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Showing posts from December, 2008

Why "corkscrew" your punch?

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In my view the reason so many martial arts utilise the standard "corkscrew punch" (eg. karate, taekwondo, many shaolin schools, etc.) has little to do with a conscious effort at enhancement of power/stability, or because of fashion or aesthics.

It is simply a function of our biomechanical design.

Consider a very short, close range punch into the ribs - with an uppercut type action. Your palm will naturally face upward.

Think of a handshake where you are middle distance (ie. your elbow is not fully extended). Your palm is side on and you have what is known as "vertical fist" punch.

Now think of an extended "raise your arms in front" (as a doctor or physiotherapist might ask you to do) - or even a pointing action - ie. where your elbow is fully extended. The most natural position is palm down. Hence when you have a fully extended punch it will naturally end up with the full corkscrew.

The standard "karate-type" punch covers all three of the above "…

Goju ryu karate and health

Is goju karate bad for your health?

I was recently asked about whether goju ryu is potentially bad for your health. The correspondent was particularly concerned with knuckle push ups and makiwara punching causing arthritis, and sanchin kata having other adverse effects (eg. raising blood pressure).

Knuckle push-ups

Knuckle push ups will not cause arthritis. There are 2 kinds of arthritis; the rheumatoid type (ie. caused by an immunological disease be it rheumatoid arthritis or any other reactive arthritis related to Crohns disease, psoriasis, etc.) and osteoarthritis (which is commonly associated with age (wear and tear) and can result from joint degeneration following an injury or repeated injuries and inflammation, among other things).

Knuckle push ups and makiwara obviously have no relationship with rheumatoid-type arthritis. As to oseteoarthritis - they MIGHT have a relationship but only if you keep injuring yourself.

To avoid this risk, you should:

(a) do your knuckle push ups corre…

Creating a kata: Part 2

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As I said in Creating a kata: Part 1, you create a kata in order to:1. package and preserve "fragments" of knowledge; or

2. fill a void; or

3. improve existing forms.In terms of the latter 2, this is not an exercise to be entered into lightly. That you are "filling a void" or "improving" something is a big assumption. Nonetheless one can see some obvious examples, eg. with beginner kata; finding newer ways of teaching beginners how to acquire basic coordination and skill quickly is the role of any coach/teacher.

Now here is an interesting example of (I assume) a created kata:


Daishizen Koken-ha Goju-ryu Tode kata Mizute - click on the image to view the video.

I assume it is "created" recently because in my research I am not aware of any kata corresponding to this name or to this movement. If it is recently created, then I think it actually looks quite good. The real issue for me would be whether it would have any "value adding" benefit to…

What happens when you lose your teacher?

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When Kanryo Higaonna died, Miyagi is quoted as saying that he felt he was "groping his way along an unlit road".

To fully understand this metaphor you have to be in a completely isolated place like in the outback here in Australia where on a cloudy night there is no light - zero (where in most places on Earth there is a distant light on the horizon from one city/town or other). Even as you walk along a well demarcated road you soon find yourself straying into the bushes. More than once during our gashuku in the wilderness I have made the mistake of visiting the "sanitary convenience" without checking the batteries of my torch - only to find out on my return trip that they had gone flat.

With the campfire out you can become lost very quickly. In one case (in the middle of the night on a Gashuku in 1989) I wondered off the 4wd track (I couldn't even see its boundaries) and walked almost the opposite way for a kilometre or more. The only way I got home was by gropin…

Creating a kata: Part 1

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Recently one of my colleagues on the Traditional Fighting Arts Forum referred us to the "24 Fighting Chickens" site which contains useful advice on "How to create a kata".

Now not everyone who creates a good kata was himself/herself a world beater or the most knowledgable. I've maintained before that kata is like a poem or piece of music (see my article "Kata: art or science") however not every kata has to be an "Eine kleine nachtmusik" to be effective.

I think what I found odd about the 24 fighting chickens article was the tone which suggests that everyone can and should make up kata - like those form competitions where you are judged on your own creation.

That said, the advice was fairly good and I actually have nothing against making up kata. Someone had to make up the originals! In fact I'm all for creativity. It's just that in any creative art you need a certain technical base before your creations are anything more than doodle…

Control vs. "missing"

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A few months ago I read a post on a forum stressing the importance of not “missing” or “pulling” your blows in training.1 The gist of the gentleman’s post is that one should not train to “miss”. Instead one should train to contact, both to groove the correct approach to striking and also to become accustomed to taking blows. I agree wholeheartedly with this as a general statement in as much as it pertains to those who are training to apply their techniques, be it in civilian defence, the sporting arena or a military conflict.

But how can one make contact in training safe?

Being from a boxing background the poster notes that the punches should be “heavy, but not hard... you're driving through to your target but only with weight and not power”. What does he mean by this?

It is my view that the poster’s description of “heavy, but not hard” is entirely accurate from a physics perspective. In my article “Hitting harder: physics made easy” I discuss how in order to transfer momentum e…

Ten rules for opening a martial arts school

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A colleague on the Traditional Fighting Arts Forum recently asked us to list the 10 most important things to consider in opening a martial arts school. Here was my answer:

1. You should be passionate and committed to your martial art and your own progress within that art.

2. You should be qualified to teach at least up to an intermediate (what we call green belt) level. This means you should be thoroughly conversant with technical material to be taught for the first 3-4 years of your students' training. You can be qualified to teach even higher grades - the higher the better. But you have no business opening a dojo unless you have a deep knowledge of the material up to at least an intermediate level. It goes without saying that you should have attained a much higher level than that. But there is a difference in my view between passing a dan grade and being able to teach the material you've just passed. I am also assuming that you will progress further so that you always…