5 dogmas that you must give up if you aim deep in Karate Do
Do you want to advance and deepen the art of Karate Do? Then you must sacrifice some of modern karate’s sacred cows...
Over the years each generation of karateka has contributed to the development of karate as a martial art. In each generation, there have been teachers who have deepened and opened new avenues of study, work and training.
Each generation has had its handful of innovators who have renewed, modified and deepened our martial art.
It is also true that after the popularization that Karate has undergone in the last 60 years, a lot of knowledge has been lost.
Much of Karate's negative development is caused by the lack of understanding by many masters of the theoretical roots of Karate and the subsequent development of training methodologies based on the ignorance and lack of martial maturity of many who participated in the export and popularization of karate.
The devaluation of karate has reached such heights, that for most of its practitioners today, karate has ceased to be a martial system of self-defense and has become a sports pastime, with its rules and tactics and strategies, and a methodology of specific training. All this in order to win competitions and achieve medals.
Even within the so-called traditional styles, sports competition is taken as a natural extension ...
Within this framework it is possible to identify several "dogmas" that govern the training of many modern karateka and stand in the way of anyone who wants to delve into the martial art of Karate Do.
Milimetric precision is necessary for the development of a correct basic technique.
Like all dogmas, this one has a gram of truth. The problem lies not in the accuracy, but in the technical parameters that are used to determine what to value as correct and what to rate as incorrect.
The basic technique (kihon) of Karate, should not be governed by external geometric or aesthetic concepts. Karate kihon should aim to gradually teach the pupil to create the internal structures necessary to create as long energy chains as possible, and maximize the transmission of energy.
Karate is composed of Kihon, Kata and Kumite.
These types of statements represent, at its root, the lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of Karate Do as a martial system that we inherited from many of our teachers.
This is a methodological and intellectual limitation of Karate as a system.
Karate Do is in its conception, a holistic martial system that encompasses all the training areas necessary to mold a complete practitioner. In its correct context, there are a myriad of methods and disciplines that add to the practice of Karate Do as a martial system, that don’t fall into the categories of kihon, Kata and Kumite.
Past masters were better and generally the Karate Do of before was better than the one of today.
There is a general trend in karate’s micro world, to always be looking back. Idolizing and idealizing the practitioners who preceded us on the path ...
There is empirically nothing to support this theory, but there is enough graphic documentation to support the contrary: Many of today's practitioners have a more refined and effective technique than teachers from 3 generations ago.
This is not a bad thing, nor does it place the teachers of yesteryear in a bad light.
If it had been the case, then we would have grounds for criticism, as it would mean that our teachers would have been bad teachers.
But everything indicates that in reality it is not so.
Several of the classic masters of Karate Do can be seen demonstrating their technique on YouTube. In them it is evident to anyone who is willing to see them with a sincere and critical mind, that there has been a technical evolution.
This is a natural and necessary process.
The work and contributions of Isaac Newton are no less important or less impressive, nor are they eclipsed by the arrival of Albert Einstein to the world of physics, right?
The transmission and continuous progression of knowledge is a law of the human condition.
Einstein would never have reached his general theory of relativity if Newton had not done the work he did.
We must remember that we are on the shoulders of giants, but it is necessary to take responsibility for our time, our development and our students.
It is up to us to ensure that the development curve of Karate continues to rise. That is the only acceptable way to honor the legacy and heritage of the masters who transcended the path before us.
Without Bunkai there is no Kata.
These days, it is fashionable among those who are interested in the study of functional Karate Do (it is unfortunate to have to refer to our art in this way, it is indicative of the total pauperization that Karate Do has suffered), to regard Bunkai as the main method of study of Kata.
While it is true that the study of Bunkai is essential for the martial nature of our art, it is necessary to understand that Kata is much more than its analysis from the perspective of the martial application of its movements.
The levels of information enclosed in Kata are of enormous depth and anyone who limits himself to the study of the martial application of the techniques of Kata, will be very shallow in his evolution as karateka.
Kata gives us an ecosystem of study and development that will govern the training of mature karateka. It is inside that micro cosmos, that we will discover the internal connections and relationships that will allow us to identify and separate the different energy sources of the body, the study of the structures necessary for its use and its application within a technical martial context.
Bunkai without Kata is simply a game of "if he attacks you like this, you do this." In turn, Bunkai is just one area of all facets of study that Kata provides us with.
Muscular contraction as technique’s main energy source.
It is necessary to forget about the muscular force as the main source of power generation when striking.
This is a vast subject that is generally misunderstood and misused by the mass of Karate Do practitioners.
This type of information is impossible to convey in writing and it is necessary to study with a sensei who understands these areas of study, if you want access to genuine and functional information.
