After the break, back to Karate basics
Today was my first day back after two weeks off. The bad part about breaks between Karate sessions is, I don’t have the structured training that I get when going to class but the good part is, any aches and pains pretty much heal up. Even though I trained at home, almost every day, class is still much harder than training alone. Having a Sensei tell you what to do an at what pace is extremely valuable and even though training at home is good, it just doesn’t have the same impact.
Back to basics
This session is an exam session and Sensei Noia normally has us focus on exam basics but he always gives us a different way to do them instead of moving up and down the floor.
We started out standing and doing alternating punches, double punches and triple punches. Anyone can do these but moves but without grabbing the floor and tensing the correct muscles, you are only moving your arms. For the advanced students, you can tell when you have that connection from feet all the way up to end of your punch. It is a feeling that you cannot teach but most students know when it happens and it feels good.
The next drill was standing double punch, move to one side in a horse stance, punch again, move back to standing and double punch. Again, this a drill, that you either feel or you don’t. If you do not settle into a good horse stance, the punch will not be connected and if you don’t squeeze your legs when moving to standing, the connection will be lost and your punches will be less than optimal.
We followed those up with, starting in a horse stance, pivot on the heels to the corner and punch head level, pivot to the other corner and punch solar plexus level and pivot back to the first corner punching low, below the belt.
The next drills were more stationary in nature but still moving. The first of this group started in a front stance with an outward block, jab and reverse punch combination. The goal was to get the hip action to change from open to closed from block to the reverse punch. On a side note, I have always noticed a difference between blocking power and punching power both in my training and while teaching but over time, I began executing all of my blocks as if they are strikes and it has helped. There are certainly times, out on the street, where you have to block but I like the idea of hurting the attacker enough to make then not want to throw a second attack.
The next drill started in a back stance with a knife hand block, then we moved into a front stance with a spear hand. The key is always pivot on the heel of the back leg when moving from back to front stance and making sure that the hips follow accordingly. After that, we worked the same drill but added a front leg front snap kick. The hardest part of this drill is not rocking back before executing the front snap kick. As long as you keep most of your weight on your back leg and tighten our stomach, it works well.
The last drill was front stance with inward block, horse stance elbow strike and back fist and then front stance reverse punch. Sensei Noia broke each move down separately because most students have a tendency to mash all the stances together especially the front stance with the inward which most of the time looks like a front horse stance. when moving forward or backward. Doing these first two stance changes quickly is normally when they start to break down.
Extra tired legs
The next drills made our tired legs more tired. We found a partner and got a pad where both partners were in a cross leg stance where one held the pad and the other punched it. Fighting to hold a cross leg stance while someone punches you is never easy. If you don’t lock your legs and keep your hips and core connected, you fall out of the stance. It’s a simple drill but never easy.
Next came some leg and hip work. Your partner is in a horse stance, holding the pad horizontal while you put out a side thrust kick and rest your foot on the pad, each time Sensei counts you raise your foot higher, for what seems like an eternity, and then rest it back on the pad. After doing it 10 times, your partner drops the pad and does a Heian kata and once they return, you can put your leg down. This drill not only works the leg doing the kick but it also works the leg you are standing on. The good part is, we only did 10 of these and the bad part is, we have two legs.
We finished up the class with kata. In the class today, they were only second Kyu’s and up so we did Bassai Dai for the brown belts and the black belts could do Bassai Sho. Sensei had us pick a Heian kata that we liked the least. Oddly, most of the class picked Heian Yondan including me. It’s not that I like it the least but it is a kata that I never felt was good enough.
After that, everyone did Jion together and we finished up with a kata of our choice. I choose Nijushiho today and even though my legs were tired, it felt good overall.
I am not familiar with other Karate clubs but in our club, stances and kicks seem to be a big part of the focus at the exams. The person will low stances will normally do better than those will high stances. If course, there is other criteria to passing an exam but someone those stances are really important.