Thursday, September 26, 2013

The road to black belt

A bit over two weeks ago I left Wolfi. Well,  just for two weeks, because of my karate ambitions ;)

I've been dreaming of black belt ever since I started karate and for the last two years I've been heavily practicing for it.  Originally I wanted to get my black belt in Finland already a year ago, but in the end it didn't go all too well, because of some rather strange/peculiar reasons... Well then came the time to start our journey and I had to change my plans...

2010 we lived a moment in Saarland and there I was training with the local karate club and got used to the German habits. I'm also surviving pretty ok with German language, so I thought why not try to do my examination here in Germany. In May in the beginning of our journey I was training for two weeks with the Tokaido club in Kappeln. I really liked the people there and their way of practicing and also the sensei there turned out to be very nice and helpful. So in the end of May I decided to take part in dan-examination in Germany.

During the summer months I didn't have a chance to visit any other karate clubs or seminars, but I practiced alone when ever possible and few times even with Wolfi. I also had heavy correspondence with Werner Wilhelmsen (the sensei of Tokaido), or actually Wolfi-'my personal translator' had :) Werner did plenty of paper work for me. Made me the member of their club and the German Karate Federation and also sent me the official passport. He also did good job by explaining certain techniques via email, so that I could practice alone. Thank you very much for all your efforts, Werner!

7th of September was a preparation camp (Vorbereitungs Lehrgang) in Gerolstein. The previous day I drove there and that was also my very first proper trip alone in abroad! Everything went perfectly fine until I was about 20km from my hotel. Then came the problems.... I don't have a GPS, so I have to survive with just paper maps and some written directions. My hotel was in really strange place and no signs to the place until just 1km before! So in the end I made 60km and 2h extra, and also had to call Wolfi to give me some directions over the phone... Luckily all the other places I found easily :)

The preparation camp was held by sensei Shuzo Imai (8th dan) and I was instantly happy to see that he does some important techiniques (eg. tsukkomi) the way I've learned them. One big stress point less! The other participant were very friendly and quite interested of this Finnish visitor... In the lunch break I had some nice conversations and all in German! I'm rather proud of myself ;) Training was very good and heavy and I got a very nice partner for the couple techniques (kumite). It's really rare joy to get a partner with whom you can instantly practice like you would've known for years! Sorry I forgot your name (I'm really lousy in remembering names), but thank you for all the help, my very nice training partner! :D

After the camp we even got personal feedback from sensei Imai. I really appreciate such! Imai said, that my techniques look very good, I have a good posture and that I have very good chance to get 1st. dan in two weeks! I was almost melting of happiness :) Just need to get more power! Well, that I've been hearing for quite some time already and am heavily working with it...

Next day I headed north towards Kappeln and 12 days intensive training with Tokaido... It was over 600km leg, but didn't feel too bad because I was finally able to enjoy my own speed. What an enjoyment it was to drive 120-180km/h on the Autobahn!!! Usually our speed together is max 110km/h, so I was heavily smiling almost the whole time :)
I had a really big double room with mini kitchen and balcony just for me alone! What a luxury :)
I stayed in Dörpskrog Ringsberg, which is about 30km from Kappeln, because it was the cheapest place in the neighborhood and also in the middle of quiet countryside. I was really in need of peace and quietness, so this was almost a slice of heaven for me. I had a comfortable bead, soundproof walls and lovely walking ways in the village. What else does one need to be able to relax? ;)
Corns eaten by deers.
It was raining almost every day, but luckily there was some moments without rain, so I could have nice walks along the fields. Plenty of corn growing there! I met some sweet little deers eating corn almost daily, but unfortunately didn't manage to capture them on film. They were always too quick or against the sun.
Along the walking path was growing plenty of wild blackberries, damsons and apples. What a great pleasure to pick your own lunch! :)
There was also growing wild hops, but didn't start making my own beer :D
Beautiful boys in the backyard of the hotel. I wonder does the corn go straight to humans or via these fellows...
Food for the weekend. Just perfect amount for one person for three days!
Heavenly smoothie full of energy! 4 figs, 4 bananas, 1 tsp vanilla powder and some water.
One has to have a partner in belt examinations, because there is plenty of partner techniques. I got Harald from Tokaido to be my partner. Also with him it was very easy to start training, no problems what so ever! I've been very blessed with good training partners, already back in Finland! Terveiset Lasselle ja Artolle! :)

