takuya Furuhashi winning the men’s kata division at the JKF-Wadokai Nationals in 2007. Seishan, Chinto and then Wanshu in the finals. Furuhashi-san also went on to win the men’s kata division at the Wado World Championships in Vancouver, Canada in 2008 (see below).

There are a few differences between the way these kata are performed and the way my kata is performed. These are relatively slow kata, with lots of intentional pauses between techniques. This obviously means that the competitor is on the mat longer and therefore that the judges can spend more time appreciating the techniques. The pace of the Kata is a little different to my version.

It will be interesting to see what the judges make of my attempts at some of these kata in a few weeks time!

setting yourself up… big time

Imagine that you were a respected karate coach, with a rather successful and ever-growing karate club…

Now imagine that you were also going to be competing at the biggest competition of your tournament career in a few weeks time…  

This bit is multiple choice…

A – would you keep your head down? concentrate on your training, hope & pray?

B – would you create a blog about the whole experience, and then promote it everywhere you can?

Surely option B is setting yourself up big time. If I manage to crash out in the first round then I’ll be more than a little upset with myself…

The problem is, one of our parent’s asked, quite innocently if we’d be writing another blog to keep the club members updated on our progress at the Wado World Cup. At first I explained that we probably wouldn’t, but when I sat down with a nice cup of tea and thought about it, i realised that it was actually a great idea (Thanks Scotty).

Today’s Update

Amy is still out of action from an injury she picked up at the British Championships. The club seniors were shocked on Tuesday night to discover that the club’s very own Terminator was out of action. I had to explain that eBay doesn’t sell replacement mechanical body parts from the future…. yet. She’s got some magic pills from the doctor and she seems to be fixing well. Watch this space…

Personally, I’m getting more and more comfortable performing kata for competition. I’m currently trying to get over the urge of blitzing every move, in every kata. I attack every move and I personally think  I perform kata like I fight – very aggressively.

Kumite – i’m starting to look forward to Japan now, once you’ve been competing for any length of time, i don’t think you have days were you’re 100% fit anymore, there’s always something that isn’t working as it was designed to. The average human body (i.e. everyone’s but Amy’s) isn’t supposed to operate at 110% for long periods of time. The trick is to peak at the right time, i.e. at the Wado World Cup & then again a week later at the Japan nationals.

Despite feeling the double pressure of competing in Kata & Kumite, I’m feeling relatively fit and healthy. My thoughts for the day… BRING IT ON!!!

There’s only 24 days until we fly out to Japan. I’ll try to get some karate pictures posted tomorrow because the blog is looking a little plain.

motivation… food for thought

One of the parent’s from the club asked me for a quiet word last week. We stepped to the side of the dojo and he explained that he was having problems getting his son to Karate classes every week. The parent explained that his son loves Karate when he’s actually doing it BUT he always wants to do other things instead of going to Karate. His most recent favourite is playing video games. This got me thinking about motivation…

I’m not an expert in this subject, nor am I particularly great at it. I think i’m naturally good at motivating & leading others, but i’ve found that i can be highly motivated to do certain things – making our club the best it can be, creating opportunities for our kids to access the best possible coaches etc… Other things are as yet beyond my abilities – dragging myself to the gym, making myself go running, sticking to a training routine.

This might come as a surprise coming from someone who will be competing internationally in a few short weeks but this isn’t an admission of laziness. Rather, this is me admitting that I’m in no way perfect and i’m sure a lot of people can relate to the occasional search for excuses to get out of training. Housework to do, meeting or exam to prep for, burned out from work/school/college, have to go to the pub tonight because…. there’s a ‘Y’ in the day etc etc… Basically the list of excuses is endless, and they are excuses.

One of Amy’s favourite phrases is if you want something badly enough, you go out and get it. This is pretty simple to say, putting it into practise often takes a lot of hard work, personal sacrifice and blood, sweat and tears. Don’t be fooled, their are people out there who always seem to get what they want, when they want it and they make it look easy. Some people are like that, they may be naturally gifted and talented in the area they are trying to succeed in. More than likely though, they have decided what they want and have set out with the drive and commitment needed to ‘go out and get’ what they want.  Amy is one of these people. She works hard, and keeps going until she get’s where she wants to be.

I think it all comes down to goals and choices.

‘A goal is a dream with a deadline…!’ Napolean Hill

Goals – i.e. what do you want to achieve? If you don’t know what you want or where you want to be in six months, 12 months etc… how are you going to know when you’re there? and when you need to update your goals?

When we get a new student through the door, we ask them to complete a basic A5 questionnaire which has basic things like emergency contact details, basic medal info, any additional support needs etc… We also ask ‘Why do you want to start Karate?’ as soon as the person has entered the dojo for the first time, we’ve started with the ‘goal setting’ behaviour. Some of the answers we’ve had are quite revealing and If I get chance I’ll write a post just about them. A lot of the kids answers are ‘to get my black belt’, Parents often state ‘to get confidence’ one of the more interesting one’s was ‘to learn how to beat people up’.

An important note about goals, they should be performance related rather than result-orientated. In Karate competition this would mean that you aim to perform your best, rather than aiming to pick up a gold medal. A lot of things might stop you from reaching your gold medal, you might come across the world champ in round 1, you might get a really biased referee (it happens) etc.. etc… These things are ultimately outside of your control.

The main thing that stops you from achieving a performance related goal is…. you! If you haven’t put in enough prep work, if you let yourself get psyched out, if you’re not fit enough etc… etc… You are always in control of you, that’s why this sort of goal is better for you.

