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Posture, Precise Timing of Body Segments Make Effective Technique and a Healthier Musculoskeletal System
Autor: Avi Rokah Sensei
To continue improving in our daily training.
In karate we strive to achieve todome (finish technique) and at the same time we seek longevity in training. Both effectiveness and longevity are achieved by using precise movement of specific segments out of optimal static and dynamic postures and alignment within total body movement.
Maintaining or restoring precise movement of specific segments and the relationships between segments is also the key to correcting or preventing musculoskeletal pain.
The biomechanics of human movement is similar to the mechanics of machines, in that the longevity of components and efficiency of performance require precise movements of the rotating segments.
In contrast to machines stress on the human tissues is necessary for optimal health, stress in the right amount can improve the strength of tissues.
Too much stress can harm the tissues and too little stress is not effective.
The loss of precise movement can begin a cycle that harms the tissues over time.
As with other mechanical systems alignment is important. Optimal posture and alignment facilitates optimal movement.
If alignment is faulty before movement starts, correction is needed to achieve ideal configuration, which must be retained throughout the movement.
The more ideal the alignment of the skeletal segments, the more optimal the performance of the controlling segments such as the muscles and nervous system.
Similarly, if alignment is faulty there is greater chance of causing microtrauma to joints and supporting structures.
Studies have shown that the spinal segments subjected to most movement are the ones that show the greatest signs of degenerative changes, especially when movement deviates from ideal.
Optimal muscular performance is achieved through subtle adjustments of muscular length and strength, as well as through patterns of recruitment, and this produces and maintains the alignment and balance of human joint motion.
In Karate we constantly work on posture and alignment along with optimizing timing of movements. Timing of movement refers to external segments, and internal muscles action, the right amount of activation in the right time, and harmonious interaction of muscles action with the external dynamics.
We also should stretch the typically tight muscles and strengthen the typically over lengthened and weak muscles.
It is interesting to note that research shows that altered posture causes loss of proprioception (kinesthetic awareness and feedback mechanism through mechano-receptors in the skin, muscles and tendons) and altered timing of activation.
For examples people who sit for prolonged periods with head forward posture show loss of proprioceptor cells around the lumbar spine, and the smaller muscles around the spine such as multifidus, and inner fiber of lumbar erectors, which are supposes to fire before movement and for prolonged periods (stabilizers), are starting to act as fast twitch fibers, their activation is delayed, and is for a shorter periods.
Those changes mean that the stability of the lumbar spine is compromised and with it also the effectiveness of the bigger, outer muscles which are the “movers”.
In karate terms optimal posture and timing of movement means, quicker start of technique, increased total movement speed, more powerful body snap and acceleration, and stronger and more complete muscles contraction at kime, and at the same time less stress on joints.
Optimal posture and precise sequencing is what makes karate technique most effective on the one hand and it is what makes karate so beneficial to keeping the health of the musculoskeletal system.
Autor: Avi Rokah Sensei
I share with my students, another definition of Kime.
From what we have been studying and training daily, here is the message of Nishiyama Sensei through Avi Sensei.
To read and understand our training even more.
There are many details to effective kime, which obviously have to come together to the point that you just have the intention of finish technique, and all the details will happen by themselves. At this point your body knows how to make kime.
But no matter at what level we are we always have to revisit and reflect if we apply all aspects of kime optimally, we can always get better. Sensei Nishiyama was never tired or bored of repeating the principles and details of kime, and there was always something subtle, new, that could be learned.
Breathing “through pass” target, “give all air, give all energy”, Kiai destroy opponent”.
Those are different ways to describe a similar aspect of kime. This is an aspect of kime that is difficult for many people, to mentally give everything, and to give all air through pass target, which means all energy and momentum transfer to opponent.
Actually, giving all air is a mean to give oneself totally, not to hold back anything, as budo says “no mind in the technique”.
Giving all air is giving all energy, as Nishiyama Sensei used to say “one period of breath is total amount of energy”, it should be done in the shortest time, and is only effective when the breath matches with the technique, and than at impact there will be maximum pressure to floor and total body contraction to technique line.
Make sure not to blow the air, but pressure to floor and as reaction air goes out, than your throat will stay soft, the breath is not in the throat, the throat is just like a pipe.
The breath/kiai peaks at impact but does not stop, don’t push we need shocking power.
When one gives all air, next breath starts as reaction, therefore next technique or kamae starts naturally (zanshin), you don’t do it, it is done by itself.
Giving all air solves the problem of “snap back”, since “snap back” happens when half the breath (energy) goes to technique and the other half (of breath/energy) goes for the pull back, which means that only part of the energy goes to the target.
At the same token one should not stop and hold the arm extended, this is a dead arm, and it is a space for opponent to counter.
Giving all air solves this problem as well, since when you give all air, next technique starts as a reaction, and you don’t cut and stop at kime.
“Snap back” is especially bad since while “snap back” the momentum is going back, there is one extra motion, space between techniques, which the opponent can capitalize on.
In any case, the more skillful a person is, the shorter the instant of kime is, and one can give all air and deliver all energy in shortest amount of time.
“Give all air” is a feel, and is changing depending on the technique, target and purpose.
