Boot Camp, Round One
On July 1st, I join Fit For You health club. It’s the only one in town with a heavy bag that isn’t a fight club. They’re letting me in for no fees up front and $80 for 2 months. It’ll cost me twice that in gas money getting there and back (30 miles round trip), but I couldn’t be happier. In unpack my gi pants and sparring gloves and don’t care how I look. I’m not out to impress. I’m out to train.
After a 20-minute cardio and stretching warm up, I begin interval training on the heavy bag—thirty seconds on at full speed, thirty seconds off—for ten minutes, hands only. Gloved anyway, five minutes in my knuckles bleed. Ten minutes in and my cheeks are aflame, fingers trembling as I try to make a Shuri fist. I recall my first day in the dojo, the passion and spirit Hanshi brought onto the tatami (mat), the way his voice and instruction filled me with dedication from the moment I began my training.
I move to the Wavemaster next, a heavy-duty, leather-bound foam pad encircling a water-filled plastic stand. It’s perfect for kicking and, tossing my gloves aside, that’s just what I do next. In Shuri Ryu Karatedo (translation: ancient or traditional style of empty hand way) there are five basic kicks. Practice twenty of each, hard, on both legs, and you’re looking at 200 kicks into the bag. A teensy workout by most kyu (rank) standards but one I’m certainly feeling regardless. Still, I complete the sets and feel no pain when the foot I broke this winter slaps into the leather bag, a fantastic belly-flop sound filling the gym.
That’s 25 minutes on bags, my sweat-soaked shirt clinging to my body like a second skin. Next up? Kata. More than anything else, Hanshi stressed the importance of working Kata–it’s humbling because there’s always room for improvement and it’s the perfect blending of basic movements and self defense requiring complete focus and surrendering of the ego. The best way to gain a quick understanding of Kata is to watch this 1 min 40 sec video of Shihan Hernandez executing Empi-Sho Kata. He’s the one who speaks and is attacked in this video, and he is my teacher’s top student. For my first round of self-designed boot camp, I realize my muscle memory is there but my precision has faded. My low blocks finish too high above my thigh, my elbow locks out on straight punches, my back leg doesn’t lock on zenkutzdachi (mind-body-stance), and my basic steps aren’t large enough.
Still, I move across the tatami for twenty minutes, change into gym shorts, run 1 1/2 miles on the treadmill, and finish with 15 minutes Tabata interval training on the bike. Saturday: 30 minutes of karate studying, 45 minutes of power yoga, and a 30 minute walk. Sunday? Back to the gym for a repeat of workout number one. Monday? I ride 30 miles on my bike then take myself out for two drinks on the patio at Giovanni’s Roadhouse.
A strong start. Now I’ve got to keep it up! As an incentive, I’ll post a Boot Camp update once a week on this blog. What’s karate got to do with my writing life? Just about everything.