Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kihon - basics, an amazing gift handed to us (use it right).

I always gave my heart in every training and every move, but there were times I questioned why do I have to do kihon isuch a restricted way, unlike the way I fight. I thought that I don’t fight the way I do Kihon, why not do it in a more “applications like” way.
But I had total thrust in Sensei Nishiyama and I knew there is more to kihon than what meets the eye, as the years passed I learnt to appreciate kihon, I saw beyond the external, Kihon teaches us to cooperate the whole body to one line of energy, from stance to body dynamics to technique, and do that in variety of directions, using different parts of the body as contact area.
It conditions us and teaches us to be coordinated and connected through the full range of motion, and from there eventually we can produce force in any range that is within the bigger range that we practice in kihon.
In kumite, generally, most techniques we use are to smaller ranges than in the basics, so we need the basics in order to prepare us to be able to produce forces through full ranges.
And you see, most injuries happen in the outer ranges, not usually in mid ranges, so we must develop our elasticity, stability, coordination and resiliency in outer ranges and kihon is an excellent way to do it.
The big includes the small and not the other way, so when you practice to the full range, you develop the strength, stability and coordination to the full range while if you practice shorter range you are limited to those shorter range.
Kata of course follows the same concepts, and some of the basic kata such as heian and tekki are also called kihon kata, but when we practice kata, we produce force to one direction and than another, while when practicing kihon we have the chance to purposefully repeat, to reflect and correct over rand over.
There are many levels to the same kihon, until black belt roughly, the focus is on proper body dynamics, and synchronization between stance to body action to technique, including timing of technique, connection between all body segments, moving out of optimal posture.
After black belt one must gradually learn to use more inside power or muscles contraction/expansion in addition, which means that the outside and inside have to match, breathing has to be used properly to control muscles action, dynamics and ground reaction forces.
At this level our goal is to learn to make more power in less action, and remove unneeded action, we can do it only by relying more on inside muscles action.

I must clarify, kihon can also instill some rigidity in us, I see some people that do a lot of kihon and kata but not so much kumite, and when they spar, they look too robotic trying to apply kihon in kumite.
We must digest the principles of good movement through kihon, but be free from the form itself at some point, we must be able to instantly start our technique from anywhere, and punch or kick in limitless trajectories and directions, free from the restriction of kihon but according to its principles, and still in whatever we do the whole body will cooperate to any direction, without unneeded movement, to make maximum shocking power - todome.
This has to be understood in theory so we can and more importantly, get the feel of it in our bodies, nervous systems and in our bones.
Kihon is an amazing gift that was handed down to us.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Austria seminar

Seminar in Austria this past weekend was great, it was fun to see all my friends from Austria, Germany, Czech and Russia.
There was great enthusiasm which make me feel better about the future of Sensei Nishiyama's karate.
We worked on katas Kitei and Jion (the way Sensei was teaching them), and through the kata we explored fundamental principles: posture, feet make top technique, breath activate the feet, body action and inside muscle action, how to start a technique quickest without back motion, muchimi (body like whip) and kime (different aspects of pressure and contraction).
We cover Oji Waza (response timing techniques) in the first 2 days, and in the last day we spend a lot of time on setting up and creating a chance.
We practiced Sasoi Waza (inviting the opponent's attack), and we spent a lot of time doing combinations attack, learning how to stay mentally and physically ahead of the opponent, not allowing opponent to recover from backward momentum, always reacting to his/her reaction to us, while closing the distance for Todome (finish technique), we spent time understanding the start up timing for combinations, initiating between opponent's rhythm, reacting to the chance with the breath and feet rather than looking and judging.
Thank you for great spirit.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Protect your back and improve function by improving posture and firing sequence of muscles.

If you asked Sensei Nishiyama what is the best training for yoko geri, he would say “do yoko geri”, and this is totally true.
Most of the training for a karate person should be karate technique and timing, but at the same token, some supplemental training can help.
We talk about moving from the center and out of optimal posture.
If we don’t have a strong and stable center we cannot move effectively from the center and might also hurt our spine, especially when producing big forces.
If we don’t move out of optimal posture we won’t fulfill our potentials and have the potential of “repetitive pattern overload” injury, and if our muscles are not balanced we cannot keep good posture even if we understand what it should be.

Strong abdominals will not necessarily protect your back, people with strong abdominals  still have back pain.

We must learn to activate the core in proper sequence, smaller, inner muscles should fire before the bigger outer muscles.
The smaller, inner muscles, stabilize the spine and protect it while providing an anchor for the bigger, outer muscles, so those bigger muscles can function more optimally.
In most of our training, the core should be strengthen while integrated with the rest of the body, not in isolation.
Stretch the tight muscles to prevent imbalance and strain on the spine, such as the hip flexors, the huge iliopsoas muscles are attached to the femur bone and to all five lumbar vertebras, and if tight will create constant strain on the lumbar spine.
Tight hamstrings are also a reason for strain on the spine.
We must constantly improve our posture, with specific postural corrective exercises, a head forward posture create strain on the lumbar spine, and also interfere with force transfer from the body center to the arms.
There are specific exercises for postural correction and learning proper muscles activation sequence that I like to use as part of a warmup.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Karate journey is like climbing a mountain

When you climb a mountain and you see a peak, you think “oh, this is the mountain top, let’s push and get there to the end of the journey”, when you get there, you realize that there is another peak you could not see until you got to where you are, and than you keep going and keep finding out as long as we live.
When we learn a technique, we can only receive so much information, and as we train and gain experience we have tools to get more details, and than we realize that the simple techniques have infinite levels.
Sensei Nishiyama used to teach some details of a technique, let me struggle with them, digest them, and than a year or two or five later he would tell me another small point that changed the way I looked at that technique, and I used to think “why didn’t he tell me those details right away?”
Later I realized that until that moment I was not ready for those new details, and when Sensei Nishiyama felt that I was ready he would go deeper into the technique.
We cannot do techniques mechanically, practice, digest than contemplate and the potentials for development is unlimited.