Friday, December 20, 2013

Posture actually changes your physiology.


In karate we know how important posture is for effective movement, and that posture has psychological effect as well.
When In good posture, it is easy to control body dynamics, transfer ground reaction forces through body center to technique, all muscles are in optimal length for function, and have full potential for contraction/expansion.
In good posture one can be more relaxed, perceived the whole picture rather than being stuck in details and be more mentally responsive and flexible.
A good or bad posture influences how people perceive you and how you perceive yourself.
We know that a posture shows many things about a person, but does it work the other way? can improving posture affect your personality?

A new study demonstrates that a good posture, which is expansive rather than contractive, cause physiological and hormonal beneficial changes as well.
Humans and other animals express power through open, expansive postures, and they express powerlessness through closed, contractive postures. But can these postures actually cause power? The results of this study confirmed the prediction that being in postures that are expansive and open would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, which increases confidence and dominance, decreases in cortisol (stress hormone) and therefore response to stress more calmly, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; people who had contractive postures exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. The study shows that being in open, power postures for even 2 minutes, embody power and instantly cause one to be more powerful, it causes real-world, actionable implications.
Power determines greater access to resources (de Waal, 1998; Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003); higher levels of control over a person’s own body, mind, and positive feelings (Keltner et al., 2003); and enhanced cognitive function (Smith, Jostmann, Galinsky, & van Dijk, 2008). Powerful individuals (compared with powerless individuals) demonstrate greater willingness to engage in action (Galinsky, Gruenfeld, & Magee, 2003; Keltner et al., 2003) and often show increased risk-taking behavior. (e.g., Anderson & Galinsky, 2006).
The neuroendocrine profiles of the powerful differentiate them from the powerless, on two key hormones—testosterone and cortisol. In humans and other animals, testosterone levels both reflect and reinforce dispositional and situational status and dominance; internal and external cues cause testosterone to rise, increasing dominant behaviors, and these behaviors can elevate testosterone even further (Archer, 2006; Mazur &

Next time you go to karate class, treat your posture even more carefully.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

ISKA Masters seminar in San Francisco Nov 9, 10.

That was a great seminar with great people, why do I say that it was great? because when I teach and feel that I can go through the small details of Sensei Nishiyama's teachings, and people are attentive and interested, people are absorbed and absorbing the details, than it is a great sign, than we are really learning and not just working out.
When the details and principles are digested, the flashy stuff is easy, and when we push and work hard training is effective, but if the focus is on the flashy, than we are limited to the external and to athletic ability and we are likely to develop bad habits as well.
Thank you guys for such great effort and feedback.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Austria Annual Seminar last weekend November 8-10

Austria seminar took place last weekend, November 8-10, this is the 19th year that I am teaching in Austria.
By now, the town of Vienna Neustadt feels like coming home, same cozy hotel and the same person who receives me each year, there is a barber shop by the hotel, where I go to get a haircut every year.

And most important dedicated karate people that keep searching and improving their karate day by day, it is not their profession but it is their passion.

We had participants from Germany, Czech Republic, Russia and of course Austria.
We spend significant time practicing details of Kanku Dai as Sensei Nishiyama was teaching it, it was my kata as a brown belt and i used to practice Kanku Dai at least 2 hours a day.
I used Kanku Dai to explain body dynamics, body snap, pressure to floor at kime, and how to make proper contraction at kime and many other fundamentals.
Than we explained footwork of Oji Waza (response timing) and Shikake Waza (set up timing), with focus  on Sasoi (invite), Koroshi Waza (cut, kill opponent potential action) and combinations.

I had a lot of fun sharing karate and good time with my friends.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sensei Nishiyama the practical and the philosopher


Next week, on November 8, it will be 5 years to the passing of my teacher, Sensei Nishiyama. He was like a second father to me since we spent most of our days together.
Sensei Nishiyama was very pragmatic and a philosopher at same time.
His greatness was that he merged the old wisdom of Okinawa karate, with the old traditions of Japanese Budo (martial arts) and with latest sport science.
In his teaching he was very methodical and scientific, and every detail had a reason and had to work and be part of the whole picture.
His karate was no nonsense, everything was for application, and every detail meant for more efficiency.
Over the years he created a clear system that meant to bring the full mental and physical potential of the karateka.

