Register now for the upcoming session at the Orono Parks and Rec site: https://www.oronorec.com/info/activities/default.aspx?type=activities. New classes start soon, including our Youth classes, new Middle School class, and our ongoing Teen/Adult program.
I recently spoke with Mitch Stone, Director of Orono Parks and Recreation, and he assured me that registration would be up on the Parks and Rec website for our new September session very soon. Keep an eye out for registration info. I will post updates here and on our Facebook page.
With the addition of Middle Level/Advanced Youth class our class sizes should be robust, but not overwhelming. I try to cap classes at 15 students, so please register as soon as possible to ensure your child's spot.
Our Teen and Adult section will continue this year and I encourage parents, friends, and community members to drop in and try a class. In our Teen/Adult section we practice the full-curriculum of traditional Shotokan karate-do. In this class you can work on your fitness, learn some practical self-defense, and advance in traditional karate at your own pace.
Finally, please have your child try on his or her karate gi. Sam is growing like a weed and I've had to order him a bigger gi. Maybe your child needs a new uniform, too? This also means we might have some used gis to pass along. Feel free to tack a note to our bulletin board or post to our Facebook group if you like. We'll do a big order in September, but if you let me know in advance we don't have to wait and the kids can start the new session with gear that fits.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Geoff Wingard email@example.com (207-299-8428)
Each summer, as my teaching responsibilities ease, I try to take some time to refresh my own training. Since I train mostly on my own these days this can be a challenge. I want to stay fresh and sharp and I want to continue to learn. The old masters were familiar with this dilemma - that as we grow in age and experience we begin to rely more on our own training and less on external pressure to continue to advance. This, I believe, is one of the reasons that Okinawan and Japanese karate styles emphasize kata so heavily. Kata are our constant companions and teachers. Don't get me wrong, I practice kihon (basics) and kumite (sparring), too. Kata is not the end-all, be -all of karate. You can't learn to fight without fighting. But kata for me combine elements of karate such as waza (techniques), tai sabaki (body movement), and rythm and timing that are important to all aspects of martial arts. So, when I'm on my own I practice traditional kata.
One thing I've done over the past several years is to take one kata and work on it with as much focus as I can for a few months during the summer. This has been a fruitful practice. Over the past few years I've concentrated on Tekki Shodan, Hangetsu, Empi and Bassai Sho kata. I'm not great at any of them, but I think I have a deeper understanding of the forms now than I did before embarking on each years' kata project.
This summer instead of taking a kata I like and working on it for a couple of months I'm forcing myself to review a form I really don't like very much at all, but which is a standard and essential Shotokan karate form, Jion kata. Jion, named after a Buddhist temple, means goodness or peacefulness. It is one of the "big four" of Shotokan kata along with Empi, Bassai Dai and Kanku Dai. Most karateka learn it at the brown belt level and it is one of the required kata in Shotokan karate for black belt. I learned Jion sometime back in the mid to late nineties and I've practiced it sporadically ever since. Honestly, I've neglected it ever since. I've never liked it very much. It has always seemed to me to be repetitive, choppy and plodding. It doesn't have the flow or quickness of Empi, the power of Bassai Dai or the complexity and variety of Kanku Dai. On Rob Redmond's controversial old karate website, 24fightingchickens, he panned the kata and received widespread approbation. I, however, pretty much agreed with him.
However, Jion is an old kata supposedly brought from China to Okinawa or based on Chinese techniques. Versions are practiced in Shorin ryu and Shito ryu, styles that are contemporaneous with the founding of Shotokan, and in Wado ryu and Tang Soo Do, styles that are derived from Shotokan. In Karate-do Kyohan, Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi's master text, he writes, [the movements in Jion kata] "have been designed to provide an ingenious combination of techniques involving the lower, middle and upper levels, thus allowing a very interesting range of possibilities. Those who wish to study karate must seek such points in the kata and work to appreciate them." He concludes his comments on Jion kata stating, "Such forms as Empi, Gankaku, and the present one, Jion, are fine forms, taking on ever more meaning the longer they are practiced." I guess Rob Redmond and I should shut our gobs and just practice the darned form.
So, that's what I aim to do - practice Jion for the next few months. If anyone wants to join a gasping, out of breath middle-aged man sweating through some esoteric exercises in my backyard or at our dojo-space in the Keith Anderson building you're welcome to join me. For a little inspiration I'll leave you with a link to a real expert demonstrating Jion kata. Here is Aragaki Misako Sensei of the Japan Karate Association, performing Jion kata at a very high standard at the JKA Hombu in Tokyo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz-riFkJy18.
