Chris Cappellone Kohai

After last months Black Gi Grading I asked the students that attempted the Black Gi Grading to write down their thoughts and provided some questions to stimulate their minds after the aftermath of the torrid event.

This is what Kohai Chris had to say.

The Black Gi Grading – Chris Cappellone

What sort of special training did you undertake to prepare for the Black Gi Grading?

Training for the Black Gi Grading was something we were informed by Shihan Jamie would help us, but by no means get us through. It is a grading that we were told ‘you cannot prepare for’. When you haven’t seen one of these grading in the flesh (like myself, Mark and Michelle Sempai hadn’t), it is very easy to get caught up in the magnitude because it is that fear of the unknown. Although obviously physical training and fitness is absolutely critical, there is a large side, more like a majority of the preparation, which is more so mental.

Physical training entailed sprinting, loads of pad work, Bunkai and Kihon. Training really needed to have high work rates, with the aim of reducing the rest and recovery periods in between. So pad sessions and sparring helped in this regard as well as conditioning training. When completing any of these, we would have a set work rate time, and a set rest time. Then every week, increase the work period whilst also decreasing the rest period. The biggest improvement in fitness was especially noticed after a few weeks of short sprint training.

Mentally however, the lead up was tougher than any of the sessions we completed. It is the fear, the doubt, the thought of failure and the unknown which really makes you question your abilities and very thing you have ever done, in karate and life in general. It is extremely difficult to convince yourself that all will be okay, when you know (or dont know) what you are up against. Conversations with Shihan and Sensei inspired and aided me to push, on as well as the support of my brother, Michelle Sempai and family.

Music played a massive role in my preparation, just finding that song which had more than bass and heavy metal, but with lyrics that inspire. Having said that though, there is only so much in music that can help you. So there were a few nights of google searching inspirational quotes and videos. I had a print of these quotes and would read them before bed most nights.

These were my two favourites:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do” – Eleanor
Roosevelt

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear” – Rosa Parks

The first of these quotes I could really relate to. The Black Gi Grading was always something I felt I couldn’t do, so when I found this quote it made me realise that the fear and doubt associated with the grading was reason to actually do it. It sounds like it was cut and dry, but there is so much more to it that is difficult to express. There are I guess, massive lapses of confidence and questioning of one’s self throughout the lead up to the grading, moments where you feel like “yep I can do this” and then later that same day, or even hour “what am I doing, I cant do what they have done”. It is a huge mental battle, but one which puts so much of life into perspective.

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Images provided by Cookoo Design & Photography

 

What were you feeling the morning of the Black Gi Grading?

 

The morning of the Black Gi Grading was horrible. This massive day had finally arrived and the old ‘butterflies in the stomach’ could only be described as more of swarm of wasps. It all seems like a blur. It was kind of a relief for the Saturday morning to finally be there. I just threw on a few psych up beats and read a few quotes and really just tried to tell myself that this was it. It wasn’t a good feeling at all, but really, it’s all worth it when you’re done and dusted.

Was there any point throughout the grading that you did not think you could make it and what allowed you to find the strength to get through?

black-gi-hr-0490There were so many points during the grading that I questioned whether I was going to be able to finish. The tile break was probably the point when I was most doubtful. I knew I had to break the tiles, but the thought of failing this, which would be the end of my grading, was something that was tough to get my head around. I had never done anything of the sought, didn’t know how to go about it, and knew I had to find something. I remember standing there looking down at the tiles closing my eyes and running through some quotes in my head. Its corny, but I actually recited a quote from the movie the matrix. It was something I felt really applied to myself as a person and I stood there closed my eyes and the little voice in my head went “you have to let it all go, fear, doubt and disbelief, free your mind”. I opened my eyes pretty much as my hand was almost at the tiles I think, I’m not exactly certain, and they smashed. I couldn’t believe it. I actually had a little smile to myself and thought, I can do this, I can finish this grading. It was at this point where I really felt that I could make it happen.

