Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Haven't Posted in a Very Long Time

It's been over a year since the last time I posted anything here. At the Dojo we've mostly been working on relaxing and re-engineering our koshi principles to be in line with the way Shinzato Sensei is training now.

As usual, most training is centered around Naihanchi and the ideas therein.  It's a lot of work, and there are no quick results.

I have personally been spending a lot of time working on Shirotaru no Kun.  It's a very difficult, but exciting Bo kata.

Our class attendance is at an all time low as we near the 11 year mark, and I wonder if we have reached a plateau, if classes will pick back up in the new year, or if we should take it as a sign that it's time to move on...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Progress on Naihanchi

I've been working on #Naihanchi a lot lately, trying to incorporate Sensei's relaxed power principles into my routine.  It's always hard to break old habits and do things a different way, but I usually learn something new in the process.

Here's a video clip from 2006 doing Naihanchi when our Dojo was on Orange Avenue.

Naihanchi Shodan 2006 - Orange Avenue Dojo

When I watch this now, I can see that I was able to generate pretty good power in my techniques, and they were well connected to the movement of my koshi, but I see a lot of lateral movement in my knees and a lack of connection of my elbows to my koshi.

Fast forward a few years and here I am, doing Naihanchi again...this time in our new Dojo on Capital Circle NW.

Naihanchi Shodan Jan 2010 - Capital Circle NW Dojo

This one is a little different, but still lateral knee movement.

Since about Dec. 2010, I've been working to change a number of body dynamics.  Here is a clip from 2014.

Naihanchi Shodan 2014

I think this one demonstrates pretty good connection, speed and power.  It seems to flow well.  It's not very relaxed though. I can see the tension in my shoulders and I was definitely tucking my koshi and squeezing my lats.

Here are a couple I took last night.  The first one is slow, focusing on relaxing everything and extending my technique from the connection between my elbow and my koshi.  The second one is the same idea only faster and throwing my technique off my koshi from the connection.

Naihanchi Shodan - April 2014 - Slow/Relaxed

Naihanchi Shodan - April 2014 - Faster/Relaxed

Needless to say, it's not where I want it to be yet.  There's a little too much hip rotation, instead of making that figure-8 koshi motion more internal.  There's still a little lateral knee movement, too.  I will continue to work, but I think it's a long way from 2006. 

If I can find some video from long ago, I might post that to show how my Naihanchi looked in say, 1983-1997.  That might take a while to dig up...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Learning to Relax

For the last several years, I've been focusing on trying to do karate in a much more relaxed fashion.

For years I practiced to try to make a very fast and powerful technique by analyzing various body dynamics and ways to use my koshi (the area surrounding my pelvic girdle) to augment my power.  This process was very involved and complex and it took years for me to get some understanding of it.  I must say that I never really mastered it to the degree of satisfaction I would like.

Fortunately, in 2010, one of our fellow Kishaba Juku practitioners made the journey to Okinawa again to train with Shinzato Sensei, and like those old Chinese Envoys who took the Quan to Loochoo (Ryukyu) hundreds of years ago, he brought back information on Sensei's latest advancements in his study of Karate.

To say these new ideas (principles) were revolutionary for me would be an understatement, because I have been working on them ever since and not making the kind of progress I would like.  They are just a few principles, but they have had the effect of turning my karate training on its head, and really making me rethink how I train.  They include:
  • 50/50 stances (all stances derived from naihanchi)
  • Maintaining the centerline
  • Throwing the elbow off the koshi
  • Breaking balance/Dropping
  • Figure 8 koshi
  • Relaxing!
The first 5 are what I initially took away from our Okinawan Envoy's journey, but the 6th one, relaxing, is what really is at the core of all the other 5.

I will probably spend some time talking about the first 5 at length in other posts, but in this post I'd like to focus on the 6th one, which, if taken in order of importance, should really be the 1st one.  

Anyway, here goes...

What does it mean to be relaxed in karate?

