About this blog

This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.

Friday, 20 May 2011

WEEK 20--Karate Kata Class

Once in a while it is good for us to attempt something we are utterly useless at. To embrace the role of hapless novice. This is especially good for the kind of person who likes to feel competent and who devotes a good deal of their time and energy to avoiding making mistakes. Or avoiding being seen to make a mistake. In private I am quite happy to cock up a crossword, for example. If there's a chance someone will see my efforts, however, I will fill in any gaps with made-up words, so that it looks as if I've completed it. (This scandalises my father-in-law. But he uses an electronic clue-solver, so we may safely disregard his opinion here.)

Anyway, back to adopting the role of novice. This is certainly what I did last Tuesday night when I went along to my first karate kata class. For those not in the know, a kata is a set series of choreographed moves, performed to teach/demonstrate certain aspects of a martial art. It is short for katastrophic balls-up of elementary technique. Here's what we did:

Karateka will immediately recognise this as pinan nidan. According to our sensei (Japanese for 'person at the front shouting'), most people master about half of pinan nidan by the end of their first hour long session. I warned him I am am hopeless at this kind of thing. He reassured me it would be all right. I think even he was taken aback when the hour was over and I had only managed to get my head round move 1, (essentially, taking a sidestep and raising your arm, see diagram). Naturally, I could remember odd snatches of later parts of the kata, but not in the right order. Or with the correct limbs, or facing in the proper direction. It's the same when I stop and ask people for directions. Remembering the last three instructions is no use when you turn left instead of right at the beginning.

Still, I know from judo that if you repeat something enough times, it will eventually enter the muscle memory. By 'enough times', I think we are talking something in the region of 500 hours. Maybe I'll write a book about my quest to get a karate black belt before I'm 90.


  1. It looks like a schematic for "dad dancing" to me...(you know, the embarrassing twitching your dad - or adult male relative - tried to do to demonstrate their cool credentials when you were a teenager and therefore nothing your dad could possibly do was cool...)

  2. Yes, now you mention it, I think it's Night Fever.

  3. What is an electronic clue solver, for heaven's sake? The internet?

  4. No, he thinks Google is cheating! He uses a little gadget where you tap in the letters you've already got, and the number of blanks, and it scrolls through its dictionary and provides a list of answer. Which is not cheating, apparently.

  5. Hmm. If it looks like a dog, and it barks like a dog....not knowing your FiL, I couldn't possibly comment any further!

  6. Did you succeed in learning your first kata since 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!!