Harald is a very good instructor and motivator and has plenty of good tips. I was in very good hands and in the end didn't have much stress about the examination. The biggest stress point for me was the language! Germans have totally different way of pronouncing the Japanese words than Finns have and then there is also different dialects...
What a lovely welcome!
After one week practicing in Kappeln I thought it's time to do something else as well. So I decided to have a ride to Denmark, because I've never been there and the border was just few kilometers away. The weather was very nice when I left, but just when I was entering the border it started raining again. Eventually I had only 150km loop, but at least now I can say I've been there :)
Besides the normal horses and cows, I also met some camels in Denmark :) I hope they were not for the entertainment or nourishment of humans!

Saturday 21st of September was the big day: dan-examination in Neumünster! I had traveled there the night before with Wolfi, who I met in Kappeln. Really strange feeling to drive together after two weeks break, but of course a great feeling to be together with him and the girls again :) Two weeks is definitely the max time I need/want to be alone! This was also the longest time I've ever been separated from Hertta! It's rather easy to be away from Wolfi (I'm used to it), but to be without my babies is almost heart breaking...
Doing juntsuki-no-tsukomi.
The examination in Germany is a bit different than in Finland, but no means any easier!!! Much less katas and partner techniques, but much more kicks and hits! Because of my injured hips and lower back, certain kicks are very painful and even dangerous for me. Luckily the senseis were very nice and understanding and let me do easier versions of two jumping/turning kicks.

My fear of the language problems wasn't for nothing, I was barely able to understand half of the commands! Luckily after first three or four techniques I realized that the examination is going exactly according to the technique-list. I had learned the list by heart and could do everything according to my memory :) Just some small and inconspicuous double checking from my neighbor occasionally... ;)

There was only four other candidates besides me and the tempo of the examination was extremely fast, so luckily the whole event only took about two hours. No 4-6 hour tribulation like some people had been scaring me! Anyway I've never understood these marathon tests. I have this 'old fashioned' way of thinking, that just from one technique (eg. juntsuki) you can see what someone is 'worth' of. Well, different clubs and countries all have their own styles and ways of thinking, and one should respect them! :)
Kihon kumite #5, one of my favourites ;)
The examination went very well. I had positive feeling the whole time and so did Harald, which helped a lot with the small tension I had :) Of course I made some small errors, but was always able to do better next time. Nobody's perfect!

After we had sweated our asses off the senseis had a small break to think things over... and finally they awarded new dan-grades for everyone! I was of course extremely happy and relieved, but the proper understanding of the situation didn't hit me until after two days! Well, I was extremely tired and couldn't think too clearly anymore...
Senseis from right to left: Werner Wilhelmsen (5th dan), Shuzo Imai (8th dan) and Andreas Frahm (4th dan?).
The only negatively surprising thing in the exam was, that we didn't get any feedback! I was very disappointed about that, because I think it's very important to get proper feedback in order to get better! Lucky me, Wolfi was filming my parts so I could at least valuate myself and I also know very well my own weaknesses... The only thing I heard was, that there was no hesitations at all whether I should get the belt or not! So obviously I did pretty well :)
The happy black belt owner between Harald and Werner. The new belt was a gift from Werner/Tokaido, thanks a lot!
Germans love their stamps! :D
Two days after the examination I got email from Harald. He had asked feedback from sensei Imai, who was then instantly answering back. He said all my techniques were good and correct, but I need to get more speed and power. Nothing new there for me, but I still appreciated this very much! Extremely nicely done!

This power problem I've heard for years. Sometimes it's heavily puzzling me, because when I do 'kihon' (techniques alone) people say they don't see any power, but when I do 'kumite' (with partner) I get constantly complaints that I hit too hard! This just makes me wonder, is it because I'm almost always next to much bigger men and of course people compare me to them (even unknowingly) and then I definately look weak! Or is it the thing that people think fastness is power..? I'm not horribly fast, but I do know I have quite a lot of power compared to my size... and my training partners know it also ;) Hopefully one day I figure this out one way or the other....

Now some thank yous:

Vielen Dank an alle Mitglieder des Tokaido Kappeln für ihre Hilfe und tolle Unterstützung, vor allem Harald und Werner!