As karateka, we seem to constantly pursue making a more powerful and faster technique.  We want to be able to hit the heavy bag hard with a technique that penetrates.  We also want that technique to get to our target fast.  Unfortunately, doing this can have a tendency to develop tenseness in our technique. We tend to focus on using the muscles to make the technique.  We can get more speed and power by coordinating the technique with the rotation (and counter-rotation) of our hips, but if we are tense throughout the motion, the technique is held back by that tension.  Also, if we use only the muscles, we can only get so fast and powerful.

To really make power and speed, we have to relax.  It seems so counter-intuitive, but relaxing is the key.  All muscles have to stay relaxed throughout the motion, and the only tension should occur at the point of contact.  In that split second all the power of your body combines in that one striking point.  It's like Mr. Miyagi says in Karate Kid, "power of whole body, one inch..."

Sounds simple enough, right?  It's not.  Before you can find the way to make tension at the right moment, first you have to learn to relax.  Trying to relax throughout the performance of a kata is a very difficult thing.  There is a problem with relaxing, though. You have to learn to relax without compromising body structure. This is where the other 5 principles I list above come in.  But that will be the topic of another discussion.

For now, just relax.

Relax the knees. Feel bouncy.
Relax the koshi. Don't squeeze.
Relax the back.
Relax the lats.
Relax the shoulders.
Relax the neck.
Relax the arms.
Relax the hands. Don't squeeze them tight.
Relax your breathing.
Relax your mind.
Now make your first move in the kata...

Begin it relaxed. Stay relaxed as you move through. End the movement relaxed.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

100 Kata for Karate Day 2014

On Friday, October 24th (25th in Okinawa), we practiced Naihanchi Kata for 100 times.  We did this to celebrate karate day, simultaneously with about 5000 karate practitioners worldwide!  In Okinawa, they did their kata in front of a castle at 6:00 AM.  We did ours in the dojo.

You can read more about the event here.

We did all three Naihanchi kata in sets of 10 each, and in a variety of ways.  It's was a great workout, and maybe we should try to do it once a month.

You can watch a playlist of our event here.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

April - Tonfa and Pinan Month

This year, like last year, we are going to try to dedicate each month to focus our training on some specific things. For April we picked Tonfa and the 5 Pinan Kata.

Tonfa is something we usually neglect in our training, so it was good to spend a whole month on it.  In our kata syllabus, we train in 2 different Tonfa kata: The original one I learned years ago from Sensei Harless, which we call "Tonfa 1", and another, more dynamic one I also learned from Sensei Harless, which we call, appropriately, "Tonfa 2".  These kata probably have official names, but I don't know what they are.

For warm-ups we focused on using the tonfa to supplement our normal stretching, loosening, blocking, striking, kicking routine.  I think it was a good addition.

Tonfa 1 introduces the swinging movements inherent in the use of tonfa. Tonfa 2 takes the swinging movements to higher level and adds very dynamic movement and footwork.

It had actually been a long time since I had practiced the Tonfa 2 kata, so I had to break out some old video footage to make sure I could remember it well enough to teach it.  No worries, though.  We've got it down now, so we'll just have to keep training on it so we don't forget it.  In addition to the two tonfa kata, we also practiced some Tonfa vs. Bo kumite.  It's good to practice weapon vs. weapon to get a feel for the distance and power required for actual usage.  It is an exercise that requires a lot of control so no one gets hurt, but it's very valuable.

We also practiced the 5 Pinan kata extensively in April.  We are currently focusing very heavily on maintaining relaxation throughout each kata, and only making tension at the part where the technique connects. Also, we're working on keeping our elbows connected to our koshi, throwing the technique off the hip, maintaining a 50/50-modified naihanchi stance throughout the kata, and dropping slightly as the technique occurs.  It's a lot of stuff to work on, but worth the exploration!

We worked on numerous applications for the Pinan kata including basic block and strike techniques, some grappling and throwing ideas, and defense against knife and stick weapons.

In May we will be focusing on Nunchaku and Naihanchi.  Check back later for an update!