Good Karate: The illusion you can feel

Last night as I got to do some Jiyu Ippon Kumite (see picture of the legendary Stan Schmidt and Jeff Hutchings Jiyu Ippon KumiteNakayama Sensei) with a 4th Dan and a 5th Dan in my dojo I realized something: if your opponent is adept, he isn’t a moving target, he’s an illusion. Sound like a bit of a stretch? It isn’t.

Strictly speaking an illusion is a thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses. The 4th Dan I worked with last night was shorter than me, a solid guy, strong, and with a stance rooted like a mature maple. The 5th Dan was taller, had more of a reach, and was also very strong. With both opponents I noticed something. We were doing serious Ippon – the attacker does exactly that: attack straight in to the middle – and I was noticing that as I launched my attack, my opponents weren’t moving right off the mark. I could launch in with my Jodan punch and I’d be into their action space before they’d actually defend. Here’s where the illusion was.  To me, already well into my attack, it felt like my target was right there in front of me. It wasn’t! With effortless movement they were, in an instant, outside my striking range with their counter already delivered, and my attacking arm feeling it!

Their movements were swift, supremely efficient and effective. They had moved very little, in fact, hadn’t moved until the last milli-second, and had delivered the block with absolute body connection: they weren’t counter attacking with their arms; they were doing so with their bodies.

As we were training, the senior belt teaching the class simply said, “don’t pop the attacker’s arm, simply redirect it. No big movement required.”

I left the dojo last night with two thoughts: I had come a long way, and I had a long way to go.