Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is “Traditional” in traditional karate?

I have the feeling that to some people “traditional” implies old, out of date, stagnant, something or someone who refuses to change and adapt.

When I think of traditional karate, I think just the opposite, I think of karate that is alive and evolving, I think of principles of budo that were learnt through many generations of trial and error and those principles allow us to evolve, we do not have to rediscover, we are lucky to have a gift handed down to us.

I think of old masters seeking for ways to transfer what they discovered through combat, realizing that words can be misinterpreted and are not enough, therefore created a kata as a symbol of principle, as a mean to transmit those principles. The kata with oral transmission is how we pass on the collective wisdom of many generations.

And our job is to build upon them.

I think that if we just imitate the kata and focus on the outside form, we miss the point, we become rigid traditionalists, and than we have dead karate.

If we look at the kata as a mean to understand the principles, than the application of those principles is limitless and we can keep evolving.

Principles are laws, rules, and truths of movement, of combat. As we seek deeper and further beyond our limits, those principles are like guidelines, so we don’t deviate from the right path.

Even the most genius person could not have created airplane or I phone 10,000 years ago. Using the advancements of science that are handed from one generation to next allow an innovative person to create and go beyond the known limits.

I believe that we in karate have to embrace the old, deeply understand what was passed to us and with that knowledge and with an unconditioned mind, with a mind that dies to itself every day, look into newest information from sport research, from other people and arts discoveries and with our own experience keep on seeking beyond the known.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

About Intention

In karate we say that the source of power are body dynamics and internal muscle action (contraction/expansion) but most important source of power is mental, the mind. Without strong intention those physical power sources are limited no matter how correct and pretty the form is.

Bt precise form is important, because our image and actual movement must be matching; we have to have the correct image of ourselves for the intention to be effective. Later, when we advance, we do not need form anywhere the intention goes or whole body will instantly cooperate to that direction.

We say that the stronger and more pure the intention is the more muscle motor units will be recruited and cooperating for the intended purpose.

Research shows that if for example a person performs biceps curls and have strong intention, he will be able to lift 30% more than if he was joking while doing it.

Intention, imagination has to be used correctly, we say that the body center is the intention center and movement center, which will allow for maximal and proper recruitment sequence.

If I try harder and harder with my brain, I will probably get stiffer, use more top power and be less effective.

Sensei Nishiyama used to say “put your brain in your low stomach”, “intention first, than breath, than muscles and technique”.

Outside form is easier to fix, one can see and adjust their form, it is tangible.

Sequencing body movement and muscles recruitment is more difficult to correct than external form because it is training the nervous system and developing patterns of recruitment.

Intention is most difficult, because it is least tangible, but once we put the intention in the right place, form, sequencing and maximizing recruitment all take place naturally.

Form, sequencing and intention are interlinked.

In karate we start by learning the external form, which gives us the base, structure and tools to adjust and tune the recruitment sequence. For example, if the form is lacking and the back foot angle out too much it will be difficult to use the legs, and rotation of the hips will be limited, that will force us to compensate with the shoulders. A faulty pattern will be digested into the nervous system.

If intention is pure and from center without judgment and brain interference, we will likely to have the proper sequence and form. When judging and wanting results we are likely to move the top technique first and use more effort than necessary in the extremities and technique will be lacking.

When our intention is strong and from the center and is pure, without brain effort, we can project more energy and sense the opponent’s energy and intention. I am sure that everyone faced someone, who, before any movement you feel a lot of pressure, being controlled, that is how I felt when facing Sensei Nishiyama.

Once we develop the proper form and recruitment sequence, and we have intention from the body center (not from brain) more muscles motor unit will be recruited and body segments will cooperate and sequence more powerfully.

When we say “give direction from body center to opponent” or “inside, technique already finished, than technique start”, we mean that there is a strong image first, and the muscle though not moving yet, already have direction. That mean that the sequence is already determined, from inside out, and strong but optimal recruitment will follow.

At the highest level there is only intention and breath, no conscious of technique at all.