October 30, 2014

Components of Training

In several previous blog posts (Why I Train, Efficiency and Effectiveness, and Challenges and Opportunities, to name a few), we have addressed motivations and goals for training as well as trying to find the best way to approach teaching and training. We are both very goal-oriented people, so having a reason for everything that we teach is important to us. We have been experimenting for the past year or so with having one day of training each week set aside for training fitness and self-defense. It has been going really well, and now we’re at the point where those lessons and drills can be incorporated into every training. Traditional training consists of kihon, kata, and kumite. To that, we’re adding fitness (strength, flexibility, and endurance), kata bunkai, and self-defense. While there is a lot of overlap among all of these categories, it is important to understand why we are spending time on each of these in class. This post explains the main points that we think each of these addresses in training, which will come together to form a complete martial artist.

Kihon practice is designed to drill the fundamentals of karate, such as power generation, coordination, body timing, and balance. By its nature, kihon practice is internal to the individual and focuses on getting the feeling for technique within your own body. In addition to regular “in the air” training, kihon also includes impact and reaction training - both internal feelings related to external stimulus. Drilling the fundamentals is a core training principle of any complex physical activity. Practicing the fundamentals keeps your mind and body sharp and prepared to act in an efficient natural way without overthinking. Kihon also allows technical components to be broken down into details and refined individually when they might be overlooked in a more integrated training method.

The solo kata of karate are an important part of our martial tradition, and have repeatedly been labeled the “soul” of karate. In addition to a historical link to past generations, the kata also record a variety of self-defense tactics compiled into a concise package. The solo practice of kata is only half of the story, and a good kata performance depends on proper understanding of the meaning behind the movements. Once the bunkai of a kata are well understood, solo practice can be used to reinforce the internal feeling of those movements. Solo performance can also support kihon training through the practice of body timing, coordination, and flow through combinations of techniques.

Compared to the other two aspects of training, kumite (partner training) provides a practitioner with an external test of technique since your technique is being applied to a partner. Depending on the specific type of kumite, we may be working on testing form, distancing, timing, and targeting, which all require a partner for reference. This is a much more dynamic and interactive method of applying our technique. We need to adapt in a live situation to what our partner is doing, so now we are no longer just concerned with our own self, but need to consider our opponent as well. In freer forms of kumite, we can also work on types of strategy for contests with a skilled opponent – this can become very similar in feeling to a chess match.

Bunkai is the analysis of kata movements for fighting techniques, tactics, and strategies. The kata were designed for drilling self-defense, police, and bodyguard tactics in historical Okinawa. Today, we can use the kata as a source of modern self-defense tactics. Kata bunkai should help us break out of our comfort zone and explore the concepts developed by the early practitioner that developed the form. Kata study is akin to watching instructional videos to integrate new ideas into our fighting methods. The challenge of kata bunkai is that the meanings were not passed down with the movement, so the context of self-defense combat must be carefully maintained when studying kata applications. Through study of the kata in this way, we can begin to integrate kata principles into our fighting tactics for self-defense purposes. However, the lack of literal meanings associated with kata also promotes creativity in the process of discovering kata applications.

Self-Defense training is different from kumite training in two key ways. First, we are now training against an unskilled opponent who is non-compliant and is not facing us in mutually agreed upon combative drills. The distance, timing, targeting, and other skills needed in this context are different, and we focus more on defense against habitual acts of physical violence (HAPV). In addition, self-defense portions of training focus on understanding the context in which these skills would be used, considering legal and ethical aspects, understanding broader issues of violence and violence dynamics, looking at the importance of avoidance, escape, evasion, and de-escalation, and the aftermath of an assault.

Fitness (Strength, Flexibility, and Endurance) portions of class serve to enhance the other categories of training. We can perform better at a physical art when we are physically fit. This also helps to prevent injury, correct imbalances introduced by martial training, and help us to generally improve our lives through staying healthy.

By understanding the goals of training, as well as the purposes of each element of class, we hope to better focus our training and guide students’ progression as Shotokan practitioners and martial artists.

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

September 25, 2014

Book Report

I just finished reading an extremely well researched account of the history of Okinawan martial arts.  Andreas Quast thoroughly covers Okinawan martial history from approximately 1400-1890 in Karate 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art.  I would only recommend the book if you are a real karate history buff, because it’s a very dense read – about 450 pages, 8.5x11, small text, and few pictures.  Still, there are some real gems in there for understanding the context that gave birth to karate.  So I would like to distill a few revelations from the book that contradict the historical legends and expose new evidence that I would have presumed lost in the chaos of World War II.

