Sunday, July 22, 2012

Practice (Keiko) and training

Sensei Nishiyama once told me that we refer to training karate as Keiko rather than training as in other sports.
The word Keiko is comprised of two characters that mean ‘to think’ and ‘the past’, and together they mean to train and study the teaching of the past. this is profound in meaning, we need to deliberate and develop reflecting on our training according to Budo theory and principles.

For the beginner too much thinking is not a good thing, a beginner might copy the teacher and do repetition without much question, over thinking will cause restricted technique, but once the form is natural and fluent, we must use our training and form as mean to understand and digest principles that were passed to us a result deep experience, we must contemplate to bring further and deeper progress and to make the technique one’s own.
If we continue training without thinking of the principles we are likely to become mechanical and not much progress is likely.

Keiko is mental and physical. Thinking alone will not do, one must think and train hard and than reflect again. The goal is to bring theory and practice together, and therefore one must understand the theory.
In Keiko one can experiment, make mistakes, the outcome is not of much concern, but ultimately the it is essential to win in Shiai (match, testing each other for future development).
Shiai can be compared to the final piece of writing, while Keiko is the draft, when one can develop technique, strong spirit and correct bad habits.
Keiko is for the sake of Shiai. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What does F-16 has to do with karate?

Ruven Sharf who is European and US Champion and trained and taught at my dojo for 10 years is visiting from Israel to train here. Ruven told me this great analogy between F-16, karate and high level movement, that he heard from his Alexander technique teacher (Meir Amit) who I took a lot of lessons from and is a wise man.
The F-16 is the first fighter jet aircraft that was intentionally designed to be inherently unstable, also known as “relaxed static stability”, in order to improve its maneuverability and nimbleness.The F-16 is being stabilized by a flight control system which without, it will be unstable.
Most aircrafts are designed to be stable, which means that the aircraft has to overcome its inherent stability in order to maneuver, which makes its slower and less nimble.
This made me think a lot, it is an amazing concept that applies for us karate people, the softer we keep our torso and less controlled (that does not mean sloppy posture), the easier and faster it will be to “lose” our balance and change positions and direction, and in order to keep our balance we use our “flight control system” which is our feet, feet positioning and footwork, this allows us to keep our center over our base of support. This is done without bracing, tightening, just keeping a firm center (around the sacrum) and the big muscles of the core and torso are soft and flexible in best condition for movement.
Our breath,  body center and feet interact with ground reaction forces and momentum to be nimble and maneuverable and at the same time have potential to be firm and strong at necessary instant.
When we try to have control all the time, we become rigid and imobile.
Aiko San always told me: “Give up control, to have control” 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


People practice karate for different reasons, there are those who like to master it as a martial art, others for fitness, or sport, some like the character cultivation aspect of it and some simply enjoy it. All these reasons are true and of great value.
The original role of karate was to destroy opponent’s offense power and to protect oneself.
Nowadays, fortunately, we are not likely to use karate in life and death situation.
In order to gain the mental/spiritual understanding and value of karate, we cannot bypass the original function of karate as budo “to destroy opponent’s offense power to protect self”.
It is only through being at the edge, training as if “one chance live or die”,  that one can truly experience the mental/spiritual understanding through karate.
Through this Budo aspect one can internalize higher principles and wisdom and live life in accord with this wisdom.
To classify karate as another form of physical exercise is to view it as sport and it misses the point completely.
I appreciate the excellent attributes that sports have to offer, physically and mentally, but Budo was devised and used where one’s life was at risk, for this reason it differ from sports, and it is here that the true value of budo karate lies.
If we ignore the original function of karate as budo, where life and death are held in the balance, than one dismisses the value of karate.
Karate has great value as physical exercise and character cultivation, but if we forget the role of karate as budo, we will not be able to comprehend the true meaning of karate.
That is why we must train as if our life is on the line, with utmost seriousness, being totally present, doing our best in each training and technique. That is why Sensei Nishiyama hated sloppiness, demanded dignity and good manners, wanted us to be sincere and pure in our training and actions, and asked us to be disciplined and do each technique as it was our only chance.
Than we can understand life principles through karate, have a clear mind, confidence, and will be able to cope with any life situation, and to apply karate principles in a self defense, in business,  and in any area of life.
Ultimately, through karate we can make this world a better place.
This will not happen through theory alone, only when theory and practice came together real changes can happen.