Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Touching the power

Today was my last karate class before next Thursday's surgery.
I couldn't have asked for a better, more positive class to end on.

We focused on Sanchin, a kata or form that essentially embodies what the style of karate I study, Okinawan Goju-ryu, is all about.

Sanchin features deep, dynamic breathing (contrary to what the Wikipedia article claims, at least the way my instructor teaches it and his instructor taught him, and so on). To sum up, I believe doing the kata is like tapping into the power of the universe.

You feel this power rising up through the feet and into the legs, and from there extending into and filling the tanden, or center (a point just below the navel, from where movement and power originate). It's a very heady, very powerful feeling, intensified by the fact that it's a very slow kata.

For me, when I'm truly focused on Sanchin (and it doesn't happen often -- yet), time stops. I'm not even aware that it has stopped. It just ceases to be relevant. There's just the focus on deeply breathing in and out and keeping proper muscular tension when moving, blocking and punching. I feel like I lose myself and find myself at the same time.

Sanchin is an extremely tiring kata for me, and it's particularly stressful on my lower back, hips and knees. But the energy I feel blasting through the fatigue really helps set the tone for the rest of the day.

After class, a fellow student, a newly joined black belt from another dojo, said, "See you Friday."
I explained that this was to be my last class for a while, and when he inquired as to why I told him about my illness and upcoming surgery.

"You sure don't move like it," he said.

He may have just been being polite.
But this verbal pat on the back, coupled with the energizing effect of Sanchin, convinced me that everything will be OK.


Jordan & The Tortoise said...

I think being polite is a power unto itself.

Take care,

east village idiot said...

You are in great shape. My sisters thought you had some sort of athletic background!

Sounds like you are doing well inside and out. I wish I had studied something like that but I just can't imagine flipping someone.

Michael said...

Yes, Jordan, but only if the object of one's politeness is receptive to it.

Hey EVI,
I think you would like tai chi and/or qigong. Early on Saturdays and Sundays, people practice out in Tompkins Square Park, and also in parks on the Lower East Side. I strongly think you would like either of these disciplines. Please try them out.

Mall said...

Hi Michael,

The kata you just described sounds similar to qigong and after reading the Wikipedia article about Gojo and the Chinese background, I now see the connection. Glad you kept with your class and had a great session. I think because you're in good physical shape, it will help hasten your recovery from your surgery compared to someone who may not be in good as shape.

I read about the insurance rigamarole you're going through. Thanks for sharing your experiences with them, it's been an eye-opener to things I was not aware of myself. They sound so seedy. Blech!

Michael said...

Hi Mall,

Many thanks for your comments.

For what it's worth, I think there are many ways to tap into ki, chi, life force, the power of the universe, whatever you want to call it. I think of them as portals.

We just have to choose the key that works for us: Goju-ryu, tai chi, qigong, aikido, zazen, tiddly-winks, whatever.

As for the health insurance crap, here's hoping you never find out about the hassles firsthand.

Michael said...

"I am not, I will not be.
I have not, I will not have."
That frightens all the childish
And extinguishes fear in the wise.

-Nagarjuna, "Precious Garland"


Hi Michael. Best wishes for your surgery. I'll miss your wisdom while you're gone.


Michael said...

Thank you, Michael, for the Nagarjuna quote and for your kind comments. I'm hoping my time away from the computer, and from my camera, is brief. Truth to tell, I've come to rely on both.

YourFireAnt said...



Michael said...


Mall said...

LMAO @ "tiddly winks"---Love it!

"Mall-san, tiddly wink 5th dan." Got a nice ring to it. Hehe. Even in tiddly wink, it requires great skill, doesn't it? Practice, practice, practice.

Michael said...

Yes, indeed, Mall. I used to lose myself in table tennis in ways that I couldn't through zazen. All same-same.