When I first came to LA at 1981, I expected hard training, but I also expected karate to be spiritual, and I remember that after my first class, it was the Friday noon class, Sensei told me "put white belt on, step by step, understand?" Only that I did not understand any of that. Sensei "understand" sounded to me like "Zen" and I was walking around all day wondering what words of wisdom did I miss.
Later I realized, that the philosophy that Sensei was taught was in the action, in doing, not in words.
As realistic as he was, he understood that just because we cannot see or prove something it does not mean it is not true, and as much as science proves many karate concepts, there are concepts that we know to be true from experience, and science cannot yet prove. He taught concepts that were intangible such as "don't use eyes", "think by heart, act by ki", "condense ki energy to body center and than give ki energy from center through contact area".
Sensei Nishiyama did not spend a lot of time talking philosophy, for him it was through action that one applies philosophy, he summed his philosophy in few words such as "keep trying", "only dead no come to training", "always do your best", "target is self", "best fight is no fight".
If someone talked and didn't do, Sensei would call it "kuchi Waza" (mouth technique), or he would tell me: "when the body does not move, dreams move".
 He cared about how you bow, because doing it right meant dignity and thanking your partner for being your teacher, being humble, doing it sloppy meant every thing you do follows the manners and will be sloppy.
One night he made bow for 15 minutes till he was satisfied.
He cared that you always respect your opponent in kumite, and never be sloppy "Karate is fighting with dignity, like a samurai, not like Yakuza".
He appeared rigid at times, but in a long run he was usually correct, and had reasons, for example one day he came to my dojo, and in the kids class one of the students dropped the belt on the floor. Sensei Nishiyama was upset at that and kept reminding me of the incident for few months, at first I did not understand why he was so stubborn about that belt, but later I understood the importance of that.
It is the small details and the way you manage yourself outside of class that will influence how precise and attentive to details you will be in training.
Sometimes after 5 hours training I was exhausted and slouched and he used to sneak behind me in the hallway and hit my back really hard explaining that I must keep good posture all the time, he said training is only few hours a day, but rest of life is much longer and therefore have much more influence on developing good or bad habits.
When I was sparring it was not the results that mattered to him, sometimes when I felt that I was doing good, he was not pleased at all "don't do it the convenient way, do it the right way", and that was one of the great lessons in my life, don't look at the results, but rather did you use the right means to achieve the desired result.
It is easy to fall into habits, especially when you are advanced and things work for you the way you do them over a long time, but don't be satisfied with that, keep reflecting on yourself and do not lose the fundamental principles to achieve temperory results.
It is better to lose in the short term and develop in the right direction than to win and create bad habits along the way.
I hear his voice every day in my training, and I actually miss the strictness and the shinai chasing me.
Sensei Nishiyama taught me much more than how to fight and be a technician, but he gave me guidelines of how to live my life according to karate principles.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

First Instructors Only Seminar in Czech Republic



Last weekend, October 11-13, we had 3 amazing days of deep karate training, about 15 top instructors from Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Germany, Austria and Czech Republic participated.
The idea was to keep a small group of high level instructors so we can work on small details, and dive into depth of karate giving attention and correction to each individual.
Sensei Nishiyama had this idea, of teaching small groups of instructors in depth, so they can teach on in their own dojos.
We decided to keep doing this instructors only seminar once a year, and limit it to 25 participants.
We worked for a long time on Tekki San Dan, which is one of Sensei Nishiyama favorite katas, how the inside move and the outside follows, and we applied this idea later to kumite.
We worked to details on Ni Ju Shi Ho, another of Sensei Nishiyama favorites,  we worked on details of the outside form, this is a great kata to work on smoothness between techniques, and having no gaps between actions.
We also worked on Chin-Te, with its unusual type of techniques, which is a chance to work on same basic principles in variety of directions, and making our movement vocabulary richer, and enable our nervous system to keep the sequencing in movement even if it is unusual movement.
We spend substantial amount of time working on many variations of Shikake Waza (set up strategies), how to estimate the opponent, bring opponent into your rhythm, and create and seize the chance without space of time.
We went into how to use the distance within each strategy, how to stay calm and sensitive to opponent while setting up. It was lots of fun.

