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.
It stands to reason that to perform well in karate, we need to train the body how it is designed to work...that is, as an integrated unit. Therefore, spending too much time isolating muscle groups or movement patterns is not only unnatural, but it can actually cause your body to develop bad habits and grow to unlearn the important body integrations needed for effective application of the art.
The term 'functional collaborative effect' is used to describe the result of training exercises, methods and routines that aim to develop a set of attributes that when combined together, allow specific skills to be performed at more advanced levels. There are generally two ways in which this goal may be achieved and both of these are prevalent (or indeed, should be prevalent) in the practice of karate.
The first way of producing a functional collaborative effect is to challenge the body, mind and spirit through multiple pathways during a single routine. This added pressure and stimulus causes the body to adapt further so that when going back to more 'standard' exercises, it becomes a much easier task. Here are a couple of examples of how this may work...
The second way of producing a functional collaborative effect is to consider the integrated attributes required to perform a task and then conducting a programme that challenges these multiple areas. As before, here are a couple of examples of how this idea may be applied...
Studied correctly and in line with it's traditional aims, the art of karate could be viewed as a comprehensive method of developing a functional collaborative effect and it's really up to the practitioner to be mindful of this requirement and how essential it is to their overall advancement. As I always preach to my students, it is not what you train that's important, but HOW you train it. And karate, like any other functional pursuit of the human body, will only ever become as deep as those individuals who study it!
Thanks for reading and best wishes,
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.