How would you describe how you were feeling when the Black Gi Grading was finished?

At the end of the grading I was emotional to say the least. I remember standing, listening to Hanshi Marty’s speech, with tears making there way to the surface. I never thought I would actually be there. And when Shihan Jamie presented me with the Black Gi top, it was a feeling of disbelief, but actually a good disbelief! I had actually achieved this ‘thing’ that I had on so many occasions thought I couldn’t. It is really hard to describe. You can succeed in so many things in life, but as I have come to realise after doing this grading, nothing will ever compare or relate it. The Black Gi Grading will be a day which will never be forgotten.

What advice would you give to someone that was going to attempt the Black Gi Grading in the future?

I guess the first thing would be to say that you just have to do it! I had never thought 3 years ago when I started karate, that I’d get to yellow belt, let alone be wearing a black gi. I think my piece of advice would be just to try and tell yourself that it has to be done. It is very easy to start to question why? Why am I doing this, why am I freaking out, and all of the what ifs? Im not saying I didn’t, because all of those thoughts went through my head every day. It’s just a very personal quest I suppose. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to make it without the support and belief of Shihan, Sensei and all of the Sempai.

So another piece of advice is to realise that although you will be up against this massive force of black, they want you to succeed just as much as yourself or anyone else. I think that constant discussions about the grading helped in realising the road ahead. I know I had countless chats with my brother over a coffee about the black gi, and all of the associated thoughts and fears that came with it in the lead up. If I didn’t have him to chat to I guess things would be a lot different. So I suppose, when you look at it, you are constantly learning by seeking advice from others. Just like anything realIy, its a matter of constant reflection and analysis of the situation, because, sometimes it might be something trivial that someone says, but becomes a cornerstone in the way you operate. It is hands down the mental battle which is most difficult to grasp in preparation for the grading, so I guess you could say you need to mentally train just as much as you physically train. I found that through discussion, I was able to realise a lot about myself, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, because it aids you to understand yourself as a person and where you want to be or what you want to change.

How would you describe the way the Black Gi Grading has changed you?

It is still sinking in really. I cant believe that the first Monday training after the grading I could actually wear a black gi and although it was amazing, it seemed very strange. The grading has undoubtedly changed me. I’m sure there will be further realisations as time goes on, but I suppose the biggest discovery is one of overcoming the force of anxiety, fear and stress at the thought of such a task. When I look back, I actually can’t believe that it is all over. I remember the constant feelings and the gut-wrenching notions of facing a dojo full of unbelievable martial artists. And so the realisation is that those feelings were probably the worst I have ever felt to date in my life, so what then is really ever going to be a problem. My outlook on work, uni and life in general has changed or matured dramatically. It is difficult to fully describe the way the grading has changed me, because it isn’t a tangible thing, and with time, I will undoubtedly reflect and realise even more changes. Karate has really changed me into someone I never thought I could have been. I had really started over the last year or so to notice significant changes in my personality after I saw some old photos, and the black gi cemented these transformations I guess. Aspects of fear, doubt, failure and disbelief were all things I struggled to come to grips with. But now after finishing the black gi grading, you begin to realise that nothing really matters and all of those feelings can’t stop you from doing something, its just a matter of acceptance and doing that ‘thing’ despite those apprehensions and feelings. And no matter what – you survive. It sounds arrogant and cocky in some respects, but you start to believe in yourself, which is something I never really did.

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Paleo Diet for Karate

I recently stumbled upon this great infographic created by Greatist which does an excellent job at summarising the Paleo Diet.

For the past few months I have been experimenting with the Paleo Diet, and furthermore the Paleo Lifestyle (as diet is just one element of this). The results spoke for itself and echoed with many of you in my post on .

Since returning from my holiday in America I have maintained this Paleo Diet style of living and eating and today would like to evaluate it from the perspective of the karateka. Essentially creating the framework for the ultimate Karate Diet.

