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The Lifecycle of Basics

In my Zoom Karate session on Saturday, Sensei Don Owens reiterated, “Yes, you can do basics, and in fact, in a real situation you will shorten your movements to be fast and hard. But…you have to demonstrate basics so that the students understands.”

We were doing Happo kata/sequence, the 90/180, 8 turn sequence, using Sanchin dachi and three techniques: kizami tsuki, gyaku zuki and mae geri.

So, it was a jab, punch and kick. Pretty basic? No, not if you were to try and understand why basics like these are the fundamentals of karate. Knowing how to punch and kick doesn’t mean you know the basics.

Sensei Owens was teaching us to make use of natural body compression, ground connection, coil and recoil in the kick, focus points and rhythm – far from basic.

Senpai Ron teaching hip rotation

Interesting enough, Sensei Power gave myself and fellow Senpai, Ron Thompson, a few students each last night to do basics. We were to teach them a basic jab and reverse punch. It dawned on me again that I had to demonstrate the techniques so that they could see how it worked: solid stance, unwavering front knee, natural compression, hip rotation and focus. We could talk the ears off these white belts but it be like telling them how to paint without ever letting them study a painter or hold a brush.

In the lifecycle of karate, I believe, the basics show up more than once. Early on, you learn them; later on you absorb them and understand them…and eventually hopefully teach them.

To take a trip across the Atlantic in a boat under wind power, you not only need to know how to rig the sails, you’d better understand exactly how they work.

Later last night Sensei Power paired Ron and me for some light Kumite and his only instruction was to forget the basics and play with what movements worked and what didn’t. This wasn’t a contradiction. Understanding basics mean you understand how to translate your karate from proper form and technique to fast and effective fighting, using the basics as a basis for your movements.

A good Dojo, I believe, trains basics and then offers the opportunity to express them in your Kata and Kumite, and it also offers the opportunity to teach: teaching makes you a better practitioner.

In the end, there's a lot more to chopping down a tree than swinging the axe: there are angles, stance, grip, rotation, follow-through and body compression.

And, like Karate, the satisfaction is in the study of all the bit and pieces that make it work really well.

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