Unfortunately, over the years I’ve noticed that many of those interested in karate in general don’t have a solid understanding of what kata is actually for and what it’s really intended to do.
Therefore, their opinions about its worth are often stalled or go off in directions that lead nowhere productive.
There are, in fact, a number of misconceptions about kata.
Among the more obvious are the following:
“A kata tells a story.”
No, it doesn’t. Combat — even a simple confrontation — is enormously chaotic and unpredictable. No “story” could be implemented that could be even remotely applicable to the spontaneity of a fight.
“A kata allows us to practice the more deadly techniques of karate.”
No, not if you’re just going through the motions.
A finger stab done 10,000 times against an imaginary opponent’s eye doesn’t teach you any more about the effectiveness of that technique than doing it once. All the kata repetitions in the world won’t change that. A kata is just a combination of techniques, randomly assembled. Feel free to create your own; it’ll be just as valuable.
Understanding the true role of kata in karate-do depends to a considerable extent on a familiarity with the three pillars that support it. Grasp these concepts and you’ll find it easier to see the place of kata in your training and to make informed judgments about its practice.
It’s easy to look at a kata from outside and conclude it’s an arbitrary arrangement of techniques. A kata has structural integrity. The movements may be fast and light, or slow and heavy, but they make sense. They’re applicable. Standing on one leg and unleashing flippy kicks at head height while rotating in a circle might look impressive, but there’s no solidity, no proper application of power. Watch a karateka do a kata and they should be balanced, their body integrated, and all parts coordinated. You won’t find them tumbling or upside down. That’s because the kata has structural integrity.
Shin, or “mind,” is a familiar term to martial artists. In this context, it refers to the coherence of the kata. If you think of kotai as the bones of the kata, shin is the collection of muscles that allow it to articulate. Those muscles have to work in concert.
Ever see a kata in which the performer does a split or some other spectacular motion? Remember what happened next? Probably not. The movements of most contrived kata tend to be very fast and spastic. But in almost every case, if you could watch the kata in slow motion, you’d see that the move following one of those dramatic actions is weak, largely meaningless in a combative sense. The performer has to stand up or reorient himself. The kata stops, in effect. Then it restarts. It’s disjointed. There’s no smooth articulation.
In a real kata, there’s a flow. The components work together.
A real kata — one generated over a long period and by those who knew what they were doing and practiced by someone who’s been correctly taught it — has intent behind it. There’s a unifying set of principles. In some, these principles will be rapid movement, either in and out or laterally. In others, it will be a strong sense of predation — karateka doing it looks like a tiger stalking prey.
In poorly constructed kata, the performer looks like a little kid in a big toy store, his attention in a dervish-like spin. In a good kata, there’s the sense that the practitioner is controlling time and space, setting the pace. This is an expression of the focus, the intent of the kata.
Structural integrity. Coherence. Intent. These three pillars support a kata.
To kata or not to kata?
So the question comes back, is a kata worth practising over and over again. If it has the three pillars then yes. If it is made up of flashy movements that do not flow into one another and demonstrate and intention then in my opinion no it is not worth you investing your time in repeating again and again.
Any sequence of moves in a kata should be able to be pulled out of the kata and work in their own right. If the kata cannot be pulled part like this then it is simply a pretty dance without the three pillars you need. So check your kata, is it really effective or is it simply some pretty moves mashed together. Observe, question, challenge your Sensei should clearly be able to tell you the three pillars of that kata.
So, what’s the secret to great head movement?
It has to do with understanding what good head movement is and how to do it. You’ll need to learn the different styles of head movement and how to train the skill. While you’re learning and practicing, you’re still going to get hit a lot.
For the serious fighters, you don’t really have a choice. Head movement is a standard boxing skill you need to be competitive. Your head can only take so many shots from trained opponents. But there’s no greater feeling than being able to completely avoid a punch (besides a KO).
