Sunday, December 17, 2006

karate in practice

My good friend Pei Shan and I were laboring to perfect the performance we had volunteered to undertake as part of a Christmas Celebration Program when I was reminded again of the simple truths that should accompany practice. Nothing goes the way you plan it. Our segment, for example, is one and one half minutes long and involves weapons (short and long sword), floor movement, high kicks, jump kicks, throws, falls, and rolls. We have practiced this series of movements for more than a couple days and both know it well enough to recite it, were it necessary. However practicing our form has been some tense moments of chaos. When the movement agreed upon is a grab, for example and instead I duck away and block, things became tense.
During our last practice we found, as usual, that we still had to fight our reflexes. When it came time to take a hit or deliver one, to not deliver that strike with force, but to "pull our punches" so to speak. In the course of our session, he took a cut across the hand and a nasty bruise on the forearm, while I escaped with a welt on my foot and my own bruised shin. The problems only came when we naturally reacted to an unnatural state that we were trying to force ourselves into. Which brings me to the point:
Karate is a wonderful Way to walk, but in the course of actual combat you may find yourself "off the beaten path." When that happens, it is important to remember the basics. Cover yourself, breath, move, look for openings, create the distance you want and can work with. If you miss a step it won't be a big problem as long as you can adapt. The chaos of movement and the mindlessness of reaction will finish off anyone who, like the poor dodo, cannot adapt.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Simple karate

It is a common practice, especially in business, to summarize everything and evaluate it based on the "bottom line." So what is karate's "bottom line" so to speak? Karate in any form that it is studied should be used to make life better. If it is being used by soldiers in a battle or by the elderly for exercise, karate should be used to influence our lives for the better. Karate and its practice become simple when viewed in this light.

Take this practice into your life as you pursue the martial arts by asking yourself every so often "Am I happy?" and "Does karate help me in my goal of being happy?" If the answer is no, then you should try to find out why not. Are you in a school that doesn't follow principles that you believe in? Is your learning environment too strained? Have you given your school a proper chance by putting forth the effort and concentration necessary? Are you having problems in your life that are distracting you?
Consider seriously the consequences of beginning or ending your practice. I know from personal experience that the martial arts can be very rewarding and also that given the wrong circumstances, a person may not be able to devote themselves the way they could.
Karate is simple, it's supposed to make life better.