Not that I'm rushing the season or anything, but...we have two Women's Self-Defense seminars scheduled for the fall: Thursday, Nov 1 at Hermon High School and Wednesday, Nov 14 at Orono High School. Registration for these one-night seminars will be through Orono Adult Ed. As always, no one will be turned away due to financial difficulty. I will post more details as we approach the dates.
From our Facebook page: Orono Community Martial Arts / Heisui Dojo needs a webmaster. If you've ever looked at our website (http://oronokarate.weebly.com) you know I need help. I'd like to update our website and Facebook page with new content, switch from weebly to wix, and generally spruce up our web presence. If you've got a little time I'd love to chat with you.
I've been a bit neglectful of this blog and website recently. Most of our updates are posted directly to the Orono Community Martial Arts Facebook page (you should join!). However, I would like to take a moment to thank and welcome our new spring session students. We have new enrollees in all of our classes, K-2nd Grade, 3rd-5th Grade, Middle Level, and Adult groups.
Just a quick reminder that our last Women's Self-Defense seminar of this academic year will be held next Monday, May 7, at 6:00PM. This one-night seminar will meet at the Asa Adams School gym in Orono. Registration is through Orono-Hampden Adult Education. If you cannot afford the fee, waivers are available. Assuming space is available (we are close to max enrollment) no one will be turned away for financial reasons. Contact me directly to arrange a fee waiver.
Enjoy the spring weather no that it has finally arrived and feel free to contact us with any questions.
It's hard to believe that we are more than half-way through our Winter Session, but it is not too early to begin thinking about the spring schedule. We will continue all of our programs through the spring and will add a one-night Women's Self-Defense introductory seminar. This means that new grades K-2, grades 3-5, Middle Level, and Adult Karate will begin in mid-March. Registration is open now through Orono Parks and Recreation. Our Women's Self-Defense introductory seminar will be held on May 7, 2018. Registration for this course is through the Orono-Hampden Adult Education Partnership. There are a few competition opportunities coming up. I'm looking for to attending the Battle of Maine Martial Arts Championship on March 24 and the 2nd Maine Traditional Karate Tournament on May 19.
Register early to reserve your space in any of our programs and feel free to contact us with any questions.
Registration is open now for our winter session which runs from January through March, 2018. Please register for classes through Orono Parks and Recreation at their site: www.oronorec.com. We have specific classes for children in grades Kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, for middle level students, and for teens and adults. We also offer private and semi-private lesson by appointment and feature women's self-defense seminars at your location or at ours upon request.
Class schedule: Beginning Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Tuesday 5:30-6:30 Middle Level
6:30-8:00 Teens and Adults
Thursday 3:30-4:30 K-2
5:30-6:30 Private/Semi-Private Lessons
Please enroll early. Our Elementary-age classes are already half full. Adult students can contact me directly to schedule a trial class prior to enrolling if you prefer.
I've been practicing martial arts for a long time, since the mid-80s, in fact. I've travelled a bit, trained broadly, and spent time in a good number of schools, classes, dojo, and gyms. Some of these schools have been well-appointed affairs. They've had mirrors and mats, tons of pads and shields, expansive changing rooms and great pro-shops. Other schools have been in storefronts with big plate glass windows and trophies on display. I've worked out in the back corners of gyms and on basketball courts and in garages. I've trained in backyards and on the beach.
Our classes are held in a pretty modest shared space. We train in the upstairs room of the Keith Anderson Community House, a big, old building that has been at various times a church, a meeting hall and town offices. We share our room with a community theatre group and a ballet school. I like the space, though, for a number of reasons. It is open and airy. The ceilings are high. It has a great, polished wooden floor. Its tall windows allow plenty of light. I like it for another reason, too. Our overhead is cheap and I'm not fancy.
I should explain, I guess, why this is important - actually why it is very important - to me. A few years ago a business marketing journal published a series of articles on the martial arts industry in America. It stated that up to sixteen percent of Americans would engage in some form of martial arts training at some point in their lives. That's about one out of every six people. It also stated that participation in martial arts training correlates strongly with family income and socio-economic status. That is, the wealthier your family is the more likely you are to practice martial arts. Since relatively few kids are affluent this means that a fair number of wealthy people practice martial arts, but most poorer people do not.
