Real world application of the somewhat formalised movement pathways in karate kata for percussive impact require the ability to maximise function away from the clear and uninterrupted line of standard performance. Specifically, strikes need to be able to work under pressure, at varying ranges, with modifications on the fly and from uncomfortable positions. This can never be achieved through repetition in thin air or even against a makiwara, heavy bag or focus mitt for instance unless of course such levels of pressure, range, modification and restriction are thoroughly explored and incorporated.
For self-protection, Hick's Law suggests that it pays to have a single 'go-to' striking technique that's been comprehensively honed to provide a high level of confidence in its ability to serve you well should it ever need to be relied upon. However, repetitively generating a powerful palm strike for instance against a heavy bag does not equate to a technique that's been 'comprehensively honed'. Here are a few ideas to try during training to help check if your strikes are really as functional as you need them to be.
Solo-Training for Percussive Impact
In response to the recent social distancing restrictions imposed on dojo practices due to the pandemic, I set to work on developing a comprehensive solo-focus mitt training system called 'Solo-Strike'. The initial goal was to use solo-strike as a supplementary method for my students to bridge the gap until we were able to resume contact training once again. However, it became very obvious from the onset that contextually driven solo-focus mitt training can be an extremely valuable practice for any karate-ka to add to their regime.
Although a responsive training partner may be the ideal, there's no reason why you can't still make practical progress in your striking ability through solo training. Here's how you can make use of solo-strike drills using some of the ideas above. All you need is a single focus mitt and a dose of imagination...
We have to always keep in mind that performing a powerful 'looking' technique inside of a formal kata sequence, fully warmed up, in a nice dojo and without external threat or resistance of any kind is a world away from trying to hit hard a moving target when your safety (or the safety of a loved one) depends on it, within a stressful escalating situation, in a confined space, uneven terrain or badly lit area and against a fully resisting antagonist in your face.
Functional striking is less about the perfectly honed kata execution or challenging board break, but rather, about being able to generate sufficient and consistent impact from within restriction, employing modifications adapted on the fly and launched from challenging/compromised positions.
Functional striking is arguably the single most important (and clinical) physical protection strategy you need for self-protection. So investing time in your ability to hit hard, along with ingraining pragmatic tactics to help maximise the probability of success is in my opinion, a valuable investment indeed!
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I hope this brief blog post has provided some inspiration and ideas to help benefit your training - thanks for reading, stay safe and best wishes 🙏