Monthly Archives: November 2017

Karate ‘Tight Lines’

May be a bit of a stretch, but karate can be a bit like fishing: hesitation or unaware time can cost you.

It took me a while to get the knack of setting the hook on a trout that hit my bait, especial

Dad

At 82, my father understands how being alert catches fish!

ly when trolling the big lakes and pond for bigger fish. You have to be alert, always in the zone – ready to react. With a relatively long line out behind the boat there can be no hesitation before or after the nibble or strike. Hesitate after the fish hits the line and you miss it, hesitate or give him slack line after you hook it and it’s gone: it’s all about being aware and being alert.

Karate is no different. The first one is obvious, hesitate in combat and you miss your opportunity to defend or to attack. As the Samurai understood, hesitation is death.

Similar to hesitating, or giving a fish slack line after you hook it, if there is any sort of indecision or even a micro-pause after a technique, you are creating an opening for your opponent.

Through video scrutiny with Sensei Power, my slack line sometimes comes in the form of a slight outward front foot turn when moving forward, or a very slight foot drag after moving. Either way, there is a break in the flow of the technique, detracting from its effectiveness and its strength.

To take the analogy further, awareness in karate is like your line when fishing, slightly taut but not tight, with no interruption in you physical or mental attentiveness.

As my father reminds me when I get a salmon on my line: “Easy and Steady…Soft hands, now…”

You have to find your own zone, I believe…

Intention to the front, please

Intention: A thing intended, an aim, plan or goal. Of course, a goal or a plan always denotes a destination, somewhere you intend to get – somewhere your focus is.

In the Martial Arts this is a vital concept. How do we turn out intention physiological? How do we reach a place in Kata and in Kumite where intention is the horse before the cart, the catalyst for the technique?

My initial understanding of intention was over simplified: I intend to destroy my opponent; I intend to throw an oi-zuki/gyaku-tsuki combination; I intend to do a sharp and fast Jitte. This is more of a plan, and having a mental plan in karate often costs you time and restricts your defenses, i.e., you think too much.

IntentionIntention I now believe, is giving constant direction to your energy (how many times did Nishiyama Sensei state that!), and that overall energy is forward – always. As Sensei Power puts it, even at the end of a technique in Kata or Kumite, there is a ‘pressure’ forward, an overall feeling of Zanshin or continued awareness, which is the fire in your belly and the alertness in your body for the next move. All the while your center (Hara) dissecting your opponent like a laser beam.

Yesterday in the dojo we looked at intention and Go No Sen, and Sensei Power reminded me that even while shifting back to receive the attack, your intention is going forward. The energy is recycled through your body and physically sent forward again in the counter.

Maintaining intention eliminates dead time in Kumite and quells subtle stops and starts in Kata.

Sounds easy enough, but doing it…well, that’s a different thing!

Mokuso: “A Moment of Presence”

Frequently lately I am blessed with the opportunity to play music with a gentleman named Adrian (as well as a number of other extremely talented friends). I primarily play stringed instruments like guitar and mandolin while Adrian plays whatever is within his reach: guitar, mandolin, harmonica, banjo, and the list goes on.

Listening carefully to Adrian (I often do, even as I’m playing along with him), I admire that not only does he play an amazing arrangement of notes in a song, he hits the notes with precise timing.

The space between his notes is musical beauty.

Recently, on the Karate front, I’ve been pondering Mokuso, roughly translated as ‘meditation’, but much more than that I’ve found. As I often do, I posed my thoughts and an inquiry about Mokuso to a karate Sensei that I consider a very learned resource and one always willing to share his thoughts on a topic.

On Mokuso, this is part of the superb exchange I had with Sensei Toru Shimoji:

Most of us, including me (!) suffer from busy and chatty mind that runs like a hamster on a wheel. I’ve been working hard to take time throughout the day to simply breathe and enjoy the space between my thoughts. It was fleeting at first, if not accidental, that I would find myself there. Typically, thoughts are closely hooked to the past and future, pulling and projecting, as you argue, judge, plan, worry, etc. and etc. It becomes a routine, a pattern. Mokuso can help you break this habit, with deep silent breath opening a space between the thoughts. Once there, the moment of presence is blissful. Like a child, you will repeat pleasurable experience, so the idea of Mokuso is not work, but rather returning to a state we once had.

Mokuso then is using the breath – breathing deeply – as a means to clear the mind without trying to do so, to get to a place where we enjoy the “space between our thoughts” – stillness. A conscious attempt to try and clear your mind simply creates more mind traffic, but sitting quietly and doing nothing but breathing reaps the benefit of a clear mind. Simply breathing and perceiving the stillness allows you to have an open mind to experience the class and absorb the instruction.

One day I’d like to get Adrian and my musical friends as well as Sensei Shimoji in the same room: two seemingly different authorities on the very significant concept of the space between – both of whom have a lot to teach me!

Tuidi – Okinawan Karate Tools

If you’re going to master Kumite, you’d better know how to fight inside and out.

Growing up in a small outport, when the spring ice started breaking up and got too ‘slobby’ to go ice panning on, we were constantly reminded: ‘Mind yourself around the ice! Keep your distance!’ Otherwise meaning stay off the ice for fear of mother’s wrath!

In Karate, keeping your distance is fundamental to the Art – Maai, or engagement distance as Jesse Enkamp refers to it, is fundamental in competitive Karate.  Staying right on the peripheral edge of where you need to be to engage your opponent is critical. Stray slightly inside this edge and you’re in the combat zone; slip slightly outside this edge and you limit your attack possibilities. A concept from Kendo, correct Maai is life or death – no different than engaging a knife attacker.

TuidiHaving said that, enter Tuidi, an Okinawan term for fighting techniques used in close. We Shotokan people never want anyone to get too close to us or to grab us in an altercation, but in case someone does, you have to have a few tools in your toolbox. After all, if we look at Kata, every move is an engagement move: attacks and destructive defenses, the stuff that happens when you cross the invisible combat line.

Seizing someone’s neck, an arm lock and break, or dislocating an opponent’s shoulder aren’t pretty, but neither is losing a real battle. We need to get to know our Tuidi.

Once again, Karate imitates life: fundamentally most important is what happens on the inside.