July 25, 2011

Balance between Thinking and Doing

In karate training, it is important to strike a balance between physical movement and intellectual understanding.  We cannot be effective without having both elements to our training.  But there is a time and a place for each of these.

Karate training involves learning techniques that are potentially deadly, and learning how to defend yourself in dangerous situations.  Your Sensei is responsible not only for your karate development, but also for your safety and the safety of your training partners.  Therefore, it is essential that you trust your Sensei, listen to what he or she is telling you, and follow all of his or her instructions in the dojo.  Your only job in training is to do as you are told and try to feel what your Sensei is teaching you. 

With all of your techniques, you want to get to a point where the correct movement is natural, where you don’t need to think but instead can just react.  So you want to develop to where you are able to feel when a technique is right, and learn what feels right for your specific body type and physical ability.  If you follow your Sensei’s instructions, then the guidance you receive from him or her will help you know when your technique is right and will enhance your understanding of techniques.  Then you can internalize what it feels like when you perform the technique properly and can get to a point where you can just do it.  

By internalizing the feeling of correct technique in class, while also developing your knowledge outside of class time, you will begin to develop an understanding of the whys and hows of your karate.  Your Sensei will guide you and help you to develop this understanding during class time, and then you can complement that knowledge by your own research and self-study outside the dojo. 

Using kata as an example, it is important first to learn and understand the sequence of movements and the basic techniques through repetition.  Once you have that basic understanding, you will begin to practice kata applications, where you use those techniques against an opponent.  There are at least ten different applications to every movement in kata, so there is always room to learn different applications to adjust for various distances, sizes of opponents, attacks, types of defenses, etc.  While you may be able to see an application to your kata movement, your Sensei will be able to help you better develop your understanding of not only that single application, but also to see what other possibilities exist for additional applications of kata movements.  Through discussions with your Sensei and Senpai outside of class, through watching videos, by reading books or articles, and through your own thinking about and practicing your kata, you can gain a greater understanding of the movements.    

To maintain a balance, it is important to not only understand that applications exist and what they may be, but to practice those applications.  No matter how much you have thought about them, you will not be effective in using these techniques without physical practice against an opponent.  And no matter how many times you have done the techniques, you will not be effective without thinking about them and how they can be used.   

Most of our physical training takes place in the dojo.  We need to take advantage of our limited time with guided instruction to actually do karate techniques.  Discussions are saved primarily for times outside of training.  Take the time in training to learn to feel when it’s right, to listen and absorb knowledge from your instructor, and to use partner training to test your techniques.  Once you can find this balance, your study of physical techniques, training philosophy, and your physical training will all be enhanced by your efforts in each of the other areas.

Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Nidan