Kumite Dachi

Kumite Dachi- Fighting Stance, eight basic steps for our style of Karate

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About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.
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 Pic from http//www.greenbookblog.orgwp-conten

Pic from http//www.greenbookblog.orgwp-conten

13 03 2015 Update

Unfortunately some of participants still not send data to analysis, so within month or so I will do summary of date which was delivered and will post results 🙂

In our club we practice mixed martial arts.  We cooperate with a few other clubs across the world in order to learn new ways of training, finding the most effective way to execute techniques and identifying those that work best in a real fight.  I was therefore delighted to be invited by one of our friends from Jukado Kempo Poland to take part in their study.  Everyone that is a part of this study selects a fighter from MMA and reviews his/her career – examining the offensive and defensive techniques that have worked the best.  These techniques will be grouped into the following categories:

  • Stand up
  • Take down
  • Ground work

We hope that by analysing the results we will be able to determine the most efficient fighting techniques and combinations.  Based on this we can then create an optimised training programme.  For my part of the study I will be investigating the favourite techniques of Lyoto Machida.  I hope that this will be a fruitful and enjoyable experience.  Our timeframe for the research is until the New Year, but it might be extended depending on the number of participants.  I will post updates and results soon as possible 🙂

Video about Thigh Kick/Mawashi Geri Gedan

Last week I published an article about Mawashi Geri Gedan.  Although I can describe the details in writing I felt that it was all a bit “dry” as it forces us to use our imagination and is open to different interpretations.  Consequently this week I thought I would provide a short video on the subject of thigh kicks.

Apologies that the video is not very professional. It was recorded during one of our training sessions and I did not want to waste any of my student’s time in all the setting up etc.  The clip itself is to illustrate the general movement of Mawashi Geri Gedan, if you are looking for further details please refer to our post “How To – Thigh Kick/Mawashi Geri Gedan”.

Enjoy watching.

Stretching

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For years I had done the traditional approach to stretching in martial arts training.  This consisted of a general warm up followed by static stretching, which then moved onto kicks, punches and whatever else was being taught in the session.   Using this approach I was not able to perform high kicks for over fifteen years.  I had always struggled with my suppleness and in looking for a solution to my problem lots of instructors told me that I just simply do not stretch enough.  As a result I did very long sessions of stretching followed by kicking.  However, I was not able to kick higher and over time I had increased pain in my muscles and joints.  The effect of this was that my ability to kick actually decreased as often after sessions I had developed micro injuries and pains in my muscles that were taking a long time to heal.  I had then been told by my doctor that my hips are in fact ‘closed’ and so I would never be able to kick high and so I dropped my strenuous stretching regime and went back to doing enough stretching to maintain mobility.

After a few months of lighter stretching I realised that I was actually able to kick higher and more freely.  On discovering this I started to analyse my body’s response to different forms of stretching such as dynamic, static, forced, isometric etc.  From my studies came the clear view that for my body structure, the traditional methods of stretching were not suitable.  Having changed my programme of stretching for a few years I can now freely kick higher than my own head height.  My closed hips do not allow me to kick perfectly, but at least I know that there are other ways to improve my flexibility.  Now I do five sessions of stretching a week and no longer suffer with muscle or joint pains.

Most of the martial arts training sessions that I have seen/experienced run with the same traditional model: aerobic warm up, stretching, technical then cool down.  In my opinion an aspect of this cycle that is incorrect is when instructors use static stretching techniques directly after the aerobic warm up, which I believe should be used only as cool down exercises.  By doing these static stretches we stretch our muscles to their maximum, which causes micro tears.  This then limits our muscles’ abilities to perform rapid contractions, but we then move onto dynamic techniques such as kicks.  Consequently performing static stretching first can actually have a detrimental effect on our performance.  As our muscles already have micro tears at this point, performing repetitive rapid contractions can cause further damage on overstretched muscles.  Our trainee might not feel this damage, but with time it can accumulate and result in injury.

Our muscles respond to the micro damages in our muscle fibre by creating scarring.  This scarring makes our muscles less flexible, which is why some people experience muscle tightness after intensive training and the process of stretching the muscles has to be repeated again to counteract the tightness.

In my experience it is much more efficient to use dynamic stretching as part of a warm up prior to training as this prepares our muscles to perform dynamic contractions without overstretching our muscles first.  Doing dynamic instead of static stretching also helps to maintain our aerobic effort and so our body does not cool down prior to executing techniques.

For beginners we can also achieve suppleness quicker by stretching only one side of the body (unilateral) at a time.  This is because when we stretch both sides of the body (bilateral) (e.g. both legs) at the same time, our nervous system responds quicker to protect our muscles from overstretching and so limits our progression.  Stretching only one side at a time allows us to stretch further, but is also more representative of fighting where we only kick with one leg at a time (usually!).

All of my students are now training this way and we can all see the beneficial results, especially for those people who have been struggling with their kicks, who now love to kick to the head!  As a bonus we also have not had any muscle injuries.  Static stretching in our club is done only as a cool down but is used on every session.

Combining these two methods of dynamic and static stretching in this order produces better results than the more traditional setup.  It is also the recommended method of stretching by experts.

