Monday, February 8, 2016

Staying Positive, and Play and Movement

Staying Positive

It's hard to stay positive as a karateka. There are so few definitive answers in conflict already, but karate seems incredibly ambiguous as well. There aren't many definitive answers in karate either. Usually the days where I'm positive that I finally understand the essence of my kata are the same days where I feel I know the least and should stop kidding myself. There are plenty of other things that can make me feel negative toward karate. Tribalism, cults, fantasies, politics, egos and money to name just a few. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I remember eventually that ambiguity is one of the things I like most about karate. If there is no right answer, there is no wrong answer, so I keep on practicing and stop worrying about it.

Play and Movement

In a very real way the kata tells you what you're doing. The kata teaches you about karate by making you move and speaking to you through that movement. You just have to learn how to listen. Learning how to listen involves playing with the movement and figuring out where your kinetic energy is going. Usually it's a combination of forward movement and dropping down into a stance using gravity. It's a feeling similar to falling, but you fall into a stable structural stance, like front stance if exploding forward. There's also rotational energy and using leg strength to push up into a technique.

Figuring out in what direction your energy is moving is key to understanding what you can accomplish with the arm and leg movements attached to each portion of a kata. Body weight, gravity and structure are what power techniques. It's what makes them work. How you move dictates what type of techniques you can use. So forget about what your arms are doing, while you practice and focus on your stance, your footing and where you feel your center of gravity moving or your hara.

The fun part.

This is really where play comes in. Practicing the kata as a kata is great, but it's a best case scenario situation to showcase use of body weight, gravity and structure. One needs to know how to apply them in a more free form fashion. Take a section from your favorite kata and play with it. Don't just repeat the movements like a drill. Change tempo, stance length, speed and direction. Make it a dance and just feel how your body is moving. Stretch a stance to it's limits. How wide can you get before you become unbalanced, how narrow can you get before the stance loses meaning, are you dropping or pushing, how quickly can you move between each position at random. Practice the stances, but keep them fluid, loose and mobile. We want good principles not aesthetically pleasing sculptures.

Don't be afraid to do things wrong. Doing something wrong can tell you more than doing something right. Structure and balance is particularly squishy meaning that it's more of a "within accepted parameters" concept rather than right or wrong. You want to find the limits of the movements, so you know how far you can stress your balance and structure. If you're off balance than you know how not to do it. Everything becomes a lesson.

Most importantly it comes down to thinking, feeling and playing.