Tag Archives: kata

5 Reasons Why Your Karate is Terrible (and how to fix it)

Have you ever wondered if your Karate is any good?  Well, firstly I commend you for asking this of yourself.  To get the answer, you really need to be honest with yourself.  You need to critically analyze your Karate training routine and give yourself the feedback required.  It can be a tough pill to swallow; many who practice Karate are not as ‘good’ as they think they are.  But how do you know?  What sorts of behaviors lead to poor Karate?  Below we touch on 5 important points.  Remember, the purpose of this article is not to cut you down.  It’s to help you critically analyze your training and make adjustments if necessary.  If you’re too sensitive to take critical feedback, then it’s simple – don’t read this article.

  1. Lack of serious training.  Do you go to the Dojo 2 or 3 times per week?  Do each of those sessions last about 90 minutes or so?  Well guess what – your training routine is amateur and you’ll never progress to the level that you want.  Professional fighters train every day.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.  And when they train, they don’t just go to the Dojo and train aimlessly.  They have a specific plan and they follow it.  They have specific goals and they work to achieve them. If you’re going to the Dojo a couple time per week – your karate is not as good as it can be.  Good Karate (just like anything else) requires tons of practice and training.  If you’re not willing to make the sacrifice, then your Karate will always be amateur.  If this is your goal then okay.  There’s nothing wrong with training just for fun and never really being great.  However,   if you’d rather pull up your socks and get better – then keep reading.

2. Your instructor is terrible.  Karate has to be one of the only activities I know where basically anyone can  pretend to be a “expert”.  You just need to buy a black belt.  Why is this the case?  Well, there are several reasons but if I may be blunt, perhaps one of the main reasons is because ultimately, the only way to really PROOVE your karate is any good, is to fight another person (preferably someone else who trains) and beat them.  Then fight another person… and beat them too.  We can safely assume that the more people you beat – the ‘better’ you are.  Now I know I’m taking a slightly skewed perspective here, because Karate is not all about fighting.  There is the “art” part of Martial arts.  But let’s boil this down to its most common denominator – the preface for the very invention of Karate was because Okinawans wanted to be able to defend themselves against armed opponents.  The ‘art’ aspect of it merely incorporated many of their pre-existing cultural behaviours into the practice of Karate.  Not the other way around.  Anyways, where was I?  Oh ya, your instructor (unless they are a recognized MMA fighter or has some other qualitative and verifiable reference including who trained them) has likely never had to prove that their Karate is any good.  So, what are we left with?  Scores of instructors who can TALK about what good Karate is – but very few instructors who are actually good at Karate.  THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS!  I’m generalizing here folks – and this logic does not apply to EVERY SINGLE Sensei.  I’m merely pointing out that the vast majority of instructors (and there are literally tens of thousands of them), don’t know what they are talking about.

3. You don’t exercise.  Karate has developed this weird characteristic where-by many people who practice it have come to believe that practicing Karate in itself represents a complete and effective exercise tool.  WRONG!  My God, this is so wrong.  Actually, it’s completely the opposite.  Your karate will only be as good as your physical conditioning.  And you can only condition your physicality by exercising – in addition to your karate training.  People are always looking for shortcuts.  There are not shortcuts.  Do you want to be better at Karate?  You need to go to the gym, ride your bike (hard) for cardio, lift rocks, squat your refrigerator – do whatever it is you need to do to build strength (a.k.a muscle) and develop your cardiovascular system.  You will not be able to do these things by just going to the Dojo a couple times a week.  Honestly, if you want to really make good Karate a priority, then stop being lazy and get your butt to the gym.

4. The training you do focuses on the wrong things. This is a HUGE problem.  Not just with Karate but with many other activities like golf, weight lifting, running, skiing, etc., etc., etc.  If your Karate is lacking – you’re probably focusing on the wrong things (by the way, this could very well be your Sensei’s fault.  See Point #2).  Being able to fight is about developing amazing body dynamics (at least, more amazing than your opponent.. hopefully).  All too often, lack-luster Karate instructors spend all of their time focusing their students on the wrong things.  It’s difficult to write a quick reference guide to this element – because I could write an entire book but here are some of the wrong things:

  • Endlessly drilling out Kata
  • Endlessly drilling out basics
  • Compulsion around hand and feet positions (e.g., 45 degrees instead of 50 degrees, etc.)
  • Too much time dedicated to wrist locks and other ‘defensive’ techniques.  If you’re an instructor reading this – don’t get bent out of shape.  Of course there is some element of this – however for the context of this article, it should be a minimal amount.
  • Bonkai.  Totally useless.  Fun?  Maybe.  Effective? No.