The Paleo Diet for Karate

Since beginning this Paleo Diet I have found my performance in my Goju Ryu Karate improve in the areas of endurance, strength and focus. I have discovered that I can effectively use fat as my primary energy source and regularly consume both complex carbohydrates such as Sweet Potato or Yams post training or fruits such as banana, berries etc the night before to ensure my glycogen levels in my muscles are ready for a big workout or training session.

Fueling on fats for karate has its benefits in that alot of the time that we are at training we are oscillating between high intensity and low intensity movement. Especially during the beginning of our training session when we are warming up with pushups, situps, squats and core exercises my heart rate maximises and I am working my muscles to the point that I need to work in that glycogen energy state. Then as training for martial arts gets into Kihon Ido and Kata we regularly move from high intensity explosive movements to almost no movement as we sit in seisa and listen to our instructor explain the mechanics of the movement and its application to generating power.

Other changes I have noticed include better endurance for training after the warmup. So when I have completed all those pushups, situps and squats I can transition more effectively into Kihon Ido and don’t suffer from the usual muscular fatigue that would take up to 10 minutes to wear off. I have also found that I am less effected by my blood sugar levels as my body is constantly pulling energy from my fat stores.

Running on fat does have its issues from time to time. If I go too low on the carbohydrate intake I can really hit a wall. This makes movement more lethargic and I feel completely wiped out after training. This has been overcome by making the switch from complex carbs to like sweet potatos to more available energy found in fruits. The change can be felt within minutes as my muscles are refueled.

At the end of the day. I find the Paleo Diet for Karate to be great and I will continue down this path. There are other great benefits around sleep, training outside of karate including weights and high intensity interval training that I will explore in further detail as I continue along the paleo path.

So if you are playing around with Paleo let us know how it is working for you in the comments section below. If you are looking for the Paleo Diet for Karate or just looking for some ultimate karate diet then I highly recommend giving it a try for yourself. Some great resources to get started include reading Robb Wolf’s and reading his blog. I also really enjoy what Mark Sisson has to say.

So give it a try and let us know how you go.

paleo-022012/” target=”_blank”>The Ultimate Guide to Eating Paleo

Get health and fitness tips at Greatist.com

Karate, diet and weightlifting for the holiday body

I am going to make a lot of people jealous writing this but never the less when you are preparing to head off on a one month holiday to America you need to share your secrets and tips on what you did to lose weight, get leaner, stronger and have more energy.

As a karate ka in Goju Ryu I feel it is my duty to test the limits of what can be achieved when we put our mind to something (albeit with the correct knowledge and tools). Bruce Lee once said “Knowing is not enough, you must apply, willing is not enough, you must do” and I have had a poster of that quote on my wall or written down somewhere since I was young. I haven’t always stuck to this mantra at everything in life but when I get that burning passion to succeed at something I could pretty much bottle it and slap that Bruce Lee quote to it.

Ok, so what was my burning passion, my purpose, my goal. I wanted to be fit, strong and looking my best for my first ever “tourist trap” visit of America. I don’t have any before photos but I have included a graph of my weight below (I use the Target Weight app on my iPhone to track some key metrics to help me achieve these weight loss goals).

But essentially the story goes that I hit 87kg, the ‘oh shit’ moment where I realised that I had only about 6 weeks left before I was heading to the States and was no where near what I wanted to weigh or how I wanted to look. Time to implement the usual karate and weight loss plan. I started by watching what I was eating, and running as well as a bit of weights and skipping. This worked until about the 1st of May when I was running up the Mount Gravatt Lookout, hurt my knee and spent the rest of the day hobbling like a cripple around the office at work.  An expensive trip to the physio that included acupuncture, some hard rolling with the forearm (give me foam rolling any day) and they shaved my leg for crying out loud!  Anyway, it  revealed that I had swollen my ITB (that pretty important band that runs up the outside of your leg and stops you from collapsing sideways when you walk) and that I should lay off the running for a week before attempting another 8 kilometres run up some enormous hill somewhere (I never died try that hill again).

