Kaizen 1

The kanji for “kaizen”

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “good change” or “improvement.” While it does not explicitly state it, the word is often used to describe improvement that is continuous or ongoing. I feel that you should always been working to improve your own personal budo–the skills, techniques, knowledge, and mindset that make up your karate. In the spirit of that, I have trained hard, I have done a lot of research, I have cross-trained with people from other styles, I have done seminars with master-level instructors, and I have competed in mixed martial arts, but I am not done yet.

Martial arts will always be a major part of my life, and for as long as a live I will be trying to improve my karate. I know that, throughout my life, my goals will constantly be changing, and with them my training will also be changing. Right now, my goal is to compete in one more MMA fight. In my first fight, I wanted to be challenged enough to overcome adversity and come out on top against a trained opponent that was in better shape than your average thug. At first glance, all of those things seem to have been accomplished. In reality, though, I don’t feel satisfied.

In the first round of my fight, I was clearly dominated by my opponent. While I do believe that the tunnel vision I experienced at the beginning of the fight led to me being taken down, to begin with, I know I could have done much better once the fight went to the ground. I was able to minimize the damage I took by tangling his arms, slipping and deflecting his punches, and trying to control his posture whenever possible, but that’s about all I accomplished. Despite having worked on grappling for years, after looking at the video I recognize that there were a lot of missed opportunities for me to turn the tide in my favor. I attempted two juji gatame (armbars) and one omoplata (rolling shoulder lock), but only came close to success with one of the armbars, while he left himself open for sweeps and sankaku jime (triangle choke). In addition, while they didn’t bother me in the fight, I could have done more with his slams.

The kick that shocked the entire theater…except me

Due to the way the first round went, the success of my kick in Round 2 was very surprising to most of the people watching. My friends, my training partners, and my wife can all attest to the fact that I had determined my opponent was open for that exact technique weeks before we actually fought. The video from his previous fight revealed the opening, and I practiced my lead leg mawashi geri (roundhouse kick) with that opening in mind. In Round 1, I could see that he was open for it but couldn’t get myself to throw it. When Round 2 started, I knew I didn’t have anything to lose and decided to throw it as soon as he dove in for his overhand right/single-leg takedown. To me it was obvious, but to everyone else it was luck. I will admit that I only expected to stun him with it, rather than knock him out completely, but I certainly expected it to land.

I would like to fight once more so that I can prove to myself, as much as to everyone else, that my skills amount to more than a purely defensive ground game and a kick. My Sensei is working with me even more intensely to improve my skills, and we are working a lot on the things I could have done better in my fight. If all goes according to plan, I am hoping to fight again on Novemeber 23rd, and I hope to represent my training better this time around. I have no idea who my opponent will be–for all I know, it could be a rematch–but I know I will be more prepared for the experience, having already gone through it once and adjusted my training to address my shortfalls.

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About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.

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