Writing this article (specifically this point) it’s clear I need to write an article on what IS proper training.  I’ll have to begin putting some points together.  But you can start here: O’Brien Sensei: The Feeling Of No Cap or here: Pennell Sensei: Rohai Kata or here: Hotton Sensei: Inside Breathing

5. You diet and/or lifestyle is horrible.  Honestly, this is something that EVERYONE can improve on.  Generally speaking, the “North American” diet is the Worst. Diet. Period.  Once again, I can probably write a rather lengthy article on this subject, but for now let’s keep the following things in mind.  You likely eat:

  • Too much refined sugar
  • Not enough protein
  • Not enough vegetables
  • Not enough fruit
  • Not enough water (drink)
  • Too much processed/refined food

There are tons of resources online about proper diets – and opinions vary greatly.  It takes time to figure out what works right for you.  No pre-arranged diet is perfect for you.  If I could give some advise – Start researching a balanced diet.  A diet that consists of ample protein.  A diet that consists of ample minerals and vitamins from fruits and vegetables.  Then – use that diet for a while and adjust it to suit your needs.  Lastly, drink water.  In fact, I challenge you to only drink water for 1 month and see what happens.  You’ll almost definitely loose weight.  Especially if you generally drink lots of juice and soda-pop.  Yes – orange juice is horrible.  Eliminate it from your diet right away.

I sometimes get some critical feedback about my articles.  I certainly don’t mind.  It means people are reading them!  People sometimes say my point of view is so black and white.  Firstly, I couldn’t agree more.  I tend to look at something as either right or wrong.  The whole ‘grey-area’ concept does not sit well with me.  In my opinion, the ‘grey-area’ exists because people can’t make decisions.

Happy Training!

Sensei Pennell

Sharpen Your Tools

Carpenters, mechanics and other tradespeople all have their own tools of which they rely on to get the job done. Maintaining and sharpening their tools assures that when the time comes to use whatever it is that they need, they have confidence in that tool’s ability to work as desired.

As karateka, the obvious tools at our disposal are namely our hands and feet used to strike and/or block.

Hands are very versatile tools in that we can form fists, half fists, spear hands, knife edge hand, palm heel, etc., etc.

Conversely, our feet are tools that may deliver strikes with ball of foot, toe kicks, shins, foot edge, heel, insteps etc., as well as further up, the knees.

These are the more obvious tools that we have to use. We could delve into more weapons within our bodies but to be brief, we’ll use these examples for now.
Having recognized that we too, must maintain our tools, we must also sharpen these tools so that when called upon, we may rely on them to achieve a desired result (defending ourselves.)

Maintaining and sharpening our tools require training on the makiwara with various hand and foot strikes and hitting the heavy bag with both. When we practice with a partner striking, blocking and flowing within each other’s actions we can hone our distance and proximity skills, along with the sensitivity required and thereby, sharpen these tools, also.

We must always explore the various strike and block permutations of our bodies weapons looking at shapes and tool configurations to achieve desired results. Be aware of what is useful under the circumstances presented and recognize the appropriate tool useful to us.
Practicing kata, reinforces our patterns, develops our form and timing as well as allows us to use those tools of ours. We mustn’t be content with just blocking and striking empty air with these tools, we must also be able to actually develop our ‘tool’ confidence for real by striking, blocking and kicking something!

Honing those tools, also involves doing various strength exercises and working on stretch flexibility. All of this tool maintenance, combines to give us the confidence required to make us effective karateka.

Recognize and develop your own weapons/tools so that they are always available.

Most of us have 3 – 5 favourite go-to techniques that we rely on. Make sure we always have those techniques backed up by our sharpened tools.

Yours in the arts,

Gary Christensen

O’Brian Sensei: Twitching & Dropping Center

This weekend during training, our group was discussing the idea of dropping your centre.  In the video above, O’Brian Sensei talks a bit about the sensation of dropping your centre and how it relates to quick, movements.

Sometimes, it can be hard to articulate ideas about how a sensation feels – it’s a personal thing really; sometimes it’s hard to describe.

I was wondering the other day about the best way to describe ‘twitching’ and dropping.  The two are linked, with dropping being a result of twitching.

So what is twitching anyways – as it relates to Karate?  One explanation that I came up with is:  Have you ever fallen asleep on the couch during the day?  You know – maybe it’s a nice summer day and the sun is shining in your living room while you’re sitting on the couch.  You suddenly feel a bit sleepy and decide to take a nap.  I’ve noticed that sometimes this sort of sleep can be deep, but a bit restless – like you’re asleep but half awake at the same time.  Have you ever had a dream whilst napping this way?  The dreams can sometimes be so vivid.  I remember in one dream that for whatever reason I felt as though I needed to flail my arm.  Only thing was I actually flailed my arm – so hard I jolted myself out of my nap!  The sensation that I felt was like I was instantly awake – and my arm had some sort of knee-jerk reaction.  That’s the twitch sensation.  Not sure if anyone can relate, but if you can then great.  That sort of instant-on, muscle twitch movement is a little like what we’re trying to achieve when we do our techniques.  Notice in the video of O’Brian sensei how he kind of ‘twitches’ when he turns in his stance.  The movement is not stiff and ridged.  It’s more of a quick twitch-like reaction.  It starts in your core (abdomen) and the block is just an end result of an action that was started by your core muscles twitching.

This method can be applied to pretty much every technique we do.  Granted, it can be harder to do when kicking – but it is possible and just like anything else, it needs practice.

We should be working towards this kid of technique.  It’s faster while being more relaxed and you can twerk your movement, adding KIME at any time.

Have fun!

Sensei Pennell.