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 Shigeru Kimura

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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Searching for Shukokai (1)

I’m a bit of a bookworm and whenever I pop into a book shop I’ll always have a browse in the Sports section to see if there are any martial arts books I haven’t managed to get my paws on yet.

I think this thirst for martial arts knowledge moved up a gear about the same time I decided to widen my Karate training by going along to a Shotokan club to see how that style differed from the Shukokai style I’d being studying. The Shotokan style seems to be pretty well represented in terms of book publication and I’ve picked up a few in recent years. Perhaps it helps when the founder of the style, Gichin Funakoshi, was a prolific writer, and every credit to him for sharing his knowledge so that it is still available all these years later.

Having returned back to my Shukokai roots I really want to learn more about the history of the style, the people involved in shaping it’s development and it’s particular traits.

My initial research didn’t produce quite as much information as I would have hoped. That old favourite Wikipedia did give me a quite a good start and amongst other things gave me Chojiro Tani’s name as the founder of Shukokai, his teachers Miyagi Chojun and Kenwa Mabuni and Shigeru Kimura as one of his pupils. I looked into Kimura a little and found a few YouTube films I enjoy watching. But there didn’t seem to be quite as much depth of information available that I’d found with Shotokan.

I was catching up with one or two of Iain Abernethy’s great podcasts while enjoying the views on the way to Sheffield on the train and he mentioned an interview he’d done with Haruyoshi Yamada. It’s a great interview and provides some really good insights into both Shukokai and it’s founder Tani.

Every time I read it I find something new to think about. Some of the things I really like are:

  • the mention that Shukokai is a dynamic style. Sometimes you can get a bit wrapped up in the more aesthetic side and lose a bit of that dynamism.
  • the fact that Yamada was drawn by word of mouth to see what Tani was about, it just seems timely when a previous post of mine was thinking about the importance of giving a good service which leads to your students being evangelical about what they’re being taught.
  • the mention of Tani’s logical analysis of Karate and his teaching of the applications of Karate.
  • the focus on how the techniques felt to the individual.
  • and the emphasis on going forwards and not letting the opponent dominate you.

And those are just a handful of the things I really enjoyed. It really feels like this article is a good place to restart my research of what Shukokai is all about so expect future posts about my search for Shukokai.

If you’ve taken a look at the article I’d really like to hear what are the stand out points for you? Or if you’re a Shukokai Karateka and have some nuggets of knowledge to share I’d love to hear all about them.

Following the footsteps of masters

I came across the Sir Isaac Newton quote ‘If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ and it got me thinking about the masters of Karate who shaped the karate I study.

Robin L. Reilly’s Complete Shotokan Karate has some geneological tables for the main karate styles so you start to see who different masters studied under. Having identified Shigeru Kimura as a key figure in Shukokai I’ve found he was taught by Chōjirō Tani who in turn was taught by Miyagi Chōjun & Kenwa Mabuni.

For Shotokan I was a member of the KUGB for whom Keinosuke Enoeda acted as Chief Instructor, he was taught by Masatoshi Nakayama who was taught by Gichin & his son Yoshitaka Funakoshi. Gichin Funakoshi was taught by Yasutsune Azato & Anko Itosu. As a curious student straight away that gives me a great many masters to look into further and I’ve already picked up a number of Gichin Funakoshi’s books.

Newton’s quote isn’t really appropriate to my case as I will never attain the level of skill these masters developed but I find the opportunities to try and learn from them just one of the exciting aspects of Karate.

Looking back at 2011

I returned back to my original Shukokai karate club in the autumn of 2010 after a number of years as a member of a Shotokan club. So I really enjoyed spending 2011 getting back into training, remembering the little differences in kata, working on combinations etc.

I also started looking at some different resources on the web and looking at what was happening karate wise on social media like Twitter. I found some footage of Shigeru Kimura which fired me up to really find out what the Shukokai style was all about. I also came across Iain Abernethy and his emphasis on studying kata in a more practical and integrated way

I attended a great pair of seminars Iain taught and it really made sense and he showed there was a structured way to get more out of kata, something I’d been looking to do but had been struggling to really know how to. I’ve been reflecting on all of this over Christmas and New Year and planned what I want to study more in 2012, I’m looking forward to using this blog to share where that takes me and hopefully get some comments that might help me along the way.