First, a common belief is that karate practice was performed secretly, because martial training was illegal or suspicious under Japanese rule.  However, Quast reveals that karate and kobudo demonstrations were regularly given at ceremonial events throughout Japanese rule.  It seems likely that the secretive late night practice had another purpose – perhaps to avoid teaching pupils of poor character, or simply because the day was filled with work activity leaving the evenings for training the body (those are my guesses).  Along with the secretive practice myth is the myth that karate and kobudo were designed for a makeshift military composed of Okinawan peasantry.  It’s pointed out by Quast and also Bruce Clayton that this simply isn’t true.  The military arts were developed and practiced by the ruling class as part of their duty to the King as peace-keepers and soldiers.

Next, there is a common belief that karate and kobudo were developed as an alternative to using edged weapons and firearms due to a ban on weapons under Japanese rule.  Quast rigorously demonstrates that no such ban existed before the Japanese takeover (1400-1609), and the only related ban under Japanese rule (1609-1868) applied solely to firearms.  Even then, the practice and carry of firearms was allowed under the regulation of a Japanese official.  Quast gives a multitude of examples where edged weapons were carried by Okinawans or presented to government officials as gifts, and where firearms were trained and carried for security on tribute ships.

In fact, Quast gives a convincing alternative argument for the development of an unarmed and lightly armed martial art in Okinawa under Japanese rule.  Prior to 1609 (as a tribute nation to China), Okinawa was responsible for its own national defense.  Upon the Japanese takeover, Satsuma took on the responsibility of national defense for Okinawa.  At this point (during the 1600s), the government officials that served in the Okinawan military were systematically reassigned to various duties such as police, bodyguards, tribute escorts, and other security details.  Naturally, these peace-keeping duties don’t require the regular use of edged weapons and firearms, so more time was devoted to empty hand and non-lethal weapon training.

It was a dense read, but I’ve never seen such a detailed and well-supported history of Okinawan karate.  I think it’s important to know the context in which our martial art was created so we can understand the design goals of the kata and techniques.  Was this used to kill armed soldiers on a battlefield?  Assassinate key personnel?  Police a civilian population?  Civilian defense against an ambush?  Understanding the design goals helps us relate our modern goals to the origins of the art, thus making our practice more conscientious, directed, and effective.

Submitted by: Matt Baran, Sandan

August 15, 2014

Thoughts of a Female Karateka

I’ve struggled with how to approach writing this because of the way it may be received.  But that is part of why it absolutely needs to be said. 

There are times to acknowledge and embrace gender differences in training, but sometimes it becomes all too obvious that karate is still very much a male-dominated culture.  Much of this will be broad generalizations regarding gender, and of course there are exceptions to everything here and each student needs to be treated as an individual, but this is meant only to represent my view and to offer one perspective. 

There are things as simple as needing to wear a uniform that was clearly meant for men, particularly for judging, that brings to the forefront of your mind that this isn’t a woman’s place.  Look at the separation of men and women for exams and tournaments, when considerations aren’t made for size or strength – only gender and age.  In class, take notice of how rare it is for a male instructor to choose a female opponent to demonstrate against, even when it is only a demonstration of skill, not strength.  Whether it is intended or not, the underlying messages that can come across are that the woman is not a formidable opponent, that we can never compete with men, that we’re allowed to be here but not really wanted. 

When having students partner up for sparring drills, do you notice when the groups are separated by gender?  Unless there is a clear, necessary reason to do so (and not many come to mind), the subtle sexism of lowered expectations can be incredibly degrading.  As an instructor, I am very conscious about how I pair up students and separate them out, because I’m aware of how it is received on the other side.  If you really want to partner people by size (which can be reasonable based on the drill), then do that.  If you want to partner people by rank (again, this can be appropriate), then do that.  Anytime you separate groups or intentionally make pairings, there is a reason for it – and the astute student will pick up on that.