Yet other studies have demonstrated the power of the martial arts to transform the lives of vulnerable people. The martial arts can have significant benefits for all people, but they are especially beneficial for people with health and fitness issues, for those who suffer from physical and emotional abuse, and for those who are most vulnerable in our society - the kids we term "at-risk". Those kids, often from poor families, who are at-risk of dropping out of school, engaging in substance abuse, committing crimes and violence are often excluded from extra-curricular programming that could help them because of the instability in their lives. Wealthier kids from more stable environments are more likely to participate in martial arts even though the martial arts can have more consequential impacts on those who are excluded. There are a host of reasons why this is so, but there is only one of those reasons that I can have some limited control over - the issue of cost. I want to keep our overhead low, so that as many people can participate in our classes as possible.
Now, I'm not a softy when it comes to giving hand-outs. I've worked hard for what I've achieved and I believe in working hard for the American Dream. There isn't much that ticks me off more than seeing a fat guy panhandling in front of Wal-Mart smoking a $7.00 pack of cigarettes when there are help wanted signs on the windows of six stores in town. But I know what it's like to be poor and I know what it's like to have someone give you chance to work hard to better yourself. I want to give people that chance.
When I was kid my family struggled. Social scientists today talk about ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences. They tabulate these to determine a child's potential for risky behavior and to determine the obstacles to that child's success. Well, ACEs, I had 'em. Divorce - check. Low society-economic status - got it. Periods of residential instability, food insecurity, domestic violence, substance abuse in the home - check, check, check, check. I knew how to make macaroni with those big blocks of yellow government cheese. I knew how to dodge the birthday party and Christmas present questions as a kid. But I was very fortunate in a number of ways. I had a loving parent who worked hard to better herself and I found a home of sorts in the little all-purpose room of my local YMCA where I was able to enroll "on scholarship" in a martial arts class.
When I was about thirteen my family moved to a new town. My kids, whose lives are a lot different than mine, are amazed when I tell them that it was, I think, my fifteenth or sixteenth move. I didn't know anyone, but I had a new younger step-brother who had some childcare at the local YMCA. One Saturday morning I hung around after dropping him off. I watched some older guys play basketball, gawked at the weight room, and eventually wandered to the back room where a martial arts class was in session. I watched until the end of class through the open door and went back and watched again the next week. A few parents watched the Saturday morning class, which was mostly kids and teens, and one of them asked me why I wasn't out there.
I stammered some reply and left. I didn't know any of the kids in the class or any of the parents watching. I didn't know what martial art was being practiced. I did know, however, that we couldn't afford whatever a class cost (the princely sum of $22.00 a month it turns out), that I didn't have a suit to practice in, and that I probably wasn't supposed to be hanging around when my step-brother was the kid who was supposed to be at the Y.
Later that week my mom received a call from a staff member at the YMCA. Apparently someone had asked about me and the Y had tracked me down through my step-brother. There must have been a conversation that I was not privy to, but my mom explained to me that I could join the Saturday martial arts class if I wanted, but not the evening classes (I didn't even know they had any) for free! She was a little worried, but happy that I had found something to take an interest in. The rest, as they say, is history.
The next Saturday I stood in the back row of the class holding up my sweatpants with one hand because I didn't have a pair with a string in the waistband and the safety pin I'd put in them had bent. I learned front stance and front kick and the the form, Basic One. When I seemed discouraged my instructor didn't yell, but just said, "try". When I failed he smiled and said, "try again." When I succeeded he smiled and didn't say anything at all.
I kept at it as other kids came and went. After a couple of months my parents bought me a karate gi and I don't think there's a uniform I was more proud to wear than that one until many years later when I graduated from the police academy. The next summer, when at 14 I was old enough for a work permit, I was able to get a summer job and help pay for classes. I was able to practice three times a week, two nights with the adults and Saturday morning with the kids and teens. I loved it. I grew from it. I became committed to something that taught me discipline and respect.
I was only able to have that experience because whoever ran programming at the YMCA allowed me to slide into a class for free. I wasn't a perfect kid - I fought, drank, and did some risky things - and I hesitate to think what I would have been up to if I hadn't been loyal to Saturday morning martial arts. Later, when I began to help instruct that same Saturday morning class I knew how it important it was. I knew how important it had been to me.
So, I teach my classes at the Keith Anderson Community House in a room we share with a theatre company and a dance class. It's pretty spartan, but that suits me just fine. And I keep our overhead low, so I don't ever have to turn away that kid that's peeking in through the door. It's not about the trappings, but about the training. And I've never been very fancy.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
Instructor's Corner: thoughts and news from Heisui Dojo.