We plan the next year instructors seminar in Sweden, in the beautiful town of Sigtuna, only a few minutes away from the airport.

I am so happy that we have such dedicated, passionate instructors, this is how we will keep Nishiyama karate and bring the level up.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What feels powerful is not necessary powerful.

Butch Harmon was chosen as world best golf instructor since 2003 and he said "for longer drives, forget what feels powerful".
I thought that this is really cool, he said the instinct to try to pound the ball of the tee result in what is known as "hitting from the top", which is a power killer because it disrupts the natural sequence of motion.
He said: "if you cannot hold your finish, have a balanced finish, you are going at a speed your body cannot support. Try to go at 70, 80% of your max speed - and get your downswing sequence right, that will give you more distance for sure."
To me this is so simple yet so impressive.
Sensei Nishiyama used to tell us over and over not to use "top power", get the sequence right, each segment from the ground up accumulates maximum energy and transfer it to next segment, to produce maximum total amount of force, the arms and legs of the technique should be merely an extension, making direction, tools of contact and of course the add some to the total chain of energy.
Sensei Nishiyama used to say over and over that what feels strong is not necessary strong.
Go at slower speeds that you can handle to develop proper sequence and than increase speed gradually, do not go faster than your stance could handle.
Bud Winter was the best sprint coach in US history and he said that he tells his athletes to run at 80 to 90 percent of their maximum speed, and they always end up running their fastest when the think this way. Bud Winter was a big fan of relaxing, he requested from his sprinters to relax their facial muscles while the sprint, so the effort is only were need to be.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Avoid lapse in attentiveness


The other day my student Brian Palmer and I were sparring for about 20 minutes. Afterward Brian, who is one of the smartest people I know (and therefore, I always listen to his comments carefully), told me that he feels that karate is a great way to learn to keep his attention and focus, when we spar for 20 minutes, the moment he has lapse in his attention, that is when he will make a mistake and I would get him.
In karate, when sparring, more than anything else I know, if you lose attention, you get immediate feedback.
But to keep your attention for 20 minutes or more it cannot be forced, it cannot be an attention with effort, than one will get exhausted and momentarily lose of focus is inevitable.
Focus has to be relaxed and effortless, I am just “present” and my body will do what it needs to do.

How do we do that? How do we develop that kind of attentive, present mind?
We say “as if your eyes are behind you over viewing”, “don’t use eyes”, bypass the brain”, “don’t look to opponent’s outside (details), but rather look to the breath and eventually to the heart”, “allow the feet to catch the rhythm and control own movement, feet are the boss”.
All those directions over time will allow us not only to see the small details without lose of the whole, but also to keep our attention for long periods, since we spend minimum amount of mental energy. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Oji Waza, how you react is not a (Conscious) choice



 Oji Waza is what we refer to as response techniques, or as some understand it as defense techniques.
There are many types of timing and techniques we can use to respond and capitalize on opponent’s attack.
We can use Sen timing and hit the opponent as they intend to attack, we can use Sen timing while avoiding the line of attack, and this is called Nuki Waza.
We can use timing of Go No Sen and catch the opponent after first attack and before they can switch to second attack.
We could use variety of footwork and technique depending on the timing, distance and other factors.
We could use Uke Waza, blocking techniques, which is done usually moving in, attacking opponent’s attack on the way to attacking the body.
We could use Amashi Waza (shifting out of opponent’s range on the way to counter), Mawashi Ashi, foot circle, or other footwork.

It is important to understand that what I do is not a conscious choice; it is not in the brain, because there is no time for judgment, analyzing, decision and than movement.
If I choose what I will do to react, first it takes time and second I am stuck in my choice and not free to do what is necessary at the moment.
When the opponent moves, my breath reacts, and my foot is already in motion.
We learn through kata that the breath controls the body center, and the body center controls our footwork and technique.
We practice many types of footwork, timing and techniques to respond to different attacks till those become our “body system” or acquired nervous system patterns, like a software install in the computer (hopefully quality software).
We face many opponents, and with time we learn that most people have similar patterns, even though different rhythms, ranges and ways of executing techniques. As we face many opponents we learn to read the ques that they give us, we learn to see the “information” that is there before one initiates this action or another.
We learn to use the eyes less and judge less in order to see more, to become sensitive to the subtle changes and the inclination of the opponent.
Finally, when we face an opponent, from our body center, we already have direction, ki energy projected to the opponent, but our feet are flexible to move in any direction on the way to hitting the opponent, depending on how early or late our reaction is and other factors.