Much of the etiquette of a karate class is based around the male psyche.  Men are more likely to face “monkey dance” types of social violence, and in these cases, just being humble, shutting your mouth, and losing your ego can be the best thing to avoid violence.  Traditional dojo etiquette goes a long way to addressing this type of violence.  But women are not nearly at the same risk for this type of violence, and are instead more at risk for predatory violence or social-gone-toxic situations (think situations like rape where most victims know their attacker).  In these cases, it is vitally important for someone to break out of social scripts, stand up for themself, and not just do as they are told.  But this mindset is contrary to what we see in traditional martial arts culture.  This is also very obvious in most “self-defense” training in the dojo, where the focus is on social violence and male dominance games.  Strategies that work for social violence can backfire in asocial violence, so it is vital to make that distinction and address both in our training.  And it’s important to teach to individual students – different people are at risk for different types of violence.  If part of our training is learning self-defense, then it’s important to acknowledge the different types of violence, the responses to them, and the different likelihoods of different individuals encountering these problems.   

This is why it is so essential for women to be taken seriously in the dojo.  It is important for all of our training partners to push us hard, and for us to be encouraged to push back hard.  It is important for us to regularly partner with bigger, stronger opponents.  The concept of fairness in partner training, whether it be in the dojo, in testing, or in tournaments, is a concept from sport that has crept into our regular training.  We should also be training to deal with being at a disadvantage, because for all of us, if we ever need to use what we’ve learned, that’s the situation we’re likely to be in. 

There are other things as well: physical differences between men and women, differences in adrenaline response, differences in risk-taking behavior, differences in competitive behavior, different cultural norms in types of play as we grow up, and that’s just to name a few.  Perhaps most importantly from a self-defense perspective, the importance of overcoming social norms, as well as likely vast disadvantages in size and strength, and coupling that with a more asocial violence profile, makes the problem that much more real for a woman.  I don’t have all the answers for how these things could or should be addressed.  But I believe that acknowledging and embracing those differences and recognizing that women can excel is an important first step to open up dialogue so that we can find solutions together.  All students can become determined, ferocious, effective fighters, if they are pushed and encouraged in ways that help them overcome their specific challenges.  It is amazing what people are capable of doing when you don’t tell them that they can’t, but instead tell them that they can.   

As an instructor, I try to take a hard look at what I’m doing and the messages sent by it, both subtle and overt.  As a training partner, I do the same – everyone should.  Are you treating people differently based on gender?  Do you catch yourself thinking that’s good – for a girl?  I see others in the dojo going with men of a similar rank or size as me and going much harder with them, and I am brutally aware of the situation and find it condescending.  I see the look on some partners’ faces when they line up across from me – that subtle shift in expression that says “this round is wasted on a girl.”   I hear off-hand remarks of shock and surprise when I can make hard impact or when I’m going strong and hard.

I’m all for equality, but not when it means that women just get to be a part of a male activity and “deal with it.”  We need to move beyond just tolerating women participating in this man’s world, and embrace the diversity that we get in thinking and training that comes along with partners of various ages, genders, shapes, and sizes training together.  It’s important for us to consciously reflect on what we do and why we do it, and start giving true equal treatment – where the issues, concerns, and differences of both genders (really, for all students) are addressed, embraced, and given equal attention in the dojo.

Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Sandan

July 21, 2014

Can’t Touch This.

In martial arts training, there is a balance between learning combat skills and avoiding the actual damage that can occur in a fight.  In Shotokan, partner training is conducted with no contact or light contact so the techniques can be trained at full speed without injury.  However, this simple rule actually has a lot of nuances depending on rank, skill, target area, circumstance, geometry, etc.  Although light/no contact is always the goal, we sometimes risk making more contact and accept that eventuality in order to practice with more intensity.

For instance, when two highly skilled black belts are practicing scripted sparring, the attacker can move with full intensity because a skilled opponent should be able to safely defend.  However, if the defender makes a mistake, the contact could exceed “light contact”.  This risk of heavier contact adds to the intensity and pressure of the engagement and allows skilled practitioners to derive meaningful training even from basic drills.

Conversely, a wide gap in rank, skill, age, etc. requires the advantaged opponent to reduce the intensity of their attacks to match their opponent, thus reducing the risk of contact.  This is because control is a shared responsibility between the attacker (controlling the attack) and the defender (moving in a way that supports their defense).  An example of this is an unskilled student making a kicking technique and stepping forward into stance without considering the opponent’s counter-attacking distance.  Since the opponent began countering at the conclusion of the kick, continuing to step forward closes distance on the counter and makes it more difficult to control.  Thus, the balance of intensity and safety in the engagement must match the control of the attacker and the awareness of the defender.

