Thursday, July 29, 2010

Learning and Remembering Kata

Good grief... I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, but nothing makes me feel dumber than trying to learn a new kata! The Naihanchi kata is the one I'm working on, at the moment. For whatever reason, it's just not going into my thick skull. I'm also going to be learning the Chinto kata, and the Wansu kata, and both the Chinto and Wansu are lengthy and complex. By comparison, the Naihanchi kata is very short and simple, but it's giving me fits.

If anyone has any tips on learning and remembering kata, I'm all ears...

Browsing around, I found this article. It's pretty good.

This is another good link!

Update: I actually took out a legal pad and wrote out, step by step, every movement of the first half of the kata. The second half, is exactly the same as the first half, just done on the opposite side. Finally! I think I'll be able to get it, now. From here, practice, practice, practice.

Waiting for FedEx to arrive... I ordered a Shureido gi, and I'm looking forward to receiving it. :-)


  1. A Shureido gi...Nice!

    Writing down the movements - great idea! I learn best through repetition. If I am having trouble remembering a kata, I break it down into smaller pieces and learn one segment at a time.

  2. Thanks, Michele. Writing it down helps my brain, and then I can reference what I've written down, if I get stuck.

    The Shureido gi fits sooooooo nice! I'm 5'10, 170 lbs, and the jacket is actually long enough, and the pants are the perfect length. With my other Century gis, the pants are usually too long, and the jackets are too short. I'm constantly having to pull the jacket down, and if I have to squat or stretch, I have to pull up on the pants legs. Frustrating...

    The Shureido is pricey, but looks to be well worth it in the material, the workmanship, and the fit.

  3. Hehe, Naihanchi kata. The awkward kata. I love it though, so short and sweet. Getting down the timing is difficult, though. Good luck!

  4. Haha... Thank you! I'll get it, but you're right: It is awkward. I'm anxious to get it memorized so that I can begin refining it.

  5. It is said the longer it takes to learn something the deeper the final understanding and the longer the information lasts. On top of that it's easier to explain it to someone else since you had such trouble with it yourself. Good luck with the kata.


  6. Thank you, Zara. :-) The work goes on. The harder the climb, the more gratifying is the attainment of the summit. For now, this is just a low hill, but at my low skill level, it's tough for me! LOL! :-)

  7. I was a slow learner too in the beginning, I can assure you it gets better with time although that's probably not a great consolation right now. Just keep at it and sooner or later all the pieces will fall in place. It took me years to properly develop my locks and now they work on just about anybody so there is hope. When I train in escrima it's like being a beginner all over again: sure my previous experience helps some (movement is movement and once you got your body to work as a unit everything goes much better) but working with weapons is very different too... I'm just starting to get sinawali (double stick drills) but the mirroring is still a nightmare and when my sensei swings his stick at me I still feel fear (he doesn't exactly pull his blows) and I've got to push past that to step in deep to block, which in reality is actually the smartest thing to do since hesitation and hanging back against somebody with superior reach and power is about the worst thing you can do. Against a stick you want to either be outside of his reach or as close to his body as you can: staying put will result in knockouts and broken bones since the impact is highest at the end of his arc near the point of his weapon.

    I admire your enthousiasm Frank, if only some of our lower belts were a little more like you. I'd slap 'm but for some reason that is frowned upon these days ;-)

  8. Forgot to sign off so cheers, Zara

  9. Thanks again, Zara. As often as I could, over the years, I've been in karate. I absolutely love it... While in the Army, I studied Goju-ryu in Japan. When I became a civilian and still lived in Japan, I studied Wado-ryu for about a year. Once I moved back to the United States, I began searching around for a dojo, but couldn't find anything in my area, so I was away from karate for a long time, and I really missed it.

    It feels good to be back in training again, and my Sensei is very good, so things are finally beginning to come together.

    We've done some weapons training, and I had some of it in the Army, too. Stepping in on someone swinging something at you, is where you want to be, but it's hard to convince the body of that, sometimes. ;-)

    I boxed for a few years, in the Army. When I faced someone with superior reach, the philosophy was the same: Either get all the way IN, or all the way OUT, or else you're going to get blitzed.

