The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.


One Karate of Oakland

Remember that blog post I wrote last December? The one where I mentioned wanting to start a karate club?

Of course you do dude. You’re the only one that reads your own blog. Duh.

I love talking to myself.

Anyway, about that club. Well, I started that club. I named it One Karate of Oakland (which I affectionately call “OKO”). It’s now an official “meetup” group on meetup.com. “Official” means that I now pay $12/month to keep the account active. And we just had our first official meetup this past Saturday here at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

And I forgot to take pictures. Damn.

I mean there was only two other guys besides me that came. My friend was supposed to come with me in the morning to have made it four people total, but he flaked out on me at the last moment. No good bastard. haha.

I scheduled a two hour block of time to practice. I think it was a good 50% doing, 50% talking. I mean you know, I couldn’t help but nerd out with two other experienced karateka about everything I had been reading and learning. Warning: In case you ever meet me, don’t start asking me about karate or martial arts because I will inadvertently end up tearing you a new ear-hole.

But of course too, we had to discuss how we wanted to structure our training. Can’t obviously cover everything in two hours. What I did for next time though is wrote up a basic structure that’s tweakable depending on mood and whim. Have a look at it:

Warm-up (10 min)

Kata (50 min)

• Focus on learning one kata (“form”) or related series of kata

• Drills, exercises related to that kata

• Combative analysis of kata 

[BREAK]

Games/Exercises/Concept drills [group choice] (50 min)

• Koryu Uchinadi two-person drills (McCarthy)

• One-step (Miller)

• Grappling

• Scenario training

• Conditioning (pad work, etc) 

Warm-down (10 min) 

• Stretch, etc. 

As mentioned, both of the other two were experienced karateka. One was a student of “Ryukyu Kempo”; the other was a long-time student of a school of karate known as “Doshinkan” (hmmm…you’ll have to type that one into Google for yourself). The “Ryukyu Kempo” guy was actually originally from Southern California where his school is based. In fact, what’s funny is that his teacher runs that school out of a judo dojo in Bellflower, CA where I had actually gone for a free judo trial class about 3 years ago when I had first considered cross-training. He even flies down there once a month to train!

What’s cool is that now I know some other local karate people to geek out with. Twisting each other’s joints and learning about leverage and pressure is just so fun man! So I’d say it was a successful meetup. Of course, it’ll take some time to streamline our sessions together so that we can make that doing/talking percentage look more like 80/20 or 90/10.

I guess you could say that this group was a long time coming. I’ve had the idea since Detroit and I’ve been living here a year now in Oakland. The impetus was that I stopped boxing this month to save money while I look for a new job and I was starting to get a karate itch (in my leg specifically). Who knows if this group will grow any larger than the 4 people that have signed up for it. I’m planning to have these meetups once a week on Saturday (for now) in the grass by Lake Merritt. I’m also going to include some kata practice into my weekly schedule. Yeah, sue me. I’ve been a bad karate student. I’ve only just been boxing the past four months. Whatever. I had a goal in mind with that. I didn’t have a goal with karate. Now I do.


“One serious problem, in my opinion, which besets present-day Karate-dō is the prevalence of divergent schools. I believe that this will have a deleterious effect on the future development of the art…There is no place in contemporary Karate-dō for different schools.  Some instructors, I know, claim to have invented new and unusual kata, and so they arrogate to themselves the right to be called founders of ‘schools’. Indeed, I have heard myself and my colleagues referred to as the Shōtō-kan school, but I strongly object to this attempt at classification. My belief is that all these ‘schools’ should be amalgamated into one so that Karate-dō may pursue an orderly and useful progress into man’s future.”

-Gichin Funakoshi (Karate-Dō: My Way of Life)


Hopefully I’ll remember to snap some pictures for next time.

– QK


10,000 steps

Not sure where I first read this or heard it, but they say it took Thomas Edison nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine attempts before he finally invented that little thing we all take for granted…the light bulb.

I was thinking about that today after coming home from a job interview where I taught “karate” to a mock-class of about twenty kids (6 – 7 years old). To say the least, I think I pretty much bombed the interview. While I generally really like the silliness and playfulness of children, them playing and being silly while you’re supposed to be teaching something just looks like they’re running all over you. But I gave my best effort from what I know how to do, so I’m satisfied with that. It occurred to me afterwards though as I drove back home processing all the little interactions that had happened, that I’m simply making attempts at finding what kind of work fits for me. Perhaps, like Edison, it’ll be another 9,999 times before I find or finally realize what it is that I want to do. And looking at this interview as a “failure” is really just not realistic. There’s nothing “wrong” with what I did. If anything, my way of being and teaching doesn’t fit into the standards and parameters of what this place was looking for (Boy’s & Girl’s Club). That doesn’t mean I’m not good with kids or I’m not good at teaching martial arts or I’m not a good martial artist. It just means my style and what they want didn’t fit. You get me? That’s how this isn’t a failure. Because I didn’t fail at anything. And even if it does mean I’m not actually suited towards teaching, whether of children or otherwise, then great! The more self-knowledge the better. The less bull-shit about yourself the better. I have simply found another way of how not to spark my own light bulb.

I’m not saying that the Demons in me haven’t tried to tear me down, rip me apart and spit on my grave. They’re trying. It’s so easy for me to lapse into this conditioned thinking of, “F—. I’m just a piece of sh– no-good failure at life“. That’s how I’ve thought of myself most of my adolescence and into my adulthood. When and how I began to ingrain this kind of thinking into my system I don’t know. But it sure is a strange concept when you think about how our own minds can be totally not on our side. You’d think we’d have like a built in corner-man or something. Not the case. That’s why I whole-heartedly agree with 9 out of 10 Okinawan karate masters* that the only real enemy is your Ego-mind. The only real defeat suffered is in your mind. The only person who can really hold you down…is yourself.

I’m reminded here again of something Joseph Campbell once said:

Life is a guy trying to play a violin solo in public, while learning the music and his instrument at the same time.

I’m definitely that guy.

– QK

*This is a totally made up statistic but hey, you know. Whatever. Sue me.


Clarify your questions, clarify your mind

“I feel crappy” I said.

“Why?”

“Because I don’t know what I’m good at. I feel like I’m not very good at the things I do.”

“That’s ego.”

“Ego?”

“Why do you need to be good at those things?”

“So I can have some authority with it. To speak on it. To act on it.”

“See that’s ego. The question is, what do you love to do.”

(pause for enlightenment)

“Ahhh…I see grandmaster. Thank you.”

As I ponder this next phase of my life here in Oakland I am constantly being tripped up by the workings of my mind:

“What will I do?” 

“What is my next step?”

“What am I good at?”

I had forgotten that question above about “what do I love…”. That has been an easy thing for me to forget in the hustle and bustle of living and trying to make a living. But that is an essential question to re-ground myself in. What is it that I love doing? Or as Campbell says, “Follow your Bliss”.

For whatever reason my mind draws a blank when I ponder on that. I know what I do now, i.e. martial arts, drumming/music. But I feel like I’ve been so caught up in trying to make those things fit towards either making a living or bettering myself at it that I’ve lost a sense of fun with them. I’ve lost a sense of what I love with them. I’ve lost a sense of what I love period. Or at least that’s how I’m feeling about it right now.

What do I love doing?

Damn. That’s a good question. Something I feel like I don’t have an answer for at the moment.

What do you love doing?

“…see for yourself…listen for yourself…think for yourself.”

– QK