Related to the actual gap in skill between two partners is their awareness of each other’s skill.  Two partners that train together regularly are able to find the right intensity immediately without having to “feel it out.”  Additionally, if accidental contact is made due to higher intensity practice, two partners with a good relationship can easily brush off the breach in etiquette, whereas strangers may take it personally.  Excepting tournaments and exams, partners that have never trained together will likely err on the side of caution, setting the initial intensity from the rank, age, and poise of their partner.  As the drill gets going, the unfamiliar partners can adjust intensity to match each other in real time.  This is good practice for reading a person on the fly, and serves as a good reason to train with unfamiliar partners whenever we can.

Acceptable risk also varies by the role of each participant in the drill and the geometry of the engagement.  Contact on a scripted counter-attack against a stationary, non-defending opponent is not allowed, but some contact is acceptable if the opponent can defend the incoming attack.  In free moving drills, an incoming opponent is risking more contact than a retreating opponent, and the expectations of contact are adjusted accordingly.

The level of acceptable contact is something that varies by target as well.  No risk is ever acceptable to the joints or to the neck, with some contact risk acceptable to the head, and risk of heavy contact is sometimes acceptable to the abdomen (not ribs).  Obviously, the amount of contact risked by target is derived from the likelihood of injury in each location.

To be clear, no contact or light contact is always our goal in kumite, but there are many occasions where we risk medium and heavy contact for the sake of intensity.  The unwritten rules and expectations for acceptable contact generally take a while to learn.  It would be impossible to list every situation and justify a risk of contact, but we should at least acknowledge that the rules of contact aren’t as simple as they seem on the surface.

Submitted by: Matthew Baran, Sandan

May 23, 2014

Challenges and Opportunities

Class last night got me thinking a lot about teaching and training, and the opportunities and challenges that come with that.  Every day I appreciate the group of students that I have.  They always come ready to work hard, and to have fun while doing it.  They’re curious and inquiring, but not disrespectful.  They appreciate the knowledge and experience of the instructors, but aren’t afraid to think for themselves and contribute ideas.  Perhaps most importantly, they all know that sometimes I’m experimenting with lessons and new ways of doing things (and they’re ok with that).  When I’m teaching, I don’t always know if the drill or the teaching method is going to work out exactly as planned.  But if we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten.  For me, that’s not good enough.  It’s my hope that I can do better – that we (in this partnership of teacher and student) can do better.  Trying something new may not work – if it doesn’t, then we either abandon it or tweak it and move on.  If it does work, the results can be pretty amazing. 

Other instructors can likely identify with the problems I see when brown belts start free sparring.  The tendencies they have are to stop before they attack (attack from a static position), throw a single attack at a time, not defend themselves in the process of attacking, and to stay in their position once their attack is complete (stay in the danger zone).  But can I really blame them?  At brown belt, they’ve typically had about two years of training, and it has been ingrained in them to do just those things.  Every type of sparring they’ve done to this point in time has them attacking from a static position, throwing a single attack, having a defender not able to hit them until they’re done, and requiring them to maintain their posture after attacking.  So then the next few months (or more likely years) of training are spent trying to break the habits that they didn’t have walking in the door, but the bad habits that they picked up due to the training progression and focus. 

So I’ve been playing around with ideas trying to find a better way.  I’ve been trying to teach students in tandem to move naturally and fluidly, and also to move in the strong, finite positions of basic techniques.  I had everyone at training last night (a group of yellow belts through sandans) doing free sparring and free sparring drills.  I regularly have all of my students run through many different kata, including advanced katas.  I have my students hit things, and we do it often (I’ve been known to have beginners hitting things on their first day).  All of my students are expected to think critically about kata applications.  And I am constantly amazed by my students... 

I am amazed at what they can do when I give them the opportunity and tell them that they can do it.  They can do some things that I never would have thought possible when I just remove the imaginary barriers (that I put there) to what they are capable of.  And it is incredibly inspiring to me as an instructor.  But it also constantly challenges me to come up with better ways to teach them.  I need to teach students and not just teach techniques.  What do they need at this moment?  What will challenge and inspire them?  What will motivate them?  What more are they capable of?  The sky seems to be the limit. 

