GUEST AUTHOR: Syed Asad Hussain has trained in Shotokan for one year and has also become a Goju Ryu student. Syed’s dojo website is karatestcatharines.com and his Sensei is Bob Toth.
Karate, literally meaning open hand, is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. Developed in the Ryukyu kingdom prior to the Japanese invasion of the 19th century, Karate has its origins in India through Bodhidharma who was a Buddhist saint that brought Martial Arts to China. Although Karate has many styles and different philosophies, they all teach the same thing: self-expression, confidence, courage to stand up for yourself, and the most important of all how to become a better person.
The most important thing I have learned through Karate is how to take everything in academically and to open myself to new ideas and not limit myself. As Bruce Lee said, “to have no limit as limit”. My Sensei has taught this to me and this is one lesson I will keep with me always. I have also learned that cross training is very important and that each Martial Artist should know what to expect from a different style. I will remember one thing my Sensei said to me when I was training, it’s not just about punching and kicking. How true this statement was. Learning to control yourself while learning this violent thing, finding the harmony between the inner peace and the violent being we all have inside us, to be able to express ourselves and feel like we belong to something much bigger and greater than ourselves. There is a point in your training when you realize that this thing has grown beyond physical and is trying to reach for the spiritual plane and that is where your true training begins. You start following these warrior ethics and codes you never knew existed and you become an artist of life, as quoted by Dr. Richard Kim, master of Goju Ryu.
I hope each Martial Artist shares this dream with me, to become as strong as you can both physically and mentally and being able to control ourselves in the toughest of situations and be role models for society.
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GUEST AUTHOR: Johnny Nguyen is a boxing aficionado and owner of ExpertBoxing.com. He has been training with high level fighters for over 8 years. Throughout his training Johnny has developed an introspective and technical method of boxing training, learning and analyzing as much technique and concept as possible.
3 Reasons to Learn Boxing:
Boxing at its purest forms is functional and brutal. By partaking in boxing, you very quickly learn what works and what doesn’t work. Fighting goes so far beyond throwing and defending attacks. It’s about learning how to fight without getting tired, how to minimize damage of landed punches, how to follow up after a missed punch, how to counter a counter, how to apply offensive pressure without striking, how to use defense as offense. Beyond on all that is how to let a fight unfold as it should.
While form and technique are important, destroying your opponent is even more so. This distinction is often lost when fighting arts take the route of being “less brutal”. All fight training by nature will become brutal if they dare to be functional. There are few things as brutal as learning how to trade blows at high speed with an opponent only an arm’s reach away. The use of boxing gloves prolongs the beatings making it possible to exchange more blows without fight stoppage due to cuts.
While every fighting technique should emphasize the use of technique over physicality, athleticism is still of utter importance. Being athletic is what allows you to train at higher intensity, train for longer periods, and develop higher level efficiency. In reality, athleticism and skill go hand in hand. As you become more athletic, your skill and ability will rise, furthering the upward spiraling cycle of athleticism and skills.
Boxers are in incredible shape, there is no denying that. Boxers are however made of a different kind of athleticism. They are stronger, faster, have more endurance, and can take far more punishment. YET, they can do all this without really trying. They remain strong throughout an entire fight yet rarely fight above the 50-70% pace. This is a result of boxers learning how to fight while relaxing. In fact, it’s the only way to fight.
At some level, there is no excuse for not having superior athleticism. There is no excuse for being slower or weaker than your opponent. If you are athletically superior to other fighters, boxing will allow you to exercise that advantage. Moreso, boxing will help you develop that advantage to new levels. An extra inch of arm reach can help you win unscathed. A split second difference in speed will help you knock out opponents before they can respond.
3. Rhythm of Attack
I dare say that boxing is fought at the highest speed of attack. Why? Because the combatants are almost always in range of each other, in a style that is fought in combinations. When you have an art like kicking, it’s common to see distance used as defense. (Using distance as defense in boxing is unpractical because you spend more energy running than you do blocking.) With an art like grappling, smothering can be used as a defense. (Using smothering as a defense in boxing can be dangerous because you run into more punches.) The main difference is that grappling & kicking attacks are more easily thwarted with a single evasion.
With boxing, evading one strike still allows the attacker to threaten with many more. Not only will you learn how to fight at a higher pace, you learn how to defend at a higher pace.
For the best examples of boxing’s functionality, athleticism, and rhythm of attack, I suggest watching videos of:
- Pernell Whitaker
- James Toney
- Floyd Mayweather
- Prince Naseem Hamed
- Roy Jones Jr
- Mike Tyson
- Manny Pacquiao
- Sugar Ray Leonard
- Roberto Duran
I would suggest for you to watch their training videos and sparring videos. There are few other arts where you can see regular demonstrations of theory and principle being applied successfully on a regular basis.