Suuri kiitos myös kaikille Sokuton ja LKK:n jäsenille, jotka ovat olleet auttamassa ja tukemassa jo dan-harjoitteluni alkuvaiheessa! Erityiskiitos Artolle! :) 

~ Ilta

P.S. Links for those who are interested to know the differences with Finnish and German dan-examinations:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wolfi - "home" alone

Since Skippy enjoys beating up other guys in Karate training, I was able to finally have my vacation. Well, almost :D

Skippy's Suzi was almost due for another oil change (and some other minor issues), so I decided to do it simply at Rudi's place. I also replaced the original fork springs with the ones I got from Hyperpro. I was amazed how quickly the fork oil got old, after only 10.000km, it looked very dirty.

Easy tool to measure the air chamber
So, it did all that, was happy with myself and cleaned the place up, when I tossed with my big fat ass Skippy's bike. P****** ja S******.

Well, maybe now it's time for a new blinker ;)
New color on Skippy's bike
Besides this minor incident, Skippy took off and I was on my own with the dogs. Since I had now plenty of time, I tried to find some sidecar get-together in Saarland and I even found one - lucky me. It was the official "1. Gespanntreffen" in Kirkel-Neuhäusel. So I went there and just made it to the Saturday afternoon excursion ride. Not bad, a last guided tour through Bliesgau and surroundings. When we came back to the campsite, the dogs and me had a snack and then it was time to get back to Rudi's place. Those ladies were just hazzling too much and the kids were all over the dogs, so I needed to maintain my mental balance as well :D (handling three hyper-active dogs alone is a challenge).

Nice campsite and separated from the normal campers - good luck in the future.
Waiting to get started with the ride

More sidecars (and solo bikes) on the other side.

Met Jörg (left) again - thanx for the help with the GPS holder. 
I also had some time to meet relatives, old friends and fix a few items on my bike, like the damaged Jesse side case, my broken POVHD helmet camera (it was only the one pin at the camera head connector) and other small things.

I am not shitting :D ... only using my body weight to straighten the side case ;) 
Mana and me
Hertta guarding the house door and waiting for mom to come in

Besides a few last minutes hazels with some bike issues and packing, my last day at Rudi went rather peacefully. I was even able to make my yearly brake fluid change and washed girls. Now they smell very nice and are all clean to see mom again :D

It's now Wednesday morning (18Sep) and I am heading to North Germany. I am wondering what kind of welcome we will have. Girls have not been so long separated from Skippy for a long long time, and Hertta never.

A big - no huge thanx to Rudi, who had a lot of patience with me and girls :)

~ Wolfi

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

UK impressions - the movie

Finally I had the time and opportunity to make our UK movie :)

Video is now in Youtube in Full HD (1080p)
part I:
part II:

~ Wolfi

Friday, September 6, 2013

Where is Ilta..?

Great, we made it to the press and our story got published in the Sidecar Traveler -magazine. Or to be exact I got my story...

There is though twice mentioned a person called Ilta, but no words or pictures about how does this person travel. Is s/he(it) a mascot or my guardian angel? It seems like I'm going around the world alone with my three dogs and the SilberWolf...

Because of my curios nature of course I needed to find out where this Ilta really is! It wasn't an easy task at all! So well hidden...

...but finally I could find her! Looks pretty safe place to travel ;)

~ Wolfi

Alps - Vosges

In Munich I remembered that my tattooer, who has done almost all of my tattoos, lives at the moment in Davos. Because of one unfinished birdie, I wanted to contact him to see whether he would have time to finally finish it. Luckily he did and so we headed towards Davos via Rinnen, Berwang.

Haus Seebach at Rinnen.
We had a nice room at Haus Seebach, which is a very typical Tyrolian house. For our huge surprise we got there so far the best hotel breakfast of our trip! They had delicious fresh figs, nectarines, bananas, plums and a mango. Amazing! :D The surroundings were amazing as well. Beautiful vast forest with a lovely waterfall, where we had a long and pleasant walk in the evening.
First I thought this was a rubber toy, so still it was, but in the end it moved a bit. Really strange looking creature and so intensively black!
The only negative thing about the place was this graveyard right behind our room door :( Really creepy and so sad to look at!

Ötztaler Alpen, Austria.
Lago di Resia, Italy.
Lunch brake at Lago di Muta, Italy. Delicious watermelon for us and some cookies for girls :)
Ofenpass, Switzerland
Davos, Switzerland.

Good winter transport to carry beer in the Alps..? :D
Roadside beauty...
...and some more :)
Who is the biggest stinker? Excellent sign!

