Saturday, October 20, 2012

Short Punch

It's important to learn to be able to make power from a short distance.  This is my attempt to demonstrate this through a short punch.   I'm certainly no Bruce Lee :)

Yoko Geri

Another short video for my students to reference.  This is yoko geri (side kick) performed in a thrusting manner. This is a little different than we normally practice in class as we tend to do side snap kick.

Mae Geri

This short video is of mae geri (front kick).  I am exaggerating the thrust at the end quite a bit and this is probably not how you would want to always practice it as this can compromise your balance and ability to recover quickly from the technique.


This is a short video of myself doing Uraken (backlist) technique.  I regret it's not as good as I would like for video demonstration purposes, but I diid want to put it on here for the benefit of my students.

There are several different ways that we normally practice uraken. In this performance, I am demonstrating from a position similar to the first move in Naihanchi Nidan, and the strike goes out sideways, coordinated with the koshi motion. The hand should stay relaxed until contact, then snap into the target. As the koshi returns so should the first.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Asian Festival Demo

This video is from the Asian Festival on Saturday.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Practicing Whole Kata vs. Parts

"The sum of the parts is greater than the whole."

"The journey is more important than the destination."

I'm sure you've heard phrases like this before.

These phrases sound very philosophical and esoteric, but in reality, they are very practical advice...and, one of the keys to good karate!

As karateka, we all train tirelessly to learn the patterns of kata.  Over the years, we learn many kata. Some styles have as many as 50 kata in their syllabus! That's a lot of kata to remember and practice.

In reality, maybe a person only needs to master one or two kata in order to become great at Karate.

Mastery of anything takes years of repetition. Not just mindless repetition, but mindful repetition.  It takes introspection, experimentation, and modification.

Just doing a whole kata over and over won't necessarily get you to mastery of the thing.  A better way is to look at the individual techniques and combinations of techniques including the connecting movement. 

Practice the individual movements of your kata as if under a microscope. Examine the body dynamics of the entire range of motion. Examine the positioning of each body part at each inch or even millimeter of movement.  Examine the motion in whole and then look at the individual parts. Think about your breathing. How is it connected to the motion?  Think about your muscles. When are they compressed and when do they expand?  Think about your bones. How and when do they align? Are they working in coordination with the muscles and tendons?  Are your top and bottom parts of your body connected and working in unison?  Do you make power at the right time? It's hard to really examine the kata in this way when you perform it from start to finish.  It is better to examine and repeat, examine and repeat, each individual technique or combination of techniques. In this way, you can make real progress.

Sometimes you have to try things many different ways in order to understand the best way that works for you.  There are many ways to experiment with kata.  You can change the rhythm, change the count, combine techniques, vary the speed, etc.  It's also good to experiment with how the kata techniques and combinations of techniques could be used for practical self defense.  Experiment with various ways to block, parry, strike, grapple, throw, etc. Think of the obvious strike as a possible block. Think of the obvious block as a possible strike. Think about what the other hand is doing. Think about how to reposition yourself in relationship to the opponent. It is hard to experiment when you do the whole kata, but much easier to do when you break it down into individual techniques or combinations of techniques.

Sometimes it may be necessary to change or even add a stance, movement, or technique, in order to understand how to make the kata work for you. Kata, as they are passed down and transmitted are merely a framework. If you examine the various styles of karate, you can see that modification has occurred many times as karate masters have inserted their own ideas into the kata.  The same kata may look very different from style to style or even teacher to teacher.  This is because kata were not meant to be static. Sometimes modification is necessary to understand a specific principle. For instance, it may be easier to figure out how to get the right koshi compression at the right time, if both feet are flat in kosa dachi. It may be easier to feel the connection between two individual moves in the kata by adding an intermediate technique.  Haphazard modification is not recommended, but occasional modification derived from introspection and experimentation may help you understand the kata and its underlying principles better.

It is important to note that practicing this way is more for experienced students than for beginners. As beginners, it's important to learn the stances, the patterns, how to use both sides of the body, how to coordinate hands and feet, etc.  After you are comfortable with the basics, then it's good to begin this kind of training in earnest.  Depending on your particular style or teacher, this kind of training may be something you need to do on your own, outside of class.  Also, be careful to remember to do things the way your Sensei wants you to do them when you are in class.  Your Sensei has very specific ideas about how you should train, and you should follow their example and instruction in class.  You may be fortunate to have a Sensei that incorporates this kind of training in your curriculum. If so, you are well on your way!

As a final word, remember: "If you keep one eye on the destination, you only have one eye left to find the way!" Throw yourself into your training, wholeheartedly. Be introspective. Experiment. Modify when necessary. Make the kata your own and remember you can probably only master one or two kata in your lifetime.  Choose those kata well, and practice them often.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Guest post: September 22 Special Training With Sensei Paris Janos

Thanks to Eli Jones for this guest post:

September 22, 2012 – It was a sunny Saturday in Tallahassee, the perfect day for a special training. Being as class was to begin at one o’clock, I decided to get there about twenty minutes early to have plenty of time for a pre-training warm-up, and to go over any incidental changes to the day’s layout – if there were to be any. I arrived at the dojo to find instructors Bill Lucas and Paris Janos’s vehicles already there, and, of course, Lucas and Janos sensei already inside prepping for the three-hour event.

