Few things are as critical yet as glossed over as footwork. With proper footwork the body can be moved in an efficient way while maintaining balance, creating driving power for strikes, providing hip availability for throws, and more.
Kata attempts to teach us about footwork, but it's easy to get caught up with what the hands are doing and simply bring the feet along for the ride. In fact, the effectiveness of bunkai can be made or broken depending on how the body orients to the opponent. Discovering some of the more effective applications in kata requires careful attention to body movement.
Ultimately there are only a few ways for the body to get from A to B, but an infinite amount of subtle ways to improve that process. One important concept in karate is known as "diamond stepping", which allows for removal of target, aggression, defense, momentum swing, and balance. In total it allows a practitioner to use virtually all the tools available to a karateka during a combative engagement. Interestingly, this very same concept shows up in other styles as well, going as far back as the Bubishi itself.
Diamond Stepping in Action
The following video shows how you can integrate the diamond step concept into your training. It will also demonstrate a series of techniques from different styles, including Okinawa Kenpo, Aikijujutsu, Motobu Udundi, Kobudo, and more. The goal is to demonstrate how a fundamentally sound concept can be pervasive throughout many different styles. As a bonus, at the end of the video I practice some freestyle randori type of techniques, allowing students to attack me in an unscripted way and seeing what kind of defenses come out of it.
It's hard to overstate the impact of "The Karate Kid" on the western martial arts landscape. Between Bruce Lee and Mr. Miyagi, very few figures have more strongly shaped popular conceptions of what martial arts look like.
Of all the memorable scenes in "The Karate Kid", the crane kick stands out as one of the most lasting. In fact, it is often seen on movie covers and posters:
Something about the aesthetic beauty and exotic power of this technique has stuck in people's minds. Yet, many are left to wonder – is the crane kick real? Is it truly a part of karate, or borrowed from kung fu? Most of all…when Mr. Miyagi states "if do right, no can defense", is it possible that the crane kick is an unstoppably advanced technique?
This kind of question was submitted to me, and in response I have created this video exploring the nature of the crane in Okinawan karate, demonstrating some crane technique, and exploring whether or not there is any truth behind Mr. Miyagi's bold claims.
I hope that helps add some perspective on the matter of crane techniques in the world of karate!
If you have any trouble with the video, click here to watch.
When it comes to traditional martial arts, we often see a lot of posing, costumes, and dramatics. If you go to a modern tournament that’s about all you see.
Is it any wonder that the rumor regarding traditional styles is that they are simply too rigid, too caught up in themselves to be efficient in the modern world?
The last question in our series makes no bones about it – the asker wants to know if the nature of traditional arts (and the abundance of style-blindness) makes traditionalism ineffective, not worth the time and effort of individuals who need something that can be relied upon in a pinch.
Check out my perspective on the matter. Once again, please forgive my brevity on certain matters as this is a big topic and I didn’t want people nodding off in front of their monitors.
In the video I mention trying to dig back to classical styles rather than traditional. This is a symantic matter that I use to distinguish between arts that seem to have evolved out of effectiveness and are more inclined toward rank, showmanship, etc, vs the original arts which were designed for straight life protection. There are plenty of folks who don’t use the same symantics as I do, so please don’t consider it any sort of textbook definition.
I use karate as my primary example simply because that is my area of study, along with certain Japanese Budo. However I do maintain that the core principles and methods as passed down by classical/traditional styles are, fundamentally, as valuable now as they ever were.
Breaking through the rigidity of practice is a matter of maintaining creativity and patience. However, as I have seen in practitioners far more advanced than myself, it is well worth it even in modern society.
Building an individual completely (character, technique, spirit, fitness, wellness, combat readiness, etc etc) is a monumental task. Classical styles attempt to accomplish just that, which is important to remember when comparing an old method with a modern fight sport (not better or worse, just different goals). Rigidity is a gateway of the self, and true classical sensei can guide you passed that to levels you didn’t suspect you were capable of.