Karate is boring, it’s all the same

“Karate is boring, it’s all the same”.  I tell students this all the time. Of course I am being facetious. Karate is far from boring but we often associate boredom with repetition and karate does have a lot of repetition. Anyone who has made a movement second nature has done so by practicing it thousands of times.  And thinking about that sort of repetition in solo training can be daunting. However, recognizing the repetition in concepts can be very inspiring.

Most serious martial arts styles have an overriding logic for how one approaches combat. Such logic is necessary if one is going to link various techniques together. Likely as not you have been introduced to this logic while training a few specific techniques. One of the joys of solo training is applying the logic in areas where you haven’t worked on it before. A simple example might be in applying the logic behind hand techniques to your kicking. Have you been told to lead with your fist and not to telegraph your technique by “throwing” your shoulder first? Why shouldn’t this apply to kicking? Lead with your foot and let your knee and hip follow to add the power without the tell tale signs that the kick is coming.

If you have ever left yourself open during kumite and taken a good shot to the head or body, you don’t forget that sort of lesson quickly. More than likely your instructor pointed out the giant gap you left in your defense. Such lessons are very useful but they need to be applied throughout your studies and, in particular, in your kata. We have a tendency, in kata practice, to ignore basic concepts like this because the movements often seem pretty abstract and we forget that we are practicing fighting technique. I don’t for a moment suggest changing kata movements, but be aware of your body and recognize what is open. Odds are, you can stay true to the kata and make your movements better defensively. And when a movement seems to contradict the logic of your system, open your mind to another possible application in which there is no contradiction.

“Karate is boring, it’s all the same” applies to another aspect of your training as well. Regardless of the techniques you choose, or style you practice, your opponent, real or imagined, does not change much. Whether man or woman, they have two arms, two legs, and vital points in all the same places. Some are bigger and some smaller but they are most likely a teenager or an adult. They walk on two legs, and have a hard time standing on one. If they have a weapon, they have to hold it in one of two hands, attached to one of two arms, joined to the body at one of two shoulders.

As a fellow human, you have all these same parts. You also have natural, untrained instincts such a flinch reflexes that every human shares. You can learn a lot about any opponent by studying yourself; by becoming aware of how your own body works.

In other words, apply the same fighting logic over and over again to the same opponent over and over again, and what seemed like a million different techniques should end up feeling like a million versions of the same technique. Once you reach that point, your ability to flow, change, create, transpose, and improvise will grow exponentially. That is what I am shooting for and that is going to be anything but boring.

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