The Chi-Ishi (strength or power stone) is most notably used in Goju Ryu (hard/soft style), as part of their hojo undo (supplementary training methods). However, the use of this tool may also be found in other Naha/Shuri/Tomari lineages of koryu karate, along with various other pieces of equipment, as an adjunct to kata and their application practices. Indeed, the term hojo undo is generically used to describe the holistic attribute training methods undertaken to enhance the ability for the body, minds and spirit to combatively express the choreography of karate kata. As such, even with a plethora of traditional and more contemporary tools available today, the unique design and qualities of the chi-ishi can be used to play a key role in building the karate body and it is for this reason that I continue to make use of it in my own training.
No more advanced than a stick with a weight attached to one end, the asymmetrical nature of the chi-ishi is what provides its most challenging asset. Even to manipulate the weight to an adequate level of control takes a high degree of body awareness, proprioception and core integration. But it is often the subtleties of such exercises, the things going on underneath the surface, which provide the most benefit. Simply swinging the tool around for the sake of being able to claim that you ‘practice hojo undo’ simply doesn’t do the chi-ishi any justice and even though there are other pieces of training equipment around that can provide similar attributes, the classic saying that ‘a poor craftsman will always blame his tools’ is true for everything you place in your hand. So how we understand the performance of hojo undo and in particular, how the exercises we repetitively undertake connect with our karate practice is of chief importance – not necessarily how many reps we can push out!
Over the past few weeks I've been posting short but regular 60-sec video blasts to my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts...
The idea behind this new project is to quickly share some of the stuff we get up to at the dojo, introduce a selection of the core concepts behind our approach to karate and hopefully, provide mobile friendly bite-size inspiration...all within the space of only one minute!
Hi everyone! It's been a couple of months since I added a blog post to the site (been working hard on my house extension), so I thought it was about time I rectified that.
I was up at 4am (yes, 4am!!) this morning, as our new dog figured that this would be an appropriate time to start barking. Nevertheless, not one to pass up an opportunity, my morning practice turned out to be very enjoyable. Indeed, there's something very 'pure' about practising karate early morning. And with the sun just beginning to rise outside, I took a quick picture of my 'friend'. At this point, the dog was fast asleep beside a chi-ishi...typical :-)
The makiwara I have installed in my garden dojo and the implement that has been my training partner (and teacher) for many years has a couple of adaptations to help add some versatility to my daily practice.
After switching between a leather and straw pad for a while, I decided one day to simply utilise both. The leather pad is wearing in nicely, so now feels much better to work with and the wrapped straw rope underneath offers a contrasting striking surface. In total, I usually use three striking surfaces during my session: the leather, the straw and the wood itself. For me, switching between these materials between sets gives a much better level of overall conditioning. I also add to my makiwara training some floor-based pressure and alignment exercises, but I will look to write a blog post about these in the near future.
Over the past few years within the health and fitness world, we have seen a boom in more functional and old-school methods that have in some ways, turned the whole industry on its head. No longer is it cool to lock yourself into a vertical chest press machine and crank up the pounds, but rather for those who are looking to gain more functional development for a particular sport or skill, then asymmetrical challenges, core blasters and dynamic full-body integration exercises are the order of the day.
As a traditional karate practitioner, seeing things develop in this way puts a huge smile on my face. What many people would consider as being cutting edge principles today is often nothing more than the re-birth of some of the most effective training tactics that were considered mainstream only a couple of lifetimes ago. In terms of karate, there are many connections between traditional supplementary training methods (hojo undo) and modern-day functional practices. Furthermore, in the spirit of constantly evolving the art, linking these to other influences from around the world can yield some fantastic benefits.
Yesterday, I had a great deal of fun (well, my kind of fun) trying out a multiple Tabata style workout with the use of my Bulgarian Bag and a good old-fashioned skipping rope. Not a difficult or highly complex workout, but it certainly got the heart, lungs and muscles fired up! Sometimes, simple is best, so I thought I'd share it here :-)
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.
To help bring in the Chinese New Year, I thought I'd share with you all a great workout that I like to perform on occasion, which features some high intensity 'Tabata' style intervals. The whole thing only takes around 20 minutes, so its quick, efficient, but very intense...You'll be working like a horse! :-)
A 'Tabata' interval uses an extremely effective 2:1 work/rest ratio, where you exert hard for 20 seconds and then take 10 seconds rest. This is repeated a total of 8 times, making each interval last around 4 minutes.
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.
Avid readers of my blog will recognise the name Brett Barrell from an earlier post back in January on traditional conditioning and iron palm training. He specialises in this field and has developed quite a level of skill.
Well, he's just uploaded a new YouTube video to personally thank a number of his keen supporters and friends etc who love martial arts (see below). I'm humbled to have found out that he added my name to this list and mentions me at around 10m26s.
He makes the comment that "for whatever reason, Chris decided to include me in his blog". Well, Brett the reason is simple my friend. I think you're a genuine martial artist who is self-motivated to continually expand without resting on your laurels, I really enjoy your videos and I think that your contributions provide a fine inspiration for others to follow.
Thanks for the kind mention Brett and keep up the good work!
Well I seem to be going video crazy lately!
Here's another video I put together on Hojo Undo. Last week I set up the camera and filmed some of my usual morning conditioning routine. I edited the clips together, added an 'old film' filter and cut in some traditional Japanese music to give it a more authentic feel. I had lots of fun making this and I hope you enjoy it.
Even though this kind of training is considered by many to be 'old-school' and 'out-dated', it is still in my view just as relevant now as it was when it was first developed. Of course, the aim of the training is not to 'body build' or 'weight train', but instead to develop and enhance the specific functional attributes associated with the effective application of traditional karate kata. Therefore, it helps put into place what is an essential piece of the karate jigsaw puzzle!
Over the past few weeks, I've had quite a few emails and questions regarding my own approach to physical training and how this connects to my traditional karate practice. So I thought that I would record a short video clip to share a particular kettlebell combination exercise that I like, especially for those times when I haven't got much time to train - hope you enjoy :-)
This workout combines the double hip clean, snatch, squat and press into one exercise and the idea is to alternate between arms for the allotted period without setting the weight down. Although this may seem a bit boring, it is actually quite challenging and enjoyable to focus on the quality of performance, attempting to make each rep identical to the last.
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.
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!
Last week I uploaded an article to the site that I'd wrote about makiwara training, which was originally published in Combat Magazine in early 2012...
To supplement this piece, I also added a video to my new YouTube channel that showed a some clips of my personal hand conditioning routine...
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.