Sensei Minoru Higa defined karate this way: ‘Every movement, small amplitude. All movement from the Tanden.’
Sensei Higa shows Naka Sensei the Pushing Hands Drill
This, he says, is the lifelong journey for Karate people: to do more with less and to do everything form the body’s center.
As our karate progresses we need to eliminate the wind-up and the pull-back. We need sharp, powerful techniques that are in no way telegraphed, and that come form the body’s center in the most direct line to the target. Elbows sticking out, head going forward, or knees wavering before an attack are wasted energy as Sensei Lee says. Arms and legs are projectiles from the body: there’s a small cannon in your lower gut. The gut tightens and a foot or fist delivers the hit – direct and on target. A deadly movement with a small amplitude.
As with everything in karate, this come with time and repetition. Proper repetition is the sandpaper of karate.
When I’m in my boat fishing, I’m not too concerned about the long, rolling wave. I can see that coming a mile off. But the quicker, sharper, steep wave (that comes with no warning) is another story.
In the same vein, it’s the reverse punch that fires like a rocket from the opponent’s hip, direct to your center line, that will sink your ship!
In doing some reading recently about the origins of karate, a line stuck out to me in a poem written by our karate forefather, Gichin Funakoshi:
To search for the old is to understand the new.
The old, the new
This is a matter of time.
In all things man must have a clear mind.
Who will pass it on straight and well?
To search for the old is to understand the new. So, I went searching for something old to apply it to some of my current training. Enter Kakie: Pushing Hands.
In my current training, we hear about intention: your intention, your opponent’s intention and then suitable responses to both. And according to Minoru Higa Sensei (Born in Naha, Okinawa on September 18, 1941. His first experience of martial arts was at the age of 11), learning Kakie examines three different concepts: recognizing the opponent’s intentions, responding to the opponent’s intentions, and always having the upper hand.
From the start position (see below) one partner begins the exercise by pushing his right forearm towards his opponent and rotating his right palm so that it faces his partner. He thus pushes his partner’s arm back towards him. While doing this the opponent resists slightly the pushing motion of his partner. As he does so he turns his left hand flat palm open and facing up to catch his own right palm in. The opponent then continues the exercise by pushing back towards the attacking partner’s forearm in the same way with the attacker resisting the opponent.
Fights are at close range, and this ancient karate exercise aids strengthening and stamina, awareness regarding your opponents intentions. as well as the principle of maintaining the upper(inside) hand.
There is nothing new under the sun… but plenty to be discovered again.
‘In a fight, if I don’t know what I am going to do, how can you know?’
These were words from Sensei Lee in last night’s class. He was speaking to unpredictability, and the necessity of the same. His thought is this: if you’re going into a confrontation with a preset thought as to what techniques you will use, you probably will lose! While you’re thinking, ‘I’ll probably shoot out a front kick to the chest and follow up with a reverse punch to the head,’ your opponent will have probably already have punched you in the face.
You don’t need a plan. You need to maintain composure (breathe) and stay aware. Your opponent is your trigger: A) They give you an opening via Kyo such as changing position, or telegraphing an attack or B) you make an opening by attacking their lead hand and attacking, or by parrying an attack (that you bring out of them) and delivering a strike.
Nishiyama Sensei always said: “Think, and you’re too late!”
It stands to reason that repetition in training, understanding Bunkai, doing Kata and participating in controlled Kumite will give you the tools you need – all you need to do is let you come out of you with conviction.