Suffice it to say that, muscle strength is a lower level parameter in energy generation and very often is used in a counterproductive way. Internal coordination has a much stronger impact on your punching power, than your physical strength.
Any muscle contraction involves the relaxation of the opposing muscles. Consequently, every technical study should make the same emphasis on the relaxation of antagonistic muscles as on the contraction of the muscles involved in the generation of energy.
In traditional karate, we place great emphasis on the study and practice of kata, especially those particular to our styles.
It is not unusual to do hundreds of repetitions of a kata during a period of intensive study.
Unfortunately, usually the study and practice of kata ends there. It is limited to the chaining of kihon techniques in a given order without anything that differentiates it from any other kata.
It is very common to see very experienced karateka do one kata after another without being able to observe the slightest difference in technical, energetic or structural characteristics between one kata and the next.
In this article I want to present the areas of study and practice of kata that form the basis of the study in the Sekishin Karate Jutsu (SKJ) and at my Dojo, Ten Chi Jin Martial Arts Academy.
Ju means soft, lacking in tension.
In his book Hidden Karate, the true bunkai for the Heian Katas and Naihanchi, the teacher Gennosuke Higaki (of the Shotokan school) tells his first encounter with he who would become his Sensei, Shozan Kubota sensei *:
"The first time I saw Kubota sensei, he showed me Heian Shodan. I knew he was a karate instructor, but I could not recognize the kata he was showing me as the kata Heian Shodan. It looked more like a form of Taichi than a karate kata.
Me: "Is that taichi?"
Sensei: "It's karate"
Me: "What is the name of that kata?"
Sensei: "It's Heian Shodan"
Me: "???? What is your style ??? "
Sensei: "Shotokan, direct from Gichin Funakoshi"
Me: "I also do Shotokan. Why is it so different from what you do? "
Sensei: "Because what you do is simple gymnastics"
Sensei: "Can you use your kata when you do kumite?"
Me: “No, I can’t"
Sensei: "So, what you do is a simple gym exercise"
Me: "Sensei, can you use your kata in kumite practice?"
Sensei: Let's see ... attack me! "
Me: "Pow! Ouch !!!! ....... "
* (Transcribed from memory)
This small excerpt from Gennosuke Higaki sensei's book is symptomatic of what we have lost along the way. It is the first time that I find a written reference to something that we at our Dojo have been doing for many years, but never having received external validation as a recognized method of study and practice within karate.
It is vital for our school to study the katas in their Ju form.
Because the slow execution of kata allows us to become aware of, and deepen our control over the structural bases necessary for movement and the execution of karate techniques.
Simultaneously our awareness and control over the different energetic sources of the human body, its relation to the skeletal foundation and its interrelation at the moment of generating and transmitting energy.
All this is possible only if the kata is studied and practiced slowly. The speed of execution is dictated by the ability of our minds to observe, control and manage all these concepts simultaneously.
Bu of bushi, warrior.
This form of kata practice refers to a form of practice in which the core is not technical excellence or precision.
The central concept of this form of kata practice is the full expression of mind, body and technique within the technical context of kata.
When deepening in kata’s Bu form, what is being done is to practice kata, as if we were fighting. Emulating combat from a technical, physical and psychological perspective in terms of explosiveness, speed and aggressiveness.
This way of training is vital, to recognize the practical viability of karate kihon and dissipate illusions or mirages about our technical, physical and psychological reality.
Kata is a very deep source of information. But to access it, it is necessary to break down the kata, open it and study it from different perspectives.
What is the basic combat strategy postulated in kata?
Evasion, invasion, obstruction, countering, etc.
Once we have identified the basic strategic postulate of kata, it is necessary to study and identify the tactical approaches that kata proposes to achieve its strategic objectives:
Grappling, percussion, dislocation, etc.
3. This brings us naturally to the Bunkai:
The bunkai involves an analysis of the tactical and technical approaches of the kata and its possible application in a physical confrontation.
Every technique that appears in a kata, functions as a matrix and model for all possible forms and variations of that technique.
In addition, by extension kata contains the anatomical, structural and energetic principles necessary for the correct execution of the included techniques.
It is necessary to identify, isolate and extract these principles to include their study and practice separately, outside the context of kata, whether in the form of kihon, kumite or any of the intermediates, be it makiwara, bag work, renrakuwaza, etc.
Soon I will make a series of articles where we will look at some of these elements more closely. Until then to follow the DO, this hard, arduous and wonderful way of Karate Do.
The analysis of kata, access to the information contained therein, its comprehension and application, is one of the most enriching and necessary processes in the development of a karateka.
Without kata there is no karate. This is an irrefutable absolute, but given the mass culture that has been generated around our martial art, it is necessary to repeat it.
My next statement, is not that natural to all of us on the path of Karate Do, but it is for me, and I hope it is for all the practitioners of Sekishin Karate Jutsu.