ITB injury from running

Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy with this. So I decided to do a bit of research and find out why this happened to me and what I could do to avoid it. What I was about to find out would be one of the single best discoveries of my nutritional/fitness exercise and overall health life since starting Goju Ryu Karate. I stumbled upon a podcast by the fat burning man Abel James  who had a podcast called ‘What is the Paleo diet‘… well, I took one look at it, thought, what the hell is the Paleo Diet and had a listen. Boomtown! I hit the jackpot on that one. Thanks ITB for failing on me. Also you can see exactly where I implemented Paleo, just above 13 May at 84kg’s. You can also see how I was able to control my weight fluctuations (that I thought were normal once I started cutting out grains, wheat and lowering carbs in favour of healthy fats).

So I am not going to go into ‘Paleo’ or anything here just that I found it and it worked and it fit into my Goju Ryu Karate lifestyle and philosophy seamlessly. Finding this podcast then led me onto Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson and from Mark Sisson I stumbled across his post on building muscle using Mehdi’s stronglifts.com 5×5 approach.

Eat, Lift, Eat! Karate time!

The result is that I cut down on my cardio, spent less time on exercise, ate more, felt less hungry (then my karate diet from a previous time) and spent less time in the gym lifting heavier things then I had ever lifted before. This allowed me to strip down to 80kg’s (as of today) and perform a lot better during my karate classes.

From today’s post, I encourage you to take a look into incorporating Paleo into your lifestyle, whether that is Goju Ryu Karate or for any other weight loss or strength gaining goals, or just give it a try. I am happy I stumbled upon it and I am sure the word about it will continue to spread like wildfire. Additionally, the concept of lifting heavy things, doing ‘less’ cardio for weight loss and just burning more energy doing things that you enjoy, like Karate! will stick with me long after my trip overseas!

Until I return, enjoy your training and if you have any other tips on what has worked for you in regards to karate and weight loss or just achieving your goals in general, feel free to share them below.

I’m outta here and will be returning in July ready for some more awesome karate good times! Probably going to have to go through my karate diet again too 😛

Karate dead lift

I know it ain’t pretty but you gotta work hard!

Goju Ryu Karate t-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Goju Ryu Karate?

The literal meaning of Goju Ryu Karate do is Hard Soft Style Empty Hand Way and represents the traditional Japanese style of Goju Ryu developed by Chojun Miyagi Sensei in Okinawa in the early 1900’s. Now I don’t want this to turn into a History lesson as no doubt the origins of karate, or any other martial art, would be a murky story at best.

So instead, I am going to take this opportunity to give a recollection of ‘what is Goju Ryu Karate?’ the definition from the perspective of the karate student learning the art in today’s modern world. As surely we could discuss at length about the origins, its meaning and why it was developed way back when wars were being waged, technology was in its infancy and the stress of life and availability of time was not impacted by our Western influences.

In my post ‘the purpose of karate‘ I discussed that each student first starts karate training with some sort of purpose in mind, whether it is learning a self defence, getting fit or just to get involved in some sort of sport/training and meet new people. My purpose was to learn self defence because I was young, learning marketing and economics at University and with it hitting the town with my friends and getting into all sorts of dramas in the streets of Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. My purpose was to learn how to defend myself but also to be able to have my friends back or to protect the girls I was with if something was to happen. That aligns with one of my values of protecting and helping others, something that has resonated throughout my life and continues today.