Plenty of poop bag-dispensers everywhere in Davos and the city really was clean from dog poo! Well done :)

Switzerland is very expensive country for budget travelers! After some heavy searching and some misunderstandings we finally got rather nice little apartment for two nights. The flat was totally a flashback from the seventies, with all the brown colours and funny furnitures :) So in the end I got inspired to do breakfast according to the theme... :D
Apple-plum-cinnamon "pudding".
...and I finally got my beautiful birdie and flowers finished :) Thanks Ile, you're the best!
I really love my birdie collection and it will definitely grow over time!
My photographing astronaut :D

Pretty soon after we left Davos Wolfi had a very unpleasant little accident. On one very tight mountain road he got squeezed by a camper van :( Because of the slow speed I could easily see what was about to happen and tried to wave the Italian guy to stop, but for some reason he just needed to push through and broke Wolfi's left sidecase! We got totally furious about this and I was especially worried about girls, because the sidecar was stuck between the camper and the mountain!

After some sweating and swearing on the road and causing some minor jam, we finally found a common language and managed to move to a parking lot nearby, where the swearing continued... The guy had really annoying attitude and was just constantly saying, that no big damage happened and that this sidecase would be easily fixed with some banging! He also tried to justify things by saying that he got much bigger damage to his camper - well, he lost a piece of plastic, which anyway is just a decoration! Wolfi almost lost his very expensive sidecase and the PC inside there and the exhaust pipe... Not just a little thing for us, especially when it's about our home!

We were really close to call a police to solve this thing (and I was close to do something else, but decided just to curse in Finnish...), but after some thoughts realized that most likely it wouldn't help anything. It would just delay our trip with several hours and anyway it was just our words against theirs. So we momentarily fixed the sidecase with a string and hoped it would last until Rudi...  

The entire case got twisted, bent and pushed towards the bike... 
The locks won't close properly anymore and there is now a gap inviting rain water in.
Exhaust pipe was very close to get badly damaged.

Only few kilometers after our problems we noticed a biker in the ditch and of course stopped to help the poor Swiss guy. Bike didn't look too well anymore, but at least the guy seemed to be fine. Hopefully only hurt self esteem...
It's not too easy to pull a bike from the ditch, takes many strong men to do it... ;)
After Davos came the best part of the trip. Gorgeous Swiss Alps with magnificent views and exciting serpentine roads! That day was great fun, but also a bit exhausting, since we drove 330km and mostly just heavy curves!
Oberalppass, Switzerland.
Furkapass 2431m, with a view to Grimselpass.
Grimselpass 2164m. Töff = motorbike in Swiss :D

From Switzerland we drove back to Germany for one night to have a shopping day at Freiburg. I'm totally addicted to my Vibram shoes and desperately needed a new pair, since the old ones are soon worn out.  We have been trying to find a shop that sells Vibrams almost ever since I got the first pair back in Berlin, but without too much success. Obviously the shoes haven't conquired too many countries yet. Well luckily we heard from Rudi's brother that there is one very good shop in Freiburg and it was anyway basically on our way! So I got a new pair which is better for trail running and I'm extremely happy about them :D We also found a great Alnatura-market and got plenty of organic goodies for the rest of the trip. For example delicious chocolate-rice-icecream and huge medjool dates, yummy! :P

Then we were good to go to the Vosges...
Jep, iso pallopää! (pakko kommentoida ennen kuin pikkusisko kerkee :D)
View to the Alps from the Vosges.
We stayed two nights at Soultzeren and we got to enjoy again very beautiful and hot weather. I think it was over +30! Vosges has very lovely forestry landscapes and we had again nice walk on hills, where we met a really funny sounding donkey and a young runaway bull. On top of the hill we also had a small karate training, which was a nice change to a normal walk. Wolfi's learning quite well ;)
My great new Vibram Spyridons, perfect for heavy terrain!
Some sort of chestnut tree? Beautiful anyway :)

Overall we had a very nice and interesting loop. Almost constantly beautiful sunshine and very warm days! I saw plenty of new places, but also some old familiar ones, and got again much better with the sharp curves.
Our track - ca. 2300km

Height profile of our track

~ Ilta

P.S. Today I will go alone for two weeks back to Kappeln (first via Gerolstein) to have some intensive karate trainings... Wolfi will stay with girls here at Rudi and hopefully finally has his vacation... :D