There is no kata without bunkai.
There is no right action without understanding.
Without an in-depth analysis of the kata, a deepening of the art of Karate Do is not possible. Nor is it possible to grasp the different levels of knowledge contained in kata. It is no coincidence that the ancient masters referred to different kata as complete ryu of karate.
But to constitute a complete system, it is not enough to suggest tactical and / or technical solutions. The kata must contain information on all aspects that make up the set of skills and knowledge necessary for the cultivation of a self-defense system. This vision of kata as the main vehicle of martial information, located at the heart of Karate Do, has as its original premise a utilitarian and functionalist vision. A vision that does not give rise to interpretations guided by sports, aesthetic and / or philosophical or esoteric criteria.
If one accepts the premise that for the understanding and internalization of the methods of Karate Do, bunkai is essential, the only viable perspective in Karate Do's vision is the functionalist. Where the form is dependent on the function.
That is to say, that technical analysis (bunkai) should only take into account the effect. This is a central parameter. To ignore it would be like analyzing the qualities of a car without caring if it really has the capacity to fulfill its primary function: the transportation of its passengers.
Another aspect that needs to be considered when analyzing kata for martial application is that kata often omits the obvious, what the practitioner is supposed to know in order to analyze the kata (the necessary minimums so to speak). And only shows what is specific or specialized, what defines an application, or what is important from a point of view of principles.
But in bunkai it is necessary to look beyond the tactical or technical propositions of kata. As we shall see later, kata contains several levels of information.
General strategy for conflict resolution.
Karate as a martial system focuses on self-defense. As such, it is obliged to take a basic strategic decision that identifies the possible conflict scenarios to be addressed and how to solve them. This basic strategic approach could be formulated as follows:
A) Completing any physical confrontation in a decisive and definitive manner as quickly as possible.
B) Do not go to the ground. And if forced to the ground, get up as soon as possible.
This general strategic definition, conditions karate on a tactical and technical level. The techniques and tactics found in the kata reflect this strategic conception and aim to translate it into practice.
The techniques of karate work with maximum optimum. If it is possible to obtain the same or greater result with another technique, then the chosen application is not correct. That means that if there is a simpler, more direct and effective way to achieve the effect we are looking for, the application we have found is not the best possible application.
All applications are designed to end the confrontation as quickly as possible. Therefore, in our analysis of kata it is necessary to look for solutions of maximum effectiveness.
The angles in the katas must be interpreted as relative to the opponent's position. That means that if in a kata we make a technique to the right, it is not because the attacker is on my right, but because I position myself in that way relative to an attacker who is in front of me.
The probability of an attack must be taken into account when analyzing the combative applications of kata. Do not confuse probability with possibility. Is it possible for someone in the street to attack me with oizuki jodan in zenkutsudachi? It is possible. Is it probable? No, it's highly unlikely, bordering on the impossible.
In analyzing the combative applications of kata, it is necessary to consider the ritual of human aggression, its stages, how to detect it and how to control it in our favor.
Most classic katas are systemic katas. By systemic kata we mean a classic kata of high technical level, that contains a complete martial system in itself. Examples of systemic katas are katas such as Kushanku, Naifanchi, Passai, etc.
All movements of a kata must be considered as techniques and all techniques are designed to be used in real personal defense combat.
All parts of the movement are significant.
Do not look for fancy solutions. Effectiveness goes hand in hand with simplicity.
The techniques should be applied against weak anatomical areas.
There are many applications for each movement.
Discover the principles behind the techniques.
Energy and structural level
This level is the deepest and of the most difficult access.
This is where we study the different ways of generating energy and how to transmit it. We learn to separate, identify and use the different energy sources that are within the possibilities of the human body.
The kata teaches us how to make use of the muscles, tendons and bone structure in combat movement. This aspect of karate is so advanced that one can even see how past masters used modern concepts such as plyometrics. Of course, from an empirical perspective and without a modern scientific methodology.
To reach this level it is necessary to have the guidance of a teacher with the knowledge and methodology necessary to transmit it. This is the level traditionally called "ura", which means, that which is out of sight, that which is implicit ...
POSSIBLE OR PROBABLE?
I've been on The Bushi path for decades. Like the vast majority, I started with a martial art (in my case Wado ryu) and over the years I have been involved in other martial arts, but always maintaining the practice and study of my main style. Like every student in the martial arts, always looking for improvement, always polishing rough edges, always extending my area of self-control and self-knowledge.
A very important aspect for the development and growth of Budoka is the encounter and training with practitioners of other styles and other martial arts. People with the same sincerity in their practice and study, but who do it following a different path and a different perspective.
Such encounters can give us a fresh perspective on our own art and can open doors to new levels of understanding.
I never miss the opportunity to visit other dojos and to study and train with new people.
