In The Eye Of The Beholder


I often feel that people misinterpret Kata’s such as Tekki/Niahanchi and perform them in a fast and flicky fashion with hand techniques that start from the elbow rather than from the floor and with leg techniques from the knee not from the supporting foot and through the hips.

It seems to me that there is a disconnect from upper and lower body instead of a unification. My feeling is the Kata should be very robust in nature and the techniques are for short range power generation and close quarter delivery.

The Kata has the potential to be able to use grappling and manipulation, so if you think you could control and move someone’s body weight with just the use of arms you must have forearms like Popeye’s. There is a common principle in MA that if you wish to move someone’s body you must move your own body.  I fail to see that principle being applied with some of the static performances of Tekki/Niahanchi.

You would be in for a shock if you think that the technique you have just applied to a compliant opponent in the Dojo would work in a real situation. Remembering when you practice Kata as a solo exercise you have no real feedback, you must use intention along with genuine belief and understanding of your ability to apply your technique. Practise a technique that wouldn’t work is practicing to fail.

For me I prefer function over form. It boils down to two questions

1 Does your Kata look good (you don’t need to answer that)

2 would you care to be on the receiving end or hit by one of your techniques (you needn’t answer that either)

Very often you see Instructors making minor adjustments to a student’s stance or arm position, this is after they have finished moving. More importantly is how they transitioned to that position. Kata is about movement, not a series of still photographs. No point telling a student that something is very important and not showing or explaining the how or the why.

Your Kata should always have intention. Just making shapes is for shadow puppeteers.

 

If Beauty is only skin deep, some people must be living their lives inside out!

Bad Technique Trumps Experience by John Johnston


Don't take your eyes off your apponantOne of my first memories teaching was as a 3rd KYU. As brown belts we were given the task of taking the Sunday morning class.  There were 8 of us 3rd and 2nd KYU’s and we would take it turns to teach. On this particular Sunday it was my turn. My chosen theme for the day was GYAKU TSUKI (reverse punch). After drilling it in basics in various ways with lots of reps up and down the Dojo. This was always the order of the day, rep after rep until failure, really hard work especially after a night on the beer. Next came some partner work. I called out Joe, to demonstrate on. Joe was the same grade as me and he was a big lad of 6ft 4in, heavily built and therefore a good opponent to demonstrate with. In those days heavy body contact was the norm. So having demonstrated a simple block and counter, I turned away from Joe to talk to the class. A look on the faces of the student’s told me something wasn’t right. I turned back to Joe only to find him on his hands and knees about to keel over completely. The moral of this story is the bigger they come the faster they fall and no amount of whispering out of the corner of your mouth “Joe get up” will make up for a bad control and lack of a hard stomach.

WHY WE TEACH / HOW WE TEACH By John Johnston


How many of us as Instructors really think about what and why we are teaching our students? Whether that is session to session or the overall program. I know many Karate Instructors who expect students to do as they are told because they are told but not told why or what the benefits are of what they are doing. I once had a very knowledgeable and senior Instructor tell me that I gave my students too much information about how and why they should be practicing a practical technique or drill. He said “you should just make them get on with it the same as we had to. They should be worked to failure” there is something to be said about that type of training both negative and positive. However I prefer to see quality in training rather than a cardiovascular exercise. I see myself as a Karate teacher not a fitness Instructor. Having said that it is also necessary to help a student to develop a strong spirit and attitude. You have to get the balance right not only for the class but for the individual as well. That is very difficult and takes a lot of consideration and working out. This is why a lot of instructors take a blanket approach or revert to easy options. You see so many classes now a days with lines of students being told to hit the pad with a kick or punch and being given praise whether it was a good or bad technique. I really hate that meaningless Americanism “Good Job” there is no meaning, basis or structure to this type of action. I won’t qualify it by calling it training. I have seen and been in sessions where you go over Kata time and time again without being corrected thereby building in the same mistakes and bad habits. It is OK to make money teaching Karate or any other Martial Art but not at the sake of your students but because of your students. You owe it to them to give them the relevant information and understanding of Karate. Their development should be paramount.

Both I and my wife Elaine Johnston have been around the country visiting and also to training in some of the Dojo’s primarily for our own development and knowledge. We have trained with some great and inspiring teachers but we have also witnessed some very appalling practices. In the future I will give some examples of bad Instruction.

Tylan & Sensei Johnston

Being corrected and perfected

 

“YOUR GREATEST OBLIGATION IN LIFE IS TO YOURSELF. IF YOU CAN’T LOOK AFTER YOURSELF HOW CAN YOU LOOK AFTER ANYONE ELSE” By John Johnston