Friday, November 21, 2008

The Iron Triangle: Koshi No Tameru

...or rather, forward and sideways.
Welcome to the next (for now) installment of the KWF Iron Triangle.

What I was going to write about this session has been tempered by a bit of a breakthrough I had last Saturday during IS practice. The fact that YS was one meter from me breathing down my neck (and raising hairs on it to say the least) also helped. In fact, I think I can count the number of excellent jodan ke-age I have done on the fingers of two hands. All of them have been when YS has been giving me that "do it" stare. I'll write about that later.

Moving back to the KWF Iron Triangle and the concept of Koshi no Tameru (腰の溜める)
But first, a riff.

For me Karate is like writing kanji- the easier the Kanji is, the more difficult it is to write beautifully. If you take a kanji like Dai, oki(i) it looks like a piece of cake to write. And indeed it is. But you try writing it perfectly with a proper fude ()and you will discover a whole universe of subtlety and beauty within it, from the balance and pressure and application, through the stroke speed, pressure and angle, to leaving the 和紙 (Japanese paper). All of us who can write Japanese can bang out kanji with a ball-pen that looks ok on paper. But how many of us understand the real art?

This is heart of 書道, shodo, the budo of the pen- traditional Japanese calligraphy. I think when I do become a father, I am going to go for a dan in this so I'll be able to teach our little boy or girl the sheer beauty and refinement of Japanese culture, as well as all the other great stuff from all over the world as well, of course!

The Art of Budo in Karate
So when you put your maegeri under the microscope, like your Kanji, how does it shape and measure up? How about your Heian shodan, the "simplest" of the Kata? Why does IS put people who are taking their 6th dan through Heian shodan, forcing them to perform it as slowly as possible? (Actually watching people who have no idea about weight balance can be very, very amusing- suddenly the proud and butch are reduced to looking like shambling pensioners...;-))

Of course, there may be many of you thinking, what the hell- it's fast and strong and very, very long so what's the problem. It's the sort of problem we see with good, but not great Shotokan everywhere for gyaku-zuki; people use the hips, but they just really don't understand the force- multiplier effect of knowing where your exact center of balance, weight distribution and hip position is to produce explosive koshi no kaiten power. Well, if you want to get powerful just by lashing out, Kyokushinkai is perfect. Sure, please go ahead and write your robun with a ball pen. In the KWF Honbu, maybe you could say that our study is calligraphy with our bodies. Instead of a traditional brush, we forge our bodies into wonderful delivery mechanisms not for communication, but for beautiful destruction!

WOW! Isn't Karate wonderful?! Why not dedicate yourself to something that is such an art. And you also get to hammer away at a bag if you want as well. Now that's got to be great, hasn't it.

OK, now that I have just fallen in love with Karate again (at moments like this I put my dogi on and try to do a bit of stretching, but tonight there is NO TIME) it's time to get back on target.

Koshi no Tameru
One of the most important other practices we did was Heian Shodan with gedan-barai for every move, slow, with speed and power and the gorei-nashi. The next Heian-Shodan was each move but gedan-barai->explosive gyaku-zuki; again, slow, speed and power and the gorei-nashi.

Oh what fun we had!
You can guess what is happening; if you want to practice extreme hanmi and then explosive release, a sort of KWF boot camp for one third of the trilogy of koshi-kaiten-shunshuku theory of KWF honbu, there is no better exercise.

As some of you will know, 溜める tameru in Japanese means "to store up." Apply this into hanmi and you get the picture, right? One of our favorite "wind down" practices is Koshi no Tameru Heian Shodan, where each hanmi is held, held, held, butt squeezed in to the last, and then, wham! release for the gyaku-zuki. The point to watch here is to keep the hara/abdomen compressed but avoid extraneous tension in the back or the shoulders (basically unnatural posture) in the hanmi in order to make sure you are not just torturing yourself for the sake of it.

And nobody likes just torturing themselves for the sake of it now, do they Pieter...
Koshi No Tameru Heian Shodan
So I hope after all that the critical point about practicing Heian Shodan with gedan barai and then gedan barai gyakuzuki becomes obvious. First of all, of course, pushing that hanmi is good practice in itself. No matter how far you can go, go futher- but don't sress it on the shoulders or arms. But secondly that very stress, that building up of the reserve of power, has far as you can go, is what is going to give you the huge power in the gyaku-zuki. But you wait, wait, wait, wait for it holding the hanmi to the last moment before unleashing the gyaku-zuki. Now that's Koshi no Tameru


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