After many years of exchange, learning and mutual inspiration, I must say that there are endless perspectives and forms of access to this deep and vast sea that is Budo. I must also acknowledge that, unfortunately, the vast majority of fellow travelers I encounter along the way, are not in it wholeheartedly. The vast majority, take the sweet, the rewarding practice and avoid the hard and rough that is an inseparable part of the study of Budo.
In a way, it can be said that the mass of practitioners of the martial arts poses or assumes martial postures, without deepening, or discovering their own technical, physical, spiritual and emotional limits.
This is the same people who adopt martial hierarchies as a means of status, without ever in their career having been exposed to a context of martial study, where a lively and spontaneous practice is required, without choreographies and where the energy exchange with the opponent is free and total.
I think this has several causes.
The primordial is human nature. It seems that most of us go through life without trying to understand the nature of things.
But on a specific plane to Budo, it seems that one of the reasons is the conception of Budo as something technical, separate from the spiritual and the physical. Once, a 7th dan from a well-known martial art in Spain, told me that I was not a real martial artist, since I was in good physical condition ... according to him, I was an athlete and not a martial artist by the mere fact that I was in good physical condition ... That sensei saw a contradiction between a healthy and dynamic body and the study of Budo. It goes without saying that this person has an abdominal region that suffers from hypertrophy and flaccidity due to excessive calorie consumption and a sedentary lifestyle ...
This is an aberration of Budo. Without body there is no technique and there is no spirit. All three are inseparable. If one of the three is missing, it is not Budo. I recommend everyone who is interested in the subject to study the concept of Shin Gi Tai.
This vision of Budo is often found in people who train defenses and attacks, year after year, where the concentration in technique is so absolute, that along the way they have lost the intention in the attack. And therefore, the reality in the defense ...
What do I understand by intention?
By intention I understand to strike I strike to the best of my ability, and I do that with the intention of obtaining the greatest possible effect on the opponent. The same applies to luxations, projections, etc. Sure, I always take responsibility for the safety and health of my training partner. There is no contradiction between intention and power, between responsibility and technical excellence.
As a result of this technicalist vision of Budo, we see Budokas collecting techniques as trophies and knowledge separated from skill. It is a big difference between knowing the technical aspects of a technique, and the ability to carry the technique out in a real situation.
This divorce between study and reality, technique and intention also results in the confusion of the probable with the possible.
To give an example. People train defensive techniques to get free of a wrist grip. Fine tuning and refining the technique until exhaustion different angles of escape, twisting, exiting, etc.
This is a typical case of divorce from reality.
First, because in the context of human conflict, a wrist grip is never an end in itself, but a means of attack. If someone just grabbed your wrist and was content with that, the only defense needed would be to wait until they get tired of holding us.
Second, because the wrist grip is not at all a common attack (especially in male-on-male aggression).
Is it possible to be attacked with a wrist grip? Yes
That possibility and the study of defensive methods against such attacks is correlated with the probability of being attacked with a wrist grip?
I'm not saying that wrist-grip defenses don’t have their place. But I say that the time devoted to its study must be proportional to the probability of an attacker using such techniques.
I also say that a defense (any defense) against an attack (any attack) is at best limited. The only thing that can give us victory in an altercation, the only thing that can give us a chance of survival, is to attack.
Whoever defends himself against an attack will perish.
The one who attacks the attacker will exponentially increase his chances of survival.
This is a basic notion for any modern military. But that has fallen into oblivion among today's martial artists.
That's why I call on all martial artists to read this article.
Examine yourself. Look at your interior with severity and sincerity and see what you find.
If you find there is a palpable difference between your knowledge and your martial skill, then you have the answer. If you are sincere in your study of Budo you must change course and methodology.
There is no alternative.
SKJ COMBAT CONCEPTS
He who is strategically coherent and imposes his strategy will achieve victory.
The one who pursues his strategy with the most appropriate tactical means will achieve victory.
In combat, there are no static or energetically void situations.
It is imperative to recognize and accept the opponent's energy needs, but always denying their structural needs. Opposing the energetic expression of the opponent only creates a new attack platform for him. That is, the enemy needs and has an energy opposition proportional to their attack to develop their attack. In other words, if he pushes, he needs and presupposes a resistance to his push to develop his attack.
Areas in dispute in combat: time, space, structure and energy. Supremacy in one of these areas, leads to supremacy in the others:
A. Supremacy over time: go no sen, sen, sen sen no sen, allows the combatant to always decide the moment of contact (and consequently impact).
B. The supremacy over space allows the combatant to decide the form and the contact angles, and limits the reactive options of the opponent.
C. The positional structure of the fighter is his energy launch pad. He who disrupts the positional structure of the enemy will take away his energetic potential.
D. Energy is the result of the correlation of the three previous elements.