As we get more skilful, the choice of reaction is decided by:

·      The breath.

·      Our established “body system”.
 
·      Our accumulated experience of facing many type of opponents.

We do not consciously choose, when we react, we don’t know what we are doing until it is done, yet we are aware, there is "monitoring" of self, opponent and the interaction.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Todome, Maai and footwork – Components that make karate most effective self-defense



Todome-
It is reasonable to say that if 120 lb of mass hits the biggest, strongest man, as one connected, dense mass, with sufficient speed it will be a knock down or make big damage.
Well, this is Todome, in karate we study through generations the details and means of how to connect the whole body, increase energy, by using ground reaction, sequencing body segments from the ground up to increase maximal speed and force and hit the opponent as one connected mass and deliver the full force in shortest instant, by being as dense and inelastic as possible at contact.
We learn how to produce and deliver force in many directions with many parts of the body.
No other martial art have this detailed knowledge of how to systematically develop finish technique to the point that even not so athletic, big or strong person can achieve finishing power.
As Sensei Nishiyama used to tell me: “what is the point of having 8 cylinders if we can only use 2, we must use everything we have” or he used to say “in karate you do not need to be Popeye”.

Maai-
Only karate teaches Maai (distance including timing) so systematically, maybe not all karate, but specifically Shotokan and Nishiyama’s karate.
The knowledge of Maai was not very developed in Okinawa and much of the knowledge was borrowed from sword fighting, Sensei Nishiyama was one of the important contributers.
You see as long as I am out of the opponent range of power, it does not matter how strong the opponent is, being on the border of opponent territory I can create uncertainty and force opponent to expose themselves by attacking, hesitating, or even just stiffening, and in the right timing, which is when the opponent cannot use power, I enter and attack without meeting, or conflict of power.
Weather the opponent wants to hit you or grapple with you they have to close the distance and while they use the technique they expose themselves.
Most other striking arts understand timing and distance from experience, not from systematic teaching that can save years. Most grapplers do not understand Maai since most of their training is on grappling and not Maai and how to control the distance and timing of entering the opponent space.
I don’t rush to attack, can stay safe, if the chance present itself I will attack, otherwise I will force the opponent to commit and expose themselves.

Footwork-
Footwork allows me to control the distance to my advantage and apply technique in perfect timing; it also allows me to start technique quickest, strongest without any back motion, when the chance appear we must capitalize without delay.
I have not seen many other martial artists that can start technique quick without back motion
Even though many martial arts and sports emphasize footwork, in karate it is taught to a very high level, we learn the concept of Ukimi, suspending the legs using the body center, so the spine and body center are controlling the footwork and making the legs soft and free and footwork effortless.
We learn the concept of foot first than body center than power, which makes shifting much faster and technique more effective.
If your footwork is not good even a potentially fast person will lose a lot of time and appear as slow.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ho Shin - give your mind away (also, learn to use your full muscles potential)


Once decision is made, there is no mind in the technique, no hesitation, win or lose one must give everything.
When we can apply this concept and give everything, the mind is clear, there is no more judgment, and paradoxically we can become more sensitive, more intuitive, and more aware when we try less.

There is another aspect to it, very few of us are able to use our full muscles potential, generally we use only small potential of our musculoskeletal system, because of fear, past traumas, protection of the joints, but hand in hand with the developing the muscles and joints condition, we develop the mental ability not to hold back to apply ourselves fully to one purpose.

Take Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, it is recorded that in each step he takes the reaction back to his body equals over 1000 LB, that is a lot of force production, if an average person did that, after one 100 m sprint it is likely that his/her joints will be damaged.
So how does Mr. Bolt does it and how do we in karate learn to do that?
I am not sure how Usain Bolt does it, one aspect is his form, and maybe he intuitively learn how to give himself totally, 100%.