    I discovered this anew, when I sparred in karate with a black belt who's 6'2", and all arms and legs. The guy was like a spider... He whipped my butt! LOL!

  10. It's not that I flinch per se but I don't step in fast and deep enough: the escrima style we're practicing is very direct, short range and very effective but if you miss your block or do it incorrectly you either eat your own stick or his. My sensei's been training in escrima for 4 years now so he's obviously quite experienced (2 classes a week, weekly work with a partner and lots of seminars in the weekends) and he doesn't seem to get it takes some getting used to (working with weapons that is) and it doesn't exactly help that he strikes nearly full force. In a way I get his reasoning: if your partner doesn't attack with force you'll never know if your block would be adequate in reality, yet when training with rattan sticks there's a very real possiblity of injury. Definately not the way I would teach but he's my sensei (can't be disrespectful) and I don't want to seem weak.

    I knew you weren't a beginner, your progress was too quick and you did too well in sparring to be new to martial arts. I'm sure the time spent in the army didn't hurt (I'm actually thinking about joining ours for a year or two, it would be quite an experience but then again it's fairly useless in terms of job experience and skills) although I'm wondering just how much hand to hand training you received (besides boxing which I assumed you did on your own time) and what the quality was. A guy in our dojo is a soldier (first infantry, now he's a mechanic in the airforce) and he's tough and a pleasure to work with (he goes at it hard and doesn't complain).

    How would you compare boxing and karate? My sensei studied karate for about 4 years (wado and goju) but then he switched to thaiboxing and JKD: he says karate has its good points but their cover is usually weak (hands too low)and they rely too much on speed which diminishes as you get older and is fairly useless if you don't have the space (can't move quickly in and out of striking range). One of his major quarrels with karate is that most karateka don't really know effective bunkai to their kata so it's basically just a dance or a memory exercise. If I have more time I'd like to train muay thai and JKD too: both are great in terms of conditioning, effectiveness and developping fighting spirit & a sense of timing in sparring which we don't do as often in JJ (we focus more on multiple opponents free exercises and not so much kickboxing style sparring: in self defense you're more likely to be faced with multiple inexperienced opponents than one who's properly trained and starts dancing around you). Personally I like boxing very much: it's quick, effective and in my view it's the most effective use of the hands for punching, at my previous club we did some basic karate (kihon) but to me the attacks were too mechanical (sawing wood) and the blocks too slow and cumbersome (age-uke, soto-uke, uchi-uke, gedan-barai). I'm sure karate produces good fighters but I'd like to become good as quickly as possible and tradition is just not very important to me.


  11. Thanks, Zara! I was a medic in the Army for six years, and after six years of working in trauma medicine, (I was in an ER, and then on Hueys and Blackhawks doing dustoff/medevac), I don't ever want to see another sick or injured person, ever again. Hahaha... I'm working in a field that's totally unrelated, now. An honorable discharge from the military will always look good on your employment history, regardless of what job or career you pursue as a civilian.

    I enjoyed boxing a lot. The footwork, conditioning, punching, and guarding have been very useful in karate. Plus, between the military and boxing, I've already got the self-discipline, and I know what it means to push myself to my utmost physical limits. I am also cool-headed in sparring as a result, even when I'm getting blasted to the head with a kick. I'm able to regroup and I think well on my feet.

    You are right about boxing: The speed and reflexes diminish with age, but this is where karate is such a great help: Karate is basically a small, fast person's gig, and we do a lot of different things to increase speed and hone the reflexes. At the age of 41, I'm not as fast as I was when I was 20, but I'm a lot faster and have better reflexes than most other people that are my age. From boxing, I know how to time an opponent, if they become too predictable, and I know how to punch (and increasingly, how to kick), in between their punches and kicks.

    Another great thing about karate, is that we do a lot of balance work. In boxing, there is a lot of balance work, but not to the extent that we do it in karate, since without balance, there can be no effective kicking.