The idea of head movement is basically to move the target. Instead of trying to defend the target (your head) all the time, you just move it. This way, your hands are free to attack. The art of head movement is so misunderstood that to the untrained eye, people think boxing is brutal and raw and mindless because the fighters on TV don’t seem to be defending themselves.
Check out this head movement video, be there then not there https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSX0PCQXiO4
Whether you’re walking around on town or just strolling through your own neighbourhood you should know what to do if you suddenly find yourself in a threatening situation and need to escape.
But what if you have never taken a self defence class. What do you do then. Well here are some handy pointers on what to do if you think you’re in a potentially hazardous situation. Better safe than sorry, right?
Be Actively Aware of Your Surroundings
We all know this one, but it’s easy to forget: When you’re not paying attention, you’re much more vulnerable to an attack—no matter where you are. So stick your headphones in your bag, put your phone away (though make sure it’s easy to grab), and keep your eyes and ears open to what’s around you. People who look like they’re easy targets tend to be easy targets, and draw the attention of a potential attacker. Staying alert to what’s going on around you will not only help you be more prepared to defend yourself, but you may be less likely to need to in the first place.
Know How to Handle an Attack
So, this is a nightmare scenario—but there are things you can do to help increase your odds of getting away if you’re being overpowered. First off, a lot of people focus on the part of their body that’s being pinned, instead of employing the counter attack options available to them. An example? If your arms are being held to your sides, you still have free feet and legs to stomp on your attacker’s toes, knee them in the crotch, or kick their kneecaps or shins. If you’ve got free hands, go for vital points like the throat (you want to aim for the trachea, which is right below the chin) and the eyes (yep, as hard as you can, right in the eyeballs).
Another thing is that when a person is trying to physically move you, stabilizing your base can help fend them off. What does that mean? Basically, if your feet are spread apart on the ground and your knees are a little bent, you’re harder to knock over and have more control over your movements—which could keep someone from being able to pick you up in the first place.
Remember: You’re Not Trying to Win the Fight
An attack will trigger your flight or fight mode—but without a doubt your main job is to get away, as fast as you can. Make a scene: Scream as loud as possible, and alert anyone in earshot that you need help. But don’t just start swinging punches without trying to aim. You could wear yourself out, and that might make it harder to escape.
You might not be stronger than your attacker, but you are smarter: Grind your heel into the little bones of their foot, or aim for their nose. Both of those zones have bones and cartilage that can be easily broken, which would distract your assailant—and allow you to run for it. Adrenaline will help you to book it out of there, and try your best to run toward familiar territory and open spaces where you know there will be other people around.
We’re thinking about you guys—stay safe and aware out there. You can of course help you odds and attend a local self defence class like Shizoku Martial Arts classes. Even the basics can help you in that moment of crisis.
Managing a large amount of stress has become the norm in our society. You often hear people talking about how many responsibilities they are balancing, and how many different balls they’re trying to juggle at the same time.
But stress is very harmful to your health. It affects the way your body stores fat, your sleep patterns, and predisposes you to high blood pressure and so many other things.
You already know that martial arts classes offer you a way to burn calories fast and keep your metabolism high. But did you know that you get a large dose of stress relief too?
1. You’ll release endorphins
When you go through an intense Martial arts class, your body releases a type of hormone known as endorphins. This is basically a feel-good hormone that leaves you feeling great, improves your mood and gives you a feeling of achievement and euphoria. Stress blocks out the production of endorphins, leaving you craving fatty foods, which the body will not store properly.
2. You’ll build a coping mechanism
Martial arts classes help you develop certain characteristics such as improving your decision making, calming your fears and projecting confidence. These are the very same skills you need to build a coping mechanism for stress.
3. Your sense of fear will become desensitized
You will need to confront your fear of getting hurt in a martial arts class. This continued exposure is good because it allows you to deal with not just the fear that you see in the class but all your internalized fears which may be causing you stress. Stress is often produced when you are afraid that something bad will happen to you, even if the harm is imagined, mostly because you don’t feel able to defend yourself.