I will tell you what is the method we use in karate:

Form and sequencing.
First, we develop proper form and postural alignment, which allows for smooth transmission of force, and distribution of force through the whole body, not one joint or another.
Than, we learn proper sequencing of body segments to accumulate maximum force, but some people have good form and timing yet the still use only small amount of their muscles potential.

Stabilization strength:
When we stay in stance for a long time, we develop the smaller muscles closer to the joint, those are the muscles that activate first, before the big muscles, to stabilize the joint, while the bigger, outer muscles are responsible for force production (mainly).
Those stabilizing muscles are design to work for longer periods, and must have endurance.
It shows that when the stabilizing muscles are not functioning optimally the nervous system will not allow for full force production (about 30% less).
Our karate ancestors did not know sport science and the latest research but I guess through experience and correct intuition they developed methods of training that allow us to produce big power safely. 

Body center is intention center.
It is very important that we keep our intention in the Tan Den, our body center of energy. our decision and commitment is not in the brain, since there will always be holding back, conflict in our action if it comes from the brain.
Our body center is the intention and decision center, every action starts here mentally as well as physically, this concept has a lot of benefits besides being able to commit totally to one purpose.

Breathing
Our breath from low stomach activates the center and ground reaction, and allows the whole body musculature to cooperate and allows to maximize the recruitment of muscles in shortest time to one purpose (providing breath, muscles action and external action are matching).
The breath is also the connection between the mental and the physical, our breath allows us to mentally give every thing so the muscles can follow. There is no interference of the brain, and that is one reason we say in Budo: "there is no mind in the technique".
Or as Sensei Nishiyama used to say: "giving all breath is giving all energy" or "Kiai destroys opponent".

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Russia Seminar

Last weekend, on June 21-23, we held a seminar in Moscow, Russia.
Participants came from Germany, Ukraine, and some guys from Siberia took a train for 2 days, I have all the respect for this total dedication to karate.
We worked on fundamentals, such as posture, stance, body dynamics and kime, than kata kitei, as a mean to digest all those fundamentals and apply them in variety of directions, lines of energy.
We worked on finding one's own stance, and connecting the stance to the body center to transfer energy from ground reaction, and connecting the body center to the elbows.
We worked on Oji Waza (response) footwork and timing and applying the principles and methods we learned against unknown attack, by learning to thrust our breath and feet with our experience to make decisions. We touched Shikake Waza (set up), mainly "invite" and combinations attack, and creating and picking the right initial timing for combination attack.
It is important to work hard and intensely but also to know when to slow down and digest the details.
Nothing is more fun than sharing karate.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rapid rate of contraction and relaxation in punch or kick.


The skillful karate fighter is not only strong, but in order to initiate a punch or a kick can contract muscles with great velocity, and also relax rapidly, the rate of relaxation is very rapid. The karate expert must start power generation in the legs through the hips, and as they hips explode the core contract quickly to transmit the force to the upper body, initial pulse start with quick contraction, and than the core relax as the punch or kick increase the velocity until the impact and than to avoid energy leak a second contraction occur.
Initiate with very quick muscle contraction and a very rapid muscles relaxation to allow speed increase, and a second sharp pulse of muscles contraction to deliver the full power.
One must do this using the big muscles of the hips through the shoulders for power generation, while keeping the spine stable, to allow full transmission of power, (power is not generated at the spine) to avoid stress on spine and to allow the spine to be an anchor for the bigger muscles to be fully utilized.
Therefore the sequence of contraction is as important as the rate of contraction.
Smaller, inner stabilizer muscles contract first, than the bigger force production muscles.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Give up power to better your technique and better yourself and society.


In my seminar in Israel last weekend, I had a little talk with Tzachi, Moshe’s student and Israeli team member. Tzachi is wise beyond his years, and I learned a great lesson.
The background to this talk was my emphasis the following lesson from previous training:  In kime, we make pressure to the floor with the breath, and the reaction of this pressure is absorbed through the body and delivered to the line of technique. No power in the technique arm is needed, rather, any undue tension in the arm will nullify the effect of the pressure to floor; it will block the reaction of the floor from coming back to the target.
In short, we have to give up power in order to have a strong technique.

Tzachi told me, “In every thing in life, people look for more power, in politics, in the work place, in relationships between people or countries, and this is the source of all conflicts. Here in karate we learn to give up power.”

