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Repost of Basic Posture 3

This is a repost of Basic Posture 3, which was originally posted on April 4, 2007.  I will use this in commenting further on the subject of posture.

In Basic Posture (December 17, 2006), I wrote:

  1. Slightly tuck your chin.
  2. Lower your shoulders.
  3. Squeeze your lats.
  4. Tuck your koshi.
  5. Slightly bend your knees.
In Basic Posture 2 (December 31, 2006), I added:
  1. Keep your elbows close to your body.
  2. Shift your weight in the direction you will move, then move.
  3. Protect your sechusen (centerline).
  4. Move as if on a tightrope.
  5. Move from place to place at a walking pace -- time your strikes and blocks to arrive when you get there.
  6. Squeeze out your air -- almost all of it, but not quite -- in synch with the timing of your strike or block.
  7. Hit on the recoil of your koshi.
  8. Recover the energy/power of the recoil for the next movement.
  9. Train to move freely in any direction.
  10. Kicks and strikes are like stabbing.
After my recent trip to Okinawa (March 30 - April 8, 2007) to visit and learn from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato (and his fine students), I would like to add:
  1. Keep your elbows close to your body and after a block or strike, generally return your elbows to or near the sides of your body (a little in front of that).
  2. Never punch or block directly to your sides (the side centerline of your body). You should block or strike more in line with your chest. This will give you more power and make it harder for the attacker to apply joint locks or throws.
  3. Lower your shoulders, and drop them a little extra before a block or strike.
  4. In all kata and movements, maintain the tanden/koshi alignment of the Naihanchi kata (or close to it).
  5. The rear foot in most stances is at a 90 degree angle (rather than a 45 degree angle).
  6. Maintain a hanmi body alignment.
  7. In a hanmi body alignment with a 90 degree rear foot, your stance can be narrower (even on a straight line). This makes it easier to move and also protects your centerline.
  8. Even if the upper body rotates, keep the lower body in the Naihanchi alignment. Even in kosa dachi (a crossed stance) your koshi is in the Naihanchi alignment (your koshi will be in the same direction as your front big toe).
  9. Do not be limited by the "specifics" of stances. All stances are transitions. The weight shifts throughout and even the length of the stance changes. There are no fixed stances. I only learned to appreciate this recently. I was paralyzed by the specifications of a Karate book I had practically memorized.
  10. Drop your body as you execute a block or strike. The "drop" is really like a spiral (not only in a downward direction).
  11. When you "drop" there will be a rebound. Use it.
  12. Move like a whip -- but not the end of a thin whip. The whip includes your entire body with the base at your feet (usually). Move like a thick whip.
  13. Blocks must "enter." You do not simply hit an attacking arm or leg -- you also enter toward the attacker. Your block jams in a combination of a striking and pressing manner. The block also has an osae feeling. When you block or strike in this manner, you will be very close to the attacker and able to counterattack or strike again.
  14. Osae (press) between movements. If you do not osae, you will create an opening for the attacker.
  15. Tuck your koshi. If you look at yourself in a mirror from the side, the line of your belt will show your "tuck." If your belt slants down, your koshi is probably not tucked. When your koshi is tucked, your belt will be horizontal. This is difficult to see if the student ties his or her belt too high around the waist. Then it will be horizontal even when the koshi is not tucked.
  16. Tuck your koshi when you block or strike. Before the next movement, your koshi may drop. Tuck it again when you perform the next block or strike. You can also keep your koshi loosely tucked between movements.
  17. Another way to say "tuck your koshi" is to say that "your belly button points up." My Aikido Sensei used to say the same thing!
  18. In the process of lowering your shoulders, tucking your koshi, and squeezing your lats, you can create a tension that is called "gamaku." But the name is not important -- the tension is what counts because you can use it.
  19. Delay your strikes as long as possible. When performing elbow strikes, for example, move your body and adjust your weight, holding off on throwing (or igniting) your elbow strike as long as possible. This is like the idea of a whip snapping -- the actual "crack" at the end is delayed.
  20. Overload your weight in the direction you wish to go. In the "bump" that occurs, you have an opportunity to move easily. Drop your weight and shoulder at this moment.
  21. Learn to take "neutral" body positions between techniques. In this way, you can move easily, freely and in any direction. This generally means bringing your feet together. But even with your feet together, keep your Naihanchi alignment. When you keep long stances, your directional choices are more limited.
  22. Fight sideways. Your shoulders should not be "square" to the front.
  23. Work to feel the connection between each movement. Each movement should connect to the next. There should be no "dead" spots, or places where you drop your connection. An entire kata can be done in this connected manner. But the idea is not that you could do the specific movements of a kata but rather that you could connect any movements you desire at any time. Do not go, stop, go, stop. Just go, go, go.
  24. The recoil or "reaction" of one movement can be used to generate the next movement. Don't waste it.
  25. Fully extend your blocks and strikes. If you "choke up," you will not properly penetrate (kikomi) and you will have less recoil or reaction to use.
  26. Horizontal or angular rotation of the trunk is "koshi." Vertical rotation of the trunk is "hara." Koshi gives speed, hara gives power. (I am still working on articulating this.)
  27. Your weight should not be on your heels, nor should it be on the balls of your feet either. Your weight should be naturally distributed over the soles of your feet so that you can move easily in any direction.
  28. It is much easier to move when you are already moving. A great deal of energy is required to move from a stationary position. Once you start moving, don't stop until you are completely through with whatever you are doing (including escape).
  29. There are many ways to move, depending on your body type, age, and level of skill. As such, the elements of Body Posture that you will emphasis will change as you progress and age. Generally, beginners learn to use fixed stances and move in a staccato manner. Advanced students learn to use flexible stances and to move freely in a connected matter.
  30. When returning to the formal or "ready" position at the end of a kata, you must maintain your awareness and body posture elements so that you are ready to move in an instant. The kata is not done until you complete the bow -- and even then you should remain prepared.
  31. Kicks and strikes are like stabbing -- with a sword, not a little knife.
These points are presented for your consideration and reflect what I am learning and teach in my dojo. Other styles and even other dojo in my own style might emphasize different things.