4. You’ll learn proper breathing technique
Sometimes, when we are in high stress moments, we forget how to breathe. This might lead to irregular breathing patterns that are not good for the body and contribute to your stress level as well as your health problems. One of the things you will learn at a Senshi Shizoku class is how to regulate your breathing and breathe properly.
5. You’ll have more energy
After your first class you may feel tired, but once you have become a regular you will begin to notice that at the end of the class you feel energized and on top of the world. This is because your Martial Arts training is increasing your energy and serotonin levels. This is probably one of the best stress relief available in the world today and it’s all-natural!
An intense class is a very effective way of losing weight and keeping fit. You burn up to 800 calories in each class and keep your metabolism high afterwards. But that’s not all, you also reduce your stress level and you take that everywhere you go. It truly is a win-win situation.
So beat your stress into shape and train hard to get and stay healthy.
Millions of people across the world take self-defense classes every week. But are they just wasting their time and money? Wouldn’t you rather spend this with your friends, family or go out on a date instead? And after all this sacrifice – does it even work?
No-one can deny that there are a lot of charlatans involved in Martial Arts. Instructors with fancy names who ensnare students with belts, grades, titles and certificates. Maybe self-defense classes aren’t necessary at all. Maybe you can greatly increase your odds of survival without bowing down to an instructor with a funny name in an even funnier uniform.
All in all here at Shizoku Martial Arts we feel that you should give yourself the best chance you can in today’s world to survive. It is amazing how one little thing can be the difference between life and death or serious injury. In saying that there are some great ways to add to your training and increase your odds out there in the real world.
1. Get Fit!
Being physically fit has so many advantages and is vital to your survival. The best form of “Self-defense” is literally not being there.
“Running” is a great solution, and is always put forward by the more sensible instructors.
Being physically fit will help you live longer. It reduces stress – another “Master Killer“. It also increases your mental acuity. And let’s face it. A lot of self-defense situations are caused by stupid people making stupid decisions.
Finally, another benefit of getting fit is you look and feel fit. This is very important when thinking about why people are targeted for violence. They are not picked out at random. Usually, predators are looking for those who won’t fight back. Looking fit and strong can make them think twice.
2. How do you strut!
Research shows that walking shows how vulnerable we are to an attack. By changing our walking style we can significantly increase our personal safety. Amazing huh.
Walkers rated “Easy to Attack:
- Had Short Stride Length relative to height
- Had a “Gestural Walking Style”, a low-energy style with limited
arm swing and lifting of the feet.
- Weigh relatively little
- Wear restrictive clothing like high heels and skirts
Walkers rated “Difficult to Attack”
- Had a “Postural Walking Style”
- Has Long Stride Length with Swinging Arms
- A Swinging Foot Position
- Energetic, Fast Walk
- Weighed More
What the would-be muggers were looking for were snapshots of powerlessness. A victim. Somebody who offers sufficient reward for relatively little effort.
Self defense classes are great at giving you the self belief and confidence in your self to stand tall and walk proudly.
3. Learn How to Back-Down and Say “I’m Sorry!”
There is a theory on how violence happens and it has been outlined in “The Monkey Dance” theory, which has the following order:
- An aggressive, hard stare
- A verbal challenge, e.g “You got a problem with me?!”
- Closing to within arms-reach with increased signs of adrenaline (arms gesturing, chest puffed out, face turning pale)
- Escalating Violent Threats which are usually monosyllabic.
- Eventually, one of the participants will make contact with their index finger on the other’s chest. This can rapidly escalate into pushing and shoving
- Finally, one of the participants touches the other’s face, usually the nose with an index finger. This leads to a large, looping overhand punch being thrown, and the fight begins.
Sound familiar? If you’ve not been in one, you’ve probably seen plenty in the school-yard, outside bars and clubs or most places where alcohol’s consumed. And sadly, most men (and due to the differences in how adrenaline affects the sexes it’s almost always men) haven’t progressed emotionally beyond the school gates.
