Thursday, August 1, 2013

Building blocks with...blocks

Where I practice Shotokan, we try really hard to teach new things based on what’s come before.  If you’re learning a new stance, we refer to a previous stance.  If you’re learning a new kick, we reference a kick you already know, etc.  But it’s more than that.

If we teach you a fundamental concept – in our case, initiating movement by bringing everything into the center by squeezing the thighs and armpits – then we want you to use that concept with everything we do, so you’re constantly getting better at it.  When you don’t use that concept, then what are you drawing from?

While that concept is pretty easy for most students to grasp mentally, what often gets overlooked are the smaller things.  We do a lot of calisthenics as warmups before our work outs, with the standards like pushups, situps, etc.  Most people's default is to do them however is easiest for them, but lately we've really been pushing the idea that there should always be a principle to be built on, even while warming up.

So when people are doing situps, we want them to have a guard up.  It’s not a formal position of hands as much as just having the hands up.  When we're doing kicking drills or sparring, the hands are in a very similar position.  When people do pushups, we want them to keep their elbows close to the side instead of opening up.  All of our punches come from the side of the torso, so we want *those* muscles to be developed.  By keeping the body doing the same things whenever possible, those skills/muscles/actions will get stronger much quicker.

How about you, dear reader?  When you’re doing warm ups, are you thinking about how you’re doing them?  What elements touch on your group’s principles?  When you’re playing drums or percussion, are you thinking about what’s common – or should be common – amongst each part? 

It doesn’t just apply to the physical, although the physical is easier to explain and account for.  In karate, the etiquette leads to mindfulness and the mindfulness leads to discovery.  The etiquette also leads to focus and that focus leads to intensity.  At least, that’s the idea.

Where are the connections when you practice?  What things should be carried across to other areas and how many of those do you do?

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