I am aware that there are other methods of stretching that are effective for others as we are all different, but on the basis of my body responses over nearly 20 years, I can recommend this method as it is certainly beneficial to me and my student s.

Thanks for reading.

Kano Paradox – art vs sport ?

Which approach in martial arts prepares us for self-defence – traditional or sport?
This question often causes a lot of debate with traditional martial artists explaining that life threatening techniques are more useful in real life situations due to their dangerous nature. Examples of these techniques might be eye gouging, striking the throat or attacking the groin. On the other hand we have combat sport, where the opinion is that sport is better to defend yourself as constantly repeating drills gives rise to an automated response to a dangerous situation. To have a clear view on this matter I would like to have a look at the definition of three aspects:
• Traditional martial art
• Combat sport
• Self-defence
I have repeated these definitions from http://evolutionaryselfprotection.com/ as I think these descriptions are accurate and nicely written.
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“Martial Art: A martial art is exactly what the name suggests – an art. An art is a method of expression through application of creativity, and is typically concerned with aesthetics. As such, martial arts are often concerned with aesthetics, historical traditions, cultural customs and philosophy. These systems will often focus most of their training on one aspect of fighting, though not always. Martial arts can be traditional or modern, and different systems are often mixed into hybrid systems, usually in order to address what the instructors feel is a shortcoming of their original system. These are often termed Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), though this term is now used more for combat sports systems so many adopt the alternative term Hybrid Martial Arts (HMA) to avoid confusion. Martial arts can be thought of as a method of self-perfection rather than necessarily self-protection, though of course all martial arts training will have some real combative merit, and will often be extremely potent systems with which to protect oneself, so they should be respected as such.”

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“Combat Sport: A combat sport is, again, exactly what the name suggests. If a system focuses on competition then it is a combat sport. These systems are often characterised by points-based sparring, where points may be awarded according to damage dealt, submission, knockout, etc or on aesthetic grounds, for example. Tournaments are often held on a regular basis, and the more well-known ones are the ones you see on TV and online. If training is focussed solely on fitness with any combative merits being considered secondary then that system could also be considered a combat sport.”

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“Self-Defence: Self-Defence is where this topic gets confused on a regular basis, and arguably where it matters a little more pressingly. Self-Defence is a term used for reactive systems that are geared towards dealing with a combative situation by reacting to a physical attack. This includes Reality-Based Self-Defence (RBSD) systems. These systems are not concerned with aesthetics, historical traditions, cultural customs or philosophy.”

Within Traditional martial arts we have lots of ‘mysterious’ moves, deadly techniques which executed properly will give us the advantage over an attacker.  However, as there are so many of these moves there is not enough time to train them all to become a spontaneous response to an attack.  Another problem is that it is not possible to repeatedly train these techniques – I cannot imagine anyone would be willing to join a club where the students regularly test their deadly strikes on one another as we might have more students seriously injured or hospitalised than at training.

Combat sports are different in that there are no fancy movements.  Everything is efficient and has the sole purpose of winning the competition and all of the training structure is dictated by the rules of the game.  Constant repetition of combinations and drills results in the development of muscle memory and subconscious responses. This gives an advantage over an attacker, but the rules of the sport also get imprinted in our brain and this may be a disadvantage.  For example, training in a knockdown fighting system a student may not be in the habit of punching to the head (because this is not allowed in competition) and subsequently is not used to being punched to the head either.  The existence of these rules can result in a student being used to a referee intervening when a foul has been committed.  All of this can work against us in a real life confrontation.

Self-defence teaches very direct techniques to damage an opponent without strict rules. Subconscious responses are a priority and survival is the main goal.   However, from my experience most of these self-defence groups pay less attention to fitness development. Some groups that I have met also promote a psychological setup where their students believe that after two weeks of training they will be able to win in a confrontation or will be able to disarm an attacker with a knife or a gun.  This is unreal and might even put the life of the student at risk.

So which one is better?  There is no definitive answer to this question as it all depends on the individual.

Getting back to the title of this article of Mr Kano and his paradox and leaving self-defence systems aside lets have look how this paradox was created.

Picture from Wikipedia

Picture from Wikipedia

The question of “which is better traditional martial art or combat sport?” was asked to Jigoro Kano (the creator of Judo) as he removed all dangerous techniques from his Judo and focused on sports methods.  In 1886 in Tokyo a Police tournament was organised of “real fighting” where students of Kano were challenged by masters from traditional schools.  Some of the masters were from Yoshin Ryu, a leading school of Ju jutsu.  Of the 16 fights Judo players won 13, proving that Judo is better in a real fight.  This is the Kano Paradox in that Jigoro Kano had managed to create a combat sport that worked better than the traditional ‘deadly arts’ by removing all of the life and health threatening techniques.

As I am doing both an art and a sport, I have views from both sides and like to mix all the benefits and concepts from sports and traditional martial arts.  Prior to starting wrestling my only martial art was Karate and so I had focussed more on the traditional approach to self-defence.  Unfortunately during this period (in my late teens) I was unlucky enough to be involved in a few incidents on the streets of Krakow.  Some I lost and ended up with bruises and a broken nose, but most I won and so I believe that Karate did give me an advantage over my attackers.  Now that I am older and living in a quiet neighbourhood, I have no need to focus only on self-defence and so can enjoy the art of Karate and free sparring in sport.

