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 Focus mitts

We all choose our own path but perhaps it’s good to come back home with what we’ve learnt

The choice of two of my fellow students to leave our club and continue their martial arts studies at a different club has had me thinking this week. It will be a shame not to see them training at our club any more. Our club has a nice friendly atmosphere and that feeling is generated to a large part by it’s students so to see students who have been a part of that for a number of years moving on is a little bit sad. But my reflection has been more about the decisions I’ve made in terms of my own karate studies.

When I came back to the club it felt good to be back. I guess each style and club has it’s individual mix of how they do things. Personally I’ve always enjoyed the use of impact pads and focus mitts as part of practising our strikes. At our club as part of our later gradings we’re asked to develop our own combinations and focus mitt routines. And I’ve enjoyed the opportunities this has brought to think about kata and their different applications and practise them in different ways.

I’m happy to take some ownership of my own martial arts learning, which I imagine is the same for many of us. In the main this has taken the form of picking up and reading different martial arts books. But in the last couple of years I’ve also attended a few seminars. I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility they offer to spend some time training with different instructors. I like that I can learn something new but then have the time and space to think about what I’ve learnt, explore it and figure out how it can blend in with everything else that I’ve learnt.

I like the fact that our club does give it’s senior students the chance to lead classes. If we’re all following our owns paths and learning different things then we also have the chance to bring back what we’ve learnt and share it with our fellow students.

For me it feels like being part of the club becomes more of a two way street. I’m certainly grateful for what it’s given me over a good number of years and it feels like I have an opportunity to put something back in.

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As fit as a butcher’s dog!

Well perhaps not quite, and I’m using the meaning of this old saying whereby the butcher’s dog wasn’t the fittest because it was treated to all the scraps and leftovers, but I was feeling the pace at training on Saturday.

We kicked off with a bit of sparring, which I kept quite light because I was partnering up with some of the junior grades. Then we had some padwork and I worked myself quite hard, working at a higher tempo then would be expected at a grading. Then we wrapped up working through combinations and kata and that was when I started to feel the fatigue a little.

The gradings at our club, particularly for the higher grades, have quite a number of different sections so a pretty reasonable level of fitness is required and I’m probadly a little short of that at the moment.

Training twice a week will help but in preparation for the grading I’ll switch my weekly weights session to a karate cardio session.

I gave it a go yesterday and am fairly happy I’ve got the start of a format that’ll work:-

  • I kicked off with 10 minutes on the Schwinn exercise bike to get warmed up.
  • A quick set of stretches.
  • Then four sets of basic combinations, 10 reps each side at a strong intensity.
  • Then basic techniques on my freestanding punch/kick bag. Gyaku zukis, mae geris, oi zukis, mawashi geris and uracken uchis, 10 reps each side again at a strong intensity.
  • Then I worked through some combinations at close range of the bag to try and replicate some of the focus mitt sections.
  • Finished with a final session on the bag but working from medium to close range to make it feel a bit like sparring.

The whole session lasted about 45 minutes and I was working up a nice sweat and feeling like I was testing my fitness at points so I’ll now add in more reps in future sessions to push myself.

While working on my fitness was the primary objective it was good to have an extra session working on different techniques on and off the bag.

What do you do to keep your fitness at a good level?

 

More than just a purple toe

We’ve done quite a bit of sparring in training the last few weeks. As well as a nicely bruised toe, due to an enthusiastic clash of kicks, from this weeks training I’ve been giving thought to how I can make sure my sparring is linked in with all the other aspects of my training.

I know countless times I’ve spent time in a lesson working on executing basics and then switched into doing something like padwork, focus mitt work or sparring and lost an awareness of executing my techniques as well as I can do. Working with some of the younger students it struck me that perhaps they didn’t yet have an understanding of the role sparring plays in their karate.

I find myself understanding how different elements need to link up and help my overall improvement. Sparring gives me a chance to develop my execution of techniques against a live opponent (I started to say unpredictable but then stopped myself). Against my fellow senior grades I definitely had to work hard to try and create create the opening to land a good technique.

Some of my opponents were more attacking than others which meant if I could block and counter well than openings were there. Others were more defensive so I decided to try and create some openings by moving their defensive arms.

I enjoyed the Shotokan system of kumite development which moves through a variety of fixed kumite drills into more free sparring. In Shukokai we have much more padwork and focus mitt work. I can’t quite put it into words but early on sparring felt like the endgame. Sparring was what we learnt the techniques for, so we could show off some snazzy kicks.

But for me now I feel I undertstand how it stands side by side with other learning techniques like basics, kata etc. in helping me get better.

Does that feel like a similar experience or did you get what sparring was all about?

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?