Thursday, August 9, 2012

Budo aspect of karate requires todome which requires optimal movement patterns and postures which keeps musculoskeletal health.

When you think of karate as budo, each time you fight or spar, you have one chance, no second, you must develop a technique that is finishing blow, where the whole body integrate to produce maximum force in shortest amount of time, at one direction.
Through the generations we in karate, developed systematic methods, not found in any sport to such details, and all as result of experience and necessity, without sophisticated high tech.
If you think of reaching and touching, or making a point, than you develop as Sensei Nishiyama used to call it “picking oranges technique), where it is sufficient to touch the opponent with the hand or foot. If the goal is for the hand to reach the target as quick as possible, than the systematic method we develop in Budo karate to use the body as a whole is counter productive.
Sensei Nishiyama used to scold us “no scratching techniques” and “if you do scratching techniques, you just make it more dangerous for yourself”, “best fight is no fight” but “if you fight you must finish”
Totally different kind of training is required for Budo and sport karates, even though same karate form is being used.

If we look at the budo technique and the sport karate technique from a point of view of physical therapy and movement to prevent injuries or to rehabilitate, it is well recognized  today that the most important factor in keeping the body functioning effectively and healthy is sequence of activation of muscles or proper nervous system patterns.

The top physical therapist will confirm that every action should be a chain reaction from the ground up, and in addition in every action the deeper stabilizers muscles should fire first and than the outer prime movers.

proper sequence of activation is only possible out of balance musculature, balance between flexors and extensors, in other words optimal posture.

Sequence of activation and optimal posture are closely related and affect each other.
If I throw a ball or execute a reverse punch, both movements require rotation and arm extension. In optimal sequence of movement, the feet will fire first using ground reaction, force will transfer through the legs, through the sacrum (body center), through the thoracic spine through the scapula and than shoulder joint and arm extension.
In a head forward posture, thoracic spine rotation might be limited which will cause access motion in the scapula and shoulder joint.
Even if one has good posture, but have bad habit due to wrong coaching, or image of the movement, one might move at the shoulder independently from the scapula, thoracic spine and ground reaction, and will eventually create bad posture.
In both cases wrong patterns will create inefficient movement, bad postures, and wear and tear at the shoulder.
This scenario can be seen anywhere along the kinetic chain.
Limitation in foot pronation can create compensation along the kinetic chain, such as in the lumbar spine or shoulder.

It is just one example how the benefits of karate lies in its budo aspect. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Distance - principles are simple applications endless

We work hard to develop good, effective weapons in basics and kata training, but it is equally important to learn how to use those weapons, and it is through using timing and distance properly that can make effective use of our techniques.
Try to be at a distance that you can give threat to opponent, yet if opponent attacks, you can move slightly back to be out of attack’s range. This is basic Toma (long distance).
This distance is changing with each opponent, some opponent have good reactions so I can give them less, some are harder to break the rhythm, I might need to take more risk.
Some opponent might be tall or short, explosive or not, sensitive to your rhythm or not.
After training with many different opponents you can feel an opponent even before any move.
Fighting in To ma (long distance) requires excellent footwork to be effective at, that is why Sensei Nishiyama pushed me always to train at outside ranges.
Develop bigger range first, than get good at short space, just how we practice technique from big to small, but for different reasons.

Chikama (short distance) is less demanding as far as athleticism in footwork, but on the other hand the margin of error is smaller. Short distance requires excellent footwork skill, but not the same exploding power needed. Short range fighting requires more smoothness, and clearly reaction and action from floor even if the feet move very little. Sensei Nishiyama was outstanding at short distance, I never stood a chance.

If you feel confident and have difficult time creating chance in Toma, than close the distance and fight inside.
We use different ways to get into opponent’s distance, but in all of them we must be careful how we close the distance, not to show to much space, or maybe to give as much space as we choose to.
Problem is that in many cases people are drifted into short distance not being aware of it.
In short distance you cannot give as much, your fake must be smaller, always use your breath and feet and mental pressure to fake and setup, it will have more effect, and will keep potential energy in your movement, so defense is within your offense. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Increase sensitivity and awareness to reduce effort

Ruven Sharf told me another great analogy that he heard from his Alexander technique teacher, Meir.
In a military Bunker there were 10 soldiers and they were always exhausted because they were almost always on guard around the bunker.
A new commander came, and he put a high observation post, so one soldier was in the post, and 4 around the bunker, and now the other five soldiers could sleep, and they kept rotation, so everyone was fresh and functional all the time.
We can notice that many people in kumite tend to be too tense all the time, they are in protective mode, the muscles become overworked, tired, unresponsive,cannot use full rate of contraction/expansion and injury is more likely.
From my experience, the more sensitive one is, the less tension and effort is needed, because I know my opponent cannot surprise me, I can see it before its coming and have enough time to respond.
What we need to do is increase our sensitivity, our awareness to self and surroundings, be present, we need to develop our intuitive perception, and than our body will relax, does not have to be in protective mode constantly, and it will be more responsive.
Using our eyes, looking harder, does not make us more sensitive, it actually separates us from what we see, it narrows the awareness it make us not present, behind, in the past.
How to become more sensitive, increase the awareness is not for this article, but the method is engrained in our physical training, in the directions we give students while timing drills and even in the basics.