As other karateka began trickling in, Janos sensei took the opportunity to visit with longtime students of the Tallahassee Karate Club, and meet with those who are relatively new to the style. For those who have never had the pleasure of meeting Janos sensei – or training with him for that matter – it took no time at all to realize that his classes are not only informative … they’re an experience. Newcomers got to see, firsthand, the senior instructor’s propensity for simplifying seemingly complex subject matter, ability to convert any kata-based technique into practical application, and legendary brand of humor that is so quick it can only be rivaled by his technique.

As soon as the group was fully present, Janos sensei wasted no time in having the class form a circle, bow in with mokuso, and get straight to warming up with kata. We began with Naihanchi Shodan and consistently followed with each successive kata until finishing with Chinto. After warm-up, Janos sensei began discussing Naihanchi Shodan, which comprises techniques that serve as the basis of not only Kishaba Juku, but karate as a whole.

With regard to the lower portion of one’s body, he stressed the need to relax, drop down in each stance, and break balance while maintaining the body’s centerline. At the completion of each movement, one can then check to see if they’re in the correct position by simply looking to the side with head over shoulder; this helps the upper chest area remain open, establishes the centerline, and serves as a method of checking one’s position without compromising the technique by glancing downward. In discussing hand movement, Janos sensei explained how making large circles with the arms for Naihanchi-oriented chudan and chuden-gedan techniques are unnecessary. In order to cut down on superfluous movement, he had everyone hold a hand over their head at the centerline, and then allow the arm to drop. This was followed by an explanation that each block should be equally relaxed and follow a similar trajectory during execution. In terms of striking, Janos sensei focused on Naihanchi Shodan’s uraken (backhand) technique by showing everyone how to project with a whip-like motion. This is accomplished by relaxing, striking outward, and dropping down into one’s stance simultaneously. In doing this, one is able to quickly strike and draw the technique back into its original, recoiled position, granting the karateka the ability to continually execute the uraken over and over.

As Janos sensei covered each technique, he had everyone pair up and begin application. Throughout the day, techniques were extracted from the first two Naihanchi kata, two of the Pinan kata – Shodan and Yondan specifically – and Rohai. Focal points included – as noted earlier – dropping while striking, maintaining centerline and shifting for more efficient footwork, recoiling to perpetuate the striking process, and using koshi-mechanics to minimize energy expenditure.

Janos sensei went from pair to pair monitoring everyone’s progress, and adding very valuable input where needed. Among the more colorful points illustrated was the importance of relaxation, demonstrated through a (pretend) drunken performance of staggering footwork, flailing hand and arm movements, and shifting body weight into KJT’s very own David Higgins – who didn’t seem to know whether he should laugh, block, or move out of the way. In contrast, Janos sensei gave the dojo an intense performance of Fukyugata Ichi where he appeared to be tightening every muscle in his body, striking with full force, and projecting a kiai with such ferocity that a wild animal would likely cut and run. Afterward, he explained the pointlessness of training this way, going on to ask, “What’s wrong with doing kata slowly?” While everyone racked their brains to come up with an answer, he exclaimed, “Nothing!” Upon further explanation, Janos sensei noted that practicing slowly allows karateka to execute techniques properly, and sense the muscles actually being used. By doing this, one can learn to eliminate unnecessary muscle movement and gain a more refined, energy-efficient application. Other application points were made through occasional demonstrations putting Lucas sensei in the role of “demo dummy;” a part that requires a fair amount of endurance for the full contact examples provided by the senior instructor.

After roughly two hours of training – presumably covering the key points of the day’s workout – Janos sensei asked, “Well, what do you guys want to know?” I think I heard two people whisper “everything” under their breaths; I know I was certainly thinking it. Although most of us didn’t seem to know where to start, Dave, on the other hand, seemed to know exactly where to start. He had very good and specific questions with one of the more memorable being about the opening technique of Naihanchi Nidan. What I had come to think of as breaking a grip from behind quickly evolved into an aggressive uraken-seiken-empi uchi (backhand, forehand, elbow strike), utilizing koshi motion to ground the opponent in a compromised position. Similar questions and techniques followed.

Once everything was comfortably wrapped up, Lucas sensei had the group bow out and change into formal attire (full gi) for the following promotion demo; the demonstrations began with Frank Carson who was testing for rokyu (sixth kyu). He started with a strong demonstration of kihon (basics), followed by a solid series of kata including Naihanchi Shodan and both Fukyugata. Afterward, Dave entered the floor to begin testing for ikkyu (first kyu); his first demo set included kihon, both Naihanchi kata, Fukyugata Ni, and Pinan Shodan. This was followed by the second set of demonstrations which included the three Pinan kata and Shuji no Kun (Yamani Ryu Bojutsu) for Frank, while Dave performed Tomari no Passai, Chinto, Ryubi no Kun (Yamani Ryu Bojutsu), and Kihon Sai (traditional Kobudo).

The third set of demonstrations placed senior student Joey Gordon with Frank in a performance of level three Yakusoku Kumite, while I joined Dave to perform various bunkai extracted from Naihanchi kata. Other demonstrations included a performance of Rohai by Joey and a performance of Sakugawa no Kun (Yamani Ryu Bojutsu) by yours truly. The promotion demonstration concluded with a brief round of sticky hands kumite, and, of course, promotions.

After an incredible day of training, Lucas presented Janos sensei with a bo made of white ash as a thank you for his time and willingness in sharing such invaluable knowledge with our dojo. Following the presentation, the group took Janos sensei out for refreshments before his trip back to Panama City. All in all, it was a truly enjoyable and enlightening Saturday.

- Eli Jones