I was doing some web design work today which inevitably led me to peruse a few hundred wordpress and blogger themes. It was actually a treat because I like to see what kind of interesting ideas people are working on. As I browsed I was pleased to encounter a few ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ worthy themes.
Even though the ikigaiway theme isn’t going anywhere, I thought it might be fun to share some of my findings with you. These templates could be used for readers who are contemplating joining the blogging game or for current martial arts writers who want to spice things up on their own sites.
The First Batch is For WordPress Users:
This one features a prominent gate from the Shinto faith and a bonsai tree. Very warm and pleasant.
This is a cool theme that would be great for kyusho or pressure point fighters.
Call me an optimist but this looks like a rising sun to me. Very Japanese in flavor.
A cool dichotomy of night and day with shadowy figures and a Bonsai style tree in the middle.
This is a gentle theme represents a very important flower in Japanese culture.
My favorite of the bunch. An all-around intriguing take on Asian artistry.
A contemplative balance of stone stacking and flower arrangement.
This theme blends a little classic kanji with modern urban design.
The Second Batch is For Blogger Users:
This has an old feel to it, quite like the Menkyo Kaiden of Koryu martial arts.
An entanglement of Japanese style plant life.
A few bloggers I know use this one already, but that’s just because it’s very well created.
One For Joomla:
It contains some random guy, but it’s still pretty sharp with nice fonts.
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If you put one of these free martial arts blog themes to use feel free to drop a link to it in the comments section and show us what they look like in action!
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Speed is undoubtedly a desirable attribute for any martial artist. The ability to move your mass quickly from point A to point B allows you more opportunity for effective and powerful striking. However, if speed were the only needed quality in order to be a skilled martial artist every energetic 20 year old would be a 10th Dan Grandmaster. how is that 60 year old experts can take these youngsters to task time after time?
One of their ‘secrets’ is variable acceleration.
Let’s say a hypothetical person knows how to strike very quickly, but only really knows how to fight at his/her top speed. Sure this person may experience occasional success, especially against unskilled opponents, but crafty fighters will tune into their timing and figure them out in short order. Then, despite their raw speed, they will become predictable and easier to defeat.
If, however, that same person knew when to appear slow and when to truly be fast, he/she would add a layer of depth to their fighting. They would have captured the basic component of variable acceleration.
Knowing when and how to accelerate into an opponent is one of the hallmarks of outstanding fighters. But one arena in which this strategy seems to be neglected is kobudo. I have found that many weapon users slip into ‘clubbing’ mode as soon as they get an implement in their hand, and lose all the subtlety of their empty handed arts. Check out this video as I explain how to add some variable acceleration into rokushaku bo fighting:
At first applying this concept to kobudo can be tricky because things seem to happen very quickly and dangerously. If you are a student of kendo you are acutely aware of how fast a strike can come in. But even kendo players pretend at being slow or vulnerable by creating various suki (gaps) in order to entice actions, which they can deflect and then explode into their opponent. Over time you gain a sense of how weapons can be used, and what tactics will keep you safe. you can then begin to add more complexity into your combatives, including variable acceleration.
There are times when a flurry of activity is appropriate, but then there are other times when a calm mind combined with one blindingly accelerated punch/kick/strike will do the trick. In the realm of weapons, this is particularly so as age and physical capacity are evened out by the unforgiving result of a single weapon strike.
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Over the weekend I had a chance to train with Bill Hayes Sensei, and as usual my brain was quickly overheated. I try my best to retain more and more, but it is certainly an ongoing endeavor.
One of the things he covered was the idea of training for longevity and realizing how your martial arts have to adapt over time. Hayes Sensei is in his 60s, and his instructor Eizo Shimabukuro is in his 80s. It is no freak accident that they are both in excellent condition and can still train regularly.
Maintaining longevity in the martial arts is a complex endeavor. It is a combination of stress reduction, persistent physical activity, proper diet and nutrient intake, and making sound choices on how to push your body. A lot of “normal” training is designed for individuals in the mid-part of their lives (20-50 or so). But a man/woman of 70 should not press their bodies the same way as a 20 year old (and the same is true for a child of 9 or 10).
When considering training children, one of the top priorities has to be how the training methods will ultimately affect their physical development.
I’ve never been a big supporter of object breaking as part of a child’s training regiment. The bones are still developing and the muscles are not properly conditioned for that kind of impact. Repeated hard contact can make for severe problems later on, and could even lead to fractures and slight bone deformities (in rare cases). Children have to be introduced to contact gradually, utilizing soft materials at first and padded materials for years as they grow up.
Another example of traditional training for young students involves stances. Deep, wide stances are perfect for developing leg muscles and improving balance. By practicing elongated stances combined with large movements the body increases it’s range of motion and can be used in ways both understandable and suitable for children.
From there concepts can be refined, shortened, and improved after the body is put on the right developmental track.
Once relative adulthood is reached, training can begin its maximum intensity. Power generation becomes extremely important, and people often engage in practices such as body hardening, weight lifting, hojo undo, speed training, etc etc. This is because the body is at its peak potential for physical exertion.
Ironically, even though the body is able to take surprising amounts of abuse at this stage, it is important to set good habits here. If you allow yourself to over-indulge in body hardening, abusive full contact fighting, and snapping techniques with stress on the joints, you can set your body down a path of degradation.
Training into mature years requires adaptation and thought, even if you’ve successfully integrated into a “style”.
An excellent example given by Hayes Sensei involves sanchin kata. During sanchin we often see an intense tension and breath throughout the kata. This helps build muscular endurance and strength. it also teaches the practitioner how to use breath and increase power/energy in certain parts of the body. However, if a person continues to train with that same vigor as they get older, it can actually lead to heart, muscular, and cardiovascular problems.
A skilled, mature practitioner of sanchin will adapt the tension so as to maintain the health benefits while avoiding the physical risks. This is a complex process, and should only be done under qualified instruction.
Another example is the use of the makiwara (or breaking and hard-object-hitting in general). Even though makiwara training can help a person learn how to transmit power and develop excellent conditioning for striking, constant pounding on the hands and the conjoined meridians can slowly wear down a person’s health. Depending on which meridian is being abused, the internal health of the person can be degraded as well as the immediate joints and ligaments in the limbs.
Mature training also speaks to stance work, height of kicks, and other matters.
It is important to realize that when you see a skilled practitioner doing kojin kata (old man’s kata), it should not be because their body can no longer handle “real training”, but because they’ve refined their technique and have made wise choices on how to make their training appropriate for them.
Being able to identify the difference between kojin kata and a person who has simply lost skill is an important ability to develop.
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