Kata, basics and more kata

Exams are coming to an end over the next couple weeks and Sensei Noia worked kata and basics today.

Exam time  is always good for training

Even though I stopped taking exams almost 6 years ago, I always enjoy the training before the exams. We spend a lot of time working on kihon and kata.

We started out doing all five Heian katas as a warm up. We could go as fast or as slowly as we wanted but with the intention of warming up and increasing intensity as we did them. After that, we did them all again with more intensity and speed since we were warmed up at that point.  Doing the Heian katas is always a good refresher and often, a Heian kata must be performed at the Shodan exams.

Next, we worked on basics. Starting with moving forward in a front stance with front punch, triple punch, back stance with knife hand block, horse stance with palm heel, horse stance with dropping strike from Jion, front kick with front punch, and front kick with triple punch. We followed that up with stances only, moving across the dojo doing two of the same stances and then changing to a different stance continuing to the other side of the dojo. We did the same again but this time adding hand techniques of our choice.

We worked on Taikyoku Shodan, executing each move with as much kime as possible. We did it twice again using only the left arm for one and right arm for another. One more time using both arms with all the power we could produce.

Kata of your choice but make it count

We then picked the kata of our choice and worked on power. After that, we had a partner watch us do the kata and tell us when the power started to decease for two total kats. We did it again and had our partner watch for spirit. Not just mean faces but if we were really into the fight and focused on what we were doing.

We then did one more kata trying to keep all that we just worked on in the kata. It was to supposed to be the all out, best of the night and then Sensei asked if anyone could have done better and for them to do one more kata if they felt the last wasn’t their best. Only one person stood off to the side, ya, you guessed it was me, because I felt that doing the kata once more would only be anti-climactic. I felt that the last kata I did was one of my best and I had little left in my legs to do one more and I knew that it would not be better than the last kata I did.

How many kicks was that?

From the title above, you can guess that we did a lot of kicks in class today.

Start with kicks and keep going

Sensei Noia had us start class with some partner kicks. Kicking my partner is always a good time, especially since my partner, in most classes, is normally my wife. Joking aside, she normally kicks me much harder than I kick her but maybe I deserve it.

We started with alternating front snap kicks and then moved on to alternating side thrust kicks. After that, our partner stood in a cross leg stance and the other partner did front snap kick at our partner, then side thrust kick to the side and back kick to the rear. After that, still working with one partner in cross leg stance, we did front snap kick at our partner, side thrust kick to the side, back kick the rear and roundhouse at our partner. Still working on kicks, one partner held a pad and the other partner did front snaps kicks at the pad.

We already had the pad so we might as well punch it

We moved into a horse stance while one partner held the pad, the other punched the pad. Single punches, double punches and some more double punches. After that, one partner still held the pad and other turned all the way to one side, facing 90 degrees away from our partner, holding the pad, and then stepped in and reverse punched the pad. The idea was to stand with slightly bent knees and push from the rear leg to drive the entire body and punch into the pad.

One step, kata and basics

After that, we worked on one step sparring. The lower ranks worked on the basic one step techniques and the Shodan’s and above worked  on whatever one step techniques they wanted. This is always a good time for me because I can work on techniques from various katas. This helps give me a better understanding of the katas and also lets me work on timing even if my partner attacks very quickly.  It always helps when you know what attack is coming but if you think too hard about your counter techniques, you will get hit.

We then worked on the standard testing basics with various punches and kicks and then moved to kata training.

The lower ranks worked on their exam katas and the Shodan’s and above worked on the four katas required to become a Nidan in our club. For those who aren’t in my club, this includes Kanku Dai, Hangetsu, Empi and Bassai Sho.

After that we finished up with one more kata but for the Shodan’s it had to end in a Sho. I choose Gojushiho Sho because that is one of my favorite katas and luckily for me, it ends in a Sho.

 

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.