Monday, 14 December 2009

Are Karate Drills Worth Practicing?

A while back, a post showed some defense techniques demonstrated by the great Wado Ryu teacher, Tatsuo Suzuki (please view it here first) in which the following comment was made by KARATE STUDENT.

Let's upfront admit karate has its limitations.

They're all evident here in these really boring slo-mo videos. The sensei's opponent is relatively small vs. say, Rampage Jackson. He is kind-of a passive training partner. The self-defense moves often look mechanical. Are they practical? They seem a little complicated to pull off.

KS must admit, though, he is a little biased favorably on japanese karate training. Even though karate forms are called 'hyung' in Tang Soo Do (TSD), KS tends to refer to forms as 'kata' (Shotokan, japanese karates).

Let's look again at the videos, not from a ready-to-go fighting standpoint, but from a training one.

FIRST, under the Lunge Punch post (here), karate was shot-full-of-holes for being meaningless and impractical. Here, that strategic criticism is erased. Once basic techniques are learned, the traditional progression says now learn how to use them.

SECOND, it's not against Rampage. Well, realistically, we don't run into the Rampage Jackson everyday. And from a training viewpoint, doesn't it make more sense to start with the average opponent when you are trying to build your skills? Save Rampage for advanced testing, rather than overwhelm yourself and lose the lesson.

THIRD, what about the cooperative 'uke?' Point A, refer to SECOND above. Sparring, as MARKS as pointed out in his sparring posts, the place for reality testing, and with varying degrees at that. We're not there in the training progression.

FOURTH, the mechanical approach aids learning and understanding the effect of the technique on the opponent at each step. For non-athletic types like KS, I can now catch on. The sports-gifted may learn faster, but do they learn it better?

FIFTH, they don't look practical. Well, the fighting situations are presented and the big miss here is that you have to start somewhere; then people say, "Oh, that's not perfect."

Moreover, let's agree that not every technique turns out to be practical. Bigger picture? Let's say the sensei trains you in 25 self-defenses techniques, each averaging 3 to 4 parts & techniques. That 75 to 100 moves. Choose the 1/3 that work best for you, and that's still 7 or 8 defenses with 25 to 35 moves. Now you have an arsenal of applied defenses, not just that g_d-awful 'lunge punch.'

SIXTH, they're too complicated, cumbersome to pull off. Wait, we've heard a raft of criticism that karate is too plain and simple to work, not 'clever.' Now, here we are told its too good, now too clever to work. Huh? What these objectors are usually guilty of is that they can't do the demanding karate training, but they can do something else that's not so taxing.

As KS said, the criticisms of karate start to fall away once you seriously train. The even bigger miss by the above start-out list of Karate weaknesses is no mention of MENTAL training.

Isn't a huge lesson the discipline presented by the participants in doing this kind of arduous training? The diligence shown to train until they get it down pat? How about the accuracy

KS doubts that a fighter holding to the mental standards alone, provided by Sensei Suzuki's training, would make the same, repeated mistake in fighting technique as did Chuck Liddell in the UFC knockouts he RECEIVED.

KS's favorite part of these videos is the opening. The Master presents himself as a man of iron fighting technique and iron fighting will. As for the super-fighter opponent, isn't the UFC list of Lyoto Machida's (Shotokan)prospective opponent's getting thin?

KARATE STUDENT, thanks for the comments. I may be wrong in thinking, but it seems that you have some criticisms about these videos and this type of training. Hopefully, the points below will be a good response to your comments.

Firstly you say that these demos by Sensei Suzuki are slow and boring. After seeing him live perform the same drills I can tell you that he is slowing it down here! He is very much faster away from a camera. I think the reason he performs them at this pace (which are not too slow) is simply so viewers can get a glimpse of the techniques he is performing, his movements, his body positioning etc.

Secondly, you question weather these moves are practical and that they are hard to pull off. Well, the fact is that these pre arranged drills are simply that, drills with certain techniques so one has the chance to practice them but more importantly, other attributes such as timing, balance, distance etc. They are not "written in stone" responses for a certain self defense situation and should not be seen as that. In reality, one may be lucky to pull off maybe only one of these techniques, but by constantly practicing them, one will at least have certain responses and a better chance than somebody who does not practice them.

Thirdly, you talk about the “cooperative uke” (training partner) and that using the lunge punch to defend against has been given full acceptance rather than criticism. Forgive me for saying, but you seem to put this in a way that this is a bad thing. It must be remembered that these are simply drills not sparring, performed against the basic of all techniques, the lunge punch. The uke should definitely co operate for the purpose of the exercise. It would be no different than a Mauy Thai boxer training with a person holding some pads. Would the person holding the pads keep moving them? Or again, it’s the same when a Jiu Jitsu fighter is practicing arm locks against a compliant partner who willingly gives away his arm so as it can be locked. Should he defend so as the person trying to practice can not?

Regarding the lunge punch, the reason why it is not criticized is that it is used in these drills as simply a basic strike to practice against. These, as stated above are drills shown in a basic format, and where devised in this basic fashion so as students, who train in karate can learn. After a while it must be said, that variations should be incorporated which would include defenses to other techniques such as swings, tackles etc. However as a basic practice for students to start with, defenses to a lunge punch will provide a good foundation to work from.

KARATE STUDENT, Hopefully this helps you in some sort of way. To people who have not trained in Karate before, videos such as the ones talked about can be seen as very unrealistic approaches to self defense. However, once explained these are simply drills, and drills, such as these must be practiced in order for a martial artist to grasp the concepts of martial arts. Once these concepts have been learnt and more importantly, understood, they can then be applied to any situation. Weather or not they always work is a different story because as you mention, karate has its limitations, as does every art, but with practice and preparation, one will have a better chance of being able to defend himself more appropriately than someone who does not practice.

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BSM said...

The thing I discovered is that some styles of Korean or Japanense karate DO teach these drills as part of the biggeer picture. This is what your post is suggesting. The problem is that some bad teachers will teach these drills without understanding that. So, this type of teacher can't figure out how to use these mostly static drills to become whole. It's akin to a boxer who is great at shadow boxing (aka forms), the speed bag, footwork drills, etc. but can't put it all together in a live letting.

Sadly, there are quite a few bad teachers and schools out there which ends up giving karate, tae kwonod, and tang soo do a bad rap!

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