Orono Parks and Recreation, the department which handles registrations and facilities for our program, has made us an offer we can't refuse. Free use of our dojo space at Keith Anderson Community House for teen and adult programming this summer. I'll do my part to meet them half-way and offer our weekly classes for the summer session for free, as well. This means that you can try our Teen and Adult Traditional Karate program for free this summer without any obligation or contract. You will not find a better deal.
This is how it will work. At the conclusion of our spring, 2017 session in mid-June we will continue to offer our Tuesday night open classes at 7:00 PM at the Keith Anderson Community House. However, unlike during our regular programming period you will not have to preregister with Orono Parks and Rec or kick in for class fees to participate. Because it is the summer I have some family and travel obligations that will take me out of town some weeks, so I cannot promise that we will meet without interruption, but I will post to this blog and to the Orono Community Martial Arts Facebook page regular training/scheduling updates.
If you have trained with us in the past and want to return, come on out. If you practice martial arts somewhere else and want additional training, feel free to join us. If you've never tried martial arts, but are curious, give it a try. What do you have to lose?
Unfortunately, I cannot extend the same offer to members of our youth program, but we will meet for free Karate Fun Days to hold us over until our fall session resumes in September. Stay tuned and message me with any questions, comments or concerns.
I responded to an inquiry about summer programming the other day. Even though it's still 45 degrees and rainy I guess it's not too early to be thinking of summer adventures.
Since we run our programming through Orono Parks and Rec. we do not hold youth classes over the summer. Our current session ends in June. We will resume regular classes (with an additional intermediate/advanced class!) in September. During the months of July and August, however, we offer a few events that may be of interest:
Do you have any suggestions? Are you looking for specific kinds of programming or classes on a specific day or time? Plans are in the works, so let me know.
If you practice martial arts long enough, particularly into adulthood, you'll inevitably get asked the question, "Are you a black belt?" Sometimes people are genuinely interested. More often they ask because they don't know a lot about martial arts other than there's a token called a black belt that's supposed to be something special. Occasionally, although unfortunately not rarely, the questioner will ask with a smirk. As if the belt that I tie around my waist is the equivalent to the "kiddie karoddy" black belts that the kids at the local tae-kwon-daycare down the street wear. After hearing variations of this question for years I usually shrug it off. I've got a few one-liners I'll throw out to (kindly) deflect the question if the circumstances are right. I've held dan rank for awhile now and honestly I'm more dissatisfied and can see more room for improvement with my kihon and kata now than I could twenty years ago. Having a black belt isn't the end all and be all of good martial arts.
Sometimes I'm asked a more intriguing variation of the black belt question; namely, "What are you a black belt in?". This question intrigues me. It indicates that the questioner knows, at least, that there are different forms of martial arts. It may indicate that he knows something about one or more styles and is trying to place my level of expertise on some sort of continuum. It may be that he has merely heard of different kinds of budo, but wants to know more. The reason this question interests me, though, is not because of what the questioner wants me to say, but because I have to be self-reflective if I want to answer honestly.
What do I have a black belt in? Well, about a thousand years ago, in the summer of 1984 in fact, I took my first martial arts class. The style was Moo Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do, a Korean variation of Japanese karate. I eventually earned a first degree black belt in this style of martial arts. That is, I was a black belt in a style of martial arts that originated in Okinawa, had been codified in Japan, that had been brought to and modified in Korea, which had become popularized in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. Confusing, right? To muddy the waters more, my black belt was awarded by a university martial arts club that I had been training with for a relatively short time, not by my original teacher because after five years of training I had graduated from high school and moved away for college. Both clubs taught the Moo Duk Kwan style, but in slightly different versions. What was I a black belt in?
Following this experience I took advantage of opportunities to train pretty broadly. I practiced mostly judo and freestyle karate, but backed off from my Moo Duk Kwan training. Was I still a black belt? If so, what in?
By the mid-nineties I began training in earnest in Shotokan karate. I willingly put on a white belt and joined beginner's classes. I concurrently trained in grappling and occasionally in judo. I took advantage of some professional opportunities to learn applied martial arts as a law enforcement officer and trained for full-contact karate. When I eventually earned shodan (first degree black belt) in Shotokan karate I hadn't worn a black belt in nearly ten years. Was I a new black belt? Was I truly a Shotokan black belt?
