Speed is undoubtedly a desirable attribute for any martial artist. The ability to move your mass quickly from point A to point B allows you more opportunity for effective and powerful striking. However, if speed were the only needed quality in order to be a skilled martial artist every energetic 20 year old would be a 10th Dan Grandmaster. how is that 60 year old experts can take these youngsters to task time after time?
One of their ‘secrets’ is variable acceleration.
Let’s say a hypothetical person knows how to strike very quickly, but only really knows how to fight at his/her top speed. Sure this person may experience occasional success, especially against unskilled opponents, but crafty fighters will tune into their timing and figure them out in short order. Then, despite their raw speed, they will become predictable and easier to defeat.
If, however, that same person knew when to appear slow and when to truly be fast, he/she would add a layer of depth to their fighting. They would have captured the basic component of variable acceleration.
Knowing when and how to accelerate into an opponent is one of the hallmarks of outstanding fighters. But one arena in which this strategy seems to be neglected is kobudo. I have found that many weapon users slip into ‘clubbing’ mode as soon as they get an implement in their hand, and lose all the subtlety of their empty handed arts. Check out this video as I explain how to add some variable acceleration into rokushaku bo fighting:
At first applying this concept to kobudo can be tricky because things seem to happen very quickly and dangerously. If you are a student of kendo you are acutely aware of how fast a strike can come in. But even kendo players pretend at being slow or vulnerable by creating various suki (gaps) in order to entice actions, which they can deflect and then explode into their opponent. Over time you gain a sense of how weapons can be used, and what tactics will keep you safe. you can then begin to add more complexity into your combatives, including variable acceleration.
There are times when a flurry of activity is appropriate, but then there are other times when a calm mind combined with one blindingly accelerated punch/kick/strike will do the trick. In the realm of weapons, this is particularly so as age and physical capacity are evened out by the unforgiving result of a single weapon strike.
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Over the weekend I had a chance to train with Bill Hayes Sensei, and as usual my brain was quickly overheated. I try my best to retain more and more, but it is certainly an ongoing endeavor.
One of the things he covered was the idea of training for longevity and realizing how your martial arts have to adapt over time. Hayes Sensei is in his 60s, and his instructor Eizo Shimabukuro is in his 80s. It is no freak accident that they are both in excellent condition and can still train regularly.
Maintaining longevity in the martial arts is a complex endeavor. It is a combination of stress reduction, persistent physical activity, proper diet and nutrient intake, and making sound choices on how to push your body. A lot of “normal” training is designed for individuals in the mid-part of their lives (20-50 or so). But a man/woman of 70 should not press their bodies the same way as a 20 year old (and the same is true for a child of 9 or 10).
When considering training children, one of the top priorities has to be how the training methods will ultimately affect their physical development.
I’ve never been a big supporter of object breaking as part of a child’s training regiment. The bones are still developing and the muscles are not properly conditioned for that kind of impact. Repeated hard contact can make for severe problems later on, and could even lead to fractures and slight bone deformities (in rare cases). Children have to be introduced to contact gradually, utilizing soft materials at first and padded materials for years as they grow up.
Another example of traditional training for young students involves stances. Deep, wide stances are perfect for developing leg muscles and improving balance. By practicing elongated stances combined with large movements the body increases it’s range of motion and can be used in ways both understandable and suitable for children.
From there concepts can be refined, shortened, and improved after the body is put on the right developmental track.
Once relative adulthood is reached, training can begin its maximum intensity. Power generation becomes extremely important, and people often engage in practices such as body hardening, weight lifting, hojo undo, speed training, etc etc. This is because the body is at its peak potential for physical exertion.
Ironically, even though the body is able to take surprising amounts of abuse at this stage, it is important to set good habits here. If you allow yourself to over-indulge in body hardening, abusive full contact fighting, and snapping techniques with stress on the joints, you can set your body down a path of degradation.
Training into mature years requires adaptation and thought, even if you’ve successfully integrated into a “style”.
