exploringkarate

I've been a keen karate student for 16 years, Shukokai and Shotokan, but there still seems to be no shortage of things to learn and explore. I'm hoping this blog will allow me to share my experiences and hear other martial artists thoughts.

Archive for Chris Denwood

All the right moves (kind of) but not necessarily in the right order

There is a classic comedy sketch from the two great British comedians Morecambe and Wise. In front of the renowned conducter and composer, Andre Previn, Eric Morecambe astounds Previn by playing the wrong notes to a Grieg concerto. When challenged he responds that he’s playing the right notes just in the wrong order.

Hopefully the title of this post gives a hint to where I’m going with this. A challenge I’ve received from senseis on more than one occasion in my martial arts training is that I’m too tensed up when I’m getting ready to move, particularly if I’m punching. I’ve read a few different articles and listened to podcasts that mention power generation, Chris Denwood’s ‘Respecting the old, Creating the new’ featured some really good chapters and there is an excellent Iain Abernethy podcast about power generation.

So I started to think about trying to take that tension out and have a more relaxed, looser movement. From what I was reading and listening to a consistent message was it was important to have a good sequence of movement to have powerful strikes. Movement should start in the legs, be followed by the hips, through to the shoulders and then end with the strike being released.

Now at both clubs I’ve trained at, Shukokai and Shotokan, hip movement has been emphasised but in all honesty the sequencing of it wasn’t something I’d grasped. For me I think I had the hip and arm movement happening in parallel rather than in sequence.

When I started to work on my movement with my punch bag for some reason it didn’t feel like the sequence was coming together when I tried to start with the hip movement so I worked on it in reverse. So I worked to get the shoulder twist working first then once I was happy with that incorporated the hip twist as well. Rightly or wrongly I kept my hands loose but made sure I was striking with the knuckles. The looser movement felt really good and it still felt I was getting a good impact on the bag despite not feeling like I was mentally trying to whallop the bag if that makes sense.

Some time ago I found a video of Shigeru Kimura, in it you see him striking a pad and you can hear the power of the impact. There was something about his body movement as well that felt interesting but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I think part of it was the sound of the impact, it felt like it was really penetrating the pad. I have one of those squeezable stress balls, it’s about the size of a tennis ball, filled some kind of gel with quite a thick rubber skin, that when you squeeze it takes a second to return to it’s original shape. If I throw it from hand to hand it slaps into the catching hand with a very similar kind of sound, I think the key is the throwing motion, it’s nice and loose but happens in sequence a bit like a bowler in cricket or pitcher in baseball. Their movement releases the ball at tremendous speed and if it strikes the body can potentially break  bones or at the least a very painful impact. That feels like the difference in using this movement to throw a punch, or kick, when I get the shoulder movement following the hip movement it feels like the arm is thrown out of the body on the back of that movement.

I’ve been thinking about the sequence of movement for other techniques and how movements can increase the speed you can move the natural bodyweight and through it achieve that power of impact. Thinking about my mawashi geris, getting a sharper pivot off the supporting leg and into the hip then finishing with the flick of the foot out from the knee has felt like I’m achieving a similar looser but equally impacting movement.

It’s been something I’ve been working on for the past few months and so in a way this post has been some time in the writing. As always I’d be really interested to hear any thoughts.

PS This Chris Denwood video on Body Dynamics for Close Range Striking in Traditional Karate is well worth a look also.

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Learning to to see the whole picture

In Chris Denwood’s excellent book ‘Respecting the Old, Creating the New’ there is a Chapter called ‘Transitional Aspects of Kata‘. When I read it a couple of weeks ago late on a Friday night the mental fatigue from time spent on the day job drained away and the excitement of some fresh aspects of Karate to explore and understand further replaced it. What I took from the Chapter was the value in looking at everything held in the kata which includes the movements that connect the techniques.

Thinking about that idea in relation to the first Shukokai kata I learnt, Shiotsuki No.1, made me think about a video I’d seen of Keinosuke Enoeda demonstrating Kuzushi Waza. In Shiotsuki No.1 after a down block, gedan barai, you step forward with a punch to the body, chudan tsuki. I’d understood that the stepping movement brought the added shift of body weight to the punch but perhaps that doesn’t make full use of using the knee at the end of the step to strike the opponent and disrupt their balance.

It also got me thinking about about the crescent shaped path of the stepping foot we use in Karate. This was emphasised in my Shotokan training as being important in preventing unnecessary rising of the body when stepping. And I love the feeling of that strong forward motion. But maybe that motion also allows the foot to manoeuvre round lower leg of your opponent to  place you leg behind theirs to have the option of a throw like Byobudaoshi (to topple a folding screen) or Kubiwa (to encircle the neck).

I’ve deliberately used ‘perhaps’and ‘maybe’ above as I could be on totally the wrong track but they were thoughts that struck me and I’ve enjoyed taking a bit of time to see how they feel when I try them out in a bit of solo practise. Even on a frosty December night it was good to spend a bit of time seeing how different combinations from the variations of Shiotsuki seemed to work with a free standing bag as the focus.

So I find myself very thankful to Chris for sharing his thoughts and suggesting a different way to look at kata and find new applications to practise.

Has anything given you a fresh perspective on Karate recently?