Originally, most people come to karate to learn to be strong, but we teach them to give up power, to be weak, not only in technique, but also in the way we interact with opponents. We don’t compete against one’s speed (not to say that speed is not important, it is, in addition to skill); rather we win by accepting and harmonizing with the opponent. We give ourselves to become one with said opponent.
It takes hard work to give up power in technique, to give up fighting with the opponent and to eventually accept and become the opponent.

A while ago my very intelligent student, Tamir Nitzan, told me that he feels karate can bring out either the lowest, instinctive, animalistic side of humans, or the highest, most spiritual, and most selfless side them.

I remember that when I came to study with Sensei Nishiyama, I just wanted to become a better fighter. That meant more speed, more power, and of course better technique than everyone else. I still want to be a better fighter but in a totally different way. My technique changed once I understood that power is indirect, and my fighting changed once I stopped trying to fight and rather tried to win through synchronization with the opponent. This new journey is much more interesting since it bears no limits while my old journey was bound to the limitations of strength and speed.

If someone can apply the aforementioned principles, in the intensity of fighting and survival, if someone can give himself or herself up while being on the edge, he/she will have an easier time in other life activities.
Maybe that is why karate is an excellent way to better society and the individual.

I believe that if everyone takes the principles of karate and applies them to life and the world, we will have a better, more peaceful society, with less wars and conflicts.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Keep trying"


I love this quotation by Thomas Edison "our greatest weakness is giving up.
The most certain way to success is to try one more time."
Many times when a student asked Sensei Nishiyama question about technique or express difficulty in getting something to work, the answer was “keep trying”.
Sensei Nishiyama was a man of few words (when it come to karate, he loved to talk when socialized), he said just enough to give you direction, but wanted you to find out through training.
We must train than contemplate, repeat but don’t be mechanic, don’t just keep going, reflect on what you do, some of the understanding can only come through repetition, if something does not work, figure out what should be done differently, usually the difference is subtle, and therefore require awareness and openness.
That what “keep trying” means.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Poland Seminar, May 11,12, 2013


Last weekend I was teaching the annual international traditional karate seminar in Dojo Stara Wies, Poland.
I had great time; there is nothing more inspiring than when people have great spirit and genuine quest for knowledge.
There were over 250 participants from Poland, Czech Republic, Russia, England, Lithuania and maybe I forgot some.
We worked on fundamentals such as posture, and stance, body dynamics, timing of technique, and of course Kime and how to make Todome.
Than we worked on Kata Sochin, as a mean to understand the fundamentals and relationships to applications.
Sochin kata has many subtle technical details, but also requires certain feeling and energy projection.
We spend a lot of time working on set up strategies and the subtleties involved.

Stara Wiez Dojo is an inspiring place thanks to the vision of Vodek and collaboration of all Polish karate people.
The Polish people show us what can be done when people work as a team, and it is great to see that everyone who comes to camp aside from being passionate about karate also love to be with each other, like a big karate family.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The art and magic of karate is in the small details which are derived from principles.


There are many teachers who can teach techniques but only few who can teach the art of karate.
Use the form as a vehicles to understand and digest the principles.
The principles and details derived from them make the magic of karate, make the technique effective and effortless, and applicable to any circumstance.
Follow the form and you will be limited to the form, follow the principles, digest the small details, make them your "body system" and you will be limitless, beyond form, and you will effortlessly be able to apply and adopt the technique to any changing circumstance, any space, with maximum effect.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Czech Republic Seminar Last Weekend



Just returned from Czech Republic seminar, it was a great, with 100 participants from Germany, Ukraine, Russia Poland and of course Czech Republic.
Spirit was great, the atmosphere and friendships even greater.
Vladimir Pucha and his team from Ukraine drove 15 hours non-stop and than step into training, I really appreciate this spirit.
We spent a lot of time going through details of kata Hangetsu, Kanku Dai and kata Kitei (which was composed by sensei Nishiyama for competition).
Once we went through the precise form of each kata, we went on using the kata as a vehicle to understand and internalize principles of technique and application, which are contracted within the kata.
We spent a lot of hours practicing Shikake Waza (strategy), with many variations of Sasoi Waza (invite) and combinations including timing and distance.

