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 evasion

Lyoto Machida’s Karate Style

I’ve watched a couple of Lyoto Machida‘s UFC bouts because I was interested to see how he fought given his karate background. He certainly seemed to have a distinctive style. I didn’t see his last bout against Ryan Bader but I came across this really interesting Bleacher Report breakdown of his karate style. It resonated on a number of points perhaps unsurprisingly given Machida’s father is a Shotokan Karate Master.

The first aspect of his style they look at is Machida’s stance and how it makes it more difficult for his opponents to strike him as it keeps his head further back and his torso turned more side on so that it represents a narrower target area. I can almost hear both my Shukokai and Shotokan senseis telling me to twist my hips more when in front stance for just that reason.

Next up they look at his evasive footwork. They describe how when an opponent launches an attack he simply pivots to the side on his lead foot to move off the line of attack. We practised a lot of this type of movement in our Shotokan fixed kumite (sparring), mainly in response to front and side kicks. In one quick move it took you out of danger of the strike while still leaving you in perfect range to launch a counter strike.

The breakdown looks at his ability to place all his weight into a counter strike by using the classic stepping punch. Launching strongly off his back leg, stepping through and letting all that momentum and power flow through into his punch. When we’re practising reverse punches, gyaku zukis, on the pad we strike it from a stationary stance. You really see the difference in the power of the impact when you swtich to stepping punch, oi zukis, and the extra momentum and shift in bodyweight is added.

They actually then move on to look at Machida’s reverse punch. The twist of the hip is an important aspect in giving the reverse punch it’s power. The other thing the writer mentions is that the punches’ starting point low down by the hip makes it difficult for the opponent to spot which isn’t something I’d really thought about before but it seems like a reasonable idea, especially if you occupy the attention with the leading hand.

Lyoto Machida’s kicks then come into focus, particularly how he will start to throw a front kick and then shift it into a roundhouse. It’s a technique both my Shukokai and Shotokan senseis can perform far more smoothly than I. I find it easier to fully perform the front kick, drop the leg back and then perform a full roundhouse. But again it’s a technique I recognise easily from the dojo.

Finally the report references the spirit of the more traditional martial arts and how if you choose it can stay with you throughout your life. After being a student of Karate for over 15 years I certainly recognise that longevity. In some ways I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I can learn.

It was great to see the article report on how techniques I recognise from the Karate I’ve been taught are being used to great effect by Lyoto Machida in the UFC Octagon. To me it reaffirms that when done well Karate has some extremely effective techniques.

 

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Me, myself and I…and the rest of the club…Day 2

Having training on a Tuesday night helped me achieve today’s karate commitment. Some of my fellow students had been successful at Sunday’s grading so congratulations to each of them and every credit to those that didn’t take the night off and turned in for training.

Sensei David has a little game were we all close our eyes and then have to execute the stance he shouts out. Traditionally I’m pretty poor at this and am normally out of the game and seated by the second or third call but of late I seem to be doing better. Previously I wouldn’t have placed knowing the names of the various stances as any kind of priority but now if feels like it’s important to have a handle on all aspects of karate.

I think that’s because I see how it has value in a couple of ways. Firstly I see how knowing how the names translate can give clues to what the techniques are about. And secondly as you become more of a senior member of a club you find yourself coaching newer students and I think knowing the correct names and not going ‘um, you know that one with your right leg over here and the left….’ helps you teach in a credible way. If I look a bit unsure about the name why should anyone trust what I’m saying about anything else.

After running through some basics we spent some time on the kata for our next grading. It was great to have Sensei Colin take us through Bassai Dai and Niseishi. We touched on what a couple of the moves are all about and he showed us what was happening in that situation. Understanding what’s happening really helps to understand how those techniques need to be executed.

What seems clear to me is that I’ve done what probadly a great many karateka do. I placed more importance on being able to do the basics and to feel like I was doing well at the kumite. Subsequently I left my study of kata at understanding the flow of moves, being able to do those moves well and perhaps knowing a few bits of the bunkai.

Now it feels like I’m getting a greater sense on how all the elements fit together and by understanding the value of each you can progress you study in other areas. For example by looking and thinking about what a kata is about and what it’s trying to teach beyond just a set of moves it gets me thinking about how I can be more aware in situations, how I need to work on evasion through my footwork, how I need to look at fitting blocks, strikes and throws together that suit me to list just a few.

I suppose I could dwell on the negative and think ‘well why didn’t I understand that sooner’. But I want to see it as another lesson learnt, new awareness that I need to apply to karate and be able to step back or revisit training and say what else do I need to understand about that, what else is there here that I need to incorporate.

 

Moving targets

Last night’s training included a good session using focus mitts. Writing this blog gives me an opportunity to think about the different training techniques and equipment you come across and how they’re useful.

Using focus mitts gives you a different challenge to using the bigger pads.

  • You have a smaller and more mobile target area to aim.
  • You get a different sense of feedback when you strike it in the right area.
  • It’s mobility allows either mitt to be placed to represent different target areas of the body.
  • Your partner has both greater mobility and the chance to throw counter movements to allow incorporate the practise of evasive movement.

Last nights session was a great workout, it got the blood pumping and I had a great partner to work with. As I worked through the sequence and started to feel a bit of tiredness I consciously didn’t take the easier route of having a longer breather and got back into it. I also switched my lead striking hand to make sure I worked both sides through the focus mitt sequence.

It’s another example of how in every training session there are plenty of opportunities for you to take control of how you’re training and get the most of your time in the dojo.

How do you rate focus mitt use in your own training?