I did not make these things up (and do not claim any credit for doing so). I am very fortunate to have very fine Sensei and mentors in Karate. They in turn had very fine Sensei. We are each just a point on the great line of Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Breakthrough in Posture

I have recently had a "breakthrough" in my Karate training.  It may seem like a small thing, but I have been training for some time, teach, and write at bit, so I thought that I would share it.

The proper poster for Shorin-Ryu is the posture of Goju-Ryu.

That is the short version of my "breakthrough" but says it in a nutshell.

I am a member of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.  Before that, I was a member of the Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai.  During my years with these groups, I have had the pleasure of training with Sensei Alan Lee, the senior student of Sensei Tomu Arakawa.  Lee Sensei is an amazing Karate person, one of the very best I have ever had the opportunity to meet.

Well, over the years, as I have had the opportunity to watch his kata and basics, I have come to appreciate his posture.  And as I have had the opportunity to learn and teach the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu, and hopefully improved over the years, I have realized that my posture is becoming more and more like Lee Sensei's.  And I do not believe that it is because I am copying him.  I am still trying hard to move like Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato.  It just happens that as I copy Shinzato Sensei, I am developing a posture that is closer to Lee Sensei's.

How can that be? He is Goju-Ryu and I am Shorin-Ryu.

Another thing that I have learned from my contact with Lee Sensei is that Goju-Ryu places a greater emphasis on posture in kata such as Sanchin and Tensho than most Shorin-Ryu do with similar kata.  Posture is really important in Goju-Ryu.  It is not just a matter of leaning many techniques -- basically moving your hands and feet.  If the posture is wrong, nothing will work.  And if your posture is correct, everything will probably work.

I will write more about posture.  If you search this blog, you can see what I have already written on the subject.

But my breakthrough is a realization that my Shorin-Ryu posture is (or should be) the same as Lee Sensei's Goju-Ryu posture... which came from the Higa Seko line via Izumigawa Sensei.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Passing of Another Sensei

I recently heard about the passing of Sensei Takayoshi Nagamine in Okinawa.  My heart goes out to all his relatives, friends, and students worldwide.

Aside from the personal loss, particularly for such a young Sensei, I feel a great sense of loss for Karate.  Every time a senior Sensei passes away, a part of Karate disappears.  There is no way to document the experiences that someone like Nagamine Sensei had in his long Karate life.  Who can document the life of someone like Sensei William Dometrich, Sensei Bobby Lowe, or Sensei Joseph Bunch, all of whom passed away not so long ago?

As students, we try our best to learn from our Sensei.  We might think that we have a lot of time and they will live forever. But life is short and death often comes unexpectedly.  We should not take their time for granted.  Each moment is precious.

As students, we should try to learn as much as we can, as thoroughly as we can.  We are the living embodiments of our Sensei.  More than any book or documentary, the lives of our Sensei are carried on through us -- their students.  And when we teach, we carry on their lives to successive generations of students.

I have to admit that the loss of Karate Sensei and seniors I have known weighs heavily upon me.  I have a hard time speaking about people such as Sensei Bobby Lowe, Snaggy Inouye, and Sensei Joseph Bunch, because they still seem alive to me.  I keep expecting to see them at our next Karate lunch or training.  For that matter, I still see Sensei Sadao Yoshioka now and then.

Respectfully in the art,

Charles C. Goodin