2013/14 Shinsokai Challenge
by Richard Barrett

On the 31st Dec at 12.45, I started this year's challenge of holding shiko-dachi for 1 hour. The most I had held it was for 50 minutes, back in October and I figured that if I could hold on for that amount then an extra 10 minutes wouldn't stop me.

I had got changed into some light weight Gi bottoms and this year's Shinsokai gasshuku t-shirt and walked around to the back of the house and unlocked the Shinsodo, I bowed, turned on a CD player which played Okinawan folk music, did a short junbi undo and began the task, making shiko-dachi facing the rear door, side on to the clock at the back of the Dojo.

At the beginning I had decided to preoccupy my mind and started punching straight forward, chudan height. I silently counted out 100 and proceeded to do 10 sets. When I peeked a look at the clock, 15 minutes had past. A plan entered my head and during the next quarter, I did nothing but concentrate on the correct alignment of my body and the correct tension in my stance, trying to relax the rest of my body and mind, just riding and accepting the physical feelings that were emanating from my thighs and lower back. The music I had put on earlier helped a great deal during this stage.

During the third quarter I decided on another 1000 rep challenge, knowing it would consume another 15 minutes. This time I struck my tetsui-uchi into my teisho as seen in Saifa/Seipai kata, alternating left and right strikes for a 100 reps and then kote kitae for 100, 10 sets later and my mind preoccupied, it was now time for the last 15 minutes of the challenge and during this I spent the time concentrating on chikara michi (strength paths), starting with the legs and then the body and arms, then combining them all with deep breathing.

Richard Barrett - shiko-dachi challenge Richard Barrett - shiko-dachi challenge Richard Barrett - shiko-dachi challenge Richard Barrett - shiko-dachi challenge

Another look towards the clock resulted in only 2 minutes to go. My thoughts turned to others who would hopefully be challenging themselves, especially to my friend in Japan, Sue Eddie, who I had spoken with on Skype a few days before and she had told me of her intention to do the challenge and that also, on New Year's Eve, she would be attending a Buddhist ceremony and sitting in seiza from 9pm until midnight chanting then performing 108 prostrations, then after some food and drink returning to seiza from approximately 1am until 5am. At 8am a few of the die-hards would be going by car to a local waterfall and performing cold water absolutions on New Year's morning. To say that I admire Susan Eddie is an understatement. The amount she has achieved in her life so far is amazing and she is a true inspiration to me and a wonderful example of not only a karateka but of a human being.

I waited for the final second to pass and then fought to bring my legs together and, with a grin, walked for three laps around the inside of the Dojo to bring some movement to my legs. Standing in the middle of the floor, facing the shomen, performed Sanchin kata and then bowed out of the Shinsodo, this year's challenge beaten. I will donate some money to a local charity over the following days.

The students of the Shinsokai will have also challenged themselves, the ordeal every year is more about the mind rather than the body, as true Karate training is. Should I find out that one of them did not do it and made excuses for themselves, then I would ask them to leave. If they had a good reason not to do it, then that's another story. But you all too often hear karateka(?) giving excuses as to why they can't do something, normally misusing some past masters quotations. In the Shinsokai I will not put up with anyone that cannot challenge themselves, what is the point of training in Karate if you cannot do that, if you can't face and overcome difficulties.

To all those karateka(?) that read the challenge and didn't do it, why are you training? What reason/excuse did you come up with?

To all those that did do it, well done, you can be proud of yourselves and what a good start to this new year's training.

Richard Barrett
January 1st 2014
(Happy New Year)

“No matter how you may excel in the art of Karate, and in your scholastic endeavors,
nothing is more important than your behavior and your humanity as observed in daily life.”