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Karate Philosophy of Bill Bauknecht

by George Mattson

Personal Philosophy of Bill Bauknecht!

Many times over the years of training, all of us in the martial arts, at some time, has sustained an injury that has hindered our training. Some are serious and some are just little bumps and bruises. These can be broken down as an injury, disease, temporary or permanent, any of which can affect our training habits and in many cases, cause one to give up all together. Another factor can be age, when is somebody too old to start training in the martial arts? Is there an age limit?  Is there a time when we are too old to continue and just quit?

I fall into the following categories: Disease, Permanently disabled and, hardest to accept,  Age.

I have continued my training learning to cope with my problems and in spite of these walls, managed to reach and surpass many of the goals I had set for myself. I don’t think it really matters what it is that you are “battling”, be it a permanent situation or a temporary injury, there are ways that you can go on with your training, improve yourself and mainly NOT make things worse, NOT hurting yourself while using your time to improve your ability and at the same time broaden your knowledge and come to understand each move in the process.

I would like to pass on a few things that I have found very helpful and has let me do my “thing” to the best of my ability. I stress very much, “doing the best you are capable of doing.” Accept the fact that you have limits and make yourself stay within those limits. Do not do anything that hurts. In other words, if you have a broken leg, YOU DON’T KICK WITH THAT LEG! Just use common sense. If you have been training for a long time, the hardest thing to do is backing off on the power.

So, lesson number one, forget using your power for a while. AND don’t worry about speed. Tuck both away for now, I guarantee you; this will be the hardest thing to do. If you are a relatively new student, and you have a disability, power should not even be an issue. Everyone is different and everyone has their own problems. That means you will have to be your own “doctor.”

You will find frustration a common companion. You must accept the responsibility of taking care of your own body. What can I do, without hurting myself? What can I do or what can I not do because of this disability? If you have been training a while you know you can do sanchin even while lying on your back with your eyes closed. If you try this you will find while your mind is doing sanchin, your body is following. You will focus on the end of a thrust or feel yourself come down into sanchin.

The first thing I suggest is going through the first set of exercises. By doing this you will quickly find out what you can do safely and what you should shy away from. It will also let you figure out little ways to get around certain moves.

It’s not cheating, it’s simply adapting and “doing the best you can do.” Do the exercises slowly but be sure to stretch things out as far as you can without hurting. After you have gone through the exercises your way, you haven’t hurt yourself, you haven’t overdone anything and you are beginning to feel good. Of course, once you begin to feel good, this is where the urge to escalate your training can work against you so be careful. Just because you are feeling better you will naturally want to start pushing. That’s a no no. Get yourself into a slow speed mode and follow it. If you have a balance problem, get yourself a chair or even a cane to hold onto.

I do not think the second half of the exercises are quite as important at this point. We need to do them but they can be a bit tougher to work around. Depending on what your capabilities are, you can do these exercises and use the slow, no power method to improve your technique. Concentrate on each block, each strike and be sure you deliver each to the area they are intended. Obviously, if you have a bad arm, you don’t use that arm, you work around your physical problem.

Again, common sense, adapt!! But always take it slow and easy. Also concentrate on your sanchin, staying down and bringing those elbow’s back to your “shelf.” If you are able to do conditioning, go ahead, BUT,,I don’t really have to say it, don’t put a bruise on top of a bruise, and if you can’t do any conditioning, ,that’s OK too. Hopefully you will be working out at your dojo, there is no need to be embarrassed. Talk to your instructor and if you feel better, stay towards the rear of the class. You won’t be able to keep up anyway. Your instructor will understand what you are doing, if he/she doesn’t, well, I would find another instructor.

Next you do sanchin kata. To me this is very beneficial in helping to progress in your training while you are injured, again temporarily or permanently. The only way you can hurt yourself doing sanchin is if you bring power and speed into play. We have already stored those so there shouldn’t be a problem. Again, if you have a broken arm, YOU DON’T USE IT, Concentrate on your stepping, and thrusting. Very slowly, when you step through, pull the leg through as if you are pulling a concrete block tied to your foot. If this bothers you, take the block away and just used the slight crescent movement and step. Grip the floor with your feet. Bring your thrusting arm back slowly and now is the time to be aware of that elbow and hand placement/position. When you thrust, drag the arm and elbow out against the body, turn over the hand as the elbow clears the body (basic stuff huh?) and without over reaching, try focusing the thrust and at the same time give a slight weight shift to your rear heel.

By doing this you should feel the focus coming up from the floor right up to the fingertips. Be relaxed throughout this movement until that very end of the thrust. Keep the shoulders relaxed, don’t force them down and just let them naturally fall. If any of this bothers you, forget the focusing and just work on the form. Do your entire sanchin. Only do first sanchin if you are in a class. If you are able, go ahead and do your second and even third; But only if your problem permits.

We want to motivate you to work out, to continue your learning without aggravating yourself. So continue to stay within those limits. Doing your kata can really be fun and you can learn a lot if you follow my suggestions here.

This is the way I MUST do my kata or I’m going to seriously hurt myself. My sensei, Art Rabesa had me do a kata one evening. This was before going up for one of my dan test and well before my body failed me. After I ripped through the kata, he told me to do the same kata only slow it way down, show each move as if I were teaching the kata to someone just learning it. Also, while going through each move, be aware of my sanchin and “feel” any bouncing up and down. To this day I think that was one of the best pieces of advice he could have given me. I have used it over and over with my students. It gives you opportunity to school yourself.

Go through your kata very slowly, study each move, understand each move, complete your blocks, deliver your strikes to the proper area, be aware of where you are in sanchin, staying down, in other words, “taking Sanchin” with you throughout your entire kata. Finish every move and flow into the next move; be sure you get your head around, bringing your hands with you.

All the little things you need to put together when you later “tear” through your kata with all of your power and speed. Do one kata very slowly, doing every move but don’t worry about the focus. Do it again if you like, especially if you find little bounces or the feel that you can do better. Then try the kata again, this time use the focusing. For example when you do your circular block, when you finish it, use a little focus at the power end, returning it to Sanchin arm position. Don’t overdo!! If at anytime you find you have aggravated your problem, ease off!! Only work to your limits. I found that working out this way really helped me improve my form. I made a study of the moves as I was doing them and it was easy to really get an understanding.

If your disabilities are temporary, you should find that this has helped you when you can start working regularly again. You don’t have to just to stop your training while you heal. This is also a good way for those of us who are older, to practice and work our way slowly into a more powerful and faster kata. Age, injuries, and/or disabilities should not be a reason for beginning or stopping your Uechi training. If you try this stuff, I hope it works for you. If it doesn’t, well, file it in the waste can. Regardless, remember, always take sanchin with you.

               Bill Bauknecht

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