Tsuki (punch) to the face is different than to the body, when punching the body more penetration is required and deeper kime, while the head gives, and impact need to be sharper, so energy is transfer before the head gives, even when looks like snap back, all energy must be tranfered first, even in striking techniques (uchi waza).
The point is that once the momentum is delivered there is no point to stay, next technique or kamae are transitioned to naturally, as reaction.
“Snap back” usually happens because one protects itself, wants to recover quickly, but when the chance is there and you are ahead of opponent, no worry, you must try to finish.
“Snap back” also happens when the breath cuts and the body bounce, and “snap back” results.
“Snap back” is also result of sport karate competition, when scoring is awarded for just reaching the target. Those kind of rules encourage training for just reaching the target with the fist, not passing through with the whole body.
It is, of course, easy to reach the target with just the fist than with the whole body connected and total momentum delivered to target.
Some ideas of how to give all breath and energy through target:
Before technique, look way beyond the opponent, intention beyond opponent to infinity, your feet stop inside opponent but breath continue through, it should feel as if your body wants to keep going, yet your feet holding the body from going. If you look to the spot you hit, your breath/energy will stop there.
Another idea, feel as if your body stops yet inside your body continue through opponent.
Another idea, Imagine your kiai has no echo, the sound does not come back, I like this idea a lot, Sensei Nishiyama told me this over and over.
Another idea, think not of poking the opponent but rather thrust a spear through.
Autor: David Schames
Interesting article that provides more information about body mechanics and the way we apply it in Karate-do.
To read and understand how we can improve our training.
Autor: Avi Rokah Sensei
To continue studying and understanding the practice we do every day.
In Karate through many generations, the wisdom and the tools were developed and transmitted to achieve harmony in oneself and with opponent. Those are not beautiful theories only, in karate harmony within oneself and than with the opponent is a necessity. You will get an immediate feedback when facing a good opponent, if you are not “present”, and not in harmony. This harmony has to be there not only when you lie down on the beach, but when you are on the edge, at extreme situations. Mind in karate refers to as heart, feeling, intuitive mind. Harmony in your body means that your body coordinates and integrates, moves in optimal sequences to produce maximum force with least effort, and it instantly follows your intentions. Achieving this level is a long, unending journey, I will describe some of the tools we use. My teacher, Sensei Nishiyama, used to shout at me “don’t use eyes”, “bypass the brain”, and he did not mean that in karate we learn to be stupid and do not use our brains. It means that in karate we strive to achieve balance between brain and mind (heart), conscious and intuition. We make strategies with our brain, we have to be smarter than the opponent, but when the interaction with opponent began there is too much information and too little time for the conscious brain to handle, and then our knowledge, decisions and actions have to come from somewhere else, we have to tap into a different kind of knowledge. Our intuitive mind and breath with our previous experiences together have to perceive the opponent, and carry out our actions. How do we do that? We start by teaching the body to be most effective, moving out of optimal posture, from the ground up, with the the body center as action center and intention center, we don’t have arm or leg movement in isolation, even if one finger moves the whole body cooperates. Step by step we learn to control all phases of technique with the breath to the point that there is no thought of details, there is only intention and breath, the breath is the “trigger” that initiates our action, and also controls the the type of energy in each action, smooth, continuous, sharp shock. At the next level, we learn to “catch” the opponent’s rhythm and action with our breath, our breathing tunes to the opponent’s breath while our eyes observe, monitor, but we do not judge, do not interfere. We say “eyes way back” as if looking at a far mountain so the brain will not interfere, and than we can start seeing the cues and information that are beyond the external movement. We are looking to opponent’s breathing, and moreover looking to opponent’s heart (feeling, intention). Now our breath controls our body action, and interacts, harmonizes with opponent’s breath and rhythm, our breath initiate our action and our breath make the reaction, there is no need for judgement, confirming, which is delaying our movement and cause hesitation, doubt and unstable emotion, it also causes us to get stuck in what we see, in this or other detail, and it blocks are intuitive “antennas”. Breath reaction is a way to avoid over using the brain, allowing intuitive mind to turn on, and it allows us to give everything without interference of the conscious brain once we move. being intuitive means to be sensitive and see all the cues and information that the opponent gives us without getting stuck on one detail or another. It is not some guess nor it is magic, it is being tuned and allows us to use tools that all of us have. Breath reaction is not enough, it has to work with the previous experiences we accumulated, since with time we face many circumstances and know all the possibilities the opponent has, and also our nervous system is wired properly and we have the skills to handle any attack with ease. So we have step by step tools to allow our mind, brain and body to work in unison, but , it is not a math formula, and takes a lot of trial and error, making mistakes and adjusting. Wayne Gretzki, the hockey great, had it, that is why he could be the best hockey player ever without being the most athletic. But only in karate we have systematic method that allow any person to achieve those levels. In karate we say “think by mind (heart), act by ki (mental energy from body center)”, we say “you don’t see (with eyes) yet you see (with heart), you don’t hear yet you hear, you don’t know (with brain) yet you know (with subconscious mind)”. and everyone can achieve this level of awareness and intuition with proper training and dedication.
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