Alongside your long term goals e.g. getting your black belt, what short term, day to day goals are you setting yourself? What are you doing today that will help you achieve your long term goals? These should be specific and achievable things like – ‘i’m going to attend training today’ & ‘i’m going to do ten press-ups & ten sit ups everyday’. These are small, managable and achievable goals that will give you confidence to try tougher goals in the future. You should pat yourself on the back when you reach your goals and reward yourself. This way you’ll want to achieve your next set of personal goals.

You can see how this day to day approach can lead you onto bigger and better things.

Choices – We have a choice in everything we do. It might not always be a great choice, but we can always make a choice. We choose to go to work each day… we choose to eat healthy… we choose to drink 1 pint instead of 6! we choose to achieve our goals…. we choose to be the best we can be. This one for me, goes hand in hand with the goal setting. Set yourself a simple goal and choose to achieve it. Congratulate yourself and then set another goal and choose to achieve that.

This basic approach can lead you to greatness in any part of your life!!! Try it, you might surprise yourself…

…Getting ready for Japan

For the last two year’s or so, long before we headed out to Japan for a year, Amy and I have been focussed, almost exclusively on being selected for the Wado World Cup. I’ve never been selected for this event, the first time around i’d only just started competing and in 2005 I just wasn’t good enough to make the final cut for the Wadokai England Team. Since then I’ve got a lot more experience, trained with some of the Karate greats and spent a year getting ‘good wado’ beaten into me in Japan. After all this i think I can now hold my own in most matches…

The big surprise obviously was getting selected for Kumite and Kata in the first place. We didn’t start competing in Kata until the 44th JKF-Wadokai Nationals in 2008. So, if you’re any good at maths, you’ll realise that come the World Cup, we’ll have been competing in Kata for only two year’s. Kumite, I’m ok with, I’ve always been comfortable fighting, but Kata…. that’s entirely a different story.

Anyway, because we head back to Japan in 4 weeks, I’ve found myself following the Shiramizu Japan Karate Intern Blog. The new Intern, Pete is English and he took over from Louise & Erica (who took over from Amy and me). I particularly like his personal blog which always gives a truer picture of what it’s really like over there because the main intern blog is censored to be politically correct.

I would definately recommend checking out both blog’s from time to time as they give a great insight into what it’s like to commit to a full year training intensively in Karate IN JAPAN. This is exactly what Amy and I did from July 1st 2008 – July 1st 2009.

Anyway, I’ve got to get back to training…. there’s a lot of work to be done before August!

Kata course this weekend in Hartlepool

As part of Carl & Amy’s prep for the Wado World Cup & Japan Nationals, Hartlepool Wadokai has arranged a special Kata training course with Sensei Peter May 6th Dan JKF-Wadokai & Sensei Lee Minion 5th Dan JKF-Wadokai.

Both instructors are the current Wadokai England National Kata Coaches and though both have visited the club before, this is the first time that they’ve ran a a course in Hartlepool together. Sensei Minion has also been selected to compete in the Senior Men’s Kata Division on behalf of England at the Wado World Cup (alongside Carl).

This is a fantastic opportunity for the club, and friends of the club to get some great training with two of the UK’s best Wado Kata coaches.

For more information, please download the PMay&LMinion Seminar Poster or contact Carl via email (carl at hartlepoolwadokai dot com) or tel 07984 798634.


Yes, this morning at an unholy hour, I was dragged kicking and screaming to the local pool to do some well, swimming…. Amy reminds me that it’s for the ‘greater good’…. hmmm…. where have i heard that before?

Wikipedia says this about the subject:

Swimming is movement through water using one’s limbs, and usually without artificial apparatus. Swimming is an activity that can be both useful and recreational. Its primary uses are bathing, cooling, fishing, recreation, exercise, and sport. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_swimming)

Let’s look at that some more…

bathing – er no… totally unsanitary!

cooling – slightly…

fishing – not in the public pool!

recreation – nope, Amy made me go…

exercise – yup, everything aches now, and i’ve found new muscles now and yes, they also ache!

sport – i prefer Tiddlywinks…

The only up side to going was that being a Monday morning, the local pool had a water aerobics class going on and they had some killer tunes including…. S Club 7 & Spandau Ballet which I was obviously bopping away to…

…good times!

…need a SmartPhone

ok, so with the club trying to become a little bit more interactive… I think I finally need to update my coin-operated wind-up phone to a shiny new and super clever one… but sooooooo many to choose from…

My requirements (so far) are: any network preferably with: facebook/twitter/yahoo email/google maps/gps/wi-fi… and ideally will also work in Japan… oh… and I think it should run Android too!

oh… and I need it very soon (so I can’t wait for an iphone) ideas anyone??

4 week countdown…

there’s only 4 weeks to go until Carl & Amy head off to Japan for the Wado World Cup & the Wadokai National Championships… Two MASSIVE competitions which are being held in two different cities in Japan.

14th & 15th August, Wado World Cup, Nagoya City

This comp is the highest level ‘single-style’ competition in our international organisation, the JKF-Wadokai. Each country will send their top two senior’s for each weight division in Kumite and only two senior’s for Kata.

21st & 22nd August, JKF-Wadokai National Championships, Tokyo

This comp will be bigger, and in some ways, tougher than the Wado World Cup. This competition allows unlimited entries into ALL categories. Carl has competed in this competition twice already, and Amy once.

This blog will cover some of the prep work that they are doing in the final few weeks and if they remember may also include some hints and tips to those of you interested in Karate…

Let us know what you think of the blog, and don’t forget to tell your friends all about it. This is just one more way for you to keep in touch with the latest at Hartlepool Wadokai Karate Club. Don’t forget that you can also follow us on twitter & facebook…


so…. let’s see if we can make this work…