I am learning from each of them every day, which is so exciting.  It keeps me inspired and motivates me to be better at what I do.  I want to do better for them.  I think what it boils down to for me is something that Rory Miller said in one of his blog posts, “In the dojo, there are no winners and losers.  There are teachers and learners and we are all both.”   

Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Sandan

January 15, 2014

Efficiency and Effectiveness

Most of my adult life has been spent thinking about, studying, and applying the concepts of efficiency and effectiveness.  Starting in college, the field of Industrial Engineering appealed to me because of the chance to optimize processes and do things better.  The quest for quality always leaves room for improvement, and constantly striving to enhance a process appeals to me.  The additional appeal of data-driven decision making led me to my dual Masters degrees in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research.  And in my current job, some of my most exciting days and most fulfilling moments are those days when we can use data to make informed decisions to improve the lives of faculty, staff, or students.  My colleagues joke with me that conversations about office procedures often start with me saying “why are we doing this?” or “why are we doing it this way?”  It is a blessing and a curse to never be satisfied with the status quo, and to always be looking for ways to do things better.  This attitude and mindset definitely carries with me into my karate life, both as a student and as an instructor, and I find this sentiment echoed in the 20th of Master Funakoshi’s Niju Kun, “Always create and devise.” 

A necessary part of this endeavor to do “better” is to answer the question – what does better mean in this context?  An article that came across my desk at work earlier this week that has me thinking about defining this problem in karate.  The article, “Doing the Right Things Right” discusses from an institutional context what is meant by effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiency (doing things right).  The importance of enhancing effectiveness before efficiency is also emphasized, and this makes perfect sense.  We could work tirelessly to try to figure out the best way (efficiency) to screw together two pieces of wood with a hammer, but it would be more effective to use a screwdriver.  The focus on effectiveness first and efficiency second is obviously essential.  This article also introduces the tool of Activity Based Analysis.  Considering the questions posed as part of this analysis, such as “Why are things done the way they are?” and “What would we change if we were starting from scratch?” have been integral to the way I think and approach problems at work and in training. 

To apply this same thinking to karate, we need to define the goals of our training.  Matt did a great job in his last post (Why I Train) talking about some of the common reasons for training in a martial art.  Each of these various motivations would bring with it different goals of training.  While there are certainly some overlapping goals (as well as objectives, strategies, and tactics) among several of these categories, it would be impossible to effectively and efficiently focus all of our effort into doing all of these things.  With such limited training time, I feel that it is important as both a student and instructor to understand what my goals are for training, and then to make sure that everything that happens in class is effectively and efficiently moving me and my students towards those goals. 

As part of this approach, it becomes necessary to define goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics for training.  While there are many different definitions of these terms, a set of descriptions that I like are:
•    A goal is a broad aim toward which your efforts are directed. 
•    An objective is a specific and measurable milestone that must be achieved in order to reach a goal.
•    A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve an objective.
•    A tactic is a specific action step required to deliver on a strategy.

As we move down the list to finer details, the number of items increases.  In other words, there are many objectives for each goal, many strategies for each objective, and many tactics for each strategy.  To help put this into context, let’s take one example relative to karate training and define one item for each of these terms from that perspective. 
•    Goal: Learn to defend oneself against violence.
•    Objective: Increase ability to generate power.
•    Strategy: Learn to generate power in striking motions through hip rotation.
•    Tactic: Repetitions of impact training of teisho uchi.

Every stance, kick, block, strike, punch, and movement in training should be contributing to one or more of our goals.  If it is not, then it should be eliminated to allow time for activities that help us achieve our goals.  Even for activities that do contribute to our goals, we should ask if there might be other things that we could do to get there more efficiently and/or effectively. 

Much of my life focuses on analytical thinking and striving to optimize processes, and I feel that my training and teaching have benefited from applying those same principles to karate.  Within the elements that I can control, I find that applying these principles to my own training results in moving from a technique-driven syllabus to a goal-driven syllabus.  And while there is a lot of overlap in what is actually done in training for the two systems, I find that the focus on goals helps me ensure that everything has a purpose and that each moment in training is helping me and my students to achieve our goals.     

