Saturday, July 27, 2013

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

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”.

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 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.

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".