It’s not all our fault thought. The “Monkey Dance” is hard-wired into us. We also find it difficult to say “You’re right. My bad. I was being an ****hole.” It’s really hard when we ARE actually being an ****hole. Close to impossible when you’re “In the right”. Being “right” offers scant consolation if you’re beaten right into the local intensive unit…
Never underestimate the power of good people skills. By keeping a cool head when confronted by intense situations you stand a better chance of simply apologising and walking away intact.
Good empty-hand skills can allow you to create space to either get to a weapon or get the hell out of there. It also easier to prove “reasonable force” in a court of law. If you shoot or stab somebody (even in “Self-Defense) there’s a good chance that’s where you could end up. Again, this is something that is rarely considered in self-defense classes…
The Bottom Line
Remember, the best defense isn’t a good offense. The best defense is using your common sense not being there. Period… but why not give yourself a chance in case the worst happens.
1 in 9 children (aged 2–14 years) are considered clinically obese in New Zealand. Learning healthy eating habits and engaging in enjoyable physical activities can counteract hereditary and metabolic tendencies.
What causes childhood obesity?
Learning healthy eating habits is the first key to a lifetime of physical wellbeing. The average teenager eats fat-and-calorie-laden fast food at least twice a week, while only three of ten high school students report eating green vegetables nearly every day or more often.
The second key to a healthy life is frequent aerobic exercise. By converting at least half of a child’s sedentary time (watching TV, playing video games, working on a PC) into daily, fun physical activities, the obesity epidemic can be greatly reduced.
How martial arts can help
One of the strategies experts recommend for reducing childhood obesity (in addition to serving sensible, healthy meals) is to increase daily physical activity. Taking martial arts classes is a great way to do this because with martial arts, the activities don’t feel like chores or laborious exercises. They’re all fun!
As children learn new martial arts skills – how to focus, how to think and act responsibly, how to think like, and evolve into, a life-long champion – they develop an awareness of themselves and others that fosters respect and a sense of independent accomplishment that is hard to match in any other way. With the martial arts belt system students remain motivated, encouraged, and positive because they’re always moving forward in measurable and emotionally satisfying ways.
For parents there is very little more satisfying than watching their beaming martial arts student achieve physical dexterity and a passion for daily activity that’s certain to promote a future bright with promise.
Why is fighting childhood obesity so important?
Increasing numbers of youngsters are developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, trouble with bones and joints, sleep disorders, and other weight-related issues that were formerly seen only in adults. Should this trend continue, our own children may become the first generation of Kiwis to have shorter life spans than their parents!
Obesity is also detrimental to the human spirit. Overweight and obese children often suffer from bullying and teasing by similar-age classmates, causing many to develop low self-esteem and depression.
At Okinawa te Karate, children learn skills and lessons that benefit them for the rest of their lives. By encouraging discipline of mind and body, martial arts go a long way toward providing children with esteem for their own bodies, respect for others, and a passion for achieving excellence in all they choose to pursue.
*excerpts from urbandojo.com
How do you tie your Karate belt? In my travels around the world, I’ve seen it done many different ways. The way below is how we expect you to tie your belt in class and this is the standard way expected from Yellow belt and above.
- Halve your belt and make sure that the ends are perfectly even.
- Place the centre at the level of your navel. Pass the ends around the back and cross them over. Pull it firmly.
- Bring the ends back around to the front and check that they are still perfectly even.
- Take the right hand end and pass it over the top of the left. Pass that end up under both strands of the belt and pull it through. Pull the ends firmly.
- Check the ends are still even.
- Now take the left hand end and pass it back over the right. Pass it through and form a simple knot.
- Take a moment to check that the strands are sitting flat and untwisted.
- Pull the knot tight and make a final check that the ends are even.
- The knot should have two folds coming together that face off to the right.
- On advanced belts your will see the name of the student on the left and the name of the style on the right.
When tying the belt you must first make certain that it hangs evenly from the middle. This symbolizes the balance between the physical and mental aspects of our training. The belt is first wrapped around the waist by placing the middle of it just below your belly button.
The following video shows you how to tie your belt correctly one way.
Watch & learn: