A few days ago I received a phone call from Lee Taylor. Apart from us swapping a few emails, this was the first time we chatted together and it was evident after the first five minutes (the call then went on for almost an hour) that we had a great deal in common with regards to our approach to karate. I mentioned to Lee that I was looking to start conducting some product reviews as part of my website developments and asked whether he would like his new book entitled 'Heian/Pinan Kata & Bunkai: The Fundamentals' to be one of the first. A couple of days later, I received through the post a copy of the book from Lee with a cover note inviting my honest review and opinion. So here goes...
Many martial arts use music as a basis for their application of movement and technique. Look at the traditional fights of Muay Thai or the fascinating Brazilian art of Capoera for some fine examples of this.
Music, or more specifically the rhythm and timing associated with it has strong connections with all martial arts, including karate. Whether you twang a string on a guitar, whack a snare drum, blow down the end of a trumpet, hit the keys on a piano or indeed strike the opponent - it's all based on the universal application of rhythm and timing.
All beautiful music is made up of 12 fundamental notes. However it is not the notes themselves that makes each song unique, but the strategic placement of gaps, transitions and varying emphasis. Notes without gaps is simply noise!
A number of people have asked me questions lately relating to why traditional karate practitioners spend time conditioning their forearms. It is commonly suggested that this is to facilitate more effective blocks, but considering the fact that in close range self-defence the concept of blocking in any form is seriously flawed (due to the lack of ability to react in time), there is in fact a much more pragmatic reason as to why forearm conditioning is so vital.
First of all, the forearms make up a primary weapon in karate. It is extensively used in Naihanchi Kata and if you think about the fundamental techniques practiced in the first few months of training then you will see that the vast majority use the forearms as a point of contact to issue force. In fact, the four basic receiving techniques of (1) age-uke, (2) soto-uke, (3) uchi-uke and (4) gedan-barai together prescribe the principle gross motor movements with the upper limbs: up, down, inside and outside. The only movements not covered are thrusting out from and in towards the body, but I'm sure you'll agree that tsuki covers that pretty well!
Chris Denwood has been studying martial arts since childhood and specialises in the practical application of karate's traditional principles for civilian self-defence, personal development, life integration and discovery.