Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Karate is not self defense

Karate is not self defense. Karate is training to break someone, and while it is sometimes, in a very very very small way, a component of self defense, it is not self defense. It is a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. It's important not to confuse the two.

I personally try and practice karate in a historical context. This does not mean a super "traditional" style of training. The open and available aspects of classical karate allows me to practice. It is this aspect, which makes me love karate. If it was otherwise, I would not love karate. What is the context of classical karate? Oppressive.

In the United States, we have the right to bear arms. This was something that was not open to the Okinawan people. It was illegal to even practice karate. Shoshin Nagamine says in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do that people did not really begin to openly practice karate until the ban was lifted. This may have been an open secret comparable to smoking pot in my home country. We know people do it, but that doesn't mean you can smoke in front of a cop. Those that were well known karateka seemed to be princes and bodyguards. Not exactly those who the normal rules usually apply.

What does this mean?

This means that your only weapon is your body and that weapon needs to remain hidden from the authorities. It needs to work, it needs to be simple enough that it doesn't require full time training, like the class based samurai or knight, and it needs to be easy to transmit. Funakoshi was a school teacher and trained only at night. In Patrick McCarthy's Bubishi, he says that one of the originators of this text may have been a shoe maker in China, not exactly a warrior. The fact that those that traveled to China were able to return after a relatively short amount of time, not the fifty years, which is usually touted as the time frame for mastering karate, means that it is easily transmittable.

The most important aspect is that 19th century Okinawa is not 21st century North Carolina. Medicine is different, the laws are different, the standards by which we are judged are different. Meeting in a field to beat each other to death might be normal in 1789 Okinawa, but it's definitely not the norm in the present day United States. Practice in the historical context, and be aware of how it overlaps with self defense, but don't confuse the two.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Focus on what you can

We must focus on the aspects of karate, which are within our grasp. We would all love to do intense scenario training all of the time, but this is not feasible nor safe. Sometimes we don't have access to a training partner or even a heavy bag. This doesn't mean we stop practicing karate. It means we focus on what we can. We practice kata, we analyze the movements and hypothesize efficient application, we test our bodies and our spirit through vigorous exercise. We focus on what we can. When we do have access to these things, we will have a foundation to work from and it will be easier to learn new concepts. You don't need a partner to practice efficient movement, you don't need scenario training to practice efficient movement, you don't need a heavy bag to practice efficient movement.

Monday, March 20, 2017

We now have video

 Just copy and past the link below to see the first of what I hope will be many videos to come. The goal is to put out at least one a week, mostly because I'm learning video editing, so everything is slow. I hope they will come out faster in the future.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Is punch kick block wrong?

Don't get me wrong the application of karate, which is, everything is a punch, kick, or block to a punch or kick is a pretty terrible way to look at karate. But is it technically wrong?

Karate is the application of energy and structure. The PKB method is still the application of energy and structure even if it is a very inefficient means of doing so. It is also a very simple way of applying the kata. Simple is better but it's not exactly what I'm talking about.

PKB is the "see spot run" version of karate. See spot run is a sentence. It's just very simple. It's for children that have not completely mastered all the concepts of writing. PKB requires the least possible explanation on the instructor side and since modern karate is essentially a left over program for preparing little boys for conscription into military service it's all they really need. Why bother with abstract concepts when they're going to get chewed up by mortar fire?

So is PKB wrong? No. It's just simple. All of the legitimate karate training is still in the old books. It's all there in the form of concepts, but because it's not a list of super secret deadly moves, they are largely ignored.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Don't be perfect

How many times have you heard something along the lines of "karate is about the pursuit of perfection"? Striving for the perfect form, the perfect punch, the perfect kick. It needs to be perfect. You need to be the perfect karateka. It is a standard, which cannot be met. It is impossible, and if nothing short of perfect will do, what's the point of practicing karate? If everything just short of perfect is all junk, and you can't get to perfect than you're just left with junk. This unobtainable goal makes karate an endless chore, which only the most masochistic of us will endure. Side note: maybe that's why so many of them ask to be hit?

So don't be perfect. Don't be perfect. Give everything you've got to practice, but do so because it's fun, not because it needs to be "perfect." If it's not fun, why bother? Go kayaking or something. I think less than one percent of the population depending on where you live will experience violent crime. It's almost statistically speaking insignificant. Car maintenance is probably more important as regards to your safety. Karate ends up being just a lot of practice, and if you can't make practice fun than you aren't going to practice. You just won't do it. So go practice karate, forget about being perfect and have fun. Play with the kata. Everyday just ask yourself, "how can I use my kata to hurt someone?" and go from there. Experiment and see what you find.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Testing Spirit

Modern physical exercise can sometimes be a detriment to karate. Mostly because you repetitively use your muscles in the most inefficient means possible. It's what provides the stress, which helps grow them. In karate we want to use our muscles and structure as efficiently as possible, which is designed to not stress your muscles so you can fight longer. This doesn't mean however that muscle building exercises are bad for karate. They just need to be kept in the correct context. One very good aspect of these exercises is testing the spirit.

In many muscle building exercises, the goal is to reach total muscle failure. This means you could not do another repetition in perfect form if your life depended on it. Your muscles are completely tapped and will need a rest. There was a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps who could work you so hard you couldn't even lift your arms to type for a few hours. This takes a large amount of discipline and courage to train yourself to do. Your muscles burn, they ache, they are screaming at you to stop, and you're trying to force them through immense mental will to do just a little bit more. You're just asking a little bit more. It is a fight. Our bodies and our brains are designed to move us away from pain, to stay still and conserve energy. This is what is easy. Pushing to your complete physical limits is a fight with yourself. It is a complete test of will to do absolutely what is necessary to get the exercise done, no matter how much your arms burn or shake and your brain is telling you to stop.

This makes it an excellent test of spirit. Fighting hurts, you will get hurt, you will get hit and you have to keep pushing through, because if you don't do something it's not going to stop. We should strive never to fight, because it is deadly, dangerous and costly, so we need safe, low risk alternatives to test our fortitude. Exercise is just one small way to test ourselves.