I would recommend that people just train in whatever programme gives them the most satisfaction, and not to worry about self-defence as I would hope that in reality very few of us are ever attacked.  Any form of sport will give benefits in case of a confrontation as being proficient in sports builds confidence.  This confidence sends a signal to a potential attacker that “I am fit, strong and not a victim”.  In any case, if we are attacked it is likely that our primal instincts will take over, which will use maybe 10% of our skills…  The rest is all down to our gross and fine motor skills under stress.  In this way it all comes down to the individual – some people who have never trained in martial arts/combat sports are excellent fighters when under stress and end up winning on the street whereas we see some great masters and boxing champions being beaten up.

Thank you for reading!

How to – Mae geri

One of the most common kicks in Karate is a front kick or ‘mae geri’ in Japanese.  In this article I would like to provide my take on how we perform mae geris in our style.

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There are a few ways of performing this kick.  The two most common are:

  • Mae geri keage, which is quick and powerful but snappy.
  • Mae geri kekomi, which is a thrust kick.

Both of these methods are useful for different situations.  From these two basic methods we have a few variations like a stopping kick, a toe kick, a kick that changes trajectory as executed and so on.

In describing these kicks, let’s start with the body mechanics.  Mae geri is a kick to the front and our focus is to deliver most efficiently maximum power, to do so we need good posture, appropriate muscle contraction and accuracy.

There are a few variants of foot positioning within this technique. Nowadays the most popular form is kicking with the ball of the foot, where the toes are pulled back upwards.

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In the old days the preference was different, with some schools preferring to use a foot position where the toes were pulled back in a similar fashion to the fingers of a fist.

 

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In my opinion this was a very dangerous way of performing this kick as the toes are very fragile in this position.  Older Okinawan styles use the tsumasaki method (as shown below).

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Personally this is my favourite way of kicking.  The small surface area created by the top of the toes makes for very painful kicks.  This method needs practicing and conditioning to be able to perform it properly and safely.  This setup works great when wearing shoes in a street confrontation.

Another often used surface is the whole sole of the foot (mostly in kick boxing).  This setup gives great support for stopping kicks or stamping.

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Given that mae geri keage is the most popular form of front kick in Karate I will focus on the mechanics of this method.

Starting with a proper base for the kick is very important, some Karate styles teach that the supporting foot should face straight forward when kicking.  From my point of view this is less powerful and reduces freedom of movement as our hips are closed and therefore block each other. From anatomy we know that our hips open up when we walk, that is why our feet turn outwards to allow the maximum range of movement.

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We want to take advantage of this range of movement when kicking.  By doing this we have quicker, stronger kicks with a longer reach and the additional benefit of not putting stress on our supporting knee.  When kicking without a target (in the air) we must concentrate to make sure that we do not straighten our knee as this dynamic movement is bad for our joints.

When we execute a mae geri we do the following:

  1. Turn our supporting foot outwards (opening our hips)
  2.  Raise our kicking knee up whilst bringing the heel of our kicking foot towards our glutes (stretching our quads, which provides for a more explosive release of the foot as we kick as the quads go back to their natural tension). Aside from making our technique powerful and quick, by raising our heel up to our glutes and our knee to our stomach we essentially hide our foot from our opponent and then as we kick in a straight line it is difficult for our opponent to see.  This is because our eyes have evolved to detect motion from side-to-side at a distance (to identify potential threats or prey), but we are not good at judging the distance of an object moving directly towards.
  3. As we raise the knee we also pull the kicking hip back slightly, as we execute the kick the hip will rotate forwards bring more speed to the kick. We make sure that supporting leg is little bit bent, as this gives us stability.

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  1. As we move the foot forwards to strike the target, we ensure that our foot position is set (depending on the type of kick we decided to use) and that the foot muscles are tense to protect our joints. As mentioned in point 2, as we kick our hips move forwards to help drive the kick forwards.

 

  1. As we hit the target we tense our leg, back and stomach muscles to help transfer energy into the kick.
  2. Keeping the knee up we then pull back the kicking foot. This pull back should be even quicker than when we drove the foot forwards.  This is partly to create a shorter impulse of energy, which is more painful, but also to ensure that our leg is not caught by our opponent.
  3. We then place the foot back down.

 

Some common mistakes that occur when people kick a mae geri is that their upper body is leaning too far forwards or back.  Leaning forwards too much makes us vulnerable to a punch in the head.

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On the other hand tilting back too much will make it impossible to tense our stomach muscles and keep balance.   If in a fighting position, it is also important for us to keep our hands protecting our head.

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Mae geri is a great weapon in fighting and can be used in different ways, as an attack, for defence or as a distraction. We can perform it on the move forward or backing up and it can be snappy or thrusting.

I hope you found my description of a mae geri useful, however describing how to kick is no replacement for feeling how a kick works for you through training and under the supervision of a good instructor.  Please feel free to share.