“You are your own enemy”–Shihan Kato 9th Dan IJKA

The beginners make progress

On 14 March this blog referred to the first big hurdle for beginners - that of getting to grips with the basic techniques. During the short space of time that has elapsed since then, and without making any allowance for age or natural athleticism, those who train regularly are advancing significantly faster than those who pay infrequent visits to the dojo. It confirms what we all know, that there are no shortcuts.

Also, the regular attenders were better placed to benefit from the first-class instruction of Mr Kato before the grading, when he introduced the concept of visualisation to the junior grades.

Kyu grades were paired up with Dan grades.  The white belts had previously trained to execute an effective age-uke by using the ‘first’ arm movement as a marker to prepare the other hand to complete a strong block. Think of the first age-uke in gohon kumite.

This was changed so that the ‘first’ arm movement was now the jo-dan block, open handed, and what had previously been the age-uke was now either a second block or a forearm strike.  For a beginner, this is quite a step forward to a form of karate that is much faster and realistic.

After practising, when most of the students picked up the principles quite quickly, we were asked to close our eyes, visualise the feelings and actions, and then to defend with our eyes closed. The beginners were told, “you are your own enemies, because you are worrying too much about being hit or what might go wrong”. As all the beginners were paired up with a senior, all of them skilful and with good control: of course no one ever got hit, even if they did make a mistake.

Mr Kato emphasised the need to use this visualisation and imagination to develop this further, and with a positive fighting spirit. If you are going to be worried about being hit all the time you will be hit. Winners believe they will win and do not think about what might happen if they lose. With a positive attitude, then certainly senior grades should be looking at all the possibilities–what was previously a block could now be a strike–forearm, fist or elbow. The ‘first’ open hand can be used to grab and pull the opponent onto your strike, or be a pre-emptive strike – the possibilities are many.

Hopefully those practising the Heian’s will be applying this visualisation. The kata is no longer a series of blocks, which is quite unrealistic, but a series of sharp blocks and counter attacks.

 Then it’s back to practice and more practice!

See the video of the event on You Tube


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