This article is about why we do the things the way that we do them. Hopefully it will also explain why we keep trying to improve on things and are so picky.

Why are stances so important?

Without a solid base and being appropriately balanced we aren’t going to be able to deliver our techniques as powerfully and therefore as effectively as we could. If for example you stand in front of a wall, then stand on one leg, then push the wall you will end up pushing yourself over backwards. If on the other hand you go into a deep forward stance you can push against the wall with all your strength and you won’t budge. The wall doesn’t move in either case but it demonstrates the point and besides, we don’t fight walls.

Why do we keep telling people to relax?

This is down to how muscles work. Tense muscles are slow muscles. If you watch sprinters today when they run they have their fingers apart trying to relax their arms and shoulders. If you watch their faces in slow motion you can see how their skin is almost flapping about as they try to be as relaxed as they can. Time is of the essence if you’re being attacked and therefore we need to practice relaxing during our techniques until the point at which they land.

Why is hip work so important?

By rotating your hips during a technique you are bringing into play more of you into delivering power into your attacks. This is in two ways. You are adding additional body weight into the technique and also using additional muscles at the same time. Your hips don’t have to move far to make a huge difference, it therefore only takes a fraction of a second, so we must try to get them moving in every technique we do. No excuses.

Why do we work on the non-striking hand so much?

I couldn’t write this without repeating what has become a bit of a mantra at the club – pull for power. We increase the power in our techniques by pulling the non-striking hand back towards us as quickly as we can. Our bodies try to compensate for this by rotating our hips and throwing out the other hand to maintain balance. That’s quite brilliant in a martial art where hip work is really important. The faster you pull the non-striking hand back the faster the striking hand goes. It works just as well for blocks. I’ll say it again – pull for power!
Why should we always move when defending ourselves?
I was privileged to train with aikido master Alan Ruddock on one occasion and one thing that he said which has stayed with me was, “Wherever you are you’re in the wrong place, so move.” He followed that the up with, “And when you have moved there you’re still in the wrong place, so move again.” The very simple fact is that it is harder to hit a moving target than a still one. Moving can be the difference between being hit, or not. Moving can be the difference between being hit hard and full on, or taking a glancing blow. Anyone who has done pad work with someone who constantly fidgets and moves the pad knows that them doing so can be the difference between a great strike and a poor one, and perhaps a sprained wrist into the bargain.

Why do we keep picking on so many little things?

You could say that we are, and have always been, interested in trying to improve our techniques. It’s why we are still practicing the basics (I have been standing in the line doing basic blocks for 27 years now and am happy to keep practicing them for some time to come). Trying to tweak small things to improve your performance is what the, “Marginal gains” philosophy of British cycling is all about. We all know how successful that has been. If you have read the, “What are we about?” page on the website you will know that Chojiro Tani spent a lot of time trying to improve his techniques, so much so, he started a new style of karate (the one we practice). Perhaps he was years ahead of everyone else in sports science?

Hopefully I have convinced you that we actually know what we are doing!


Categories: Club Update