Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back to Basics & the Folly of Karate

If you don't have the fundamentals down,you don't have anything.This is true in just about any endeavor you undertake,but is especially critical when it comes to defensive skills.If you understand and are proficient in the basics,then you have a strong foundation on which to build individual skills and personalize your own system tailored to your own specific traits.
One area where people get confused is when We talk of "Basics" in Karate.What many people call basics in Karate,are when you drill exaggerated,long movements with a pre-determined stopping/starting point such as punching or blocking with the hand on the hip and the other one frozen out in space or overly elongated stances.The excuses as to why Karateka do these movements is endless and none make a lot of sense.Lets let at the most common reasons given for doing these movements and why they are flawed.........

1."They teach proper body mechanics."
My response-Then why doesn't other athletic training use such methods.

2."You learn to use your hips/linking etc."
My response-why does the exaggerated movement achieve this?I don't have to use ridiculously long robotic movements when I learned to walk or run.

3."The counter-rotation gives you more power."
....My response-To a degree perhaps,but you'll develop a bad habit of drawing the hand back leaving the head exposed,not a good thing to do in a real fight or sparring and that is the purpose of the training.It's not simply exercise.

4."You will naturally shorten up when you actually spar/fight,too much so if you don't train this way."
....My response-absolutely ridiculous!I guess all Boxers are "shortened up" & unable to throw a proper punch since they train like they fight.

5."They teach you to do two movements at once."
....My response-if you want to train two techniques at once,then do so separately, not every technique you throw.It's not likely to be utilized in the context given.Most fights happen with one guy in front of you and you need both hands.And if there are multiple opponents,the chances of timing working out for hitting him behind you with an elbow at the same time your striking forward.This is just a nonsensical argument.

Why draw to the hip? Why not the ear or the chest? Do you swim,walk,run or drive this way?Did you have to first use some silly exaggerated movements with imaginary starting/stopping points to learn these activities or did you just use natural,functional movements and build upon them to become more proficient.These basic movements are not really basic at all,they are simply a structured exercise designed to put everyone in the same uniform position.Designed by Asians(anal about organization,simply look at their culture)for use by Colleges & Children,they were designed as a physical exercise & structured discipline.Much like marching in the Military,fine for show,but you don't do it on the Battlefield nor do you use it when training for the Battlefield.
Such movements have no purpose as they are being taught and will erode your ability to defend yourself.I'm not sure if the original Okinawan Kata featured movements like this or they altered them when they taught the Japanese.Many theorize these movements are a map to secret pressure point targets.Perhaps,but that is not what's being taught in today's Karate schools.If true,then the Okinawans may have intentionally not taught the Japanese the true meaning behind them since the Japanese were an occupying presence at the time.Vince Morris(Paladin Press)and a few other Instructors have a lot of interesting material on actual application of Kata & Karate technique and believe that most interpretations of the reason for executing the techniques the way modern schools do is simply wrong.Such as the idea that drawing or chambering of the hand is actually the block/parry and what is thought of as the block is really a strike to the limb.That the extension of the non-chambered hand is a block/parry/grab,grab or parry & then grab.Drawing hand AND chambered hands could both be blocks/parries,but not performed simultaneously in reality.Reaching hand is a grab,a parry,or a parry & grab.Most of the "hard" blocks are actually strikes to pressure points.If your interested in the real theories behind the movements. None of this IMO,really explains any particularly good reason for drawing all the way to the hip except outside of conformity,aesthetic or ritual.

Machida? He does actually use SOME Karate movements,but he is also a BJJ Black Belt and trains Muay Thai right along Anderson Silva. He is the ONLY MMA fighter to be successful in incorporating Karate into his MMA arsenal,so that tells me he is an anomaly that is extraordinarily gifted and could probably make just about anything work or has a unique ability to make his specific style work .Much how Ali didn't use textbook Boxing,but was so good,He could do everything technically "wrong" for everyone else and still Win.Just because they are successful using a specific method doesn't mean you will be although it's possible you might.There might be a bit of the unorthodox style he uses being unfamiliar and unexpected and therefore hard to counter.Much like when the Gracies introduced something new,it took time for other's to counter it.Even someone that is awkward and uncoordinated can be difficult to time & gauge because of their clumsiness acting as a natural broken rhythm. Me,I look primarily to proven methods that have been consistently successful if My life & Health are at stake although there is nothing wrong with exploring alternative ideas & concepts for you just might learn or create something by keeping an open mind.

Whether it's wrestling,striking,shooting or knife techniques,you have to have strong fundamentals.It's still unlikely that you will invent any radically new method,so don't try and re-invent the wheel. Acquire the knowledge that has already been accumulated over the Centuries & then perhaps you just adapt that to your particular needs.You may even come up with something new,but chances are someone,somewhere at sometime already thought of it.The basics form the bulk of your skills & go to moves.Variations only add up to a small percentage analogous to basic exercises in weightlifting form the foundation of your Muscular development and the sculpting movements account for only a small degree & overall percentage of improvement.
Karate does actually have much to offer,but the way it's taught in most schools,it's very difficult for the the beginner to wade through the mire of ritual,tradition and nonsense to get to the substantive material.If You can find an Instructor that fore go's all the fluff and bluff and teaches the real deal,then You'll find many concepts and techniques that are effective and will greatly enhance your defensive schools.