Archive: Post-training wrap-up

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu/MySpace
Original post date: 1 February, 2007

Training last night was awesome. As opposed to some of the prior classes we’ve had lately, last night’s session was really full on, with lots of drills, running, crunches, all the good stuff. We spent a lot of time on training ours kicking, which is really good, because it’s been a while since we worked hard on them.

In addition to all the usual gear, one of the instructors proceeded to take individuals aside and running them through their current kata their training in. For those unaware of what kata is, to quote Wikipedia:

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Kata (literally: “form”) is a Japanese word describing detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. Kata are used in many traditional Japanese arts such as theater forms like kabuki and schools of tea ceremony (chado), but are most commonly known for the presence in the martial arts. Kata are used by most traditional Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, such as aikido, iaido, jodo, judo, jujutsu, kendo and karate. Other arts such as t’ai chi ch’uan and taekwondo feature the same kind of training, but use the respective Chinese and Korean words instead.

The most popular image associated with kata is that of a karate practitioner performing a series of punches and kicks in the air. The kata are executed as a specified series of approximately 20 to 70 moves, generally with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form. There are perhaps 100 kata across the various forms of karate, each with many minor variations. The number of moves in a kata may be referred to in the name of the kata, e.g., Gojushiho, which means “54 steps.” The number of moves may also have links with Buddhist spirituality. The number 108 is significant in Buddhism, and kata with 54, 36, or 27 moves (divisors of 108) are common. The practitioner is generally counselled to visualize the enemy attacks, and his or her responses, as actually occurring, and karateka are often told to “read” a kata, to explain the imagined events. Source

Anywho, Sensei K went through Saifa with me a few times and helped me get the opening forms really solid and focused, so I don’t feel anywhere near as sloppy as I have been while working on it. But the really awesome thing that happened last night was a technique he demonstrated that involves using your upper body to control your hips and legs.

I’m not sure if this will make sense, but I’ll try to describe it anyhows – by quickly drawing your arm back to your hip (as if you were preparing to do a normal punch), you can generate enough energy to quickly bring your front leg back and turn your hips so that you’re standing the usual 45-degree angle to your opponent, left side forward. This is useful in that you can use this energy to imediately throw your other hand (i.e. the one that hasn’t been retracted to your hip) as either a jab or an outside hooking block very fast. The trick of course is learning how to control this energy to avoid swinging your hips too far, too fast to throw you off-balance, which for me is going to be my task here.

Okay, so that established, why is this discovery so important? Well, because I lack a foot/ankle/calf/knee on my left leg, I have a much reduced capacity to utilise my hips and abdomen to draw power from in karate; as any martial artist knows, utilising your legs, hips, waist and stomach muscles are what generates the incredible power behind a great deal of attacks, if not possibly all of them. Because I lack an essential component in this makeup, by learning to use my upper body to compensate for this means I now have the potential for drawing out greater power in my strikes and enable me to move and counter much faster than I could previously have achieved. There is of course going to be a long learning process in order to learn to use my body thus, but I’m confident this will mark an important point in developing greater prociency in my karate.

It’s pretty logical when you think about it, though – I use my upper body a lot to ease the stress on my right leg in every day life – I’ll use my arms instinctively when going up or down stairs, when standing up from the floor, I’ll do as much work as possible with my arms to move my weight, and probably stacks of other stuff I can’t pick out that I do simply as instinct.

So, last night was definitely enlightening, as hyperbolic as that sounds, and I’m looking forward to refining the technique over time, especially when using it in kumite (sparring) and learning how to utilise it in my standard forms and kata.

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