Steaming Karate Students

I was teaching a private English lesson that started just before 6:00 pm on Monday night. My new student Suzue, was very nervous about starting private lessons, but I had a great time teaching her, and she was so receptive. I enjoyed it so much that I lost track of time. OH NO!! I had exactly fifteen minutes to get home, get dressed, and high-tail it to karate practice.

I ended up getting to class about ten minutes late, which really wasn’t so bad (class went for almost an hour-and-a-half today). We warmed up with basic stretches, hand strikes and kicks. After a thorough warmup, we practiced some line-fighting combinations (it’s what I like to call them anyway), as well as stance work: block and punch combinations, kicking combinations, horseback stance (kibadachi), front stance (zenkustu dachi), cat stance (neko dachi), etc. After practicing technique, we worked on single-technique, limited sparring, where one partner attacks the other with a technique, like a front kick, knee strike, round kick or a punch. The receiving partner then has to defend the technique (sometimes unsuccessfully in my case) and return a combination of their own. After single-technique sparring with about four different partners, we moved on to double-technique sparring, which is the same thing but defending against two techniques instead of one. I really enjoyed this exercise, because it didn’t have the same speed as free sparring, so I had time to come up with ways to defend myself against different types of attacks.

After doing this with about four partners, it was on to six rounds of free sparring (throwing any techniques you like). Sparring is probably my favorite thing to do in karate, because it’s more realistic than throwing kicks and punches in the air. Sparring can be pretty tough if you’re outmatched, though. Needless to say, it was invigorating. After free-sparring, class ended with fifty pushups by the teacher’s numbers (which is much harder than doing fifty on my own), and sitting in seiza* to listen to class announcements.

*The traditional Japanese seated position, kind of like kneeling and sitting back on your heels.

While sitting in seiza, I noticed the student in front of me (who is really good) was steaming…literally! I know it’s probably just from the differences in his body temperature and the room temperature, but it looked cool. As I scanned around, I noticed that everyone was steaming (I’m sure I was, too) and it was a pretty cool sight…about sixteen karate students sitting in the traditional Japanese style, listening to their sensei give announcements in Japanese, steaming from a night of hard training.

In my head, I imagined it was chi emanating from every students’ body instead of steam, and that as soon as the teacher was done talking, they would stand up, scream “SENPU HA-DOU-KEN!!” (whirlwind fireball) in unison and shoot blazing, blue-and-red, ancient, secret, Kyokushin techniques from their hands…leaving a gaping hole in the main dojo wall. Thankfully, they didn’t do that and thankfully the teacher saying “Osu!” snapped me back to reality. Class was awesome tongight.


Donald Ash

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