Thursday, February 14, 2008


Arches are strong. Observe the cables of a suspension bridge, the arches under a Roman aquaduct, or the curve of a bow being pulled just before the release of an arrow.

Angles and straight lines are not as strong as arches. A tall straight tree will easily break from a strong wind.

When doing kata, cultivate the arches in your stance, in the position of your arms, in the motion of your whole body.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New Students

We've had several new students join the class recently. I just wanted to welcome you and say I'm glad you joined our class! You are helping to keep our art alive in Tallahassee!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Guest Post: Learning from Injury

This post comes from Donald, a green belt at our dojo. He wrote this a couple weeks before he had surgery on his toe. I thought it was good and wanted to share it. Donald is recovering from his foot surgery and back at class training once again after a short absence.

When things are going well, I have a tendency to take them for granted - whether it be my studies, my work, or my Karate. The same holds very true for my body. I just don't notice things when they work well, and when they don't I seem to be unable to remember how things were when I was well. Due to a recent injury, my ability to participate in Karate class has been limited. This is not a first, nor will it be the last - but it is the first time I have learned something about Karate from my injury, well, consciously anyway.

I have been injured several times in my Karate studies - mainly while taking another style. They weren't anyone's fault, things were just done improperly. I have broken toes, cracked ribs, and bruised a bone pretty badly, but I continued to attend class to at least watch and learn so
that I could practice harder when I got better. My current injury is to the big toe of my left foot, I can put very little pressure or torque on the toe without being in severe pain. At first, the most obvious repercussions occurred to me - keeping others from stepping on the toe, as well as keeping myself from bumping into things or pushing it the wrong way. As a result, I find myself paying more attention to my surroundings, being more cautious, thinking things through more and moving more gracefully to keep from bumping that toe against anyone or anything - all principles of good Karate. While at class tonight, I even had some principles from kata occur to me to be applied from this injury.

I have learned lately that Karate is not just taught or thought of on the mat or in the dojo, but is a way of life, of being. I have now also learned that Karate is not just something done while healthy, but is something that can be learned from our infirmities too. Just as my injured toe has taught me about weight distribution, each little tendon in my foot, and movement; so too can other ailments teach us about our Karate - be they temporary like broken bones, or more permanent like a weak knee or asthma.

Nonetheless, I look forward to being well again, so I can practice further what I have learned.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Kata We Practice - Naihanchi Shodan

At Tallahassee Karate Club we practice a number of empty-hand kata (forms). Kata are sets of pre-arranged self defense techniques combined with movement in a pattern. Kata have been practiced in Okinawa for hundreds of years as a method to transfer karate knowledge from teacher to student.

The first kata that a student learns in our Dojo is either Fukyugata Ichi or Naihanchi Shodan. If a student is brand new and has never done any kind of martial arts before, they start with Fukyugata Ichi. If they have any experience, Naihanchi is first.

Naihanchi Shodan is the first of 3 Naihanchi kata. The Naihanchi kata are very different than the other kata as their pattern is to move back and forth along a line instead of moving in multiple directions.

Naihanchi is a deep kata that teaches the student most of the principles they will need to be able to apply in all their other kata. By tucking the koshi and feeling the connection between the waist and the lats, the student can begin to learn to make power without relying on the turning motion inherent in other kata.

The Naihanchi stance, which looks like riding on a horse, builds a strong base and teaches the student to grip the floor with their feet. It is excellent for physical conditioning as it builds strong leg muscles.

We often practice Naihanchi very slowly, combined with circular hip and arm motions. To the outsider, this may look a little like Tai Chi and not karate. Practicing this way helps the student to analyze each movement in a critical way to understand where the power points occur, how to make a connection between the bottom half and the top half of their body, and how to improve their overall body dynamic. Then, when it is performed fast, with full power, the student can retain this wisdom in their performance and make power in all the right places.

Besides being an excellent vehicle for using the whole body to make power, Naihanchi is an intensely practical kata. There are so many obvious self defense techniques in Naihanchi that a practitioner could train in this kata exclusively for their entire karate life and never get bored. Straight on block and strike techniques are easy to find through a little analysis and grappling techniques appear easily with a little closer examination.

I hope you will find as much enjoyment in this kata as I have over the years!

Click to watch a video of Shinzato Sensei doing Naihanchi Shodan