The level was obviously higher than last year, the enthusiasm even higher, Nishiyama karate is going from strength to strength.

I landed in LA slept for an hour and a half and went to dojo to teach; now I need some rest.
Thank you guys for the hard work.

Monday, April 1, 2013

KIME - TOTAL BREATH, TOTAL ENERGY PASS THROUGH TARGET


There are many details to effective kime, which obviously have to come together to the point that you just have the intention of finish technique, and all the details will happen by themselves. At this point your body knows how to make kime.
But no matter at what level we are we always have to revisit and reflect if we apply all aspects of kime optimally, we can always get better. Sensei Nishiyama was never tired or bored of repeating the principles and details of kime, and there was always something subtle, new, that could be learned.

Breathing “through pass” target, “give all air, give all energy”, Kiai destroy opponent”
Those are different ways to describe a similar aspect of kime. This is an aspect of kime that is difficult for many people, to mentally give everything, and to give all air through pass target, which means all energy and momentum transfer to opponent.
Actually, giving all air is a mean to give oneself totally, not to hold back anything, as budo says “no mind in the technique”.
Giving all air is giving all energy, as Nishiyama Sensei used to say “one period of breath is total amount of energy”, it should be done in the shortest time, and is only effective when the breath matches with the technique, and than at impact there will be maximum pressure to floor and total body contraction to technique line.
Make sure not to blow the air, but pressure to floor and as reaction air goes out, than your throat will stay soft, the breath is not in the throat, the throat is just like a pipe.
The breath/kiai peaks at impact but does not stop, don't push we need shocking power.

When one gives all air, next breath starts as reaction, therefore next technique or kamae starts naturally (zanshin), you don’t do it, it is done by itself.

Giving all air solves the problem of “snap back”, since “snap back” happens when half the breath (energy) goes to technique and the other half (of breath/energy) goes for the pull back, which means that only part of the energy goes to the target.
At the same token one should not stop and hold the arm extended, this is a dead arm, and it is a space for opponent to counter.
Giving all air solves this problem as well, since when you give all air, next technique starts as a reaction, and you don’t cut and stop at kime.
“Snap back” is especially bad since while “snap back” the momentum is going back, there is one extra motion, space between techniques, which the opponent can capitalize on.

In any case, the more skillful a person is, the shorter the instant of kime is, and one can give all air and deliver all energy in shortest amount of time.

“give all air” is a feel, and is changing depending on the technique, target and purpose.
Tsuki (punch) to the face is different than to the body, when punching the body more penetration is required and deeper kime, while the head gives, and impact need to be sharper, so energy is transfer before the head gives, even when looks like snap back, all energy must be tranfered first, even in striking techniques (uchi waza).
The point is that once the momentum is delivered there is no point to stay, next technique or kamae are transitioned to naturally, as reaction.
“Snap back” usually happens because one protects itself, wants to recover quickly, but when the chance is there and you are ahead of opponent, no worry, you must try to finish.
“Snap back” also happens when the breath cuts and the body bounce, and “snap back” results.
“Snap back” is also result of sport karate competition, when scoring is awarded for just reaching the target. Those kind of rules encourage training for just reaching the target with the fist, not passing through with the whole body. 
It is, of course, easy to reach the target with just the fist than with the whole body connected and total momentum delivered to target.

Some ideas of how to give all breath and energy through target:

Before technique, look way beyond the opponent, intention beyond opponent to infinity, your feet stop inside opponent but breath continue through, it should feel as if your body wants to keep going, yet your feet holding the body from going. If you look to the spot you hit, your  breath/energy will stop there.

Another idea, feel as if your body stops yet inside your body continue through opponent.

Another idea, Imagine your kiai has no echo, the sound does not come back, I like this idea a lot, Sensei Nishiyama told me this over and over.

Another idea, think not of poking the opponent but rather thrust a spear through.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Posture, precise timing of body segments make for effective technique and a healthier musculoskeletal system.


In karate we strive to achieve todome (finish technique) and at the same time we seek longevity in training. Both effectiveness and longevity are achieved by using precise movement of specific segments out of optimal static and dynamic postures and alignment within total body movement.

Maintaining or restoring precise movement of specific segments and the relationships between segments is also the key to correcting or preventing musculoskeletal pain.

