Sacrificing Form for Speed
Last Saturday, Sensei Don Owens (WJKA) planted another seed. In essence, he got us thinking about what changes when we go from walking to running. The premise for his getting us onto this train of thought is that in Karate, you need to get good before you get fast.
There's no trouble to find practitioners who are flashy and quick who look like they know what they are doing. The issue is that flash isn't functional. That is, speed won't be effective if certain elements of form are left out.
Back to the walking/running analogy.
To be a runner, you have to understand walking. You have to get how biomechanics work: muscles and joints (controlled by our mental intentions) are what propel us forward or backwards. Posture is the glue. For expert runners it gets more granular than thet. They understand movement using minimal muscular effort. Its as if the precision that is defined in walking it translated into running withut losing nesr-perfect form.
In Karate, Sensei Owens reminds us, you perfect before you perform. That is, if you don't study the basics of proper form such as posture, natural compression and release, joint alignment, stance depth and width, your speedy techniques will go off the rails.
Another analogy is the golf swing. Hours and hours are spent understaning swing plane, takeaway, followthrough, and release before attempting to hit the 300+ yard drives.
I've come to realize that perfecting the basics is more than mindless repitition. Its about studying your own body and how you use it to perform techniques. We have countless Karate folks with artificial joints becasue we were training in the mindset of 'one technique stye fits all,' dismissing the fact that no two of our bodies are made the same. Thats like telling every member of a baseball team that there is a single way to pitch a ball.
A good grasp of the basics has nothing to do with being able to punch or block. It means having no dead time prior to delivery; it means having a straight, energy-direct line to your opponent; it means utilizing momentum and timed muscular engagement; and it means performing with your body as a unit - from head to toe.
As Sensei Power always reminds us, a quick, snappy Kata breaks down as soon as your posture is comprimized, as soon as your head drops, or your knee caves inward.
In reality, a fast technique will fool and possibly injure an opponent, but it takes consistency - and structure in your form - to terminate them.
In a nutshell, we need to teach young students (especially) to get solid before they get speedy.