The study of body dynamics in traditional karate can go as deep as you'd like it to and exploring the subtleties found in the art can be a very addictive process. Indeed, exploring how you may best use positional advantage, move between stances efficiently, make use of natural strengths, exploit natural weaknesses and interact with an opponent to achieve the best results can prove a very seductive pursuit. So much so that we sometimes forget to keep at the forefront of our minds the fundamental requirement for simplicity in self-defence, with the real risk of 'pure function' creeping further and further away from our dojo training. As they say, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!
Percussive impact makes up Karate's primary strategy for dealing with an imminent physical threat to one's safety. If avoidance, escape or dissuasion are not valid options to pursue or have already been exhausted, then the order of the day would be to employ swift, aggressive and overwhelming ballistic strikes. either pre-emptive (ideally) or reactive, with the aim of switching off either the ability or the inclination for the opponent to continue posing a significant risk, thus facilitating the opportunity to make a safe escape.
During the performance of kata, it can become quite easy to fall into the trap of producing specific shapes simply for the sake of aesthetics. With standardisation across styles, plus the pressure for kata to become visually eccentric and pleasing for competition or gradings, many students who follow a modern-day approach may be conditioned to aspire to form first and then wonder at a later date why the kata they follow do not directly transfer into the functionality they may require for practical application. But of course, kata was never originally developed to visually impress.
"A kata is not fixed or immoveable. Like water, it is ever changing and fits itself to the shape of the vessel containing it. However, kata are not some kind of beautiful competitive dance, but a grand martial art of self-defence, which determines life and death." - Kenwa Mabuni
It's been a little while since I added to my blog and now that I'm finally starting to get back on track after returning from my last trip to Okinawa, I'll be looking add some more posts over the coming months to help correct this.
As most who follow my work will know, I like think of traditional karate as being the integration of three main components, which in contrast, differs significantly from the more modern-day 3K (kihon, kata, kumite) approach. These components are Kata (physical form), Ohyo (functional application) and Hojo Undo (supplementary training). Acting like a like a jigsaw puzzle, all three pieces must be present before the ‘whole picture’ can be seen and each component must be able to connect to the others in accordance with the main context and objectives of the art.
I'm very excited to announce that after the long wait and its very successful launch last weekend at The Martial Arts Expo in Coventry, my new book entitled, 'Naihanchi (Tekki) Kata: The Seed of Shuri Karate Vol. 1' is now available to purchase via the online store or my new dedicated website www.naihanchi-kata.com!
This is the first volume of a three part publication that looks at Naihanchi Kata in accordance with five distinct layers of analysis, presenting my own approach to the study of this fascinating form, which along with Sanchin Kata from the Naha-te lineage, represents the very bedrock of traditional karate.
Click HERE for more information, to read a free preview and to order your copy today!
My first acquaintance with Mark Jennings was back in May 2012 when he popped over to my stand at The Martial Arts Show in Birmingham to introduce himself. We had an interesting chat about the more practical aspects of karate and he happened to mention that he was working on the draft of his first book. Always happy to support aspiring writers, I offered to take a look at his manuscript and a couple of weeks later I received an email from Mark with his work attached.
Not long after this, I encountered a number of technological problems with my office PC that led me to lose a large number of emails contacts (including Mark's) that were waiting to be transferred over to my online mailing list. Taking on the project of building a brand new PC and then enlisting the help of a professional to salvage as much information from the old one, I eventually managed to recover the information I had 'lost'. On subsequent reply to Mark with what were now my belated comments, I found that his draft had already made great progress and was almost ready for publish!
Being relatively active on my website, blog and social media means that I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to network with fellow martial artists from all over the globe. I always enjoy corresponding with like-minded karate practitioners and of course, I am always grateful for their kind support.
One such karate practitioner is Garry Lever From the Shinsokai (Goju Ryu). We first made contact a couple of years ago and although we haven't yet met in the flesh (something we're working to resolve very soon), we've always maintained regular emails and messages. Garry was instrumental in helping me plan the itinerary for our Okinawa sightseeing trip when we were in Naha last year and shared with me in confidence some amazing locations of historical significance that I would have never have even known about otherwise!
A few weeks ago I received a unexpected package through the post from Garry. I opened it up to find a complementary pre-release copy of his new book, 'The Essence of Goju Ryu Vol II', which as with the first volume of the series, he has co-authored with his teacher Richard Barrett Sensei.
I was teaching a self-defence workshop the other day and the subject came up about the traditional concept of 'sen' (initiative) and how this can apply to modern day combatives.
Karate often suffers a bad name for being outdated and unrealistic. In my view, nothing could be further from the truth and when you look closer at the art's core principles, you will see material that is just as relevant now than it was years ago
It's not about 'what' you train, but about 'how' you train - Therefore, karate can only ever be as realistic as the mind of the person expressing it!
The Japanese style of Wado Ryu for instance emphasises the concept of 'sen' (initiative), as left by the founder, Hironori Ohtsuka, who was a highly distinguished master in both karate and ju-jutsu.
I love to train. There's rarely a day goes by that I'm away from the dojo and often the best part of training as a martial artist is the huge variance of methods you can apply. This can also be a downfall though if you do not manage your training effectively, since it can become quite difficult to 'fit it all in' over the course of each week.
Martial artists need to develop in many areas such as strength and power, endurance, flexibility, speed, balance core dynamics, structural stability, fast adaptation to change, sensitivity, mobility, conditioning, technique, mental clarity and focus. We're fortunate that some methods of training can tick multiple boxes for us, but you need to be constantly watchful in case what one day you call a 'supplementary' method starts to take over your whole schedule.
I began weight training many years ago and I really love the challenge. A number of years ago now I took the decision to become a qualified fitness instructor in order to ensure that I could confidently train and advise others in the correct way.
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!
About This Blog:
A growing collection of news, updates and random ramblings expressing my own personal opinions, which are of course no more or less important than yours! - Chris