Submitted by: Kimberly Baran, Sandan

January 9, 2014

Why I Train

I pour an enormous amount of resources (time and money) into the martial arts through books, DVDs, seminars, dues, memberships, and training and traveling time.  Naturally, I spend a fair amount of time wondering why that is.  Some of the reasons that are commonly given for martial arts as a recreational activity include (in no particular order):

•    Fighting Ability
•    For fun / For a challenge
•    Physical fitness
•    Self-Improvement / Spirituality / Inner Peace
•    Learn about another culture
•    Sport / Competition
•    Practice a movement art

It’s difficult to remember accurately, but I think I first came to karate to learn how to fight.  I think I viewed fighting ability in the same light as learning to cook or drive a car: spend a little time and acquire a skill.  However, I think my apparent interest in physical fighting was actually deeply rooted in a desire to understand and address human conflict.  Subconsciously I wanted to gain more control in chaotic situations, perhaps driven by a vague feeling of powerlessness or weakness.  At any rate, I had no appreciation for the complexity of human violence which I was trying to address.  After reading Rory Miller and Gavin de Becker, I have gained a little perspective and a lot of focus for the conflict resolution goal of my training.  Now I at least have a language to express how karate fits in to the various types of violence, and at what stage in the conflict it fits in (if at all).  There is a ton of information to tease out there in the future…

Learning how to fight is the engine that drives the other elements of my training, but I never would have stuck with it if training itself wasn’t fun.  Specifically, I enjoy the company of the people I meet through karate.  I also enjoy overcoming the challenges that karate training throws at you.  And on a very direct level, I enjoy the endorphins that get released after a good exercise session.

Exercise itself is a good reason for training, and karate can improve strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, and balance to a good degree.  This works well for me because I think karate is fun, and I don’t think running, biking, or swimming for exercise are very fun at all.  Interestingly, physical self-protection has increased my interest in general fitness, so I now supplement my karate training with weight lifting, stretching, and (less than I should) cardio routines to support my karate.  I also recognize the much more likely scenario of needing to defend myself against old age, and I see it as a form of self-protection to set the stage for healthy aging.

Another element of training that I consistently apply to my life outside the dojo is self-improvement.  I believe this can be derived from any challenging activity, and karate is my model for applying introspection and perseverance to overcome life’s challenges.  The challenges in karate can be physical, like gaining a level of coordination or flexibility to efficiently execute a technique.  They can be psychological, like creatively devising new ways of training or accepting constructive criticism to guide your training.  And they can be social, like appropriately interacting with other members of a karate club to share your knowledge at the right time, accept knowledge at the right time, and allowing your training partners to do the same.

The cultural heritage of karate is important to understand the context and reasoning behind our practice.  Although I was unaware of the historical aspects of karate as a beginner, training has led me to appreciate the importance of the historical and cultural context of karate.  As an instructor, I think it is immensely important to look for the themes and principles of our martial art that have transcended generations.  The cultural heritage of karate informs the reasons for our practice and guides us on how to effectively improve our training while staying true to our martial art.

The sport of karate is not a training goal for me, but a challenge or test of my training.  For me, karate competition is a test of tenacity, mental resolve, and physical aspects of my training such as reaction time, timing and distancing of techniques, and physical execution under pressure.  In my training I view competition as a test of my ability in one limited context, and I refuse to modify my training solely to improve my competition results (although competition may expose flaws relative to my other training goals).

Karate as a movement art is another training goal that I do not apply to myself.  In a movement art, the kihon, kata, and kumite are done for their physical beauty or for the inner joy of movement.  Contrary to that view of training, I use kihon, kata, and kumite as tools to achieve one of the other training goals.  I would swiftly sacrifice the beauty of a technique to increase its effectiveness in a fight.  However, a technique executed with brutal effectiveness may be beautiful in its execution.  While I do enjoy the physical movements as a coordinated, whole-body exercise, I see no reason to separate the joy of movement from the practical purpose of the movement.  This is a subtle difference in mindset where my focus is on the utility and not the enjoyment of movement – even though I do enjoy moving.

It has taken me quite a bit of training and thinking to flesh out why I train in any significant detail.  It never satisfied me to say, “I want to learn to fight”, or “It’s fun”, or “I train for self-improvement”.  Transforming those simple statements into meaningful goals helps me train more effectively and explains the unique position that karate holds to fulfill my goals.  Hopefully my thinking out loud here will give some hints as to why you train as well.

Submitted by: Matt Baran, Sandan