Sunday, December 15, 2013

Martial Arts Training

Old monk - Pencil Sketch by Soke Hausel
Training in martial arts can be intense as well as entertaining. If you are interested in shedding pounds, there is no better exercise according to physical fitness experts than karate. There is something about kicking and punching with focus that burns more calories than any other physical fitness program. Even aerobic kickboxing is no where as efficient as karate, and this is due to focusing one's punches and kicks in karate. One learns to explosively strike with authority from a complete rest.

Karate is closely tied into Zen Buddhism and Mediation. This is because its predecessor, Gung Fu (Chu'an Fa) was integrated with Zen about 525 AD. According to legend, Shaolin Monks from China were at one time as out of shape as many Walmart shoppers. So much so, that many fell asleep during mediation and the snoring was more like a roar of a sleeping dragon.

This all changed when an Indian monk was placed in charge of the Shaolin Temple. This monk, known to history as Bodhidharma, was not only proficient in meditation, he was also well versed in bujutsu (combat arts). To awaken the sleeping dragon at the Shaolin Temple, Bodhidharma started training the monks in a fighting art referred to as 'Shi Po Lo Han Sho' which translates as the "18 hands of Lo Han". The rest is history - these former future Walmart Shoppers were turned into thin, muscular gymnasts with a kick like a horse!
Black belts Dr. Florence Teule and Lenny Martin practice Hakutsuru (White Crane)
Karate at the University of Wyoming during a martial arts clinic taught by Grandmaster Hausel of Gilbert Arizona.
Although we no longer teach Kids Karate Classes since we only focus on Adults and Families at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate (a.k.a. Arizona Hombu), we still have fun telling kids and their parents this story. We have them all lie on the floor and make loud 'snoring' sounds before while we have a Bodhidharma look-alike step into the dojo and wake the kids (with their parents) and have them run a couple of laps around the dojo. The kids (and adults) love this.

Soke Hausel wearing hakama, Gilbert, Arizona
We also educate them about white crane karate by telling them about Shorin-Ryu Karate. We explaine that part of karate originated at the Chinese Shaolin Temple and point out that the Japanese translation of Shorin-Ryu is Shaolin style. Another part of this karate was developed by a Chinese woman who watched white cranes. In this scenario, the students are encouraged to walk around the dojo using their crane wings and then pecking at imaginary frogs.

There are other interesting and entertaining aspects of martial arts training. For instance, the karate uniform is not something most people are familiar with. In the1960s, many dojo supplied these 'angry white pajamas' to students in beginning karate classes who were not familiar with tying them. It happened a few times a month - a new student would lose his pants during training - usually while walking forward in zenkutsu dachi (front stance).  This wardrobe malfunction continues to the present when new students first put on a hakama - those strange pleated and bloused pants we see on many traditional aikido and iaido martial artists. If not given instruction, essentially everyone puts them on backwards.
Tai Chi Sunrise - Pencil sketch by Soke Hausel

Martial arts brings out the best in most people. But at times, it brings out strange aspects of personality. While a professor of budo (martial arts) at the University of Wyoming, a potential student walked into the University dojo to explain to the Grandmaster and Hall-of-Fame martial artist that when he (the student trained) at another university, it was tradition anyone who defeated their instructor would become owner of the instructor's katana (samurai sword). Soke asked the student to bring his former instructor's sword to the next samurai class so he could see the famous sword.

Believe it or not, the student actually showed up. The famous sword was a  $25 samurai sword. But when Soke walked in carrying his katana and said he accepted this student's challenge - the student quickly vanished - We never saw him again.

Pencil sketch by Soke Hausel

Soke Hausel poses with students at the University of Wyoming 30th anniversary Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate Club clinic in Laramie. Soke Hausel taught classes and clinics at the University of Wyoming for more than 3 decades as well as at Arizona State University, University of New Mexico and the University of Utah.