I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer so far. Even though we’ve met our first heat wave, it isn’t officially summer until the children get out of school. Some parent would like to see school last all year long but that’s not going to happen in this lifetime.
I have taken writings from different section of my book which I’ve been working on for 8 years anyways and decided to share some of my feelings and learning. With the little time I have, this book may never be completed in my lifetime and I will not be able to share.
This time I am writing to discuss workouts. After many years of studying and working out in martial arts, I have acquired many ideas and opinions on why I work out as religiously as I do. I hope this may help you or some of your students understand another version of the psychology of a karate practitioner.
At my ripe old age, I don’t have the stamina I use to have when I was 9 years old. This doesn’t mean I am willing to quit after 2 steady hours. Most sense’s separate teaching and their personal work outs. I will work out with my students and on days with no classes or seminars, I work out by myself.
The question pending is what are my goals during this work out? What am I trying to accomplish? Have I moved closer to my ultimate goal? Am I satisfied with my work out?
There are 2 aspects of training in karate. One is Kumite and the other is Kata. To be an effective fighter within our Uechi-Ryu system, we must be proficient in both aspects of this style. This would mean we must train diligently in both Kata and Kumite.
I’ve studied for about 45 years and I’ve heard people say “I am only interested in kata” or “I am just interested in learning how to fight”. My answer to them is you are a student of the art but you are not a martial artist.
A good example would be someone learning about photography. One may study and understand the use of a camera and how to adjust the apertures and shutter speeds but never being able to aim and snap with your intending subject remotely centered or even captured in its’ entirety. You may understand about photography but you are not a photographer.
Another example is becoming a driver of an automobile. You can study about how to operate a vehicle and where every nob, bell and whistle is and all their purposes but unless you get behind a wheel and physically drive that vehicle and operate all the bells and whistles, you are not a driver.
Let’s get into the mind set of training. What is there to be gain from sparring? The most important aspect of Kumite is timing and positioning. Everyone has a different speed of attack. We must learn to strategically place our weapons to quickly and easily deflect or guide away any attack regardless of how quick he/she may be. I’ve always set my hands and legs in a defensive posture to be able to intercept my opponent’s attacks. I even attack with my hands and legs in a defensive posture.
The positioning is of the utmost importance because while my timing catches an attack, I want to softly and quickly settle in a position where it would be more difficult for my opponent to generate a second attack yet place me in an advantageous position to counter. I hear many fighters say they can anchor their feet and with much force grab and pull their opponents off balance to counter. This is a little more difficult to perform and very easy to say. This can only be accomplished if you can overpower your opponent. I’m sure most would like to believe they can overpower their opponents but is it realistic? In a real fight, could we take that chance? Many would be disappointed.
In the category of Kumite, we also must learn body conditioning. No one engage in actual combat and emerge untouched. If you believe this, you have watched too many movies. If you decide to engage in combat, you must be ready for its consequences.
Kotekitae or body conditioning should never be overdone. Conditioning means just that. The more we attack our body, the more we “condition” ourselves to the pain and brushing. This does not mean our body is not being injured. I’ve consulted many doctors and every doctor had the same answers. “Our bodies are injured but our minds have learned to accept the pains present.” Is that really good for you?
A good example of what I am trying to explain to you is a type 1 diabetic. Most of us are a bit uneasy with the idea of jabbing a needle into our leg, hip and whatever they are accustomed to but a diabetic would not give it a second thought. They have done this so often it’s become second nature. This does not mean there is no pain in the insertion of this needle but after thousands of repetitions they are conditioned.
The question here is how much of this pounding is enough and at my age how much must I endure before I smarten up? We must also realize in our youth, we regenerate faster and stronger. As we grow older, we all take forever for a sprain to heal or even a cut to stop bleeding. Let’s take a close look at Kotekitae and decide at our present age, is it more beneficial or are we just punishing ourselves. I still believe there is a place for Kotekitae but it should be age appropriate.
Although there are a lot more benefits to sparring, I would like to conclude with the aspect of flexibility and speed. In relations to training in China, this is explained as the path of the snake. The snake version of training is all about how flexible we can become and how fast we can sting our opponents.
Regardless of how powerful you are if we cannot make solid contact on our opponent, what effect will our attacks have? Punching air has never hurt anyone but yourself. Along with diligent training comes power. It is a given. If strength is all we concentrate on, we are chasing a bird in hand.
Speed and flexibility on the other hand is elusive and fickle. The more we neglect it, the more difficult it is to gain its alliance. We must maintain what we have for as long as we can.
I’ve heard the argument “without strength you cannot hurt anyone”. Let not be ridiculous. There is no way we do not gain strength as we work out and exercise. We simple include speed and flexibility to our equation. It is foolish to think we cannot gain strength while we develop speed and flexibility.
The formula for force is F=M x A. Force = Mass times Acceleration. When I hit you with force, You are throwing your mass which is your fist and with the proper rotation the entire weight of your body times how fast you can punch. Your body mass is not going to change unless I load up on carbs and that’s not always good. The only other way to increase your force is to increase your acceleration. Your mass which is constant and an increase of your acceleration and you will be hitting with more force. By the way, more flexibility will also increase speed.
Let us examine kata. What is the purpose of kata? Why do we teach our students the more we practice kata the better fighter we become? Do we understand the concept of kata? What defines us as Uechi-Ryu students?
I have discussed the concept of kata with more high ranking Uechi-Ryu senseis then I want to admit. Their ideas of kata leave me scratching my head as to where they come up with their ideas and the wild stories they portray as truth. I could blame their teachers but we must also assume some of the blame as some teachings defies common sense.
We are Uechi-Ryu students because we train with Uechi-Ryu katas which contain our Uechi-Ryu techniques. How many of us can honestly say they fight using Uechi-Ryu techniques? How many of us can say they use our wa-uke during an actual fighting match and how often or the percent of times you’ve use it to defend or attack? Please remember this wa-uke is our major, primary movement. It should be the first thing that we rely on. But honestly how many times have you used it? What is the percentage of your fighting employs this movement? If you don’t use it 90% of the time, you do not understand the basic, major purpose of the wa-uke and thus need to gain a better understanding of this entire system which is based on the wa-uke. This wa-uke movement is approximately 80% of your entire system. How many times do these movements appear in our katas? What is the purpose of training decades on movements you cannot use or understand?
I will tell you I fight with Uechi-Ryu movements. I have fought all over the world and used Uechi-Ryu almost exclusively as I find the technicalities of our movements to be most effective. These movements have become second nature because of my dedication to the performance of kata and the understanding of its movements.
Repetition in kata will ingrain in our muscle memory our techniques and how and when to use them. I perform my kata as if I was actually fighting an opponent. When an attacker is engaged or if I choose to attack, my movements to attack or defend is in my katas.
I hear many say “kata is not fighting”. They are simply exercise movements. If that is true, I would suggest you take up dancing as dancing provides a greater range of movements and a better cardio vascular workout. You would not even have to explain why you can’t use the movements in our fighting katas.
The more we practice kata, the more proficient we become in these fighting movements. If we do not practice our katas in the context of fighting, we lose the entire purpose of kata. You been dancing a slow, ridged, ugly dance your entire karate life.
My suggestion would be to imagine an opponent from the very start of any kata. As we go through our movements, we need to imaging what our opponent is doing and why we move into the position we are assuming and what we are doing to combat this opponent.
Be a Uechi-Ryu student and fighter. Uechi-Ryu is one of the most complicated fighting systems in the combating world. I know there are not a lot of students who has gone the distance I have to understand our system but if you can understand and use its movements, you will indeed be an accomplished martial artist.