Working out with my friends made a world of difference for me. It kept me motivated in my training. Some of my favorite times while practicing karate is when over half of the class was either in high school with me or we were related. In my early years of practicing, there was a time when the class consisted of my sister and her husband (at the time), my best friend and his girlfriend, a girl I was sort of seeing, and a friend I’ve known since first grade.

Superman Night
This picture was taken over 10 years ago during Superman Night in class.

The class had a family atmosphere, which was appropriate for being held in an elementary school. We held special events in and outside of class. A few times we rented space at a park for cookouts. The cookouts is where we got special announcements, recognition, and sometimes concussions (I’ll elaborate in a future blog). We did fun things in class too. We had a SUPERFRIENDS Night. We all worked out in Superman® shirts.

Out of the 5 years I practiced at this dojo, two people that stayed in the class as long as I did. My best friend and my sister’s husband. Shortly  after I began practicing my best friend asked if I knew of place that taught karate. I told he him he could come to class with me. After the first night he was hooked. Within the year I had convinced my brother in law to come and check out the class. He had martial arts experience from his younger days practicing a Korean style. During his visit to the class, he was intrigued and awe struck by our techniques. It literally caught him off guard during a kumite match when a brown belt kicked and broke his ribs.

I am thankful for all of the people I have worked out with during my years of practicing karate. However, I point out these two guys out because they are the ones that pushed me the most. They knew my limitations. I don’t think I would have the range of mobility if it weren’t for them. Outside of class we trained together. I worked harder on katas and sparring. I helped them work on their weaknesses when sparring. I had a keen eye when it came to spotting mistakes in their katas. We spent a lot of time talking martial arts philosophy and theory.

My interaction between my best friend and brother in law during class demonstrated to the other students that I wouldn’t necessarily break if I took a hit. This allowed my fellow classmates to come up with real world scenarios for attacking me. We would work on dwarf tossing scenarios. Other type of attacks I worked to defend myself against included punting me, grabbing me, pushing me over, or picking me up and running away with me.

I never would have thought I would have to defend myself from my best friend who ran across the dojo and launched himself into a flying jump kick that landed in my solar plexus. I flew about 10 feet into the air. My Superman shirt would have been appropriate for this moment. I am so glad I learned how to do break falls. As I flew through the air I remembered our instructor asking, “What is the purpose of a break fall?” My best friend responded “Uh…to break the fall…”

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Fits Like a Glove

You should always use protection such as gloves and pads when sparring classmates or opponents. My first instructor and the class he had been teaching, came from a school of hard knocks. The use of footpads, gloves, and mouth guards were not common. How did they keep from hurting each other so bad you ask? The use of control! Control your punches and kicks.

When I began practicing karate, the group had just moved to the elementary school. The class was part of a personal and community enrichment program from the school board. Various schools hosted after hours activities for area residents. Since the class was partly sponsored by a school board program the instructor started incorporating protective gear. My first instructor held the philosophy that practicing kata was much better than sparring. Therefore you didn’t need gloves if you were practicing kata.

I practiced karate for several months before sparring against a classmate. I was called up to the center of the room to spar. I had no gloves. So I tried on various gloves my classmates had in their bags. Everyone had big bulky gloves. My hands were too small even for the kids sized gloves. So for my first time I went bare knuckles.

I personally don’t recommend going bare knuckle. You should use protection when sparring. You never know, you may hit their head or ribs and hurt your own hand. The opponent may dodge your punch and you hit a wall behind them or the floor underneath them. Of course it only takes one time to hit a wall to know you shouldn’t do that again.

I went bare knuckles for a long time when I practiced with my classmates. I would often try on gloves but I couldn’t seem to find a pair that fit. I was at a tournament one time and I found a pair of Kamikaze by Arawaza. They were small and fit my hand. However during a kumite match the glove would fall off. So during each round I would have to reposition the glove back on my hand. Despite this minor annoyance I continued to use the gloves even after I got into jujitsu years later. Again, the gloves would slip off my hand. Now that I am doing jujitsu my mobility is limited even more, preventing me from putting my opponents into a wrist lock. The positive aspect to the gloves is the extra padding at the knuckles. It comes in handy when I have to punch a kick.

Pro Force Fist ProtectorI had a flashback one day while I was in class. I had remembered I had seen a pair of gloves made with cloth and a small foam pad on top. I found a pair online and my jujitsu instructor ordered them. They are called Fist Protector from Pro Force. They have just enough padding over the knuckles.

The great thing is that I get most of my mobility back in my hands. Now I don’t have a problem putting my opponents into a wrist, toe, or ankle lock.

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