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Approaching the Whip

There are basically two way to teach a student to move in a whiplike manner (with koshi generated power).

The first is to teach the student clean basics -- punches, blocks, strikes, and kicks. Next the student is taught clean kata. Every movement is precise and perfect. The problem is that the student will tend to be stiff and limited.

The second is to teach the student how to move using the koshi very early. The emphasis is on the potential of body dynamics rather than clean form. The student learns how to move, not how to pose. Of course, the problem is that the student will tend to be mushy and sloppy.

Stiff and limited on the one side or mushy and sloppy on the other -- you basically have to choose one and go with it. If you choose the first, you have to teach the student how to move once he becomes advanced. If you choose the second, you have to make the student cleaner when he becomes advanced.

I tend to choose the second, because it gives the greatest potential for movement. A clean student with no body dynamics is pretty helpless. But a sloppy student who can move has a chance to use what he knows.

But it is a difficult choice. Most of seniors in my style were stiff first and only learned to move freely after they already were advanced. But we don't like to teach our students this way because it is very frustrating to see limited movement. So we would rather teach the loose way because it feels so much better to us.

But I think that it is probably easier to teach an advanced student with clean basics how to move freely -- if and only if the student is very open minded and willing to utterly relearn everything. Such a student can learn very quickly with excellent results. But if the student insists on holding onto his or her limited form of movement, learning is extremely difficult if not impossible.

However you look at it, Karate is about learning how to move, not just what to do. We know that we have to block a punch. The question is how to do it in an extraordinary manner (otherwise we will always lose to a stronger, faster, and heavier opponent). Body dynamics gives the potential for extraordinary movement.


Charles C. Goodin