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Friday, September 28, 2012

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet . . .

Students always want to execute blindingly fast Bruce Lee kicks, punches and delayed death touches. It looks great on the movies because that is where they belong; in the movies.

Take kata for instance. How fast is too fast? Well to arrive at the proper answer we need to look at the function of kata. Kata is designed to perfect basic techniques and present them in such a manner as to allow beginners to see potential applications of the movements and allow advanced students to develop their own bunkai.

However bunkai and “favorite techniques” are pretty much worthless. Should an occasion arise where you are called upon to use your skills you automatically revert to basics. Blame it on muscle memory. When Billie Bob makes a disparaging remark about your parents (specifically your mother) and steps in to sucker punch you you don’t stop to think “cool he’s going to throw with his right, I’ll step in, middle block, flip my blocking arm around into an arm lock, counter strike with a palm heel to his chin while I sweep him with my from leg!” No, you execute a middle block and counter punch before you even realize what you were doing.

Why? Because you did the middle block – punch 2,000 times in the dojo. The fancy technique you did maybe 20 time 4 months ago. In a crisis you really have “mizo no kokoro” – mind like water and it flows to the familiar, the tried and true: basics, not fancy.

In a real-world confrontation numerous different Catecholamines (hormones and other chemicals) are dumped into our system. These chemicals prepare us to either fight or run away (fight or flight response) They speed up our reaction time, narrow our focus of concentration and focus our mind.

So what does that have to do with speed and kata? Wait for it.. .

When we practice, even at “full speed” it is not adrenline driven, anxiety induced hyperspeed. In a real fight every thing is far fast than we every plan for; everything is sped up. If we doing blindingly fast training those techniques become sloppy and befuddled in a real fight. If we train “dojo full speed” then when the need arises we execute proper effective but rapidly delivered techniques.

So how do you know when you are moving too fast in training? When you blur. Remember: Wax-on . . .Wax-off not "Wax-on-Wax-Off"!

By that I mean when there is not a distinct transition from one technique to another. “Punchblock” should be executed punch/block. One count kata practice deprives us of this training (though it has it’s own uses). Kata, by the count, allows us to learn to execute distinct, precisely delivered techniques before going on to the next technique. In a well performed kata, even when done fast, a trained on-looker can see distinct individual techniques, not a Bruce Lee blur.

Challenge: Try delivering a block and punch full force, full speed in makiwara training. It’s a little slower than FTL (faster than light) kata movements, isn’t it?

Cox Hakase

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How Can You Find A Reputable and Safe Karate Dojo/Style To Study At?

It’s an oxymoron: wherever children are found in numbers or where individuals go to learn to protect themselves from predators your will always find predators.  Martial Arts schools, unfortunately, fall into these categories. 

Then how do you know the “style” really is a style or something some guy made up in his garage?

Some suggestions:

1.  Annual contracts – avoid.  These schools are frequently money over art.

2.  Go and observe a class first before enrolling your child or yourself.  If they cannot let you observe without signing-up because “we cannot reveal our secret instructional techniques passed down from generation to generation…”  Don’t walk out . . . RUN!  If you can’t run, fly!

3.  Get the instructor’s name and the assistant instructor’s names (if they won’t give them to you see the advice in para 2.  Take the names and enter them into the sexual predator database.  In Florida it’s located at;jsessionid=N3dTdZdLXhFDpGejJi5GLQ__  the Department of Justice National Database is located at  Sometimes, depending on the state, these records can be expunged, if so the “Internet Archives Wayback Machine” may be able to help (if you’re suspicious).

4.  Ask about liability insurance- they should have it.

5.  Ask about style and school affiliation – then verify it on-line.  NOTE: many good schools change affiliation so look at their history as well.

6.  Trophies in the window mean competition not traditional karate.  If the instructor says he was the “World Full Contact Karate Champion” it would be verifiable on the internet. If it was “secret” competitions, follow the advice in para 2 above.

7.  Talk with current students – not in class but outside of class.

8.  Ask if the instructors are all CPR certified and if they have a Automated External Cardiac Defibrillator (AED) on premises.  Heart attacks are actually rather rare in dojos but AEDs improve survival percentages significantly.

9.  Expect minor injuries.  The martial arts ARE a contact activity.

10.  If you ask about promotions and they can guarantee a promotion time frame refer to the advice in para 2 above.

11.  Martial arts training IS meant to be rigorous, rigorous is NOT the same thing as sadistic.

12.  If you are taking karate to learn self-defense, don’t. Buy a gun instead.  To become proficient in self-defense in the martial arts takes a minimum of 3-5 years of continuous practice.  Anyone promising you differently should be avoided.

13.  Any School instructor who participated in a “Death Match” is off his medication and should be avoided.

14.  Any instructor who can “kill a man 50 different ways” can also rip you off 100 different ways – avoid.

15.  If there are no female students, ask why.  If the answer is “Women cannot endure the rigors of our training” leave (even if you or your child is male)

16.  Weapons training is normal in martial arts schools but not during the first year or so.

17.  Students bowing to the head instructor or a photo the style’s developer is NOT a sign of a cult or replacement religion.  It is simple, professional Asian courtesy.  Chill out.

18.  Bottom line:  If you feel like the school is not right or that something is wrong, go to another school .  Trust your instincts!

Cox Hakase

Why Do American Karate-Ka's Knees all go Bad?

Have you noticed? When you go into an American Dojo you can hear the mechanical clicks of the knee braces throughout the class.  Yet when I lived in Okinawa I never saw an Okinawan Shorin-Ryu practitioner with a knee brace on (unles they injured it outside of the dojo). Why?

The reason is both clear and disturbing.  The infamous roundhouse kick: the mawashi-geri.

Okay here's the even bigger news:  mawashi-geri is NOT a Mataubayshi-Ryu technique!  Don't believe me?  Look it up.  Still most every Matsubayashi-Ryu dojo uses the roundhouse kick - and many of those dojo members have bad knees.

There is a reason Nagamine Hanshi did not include it in basis techniques when he developed Matsubayashi-Ryu: it's ineffective.  Sure you can occasionally score a point in competition but Matsubayashi-Ryu is not about competition, its about fighting in the street.  In a real fight, a kick targeted above the waist is an invitation to test your ground skills.

I know what you're going to say "But kickboxers use roundhouses all the time as do the Korean Arts." and you are absolutely correct.  However remember Korean arts (regardless of what they say) came from Shotokan (Japanese) which came from the Okinawan arts.  You never see a 60 year old Korean throwing roundhouse kicks but even Nagamine Hanshi could throw conventional kicks in his 80s.

I understand a beautifully executed mawashi-geri impresses your friends and influences judges, but its sort of like smoking; by the time the damage begins to show (i.e. your knees) its too late.

Again it boils down to a simple question: are you studying traditional Okinawan karate or a bastardized American version of the art.  Art vs. sport.

Cox Hakase