An excellent example given by Hayes Sensei involves sanchin kata. During sanchin we often see an intense tension and breath throughout the kata. This helps build muscular endurance and strength. it also teaches the practitioner how to use breath and increase power/energy in certain parts of the body. However, if a person continues to train with that same vigor as they get older, it can actually lead to heart, muscular, and cardiovascular problems.
A skilled, mature practitioner of sanchin will adapt the tension so as to maintain the health benefits while avoiding the physical risks. This is a complex process, and should only be done under qualified instruction.
Another example is the use of the makiwara (or breaking and hard-object-hitting in general). Even though makiwara training can help a person learn how to transmit power and develop excellent conditioning for striking, constant pounding on the hands and the conjoined meridians can slowly wear down a person’s health. Depending on which meridian is being abused, the internal health of the person can be degraded as well as the immediate joints and ligaments in the limbs.
Mature training also speaks to stance work, height of kicks, and other matters.
It is important to realize that when you see a skilled practitioner doing kojin kata (old man’s kata), it should not be because their body can no longer handle “real training”, but because they’ve refined their technique and have made wise choices on how to make their training appropriate for them.
Being able to identify the difference between kojin kata and a person who has simply lost skill is an important ability to develop.
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According to MSNBC, the Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is slated to step down from office. This resignation comes amidst a slew of public dissension over financial scandal and a perceived lack of leadership. Highest amongst the reasons for his stepping down, according to Hatoyama himself, is his inability to fulfill a promise to remove the Marine Base Futenma from Okinawa Prefecture.
The Ryukyus still host a bevy of U.S. bases that were built on the island after the Battle of Okinawa, 1945. Of the bases established, the following are still in operation: Kadena Air Base, Air Station Futenma, Camps Courtney, Lester, Foster, Hansen, Kinser, McTureous, Schwab, Gonsalves, Shields, White Beach Facility, Torii Station, and Naha Military Port.
During his election Hatoyama had expressed his intention to move the Futenma base off-island. However, after being elected and debating the matter heavily with American, Japanese, and Okinawan leaders, he ultimately decided not to move ahead with removal plans. This reversal of decision along with alleges of ill-gotten financial backing during election turned the tide of public and party opinion against him.
The Desire of the Locals
The relocation of Futenma has been a hot-button issue for quite some time on Okinawa. While some locals of Ginowan City have benefited from the increased commerce and activity, many others have expressed a dislike for the pollution, noise, and crime that has come with the establishment of the base. Frequent flights and air drills have caused significant disturbance in nearby areas and many towns have had to shift their lifestyles entirely to accommodate the space and demands of the base. Incidences such as the 2004 helicopter crash into a nearby university and the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three marines has only solidified the anti-base mindset.
Some groups have even organized protests in regards to plans to keep the base active, or move it to other locations on the Ryukyu Islands. Alternative plans to move the base north toward Nago or even on a man made offshore island have been met with equal resistance. The man made island offers significant environmental concerns, and the Nago plan involves many of the same problems as the current location.
The Desire of the Military
Despite local protests, the U.S. and Japanese Military have made it clear the importance of keeping Futenma active and in its current location (or a location of equal value).
Futenma acts as a strong support airfield to Kadena Airbase. It can accommodate most plane types and has become a relied upon facility for the marines and the United Nations. Military officials believe that Futenma and the other sizable bases provide invaluable protection for Japan from outside aggressors, and is a vital stop for handling volatile nations like North Korea.
According to a report from The Marine Times: “U.S. military officials and security experts argue it is essential that Futenma remain on Okinawa because its helicopters and air assets support Marine infantry units based on the island. Moving the facility off the island could slow the Marines’ coordination and response in times of emergency.”
The Situation Now
As it stands right now, it seems like Futenma will be moved to the Henoko region near Nago in the northern part of the island. This area is said to be less populace, but that explanation has not met with widespread acceptance.
The details of the situation are still sparse and a timetable for the move has not been established. We also cannot be sure what the next Prime Minister will decide. he may continue with this course of action, or attempt to make changes once again to move the base off-island.
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