    Another difference between karate and boxing, is that in karate, there's a ton of flexibility work. We're constantly stretching and lengthening the muscles. This improves speed and balance, as well.

    As far as just flat out brawling and fighting, boxing is good, but so is karate. Both add new weapons and techniques to one's arsenal, and so far, I'm seeing that the relationship between the two is symbiotic and wholly compatible.

    Good luck with your Escrima. It sounds very physical and rigorous.

  12. Karate is indeed big on balance: my sensei said that too and when practicing kicks we do alot of exercises and stretches he learnt from karate (the slow 4 count kick method is one of the best tools to train flexibility in the legs and proper kicking form). There is a symbiotic relationship between boxing and karate: karate is good at long range because of the kicks and the fast in fast out way of thinking & training, boxing shines at medium range because of the emphasis on body movement (not just evasion by footwork which is more useful at longer range), its tight defense (at that range light, quick parries and slipping, ducking and bobbing & weaving will carry the day) and the quick flurry of powerful punches that is constantly drilled into you. In the 70's the two were combined to form kickboxing as a result of the need for full contact karate matches. I do wonder what the difference is between traditional karate and modern kickboxing (besides the absence of certain forbidden techniques as shuto, nukite...), perhaps you can help me out with that one. Thaiboxing adds a third range: standing toe to toe with the opponent offers the opportunity to employ devestating close-range attacks with elbows and knees (with and without clinching). In JKD (the personal system and fighting philosophy of the late Bruce Lee) you're taught to incorporate trapping into your arsenal (basically you're eliminating one or both of the opponent's limbs from the fight by quick pressing and pulling movements combined with simultaneous short range striking) and to flow between the ranges. For the street this is what would be most useful to me: once I get within a certain range it's over for him (unless he's really, really good) since I can lock, throw or choke (JJ's speciality) but I need to get there first which means I have to circumvent his punches & kicks without getting hit. We do practice boxing & kicking to a certain extent (our emphasis is effective self defense and not classical JJ) but there's still a gap between the ranges and this is why JKD would be most useful. I'd train thaiboxing because it offers great conditioning and because they spar alot.

    Escrima has an unarmed aspect too: it's called panantukan or suntokan and it offers anything from boxing to kicking to locking to throwing to choking... I have some experience in panantukan and the base of it is basically western boxing combined with sneaky, dirty street fighting techniques. One of the most distinct aspects of panantukan are the guntings: basically it means attacking the incoming limbs and destroying or damaging it using blows to tendons, nerves and bones. This concept comes from Filipino knife fighting where you first cut the limb or hand (disarming the attacker) and only then go for body. The goal is basically the same as trapping (eliminating limbs from the fight) but in my view it's easier to learn and apply. Is this present in karate or not? I know koryu JJ has it to some degree but obviously it's not integrated in a boxing format and is usually followed up by typically Japanese striking techniques and/or locking or throwing.


  13. Muay Thai and Kickboxing really seem to be the strongest street-fighting techniques, as well as the Filipino arts that you've outlined. I think if I had the chance, I'd really like kickboxing a lot. Of course, with my boxing background, coupling that with the kicks in karate, it's somewhat similar, I suppose... In Isshinryu, we don't do a lot of trapping, the way other martial arts do. Aikido, Kung Fu, and Tai Kwon Do seem to do this a lot more than Isshinryu. I don't know for sure, though... We have a lot of trapping techniques in Isshinryu, but they aren't emphasized as much as punches, blocks, chops, and kicks are.

    I think if I were to get into a street-fight now, I'd probably mostly fall back on my boxing skills, but if the opening presented itself, I'd certainly throw some kicks. I heard someone describe the body as an army: The punches being the infantry, and the legs being the artillery. Artillery without infantry is useless, and infantry without artillery is quickly overrun.

    I thought that was a very interesting and useful way of looking at it. :-)

    Good luck with your training, Zara.

