A Balanced Regime
The study and practice of Karate is profound and intensely fulfilling. It can develop us physically, mentally and spiritually. This in no way suggests that the road will be perfectly paved so you avoid a bumpy ride. Karate is tough.
This article looks into the way we practice karate, more from a technical angle rather than a philosophical one. I am deliberately neglecting the latter and solely looking at kihon purely for economy of time and space, so please hold off with those emails of complaint. Furthermore, I am not looking at how techniques should be applied, how they work against an aggressive opponent or how to make them work, as for this article, this is not my purpose.
This article looks at the way in which we train, think and progress.
I have known people over the years who train sometimes every night of the week, but somehow never seem to go anywhere. They leave the dojo every night soaked in sweat and totally exhausted, but nothing to show for it at the end of it all. Now I know karate is all about the marathon rather than the sprint, but even looking at such people in the bigger picture, their development was minimal. But why?
Was it because they weren’t training hard enough? Absolutely not. Was it because they were taught incorrectly? No. Was it because they didn’t care enough? Certainly not. So why then?
This is simply conjecture, but I guess it had something to do with their own personal approach to training.
If you want to become a really good chef, but every time you make that cake it never rises, do you just continue with the same recipe and hope magically it will work next time? A good chef I imagine would sit back and ask what was going wrong and where alterations can be made. Was he adding too little flour, or too much milk? Was the oven too hot or not hot enough? This is an example of the way a bad chef progresses to become a top chef with Michelin stars.
Karate is no different. If we train and train and train, but don’t assess and give ourselves intelligent feedback to work from, we will never progress.
Fundamentally, in my opinion, you need to have a balance of two major elements: Analysis and training.
Naturally these two elements severely overlap and intertwine so beautifully that we often don’t realise that there is a difference.
To me, Analysis is about the analytical study of karate. It’s about taking a long, cold, hard look to try and understand what we are practicing. We can all demonstrate a gedan barai or an oi tsuki, but do we all fully understand it? For me personally, analysing makes up a big part of my study. I endure and strive to not just perform the techniques, but to dissect and understand them, which can then lead to being able to effectively applying them.
Karate Analysis is what one must regularly do in order to move forward. This analysis looks at considering how the techniques work, how they operate and how I can execute them to:
A) Be more economical (Less wasted energy and unnecessary movements/actions)
B) Try and make them more practical (Functionality) and devastating (Powerful)
C) And also very importantly, to be more thoughtful of my body and protect it from self-injury.
There are many methods of analysis, like using mirrors and cameras, all will make you see your errors and weaknesses. Then once you have located your problem you can work on it.
Analysis can also involve simply working on a technique, often in private, thinking open-mindedly about the technique. For example, gyaku-tsuki involves a rotation of the hips. Simply asking the question, ‘How can I enhance or improve this?’ will then lead you down a path where you consider the components of the technique so you can develop them.
Training involves the sweat, passion and grind. For me personally, this is where I like experimenting and playing with what I have learned in my research. I was fascinated to hear that during his time on the Instructor Course, Yahara Sensei would experiment, put himself at a disadvantage and test himself. He was clearly using his training as an extension of his own personal research and study and a time for experimentation.
Only through repetition can we develop muscle memory and perfect our karate. Equally, bad habits also happen within repetition; so it is vitally important that we combine the analysis and the thoughtful training together.
I can only speak for myself, and this is purely my opinion and may very well not be everyone else’s. Analysis is an incredibly personal thing that depends on your own determination and desire to better yourself, your knowledge and your understanding. As I have mentioned, these two parts completely overlap. For me it’s impossible to train without analysis being a part of it.
All analysis (No Training) is useless as you’ll never be able to execute the techniques naturally. All training (No Analysis) results in a halting of your development and understanding.
The layout of this article suggests that Analysis and Training are separate components that singularly deserve attention at one moment in time. This was not my intention. Both will happen together and often subconsciously. Don’t necessarily say to yourself ‘Today I’m going to Analyse and tomorrow I will Train’. This will be a detrimental mindset. All I’m saying is train, but always make sure your always thinking about personally how you can better execute the techniques and self improvement.
Try out different ideas; see what happens if you execute it slightly differently, see what happens if you twist the hip like this rather than like that, see what happens if you think about pulling rather than pushing etc. Constantly reassess and experiment with alternative ideas until you find one that works for you.