Karate & Transfer
I always try to push my students beyond technique. Always trying to open pathways of understanding and giving them the possibility of understanding the underlying general principles, that will crack open, not just that technique, but all of them.
The other day we were training a simple drill, where one person (the defender) lies face down on the tatami, and the other student (the attacker) takes the most dominant position he or she can think of. From there the defender has to try to stand up and the attacker has to prevent the other person from standing up.
The aim of the drill is for the attacker to use muchimi to adhere to the opponent’s movement in order to detect and disrupt the defender’s structural alignment hindering him from standing up.
The defender’s task is to use muchimi to create and/or detect structural weaknesses in the attacker’s position in order to create a window of opportunity that enables him or her to stand up.
I promise to upload a video to our YouTube channel (Sekishin Karate Jutsu) illustrating the drill.
As always, I will start by showing the drill and explaining the purpose of the drill, and the concepts we are working with.
Our system is based on a core of general concepts and principles, that we try to apply in everything we do. So I will usually give them technical references from kata, kakie, or our kihongumite so the students have a technical reference that uses the particular principle I want them to work on.
Any way, we got on with the drill.
As I look around in the Dojo, I see the students huffing and puffing, struggling for position. That was never the intention.
If done right, this drill should be more like a game of chess, where openings are created and denied in a flowing stream of intention, action and countermeasures.
I realize, that the “attackers” are trying to lock on some kind of grip or position, and that the defenders are fighting the lock with all their might.
As a result, a couple of muscle strains and a minor concussion occur.
Why do I tell you this story of my instructorial failures?
Well, because this a perfect example of one of the biggest problems in Karate today.
We are overly focussed on technique, instead of focussing on the development of ability.
Let me explain.
We use endless hours polishing techniques.
How to punch.
How to kick.
How to block.
How to lock.
How to throw.
How to breakfall.
Common for all of the above is that they share a handful structural and energetical commonalities.
Understand them, and you can apply any of them in every context.
For example, any structure that is able to deliver power, is also able to receive that amount of power. That means that a structure can be used offensively or defensively.
The structure doesn’t vary, the intention does.
When I say structure I am talking of the structural alignment of a technique. Jodan uke, for example.
The tactical application of this may vary, but the principle will always be true. If it wasn’t you wouldn’t be able to deliver a single punch, due to you structural alignment being too weak to take the impact of your hand hitting the target.
I am a lecturer by profession.
One of the pedagogical concepts we work with when teaching is called transfer.
Transfer is the student’s ability to learn something in a context and being able to apply it in a totally different context.
In karate terms, that could mean to learn ukemi (falling techniques) in the Dojo, being thrown by a training partner, and applying that knowledge and ability, to break fall when you fall of your bike.
But transfer doesn’t take place if you only learn to mimic the technique. Transfer can only take place, if the student understands the principles of the technique and internalizes the abilities needed to such a degree, that the student is able to apply or use those principles according to the situation. And in the process freely and creatively creating the technical expression the situation demands.
What can you do as an instructor to create a possibility of transfer for your students?
Work from a conceptual base instead of working from a technical base. After all, techniques are physical expressions of concepts.
Working from a conceptual base, you can cross reference between katas or tactical situations.
Take a concept and work it in many different technical expressions and tactical situations.
Above is a picture of our whiteboard. It’s in danish, but you get the idea.
Jorge F. Garibaldi 7 dan.
Ten Chi Jin Martial Arts Academy