Most people don’t know how to watch a boxing fight. Most people watching a pro see an even chess match. I would beg some to try watching a video of a pro fighting an amateur…two come to mind:
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GUEST AUTHOR: David Light is a third dan in Shotokan karate and a member of the International Shotokan Karate Federation (www.iskf.com) and is the instructor at the Two Rivers Shotokan Karate Club in Glenwood Springs, Co. (www.trskc.com). David trains under Sensei Yutaka Yaguchi in Denver, Co. and is a member of the ISKF instructor Trainee Institute.
The student/ teacher relationship in a dojo, or what ever your style calls the training hall, is not the same as a typical classroom. The differences between eastern and western cultures are clearest for those who train martial arts when we learn about dojo etiquette. As I watched my students take a grading exam I was anxious not only for them but for myself as their teacher. Have I prepared them properly? Will they be able to do what the examiner asks if the drills are not ones I have used in class? Do they have the confidence to go on with intensity if they make a mistake? All this questioning made me think about not only my abilities as a teacher but also the differences I would have with my Japanese counterparts.
I tell new students that once in the dojo, they are in Japan. The rules of etiquette are very clear for beginners. No talking, No questions until I ask for questions, do what I say and nothing else until commanded. Commanded is the proper word, for a martial arts instructor must be in command of the class. What we do is potentially lethal and the training atmosphere must be focused and safe. As we progress and training gets more advanced, the rules are pretty much the same with a little more wiggle room for higher ranks. Now this may be a result of some westernization here in the U.S. Western education encourages questioning as a way to develop critical thinking, especially with young adults and older. One Japanese instructor once told the story about coming to the U.S. to teach at a University and was so frustrated with student’s questions, the first phrase he learned in English was, “Shut up and do it!” He has since adapted to western method of education without sacrificing true dojo spirit.
Karate is strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism. Self discovery is the core of Zen learning. Students in a traditional Japanese dojo in the past would not be told that their rising block is too low; they would instead get a whack on the head with a shinai and find out for themselves what was wrong with the technique. Zen style training taught by the first Japanese instructors in the U.S. didn’t go over very well and dojos didn’t grow beyond the few who were willing to subject themselves to this type of training. Repetitive kata training exposes the idea of self discovery. As you train your favorite kata over a period of years, your teacher may correct technique without much explanation. The kata will reveal itself to you as you continue on with practice. My first Sensei spoke of “little epiphanies” in training as one progressed. Now we get some explanation of the whys and wherefores of waza (technique). Constant repetition and self discovery are still necessary to fully understand your art and to the attainment mushin. Just knowing theory will not enable you to react without thinking. Robin Rielly, 8th dan ISKF, states in his book, ” The Secrets of Shotokan Karate”, …todays training is not better or worse, just different.
Giving too much verbal explanation is something with which I struggle. I didn’t start karate training until I was 40 years old and was perfectly willing to accept the discipline of the dojo. But as an instructor I found myself explaining too much about a technique, especially to kids. They “zone out” and lose concentration, which is hard enough to maintain. At times I still fall into that pattern but have become more conscious of my ramblings. As class size grows it becomes more necessary to keep the energy level up and not have students suffer for lack doing.
Self discovery puts more responsibility on the students for their growth in their art. I have discussions with martial arts students who complain about not receiving good “real world” application of what they are learning. Is it the teacher who isn’t giving them a way to figure this out or is the student expecting too much verbal explanation? A student must use his/her mind as well as body when training. In the dojo we do repetition to make good technique without thought. We build muscle memory, groove the nuero-muscular pathways, and become accurate and controlled. Often bunkai is demonstrated so we know why we do these things. Now we come back to my concerns about being a good teacher and serving my students well. Can I show them the waza, call out drills, and try to correct any errors or bad technique? I can’t do it for them. When I train and don’t put my best effort into it unless my Sensei is watching, I’m the one who is cheated, not the teacher. Training should be a daily endeavor that increases in importance as we progress. Self training is a good time to focus on the questions of why; what’s the point of this technique; why does Sensei tell us to do it this way. Try the waza out with a training partner, work with a senpai before or after class. As an instructor, I can give you the tools, you must use them.
There is a concept in zen related arts; shu, ha, ri. Shu is obedience, to the tradition. At this stage we follow exactly what is taught. Ha is divergence, from the tradition. Now we begin to make the waza our own, we adapt it to better fit our own body. Ri is transcendence, beyond the tradition. At very high rank, we go beyond waza to the spirit and philosophy. Without self discovery Shu, ha, ri is not possible. In the training hall we are faithful to our Sensei’s teaching and make the necessary effort to find out for ourselves what the teaching really means, not just in general but for ourselves. When a student can make that art their own, spiritual growth continues beyond the physical.
As students we get out there and sweat. We must also engage our brains. Do the waza over and over and feel what works and be alert enough to recognize when those little epiphanies come. As teachers we must give our students the tools to make good technique and let them make it their own. Sometimes we find a little explanation goes a long way and we more often need to shut up and do it.
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