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 Principles

Practical Karate 101?

A few weeks ago I was feeling a little like I was awash with great information that was exciting because it opening up new opportunities to train but I felt I was struggling to make it all slot together. Lately it’s felt like some of those pieces are starting to fit together a little.

For my next grading I need to put together a combination and padwork routine. I’m seeing it as a great opportunity to practise some of the practical karate ideas I’ve been finding out about.

I really want to start to get my head around the thought processes of thinking about the information in the kata and exploring different possibilities and practical applications. I was planning to start with the kata of the Pinan/Heian series but looking through a book I saw an application for Kihon, or Taikyoku Shodan, kata and there didn’t seem a better place to start than the very first kata. The simplicity of the kata gives me a better opportunity to work through the process.

Last night I was listening to one of Iain Abernethy’s podcasts about how a kata records a complete system and he was talking about the idea of principles being the key thing to grasp rather than simply those techniques detailed in the kata.

The idea of underlying principles has been something new for me to consider and I think I’m just starting to understand. If I think about our first Shukokai kata, Shiotsuki No.1, which is like a shortened version of Kihon kata I think I can start to see what some of the underlying principles would be:-

  • Evasion – after looking to the left the next move is to step forward with the right leg and then turn into gedan barai to the left. This step forward shifts my body away from the line of attack.
  • Blocking as offense as well as defense – the down block is a strong block but with the hand striking like a tetsui uchi if targeted well it will have a real impact on the opponent.
  • Putting everything into the counterstrike – the kata could just use a reverse punch but by using a stepping strike the karateka adds their body weight to the counter.
  • Defensive mobility – there are two 180 degree turns to again block with a gedan barai. For me this seems to fit with Anko Itosu’s first precept ‘Karate is not merely practiced for your own benefit; it can be used to protect one’s family or master. It is not intended to be used against a single assailant but instead as a way of avoiding injury by using the hands and feet should one by any chance be confronted by a villain or ruffian.’ Having to respond quickly to an attack from the back seems like a real possibility so starting to understand how to shift my body makes sense.

All of that feels like it makes sense to me but I’d welcome any of your thoughts. Am I on the right track or do I need a few more pointers?