Since then I have focused almost exclusively on Shotokan karate. Shotokan means "House of the Pine Waves" and this style has truly become my home. I practice Shotokan kata, I accept Shotokan's almost fetishistic emphasis on kihon, and in kumite I think it's obvious to my partners that my approach to sparring draws heavily, if not exclusively, on my experience as a Shotokan karateka. A few years ago I visited a friend's Moo Duk Kwan dojang for an evening of friendly sparring. I certainly didn't win all of my matches, but in those in which I did well, I scored often with mae geri (front kick) and gyaku zuki (reverse punch). These are bread-and-butter techniques for Shotokan karate; although every style practices them we try to work them to a high degree of proficiency. When I dodged my opponent's tae kwon do ax-kick and scored by shifting into a front stance and drilling a reverse punch to his ribs my friend exhaled the word, "Shotokan!" like a curse.
It's been over fifteen years since I put that Shotokan black belt on for the first time. I'm older and slower now than I'd like to be, injuries have begun to take their toll, and I'm certainly not highly ranked for the number of years I've spent in various dojo, gyms and training halls. But I'm making (I hope) incremental gains. I think I understand more about my martial arts than I did when I was at my physical best and I think now I can almost answer the question, "What do you have a black belt in?" I have a black belt in perseverance. I have black belt in thoughtfulness. I have a black belt in rigor, in mindfulness and in experience. I am a Shotokan karateka and the black belt I wear is "in" budo - the martial way of life.
It seems unreal, but we are already in the home stretch of our 2016-2017 year and it's time to begin planning for summer and fall karate. Since we run our Orono Community Martial Arts program through Orono Parks and Recreation we do not hold a formal session over the summer. However, we do have periodic Karate Fun Days, free training days for students, friends and family members to join us throughout the summer months. I will post updates about those classes on this blog, to our Facebook group and on the Parks and Rec website. Please register in advance for Karate Fun Days since I often have to purchase materials for our fun, interactive activities.
Next autumn I am hoping to expand our programming a bit. We will continue to offer classes for K-2nd graders and 3rd-5th graders. These will in all likelihood continue on Thursday afternoons. To this schedule I am hoping to add an intermediate/advanced youth class for students of any age who have trained with us to the rank of orange belt or above (that is orange, blue, green or brown belt level). Right now our youth classes are bursting at the seams and I'd like to differentiate instruction for kids at different levels. I'm not sure of dates or times for this class yet, but it will probably not meet on Tuesdays. We will continue to offer Teen/Adult Martial Arts for our middle school, high school, college and adult students. I'm looking forward to having our current fifth graders join this class as middle school students next fall. As far as I know now it will continue to meet on Thursday evenings at 7:00PM. We will also schedule periodic single-evening Women's Self-Defense Workshops as we have in the past.
If there is programming you would like to see, if you would like more or varied training, or if you would like your child to have the opportunity to travel and compete at the regional and state level, please let me know. I want our program to grow and meet your needs.
I'd love to hear your feedback and I can be contacted at (207) 299-8428, through the Contact Form on this site, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via a message or comment to our Facebook group, Orono Community Martial Arts.
Due to a scheduling conflict at the Keith Anderson Community House all classes are relocated to the gym at Asa Adams School for this week only. Teen/Adult classes meet regularly (7:00PM). Youth classes will meet one half-hour later than usual; grades K-2 from 4:00-5:00PM and grades 3-5 from 5:00-6:00PM. Sorry for any inconvenience. Next we we return to our normal times and location.
Here's a quick scheduling update to remind everyone that our new session has started. Our current classes meet as follows:
Adult and Teen Martial Arts: We train from 7:00-8:30PM Tuesday evenings at the Keith Anderson Community House, 19 Bennoch Rd, Orono.
Youth Martial Arts: Kindergarten-Second Grades meet from 3:30-4:25PM Thursday afternoons at the Keith Anderson Community House, 19 Bennoch Rd, Orono. Third-Fifth Grades train from 4:30-5:30PM Thursdays at the Keith Anderson Community House, 19 Bennoch Rd, Orono. [Note: This class is currently full.]
BHS Martial Arts Club: Bangor High School Students train in self-defense and conditioning Wednesdays from 2:00-3:00PM at the school and are welcome to join our Adult and Teen class for free.
There are currently no one-night Women's Self-Defense classes scheduled, however if you have a group that would like to sponsor a session, please use the contact form for details.
Registration for our programs can be found at the Orono Parks and Recreation site. Inquiries about pro-rated or by-the-session registration should be addressed to the instructor directly.
Join us anytime to try traditional Shotokan karate in Orono, Maine.