November 2, 2011

Karate is just like hot water; if you do not give it continuous heat, it will become cold

Karate wa yu no gotoshi taezu netsu o ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru

This is Master Funakoshi’s 11th entry in the Niju Kun, and this precept is easily applied to physical training.  It goes without saying that we should get to the dojo as often as we can.  There is no substitute for the guidance of an experienced instructor.  However, when we cannot make it to the dojo, or on days when there is no formal practice, we should try to do something to improve our karate.  It may only be 5 or 10 minutes, but setting aside that time for karate each day has a great impact on our training.  

There are many benefits to self-training outside the dojo.  By thinking about karate or performing techniques just a little bit every day, our minds and bodies stay sharp through regular practice.  Everyday training also improves flexibility, increases strength, and prevents injury.  It prepares us for class, so time in the dojo can be spent on details rather than repetition and memorization.  Self-training excites us about karate and motivates us to get back to the dojo.  Independent practice personalizes our training, because we can spend time working on our own specific weaknesses.       

There are two ways to approach self-training outside the dojo, formally and informally.  For formal practice, it is best to start with just a 5-10 minute commitment.  Use this time to personalize your training and work on areas where you need the most improvement.  If you have trouble with flexibility, use this time for stretching.  If you have trouble with strength, endurance, or connection, use this time for strength training, cardio workouts, or impact training (hitting pads).  Self-training is a good opportunity to commit kata to memory, to refine basic techniques or stances, or to run through drills learned in class.  You can make adjustments to these drills by substituting stances or techniques to fit your particular needs.  Working on techniques independently opens up opportunities to explore and think of questions to ask your instructor for your specific personal development.  

Informal training can be physical or mental, and can be squeezed into daily life anytime we have a few minutes – while waiting for the bus, doing laundry, talking a walk, watching TV, brushing our teeth, etc.  Use this time to mentally walk through a kata, or review concepts and lessons learned in class.  This is a good time to work on things such as light stretching, stances, hip movements, or hand positions.  Spend some time on non-physical learning by watching videos, reading karate blogs or articles, or having discussions with fellow karateka about techniques or philosophy.   Thinking about techniques generates a greater desire to get back into the dojo to try out ideas or applications.  Revelations from independent study give more depth to drills in class, and produce more meaningful questions when the opportunity arises.  

There is no limit to what we can do outside the dojo, but even a small investment each day brings immense benefits to our training.  A few extra minutes improves both our physical performance of technique and mental understanding of karate-do.

Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Nidan and Matthew Baran, Nidan