The biomechanics of human movement is similar to the mechanics of machines, in that the longevity of components and efficiency of performance require precise movements of the rotating segments.

In contrast to machines stress on the human tissues is necessary for optimal health, stress in the right amount can improve the strength of tissues.
Too much stress can harm the tissues and too little stress is not effective.

The loss of precise movement can begin a cycle that harms the tissues over time.

As with other mechanical systems alignment is important. Optimal posture and alignment facilitates optimal movement.
If alignment is faulty before movement starts, correction is needed to achieve ideal configuration, which must be retained throughout the movement.
The more ideal the alignment of the skeletal segments, the more optimal the performance of the controlling segments such as the muscles and nervous system.
Similarly, if alignment is faulty there is greater chance of causing microtrauma to joints and supporting structures.

Studies have shown that the spinal segments subjected to most movement are the ones that show the greatest signs of degenerative changes, especially when movement deviates from ideal.

Optimal muscular performance is achieved through subtle adjustments of muscular length and strength, as well as through patterns of recruitment, and this produces and maintains the alignment and balance of human joint motion.

In Karate we constantly work on posture and alignment along with optimizing timing of movements. Timing of movement refers to external segments, and internal muscles action, the right amount of activation in the right time, and harmonious interaction of muscles action with the external dynamics.
We also should stretch the typically tight muscles and strengthen the typically over lengthened and weak muscles.
It is interesting to note that research shows that altered posture causes loss of proprioception (kinesthetic awareness and feedback mechanism through mechano-receptors in the skin, muscles and tendons) and altered timing of activation.
For examples people who sit for prolonged periods with head forward posture show loss of proprioceptor cells around the lumbar spine, and the smaller muscles around the spine such as multifidus, and inner fiber of lumbar erectors, which are supposes to fire before movement and for prolonged periods (stabilizers), are starting to act as fast twitch fibers, their activation is delayed, and is for a shorter periods.
Those changes mean that the stability of the lumbar spine is compromised and with it also the effectiveness of the bigger, outer muscles which are the “movers”.

In karate terms optimal posture and timing of movement means, quicker start of technique, increased total movement speed, more powerful body snap and acceleration, and stronger and more complete muscles contraction at kime, and at the same time less stress on joints.

Optimal posture and precise sequencing is what makes karate technique most effective on the one hand and it is what makes karate so beneficial to keeping the health of the musculoskeletal system.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Project strong ki energy, have strong spirit, yet your mind and body are calm and relaxed.

Project strong ki energy yet stay relaxed.
When setting up an opponent, project strong ki energy, yet stay relaxed, the more relaxed I am, the more pressure I can put on the opponent and the easier to unsettle the opponent, and at the same time it will be easier to react and take advantage of what the opponent gives us.
If I am not relaxed when pressuring the opponent, I am not responsive, and my fake is not as believable.
If I am relaxed I can move less in order to move the opponent.
Being relaxed come from accepting the opponent's attack, and I can accept the opponent's attack when I am confident that I can react to whatever attack might come.
I want to stay calm, yet make the opponent uncertain, in doubt.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Posture advise from Aiko San



This was one of the great advises I received from Aiko San, it was in one of the national championships, she pulled me to the side, and told me: “try to imagine your head as a ball resting delicately on your shoulders, if your head lean to either direction it will fall this way, if it is to fall, it should fall between your legs.”
Than she make me do yori ashi with Gyaku Zuki, first slow and than at full speed, and at kime, I had to check if my head was to fall to either side or between my legs, to be correct my neck had to be totally relaxed.
We did this for over an hour, I forgot that I was there for competition, and looking back this little advise was worth more than winning 5 national championships.

When the head just rests and floats on your shoulders, in addition to improved posture, lengthening the spine and reducing compression, there are lots of benefits: the tension in the neck and shoulders is reduced, the breath and the energy can be condensed and lowered to the Tan Den (lower abdomen), so our power is coming from where it is supposed to, and the power can be delivered effectively to where intend to, without escape of energy.
As we deliver energy we store energy in the center, which is not possible if there is access tension and top power.
Aiko San gave us those small, wise advises that had huge influence. 
I use this advise regularly in my training and teaching.