It wasn’t until I met James Duggan Shihan and bombarded him with questions (as any good student does to their Sensei) trying to extract as much information out of him to achieve my purpose and be self sufficient in the art of self defence that I discovered that this ‘Goju Ryu Karate’ had a deeper purpose that extended beyond the physical but into the mental and philosophical. One of the initial findings about Goju Ryu Karate was that it extended beyond a physical self defence or fitness model and more into a system or way of living. The ‘do’ in karate do. This ‘way’ was all encompassing is something a student learns in the dojo but applies at work, in family life and in anything we put our mind and body into.  At that time it was just a concept but it was difficult to implement, I can say now that as a nidan I am now starting my journey into implementing the ‘do’ the ‘way’ into those other elements of my life.

“Karate’ then being the ’empty hand’ has both literal and philosophical meanings to the student. Literal in that the art of Goju Ryu Karate is weaponless as our body is used as the weapon but philosophical as to achieve peace without conflict by using the mind. Any conflict that can first be resolved without utilising the physical is an achievement of the karate ka. If the conflict escalates to the physical then the karate ka is able to apply the empty hand to divert the flow of energy between the realms of control or destruction. I.E minimal damage at first to your opponent through controlling the space that they occupy or if that fails to self preservation where our training and courage is called upon.

Finally the art of Goju Ryu can be disseminated. Ryu is simple, ‘style’, the curriculum of the Goju Karate system and what a karate ka needs to achieve in order to master the art. Whilst simple in translation it requires a journey of a lifetime to achieve and provides a continuum that determines the level of understanding of a karate ka. It is the measuring stick that we are assessed against and requires tools such as gradings, weekly training and conversation with our Sensei and fellow karate ka community to allow up to progress against it. This delves almost into the ‘Go’ (hard) and ‘Ju’ (soft) or the style. These two words are at the pinnacle of the style and are used philosophically to formulate the meaning behind the movements and physically to smoothly navigate attacks from our opponents to implement a level of control or to devastate our opponents and destroy them for self preservation.

Wow, what a mouthful! I hope that gives you some sort of understanding as to “what is Goju Ryu Karate” from my perspective and what I have learnt throughout my journey through the art. Naturally, I will probably change my mind about this stuff when I am older, wiser and have progressed further through the dan levels but hopefully I am on track. At least in my mind I am and I get results through training with this philosophy.

Finally, if you are thinking of starting Goju Ryu Karate do I highly recommend you find a local dojo such as Brisbane Goju Karate and get stuck into it. There is no reason to be scared of starting or to delay as every student that enters the dojo begins as a white belt and the shaping process begins to turn them into a martial artist. Good luck!

Domo Arigato and happy training!

Jay Killeen Sempai

 

The First Step

Welcome to Black Belt Lessons. I have made the leap and decided to start this blog to record various karate and martial arts lessons from training under Shihan James Duggan and Kain Johnson Sensei.

First of all I will introduce myself. My name is Jay Killeen and I am a 1st Dan at Brisbane Goju Karate in Brisbane, Australia. We train in Goju Ryu Karate do Seiwakai under the Karate Academy of Japan and our head instructor for Australia is Glenn Stephenson Shihan.

I started my journey in karate in January 2005 after I moved to Brisbane and was doing some undergraduate study at Griffth University.

I originally started because, being a university student, you tend to spend a lot of your time between study and lectures partying and drinking. Needless to say, after spending enough time lurking between bars in Fortitude Valley I decided I should get some self defence skills in case something bad was to happen.

It is now 6 years later and I am in my final stages of training before attempting my Nidan (2nd Dan) Grading in Goju Ryu.

During the years there have been countless times during class that James Duggan Shihan has said something that has stirred my thoughts and I have made the conscious effort to ‘make sure I remember that’ then strangely enough 2 weeks later I am making the same mistake or not taking some concept into consideration.

This blog aims to document those thoughts, lessons and little journey’s that our class takes to make it easier for new students to our dojo to learn. As a reader of this blog I hope that you too can find the lessons to be helpful or give you an extra element to think about and hopefully add to your own journey.

So without any hesitation, at all, here we go.