  14. I think trained karateka should be able to hold their own in a streetfight as long as they don't allow themselves to get cornered and remember it's not a kumite fight in the dojo (no high kicks, following up on a succesful shot instead of retreating...). I heard an interesting story from my sensei: one of this teachers was at a disco with some of this friends. One of the guys was a karateka: all of a sudden a fight broke out and someone tried to stab him with a knife; he blocked it with a gedan barai and punched the guy in the plexus with a gyaku-tsuki. The result: the guy dropped the knife and literally shit his pants. Conclusion: karate works, it really does work. If you can defend yourself against a knife you're good and worthy of respect, period.

    As to the relationship between kicks and punches: I was told you should at least throw 3 to 4 punches for every kick. In thaiboxing there are a large number of combinations but they mostly start with punches (J-C, J-H-C, C-H-C...) followed by a low or middle round kick thai fashion so with the shin. The idea is that since punches are much faster than kicks and offer less risk (openings, loss of balance) it's usually better to start off with them and boxing combinations in themselves can be quite effective. When the other guy is busy defending the headshots you change the level and you attack low to his leg or sneak one under his ribs (if the guard is up to protect the face). Thai kicks are in essence medium range techniques so they combine beautifully with the boxing punches. I like the thai way of kicking since there's so much power behind them (almost as much as hitting someone with a baseball bat, at least when done correctly) but the potential problem is that if he evades you'll have to make a full turn to regain your balance. The karate way of kicking is to chamber the leg and attack with the instep or ball of the foot: this can be quicker and it gives you a longer reach, yet it can also be dangerous since the foot can easily be damaged if it comes into contact with hard surfaces. My sensei teaches both approaches since they're both sound and have different applications. My favorite kick is the snap kick to the groin, thrown from the front leg without chambering and connecting with the ball of the foot (in reality with the tip of the shoe): fast, difficult to defend and highly effective when it connects. Other than that I'd rely most on my hands (boxing) to get in close and then take him down, either controlling him on the ground with a lock (if I'm sure he doesn't have his buddies with him) or finish him on the ground where he can't defend himself. This is what I like most about JJ: you get to fight up close, locks, takedowns and throws is something most people don't expect and once he's on the ground he's all yours and you can control him without having to beat him into a bloody pulp. Yet your distance fighting techniques must be good and if you don't hit him hard enough to stun closing the distance becomes dangerous and you could be knocked out. ...

  15. I like the army analogy: you could also say kicks can come into play when he's advancing but he's still in long range (similar to artillery laying down defensive fire on an enemy advance), or when he's retreating outside medium range you still catch him with your leg (laying down artillery fire on a retreating enemy). In terms of sheer impact I'd say elbows and knees qualify as the heavy artillery since they do an awful lot of damage when they connect. Shuto to the neck comes in a good second: I really like this technique (typically Japanese) since it can easily result in a knockout or even worse.

    While I don't know you personally I think you'd do quite well in a street fight: you have experience in boxing, you're able to deal with stress and you train hard. If your style is even halfway decent I'm sure you'll have little to fear unless you get blindsighted or weapons come into play. I don't know if you guys train weapon defense but to me it's the most important part of training since it's so very dangerous: getting punched in the nose or eating a kick is painful and it can land you in the hospital if you receive more of them but weapons turn a fight into combat: either you take him out or there's a very good chance you won't come out alive unless you're very lucky or someone else intervened. If you don't have superbly honed reflexes (a criminal bent on your destruction won't show his weapon until he's in range to use it effectively) and you didn't train your ass off in a serious system you're dead meat and I'd rather have ten barfights against experienced guys than one confrontation with a armed attacker.

    Good luck to you too, this has been an interesting discussion.



  16. Thanks, Zara. I am cross training in Hock Hochheim's "Close Quarters Combat" techniques, too. He's visiting our dojo in September, in fact. All of this stuff is unarmed combat, unarmed against a knife, stick, or gun, knife fighting, stick fighting, and grappling. It's the down and dirty streetfighting stuff, and the tactics cross the boundaries between military, police, and martial arts. (There's even some Escrima stuff in there...)

    It's a great augment to what we're studying in Isshinryu. Everthing is very close-in and tight. It's exciting stuff!

    Good luck to you!