Finding ways of training
With the snow pelting down outside, and my car stranded a few miles from home, there was no possible chance of me making it to the dojo. I must admit to having been in a bit of a bad mood, brought on possibly by an itchy hangover, and a lack of food in the house. Somehow nonetheless, I had energy that I needed to disperse.
Now, I live in a new(ish) house. I mention this to give you an idea of the kinds of walls that surrounded me, keeping the snow outside. The walls in these newer houses are paper thin, one decent gyaku-tsuki and my neighbour may find themselves dozing off to the land of nod. Therefore I’m not able to put or hang any impact device within the house.
So I moved my coffee table to the corner of the room, removed my top, and started to practice some punching techniques, a variety of kihon based punches, then more close-proximity punching and defensive techniques. But you know when you are in the kind of mood where punching air molecules just doesn’t cut it? I knew I had to do some impact training. So I pulled out my heavy kick shield, and looked for somewhere to hang it in the house, but then in my silent wanderings around the house in search for a wall nail to hang the shield, I could hear my neighbour shout to her husband :
‘Do me a favour and wash those dishes!!!’
This just illumined how thin the walls are. One accurately timed punch would ruin her day as her hanging picture frames go crashing to the floor. What was I going to do?
I went back to the living room and threw the shield on the floor as I went to get myself a glass of water. When I walked back in, I looked at this shield lying on the floor and a thought occurred to me, why not work on it while it’s on the floor?
It is a proven fact that fighting often ends up on the floor, and with the growing popularity of Brazilian Ju Jitsu, and MMA, there is indeed as growing need to be able to handle yourself from the floor. Now, typically Shotokan does not work primarily from the floor. Yes, the kata do contain floor fighting scenarios e.g: Unsu: Kicking mawashi geri from the floor , Kanku-Dai: How to fight your way up from the floor; but we, as a system, like to knock them out before it gets to that point. We do however have to have a safety net if the s*** hits the fan and you do end up on the floor, like home insurance if a burglar breaks in. You have a baseball bat to stop them, but if that doesn’t work, you have got home insurance as a safety net.
So my objective in this training session was to create ‘knock out’ power from some difficult positions on the floor. When we are standing, we have the feet-floor connection, which enables us to effectively create power through hip rotation due to the floor-feet-knee-hip-trunk union. However from the floor, where this is somewhat restricted, power can be harder to generate. This is an area that I could work on. I have done this many times at my dojo with my senior students, but never at home myself.
Throughout the entire home session, I kept thinking about my neighbours who could easily see through my window. What must they have thought about me rolling about on the floor, topless, with a kick shield?
Below are just a few ways I worked using the shield to help illustrate the kinds of things I was able to work on.
Knee Drop: This is an awesome technique I learned from the legendary Aidan Trimble. Many times when you are able to fight and take someone to the floor you want to stun – in order to relax them – to be able to then knock them out. This is a great way of knocking the wind out of them if you execute this on their chest, or knock them out if you do it on their head. Here, you literally drop with the knee into the opponent. You allow gravity to accelerate you downward onto them, but allowing your base leg to go soft. Therefore, your body weight travels directly downward in one direct line so your knee pounds into them. To practice this I got the pad beneath me and just pounded downward. I then doubled this with a follow up punch, or double punch.
Punching: If you take someone to the floor and follow up with a punch, always ensure your posture remains upright, so your head, centre and bottom are in one line. You shouldn’t bend over with the punch, unbalancing yourself – rendering yourself even more vulnerable. Now, if we are going to do a gyaku-zuki, we want the hand, hip, and breath to all arrive as one unit. We don’t want them to each arrive sequentially, but instead simultaneously. Exactly the same must be in place here. You stand over the shield, allow your legs to soften, allow gravity to pull you downward, and accelerate yourself down wards. Don’t however lower then punch. Punch as you are dropping your centre of gravity with good posture. This will accelerate energy in a downward and into the shield. (Please note that if you’ve taken someone to the floor, a kick can prove to be a better option)
Fumikomi: In certain circumstances, why lower the body to hit an opponent you have put on the floor when you can stamp on them. Here, raise the knee high and compress the leg to the body, and drop the heel into the shield. Allow the knee to travel backwards, in order to straighten the leg, thus propelling the foot towards the target. Try also allowing the base leg to soften, allowing the centre of gravity to drop, increasing impact.
Mawashi Geri: Lay on your side, and roll over kicking the shield with the ball of the foot. Ensure that you maximise hip rotation, ensuring the hip rotates and the foot hits the target simultaneously.
Uraken: Lay on your back adjacent to the shield, and practice variations of the uraken in order to pressure test the technique under more restrictive circumstances. For example, try delivering it whilst keeping your shoulders pinned to the floor. Try delivering without looking at the target etc, as measures to further explore the technique under potential realistic and restricted circumstances.
*Please note the second picture is illistrating the restriction of the left shoulder.
Empi: Lay adjacent to the shield, similar to the uraken exercise, and practice striking with ura mawashi empi, and from further way incorporating a sideward’s role coupled with a mawashi empi.
*Please note the second picture in the series is to convey the restriction of the left shoulder.
Straddling choku-zuki: Have your knees either side of the shield, and practice deliver heavy punches into the shield. Explore and find ways of increasing impact without the obvious large rotational energy that accompanies punching from a stance.
These are of course just a short list of the ways I started using the shield on the ground. There is so much scope, including head butting, other variety of kicks and strikes etc, however what becomes most interesting is when you deliver the above, and any other varieties that you may find with a handicap of some sort. Such a handicap may be restricted hip movement, limited shoulder movement, having one side of your body pinned, and essentially finding alternative ways to create power while restricted. One thing I found to be key was the importance of relaxation and the breath.
Another interesting aspect to note is the issue of targeting. Possibly mark your shield with a target or use a specific point on the pad as your repeated target area to ensure you are not firing wild and undirected techniques.
Karate may be criticised for its long stances and big techniques, but using the pad in this way, I feel validates the Kihon approach. The ethos of karate is to unify the body, so upon impact the entire body is behind each and every technique. Kihon refines this process and concept and co-ordinates the body in order to be able to achieve this. The same principles of the entire body arriving simultaneously must be in place here on the ground.
I initially practiced each of the drills discussed above, then spent 5 minutes blasting out continuous fighting with the shield. Wherever it moved naturally along the floor as a consequence of my impact I followed and adapted, using the sequences explored. So it could start with a knee drop, which then led to me rolling over with the mawashi, then straddling it with some punches, followed by standing fumokomi etc.
It was cold and white outside, my neighbours were freezing as they cleared our small cul-de-sac, whilst I sweated inside, and my shield seemed to wince with pain.