Condense and Expand (part 2)

A few weeks ago I wrote about condensing time in kata. Click HERE for a recap of how that can be done. In this second post of the series, we are going to look at an entirely different approach to creating realism in your kata training. Rather than condensing a sequence of moves to take up less time, Expand the number of moves in the sequence.

“But wait,” you say. “Isn’t that changing the kata?” Absolutely. “Isn’t that against some law, somewhere?” It might be! But remember, this is for your own personal practice. I am not suggesting replacing the original kata. Exercises like these are to be done in addition to your regular training. Don’t teach your expanded version to others. The goal is to better understand how these moves really can work in combat. And, as you will see, nothing is replaced in the original sequence. All the pieces stay the same and you simply fill in the “holes” around them.

For an example, let’s consider the movements we used in the previous post. You look left, turn and step out with your left foot while blocking down (in this case) with your left hand; then step forward with your right foot while punching with your right hand. When you run through them as described, you will notice that there is a lot of time between moves. This is particularly apparent if you have tried the condensing exercise. Even if you do them fast, the block and the strike are each tied to a step with either your left or right leg. This convention means that the hands cannot move faster than the feet.

So, let’s add a movement. After your left down block, try raising that left hand and executing a left outside middle block, while you are stepping forward with your right punch. You have just filled a hole and protected yourself during a gap in the timing between techniques. Neither of the original techniques was slowed down by this addition. The kata is intact. Want more? After the left middle block, bring your left hand back across your center line for an additional block/cover… all before the right punch (and right step) lands. We have now successfully expanded from two techniques to four in the same amount of time. If you start playing with your right hand as well, adding more covers and blocks, you can take this up to five or even six techniques.

Now your hands are moving faster, covering open areas on your body, knocking away various threats, and allowing you to close distance and deliver that punch; all this off of the first two moves from what, for many, is the first kata they ever learn. Start applying expansion in other sequences and the possibilities are endless. Just remember that the goal is not to complicate the sequence. The goal is to protect yourself while moving, to engage your imaginary opponent in real-world time, and to start seeing the kata movements as practical fighting technique.


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