Friday, December 18, 2015

Karate Programming: The Software

This post really is very closely connected to the last one, but I've broken it up because it tackles a different aspect. Mostly conditioning, meaning operant conditioning. I'd also like to take the time to cite Rory Miller from Chiron Training as the source for the basic idea though the execution is somewhat different.

The next step in programming ourselves using karate is to condition our brain to react accordingly to the situation without having to run through a laundry list of techniques or responses. We are giving general jobs to the movements in our kata, which I believe are used generally to attack our opponents based on position and not necessarily based on our opponent's own attack. They can attack from the left, right, back, front, and laterally (coming in from the sides) and medially (coming down the middle).  To a lesser extent they can attack from above and below. This leaves about eight positions and a few basic counters and reversals, which is much easier to hold in our heads and condition than the thousands of different individual attack variations, which can be thrown at us.

We condition ourselves through partner practice by using trial and error, and employing the stimulus, response, success and failure pattern to ingrain it. This means for every situation we are given (the stimulus) we act (the response) and it either succeeds or fails. When we succeed our brain releases "feel good" hormones, which reward us, like when we do well on a test, or it punishes by making us feel bad, like when we do horrible on a test. The successes we will retain and reuse and the failures will slowly be weeded out and abandoned.

An example of this is the first set of repeated movements in Seisan. It's a middle block, punch, step combination, which is most beneficial for attacks where the opponent comes straight down the middle. The stimulus for your partner is any attack that comes down the middle. Grabs, punches, pushes, kicks, gouges etc as long as they come down the middle are neutralized and countered with the above movement. Your partner is not constrained by strict adherence to the movement, but is allowed to use it as they wish to reach a successful result. Each success or failure is allowed to stand on it's own. It's also important to note that your partner doesn't have to use the movement differently for each attack. If it works, they should keep doing it the same way. If it fails, they should try something different.

While you can be made aware of what plane of attack your partner is going to use, you should not be aware of the individual attack. This will keep you from preemptively preparing yourself for each attack. You won't know what your enemy may do, so you shouldn't train like you can read minds.

These are the general guidelines I use to train myself and my wife and they've been much more successful than any of the previous drills and exercises that I've tried to ingrain these techniques. I hope they're helpful to you in your own training.