Saturday, June 30, 2012


Aiko San used to often tell me: "when you find your own distance no one can touch you".
I ponder a lot on this, I knew that if Aiko san repeats it so much it must be crucial, when she talked about karate even Sensei Nishiyama knew there was always substance there.

Many people are not considering the distance and rush into engaging with the opponent, in karate but even more so in MMA fights,. When one does not consider maai (effective distance) the fight depends on speed, power and luck, and sometimes you randomly will get hit even if you are faster and stronger.
If you control the distance and rhythm there should be no randomness, you will be able to avoid the opponent range and hit them in the proper timing.

In some Tai Chi book I read something that influence my outlook on distance a lot: "always make the opponent feel as if he is too far to attack, yet too close to escape".
That is beautiful but need a lot of practice, we must bring those important concepts to life, through training and self reflection, otherwise the concepts will stay theory.

Always try to understand your own technique distance, your opponent distance and use the interaction of these distances as base of your strategy.
In basic distance I make my own territory, where I know that I can hit the opponent with one foot action and I can avoid his/her attack if I move slightly out.
Than we, of course, can change strategy and distance, depend on my skill level comparing to opponent, opponent tall or short, how explosive he is, and how I read opponent's intentions.

The idea again is to never fight by power, catch the opponent at the time and space they cannot use their power.
Any strong technique is useless if maai is not used effectively.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Sensei Nishiyama used to tell us that often when we spar: "Once you go, give everything, don't stop till finish".
I think that because we focus so much on finishing technique (todome), karate people have tendency to stop after one technique, but it is not always possible to catch the opponent with one action.
Sometimes I will do one technique to close the distance without giving space for counter, in order to make the right distance for finish technique, and sometimes I will execute the first technique to create reaction from the opponent, and to open the door for finish technique using his reaction to my first attack.
Here I am mostly referring to the case that you have the intention to make todome (finish technique), you give everything and either miss or the opponent blocks or shift. The fact that you give everything, should not limit your ability to transition smoothly and powerfully to next technique, on the contrary, because you give everything mentally, your mind should be empty and therefore free to smoothly, without delay, without recalculation, make next action as reaction to the opponent’s reaction to you.
Because you give everything physically, you have more pressure to floor, and the reaction of this pressure plus the momentum from previous technique, should be used to next technique, that is if you don’t cut the breath and momentum.

Point is don’t recalculate between techniques, you will miss the chance; use your breath to make adjustments once you start your attack, not your brain.

Many times we miss the first attack and the opponent is still behind rhythm, if we stop, or make extra action between, or recalculate, the opponent will recover and maybe even have space for counterattack.

We should know to distinguish between times that we must continue attack, or if the chance is not big enough, keep the pressure on the opponent to create chance, or if we are in same rhythm with opponent just keep Zanshin to not give chance for opponent counter.

Once you go, give everything (Ho shin), don’t stop until finish.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

karate competition and judging

Look inside and not to the outside, of course, the outside form should be correct, but people have different body types, and the point is not to judge how fancy and beautiful but rather how effectively one uses their bodies, how the whole body cooperates into one purpose, using ground reaction, proper body action and muscle action, and transferring this energy to the technique.
Judges should learn to see how well ones uses whole body snap, make strong and proper kime, pressure to floor and sharp total body contraction to line of technique.

In kata, one should project strong feeling and intention, but not make a show out of it, the purpose is knock down technique, so tensing the face and make all kind of expressions is not productive, keep the intention coming from your center.

Sensei Nishiyama warned me against over motion in technique, which is common in sport karate and is the opposite of budo principles. Kata should be like kumite, without spaces for the opponent to attack, without disconnections, which make the technique weak. Actually, our goal is to remove unnecessary movement, make more pure efficient technique.

Sensei Nishiyama told me that some people are great actors; they have good sense of movement and can imitate very well, but don’t have the inside.
Sometimes I will see a kata that look pretty, the person is busy thinking of what he looks like rather than have feeling of application. This kind of kata usually gets high score in our competition, it should not.
Sensei Nishiyama always told me: “don’t look inside, look outside to opponent” (when doing kata).

If you put a mask on Master Funakoshi or Master Nishiyama and put them in competition, they will probably receive the lowest score, since their movement is very simple, yet the quality of their movement is close to perfection.

I remember that once a sport scientist attached all kinds of wires to Sensei Nishiyama, and measured his efficiency in movement with some specialized software that is used to give feedback to athletes, he could not find any flows in Sensei Nishiyama’s techniques.

I wonder if it is possible to train judges to see deep as it is possible to train gymnastics judges. I believe that judges have to train properly first, they have to be there first, therefore every judges seminar should be accompanied by actual training digesting principles of technique, and also some discussions and constructive reflection on how one make decisions.

Scoring Ippon techniques should have 3 components, must be todome waza (finish technique), proper timing and proper distance, and if any of those elements is lacking slightly it can be wazari.
For todome waza total momentum has to go through target, must be pressure to floor at impact and must be zanshin, keeping mind, awareness of the opponent and situation, not giving chance after kime.
Snap back technique cannot score since energy is divided in two directions and it is qio. If no pressure no score, since only momentum is used, and no acceleration by reaction from floor.

Judges must be trained to see when the momentum stops, when the distance is controlled by technique arm or leg, which stops the momentum. The breath and feet should control the distance.
This can only be understood by actual training, and than one can judge.
Learning the procedures and all the signals is the easy part, but what really important is to train to see.

Judging karate competition is not easy, but if we want karate competition to be in line with budo karate and to be a mean of developing budo karate, we must make the effort. Other wise, competition will cause the opposite it will deteriorate karate and make it shallow.
We also owe it to the athletes who train hard and deserve good judging where there is common standard.