Monday, 7 March 2011

Thoughts and Discoveries about karate training, part 1 – training outside the dojo….

I have been running this blog for just over two years now and I have been looking back at the kind of things that I have been blogging about in the last 12 months. As a result of that I have decided to review some of the things that I have written about and my current thoughts on those subjects.  This article is the first of a series which is divided into two sections: 1.Thoughts and discoveries about karate training and 2. Teaching and learning karate.
Thoughts and Discoveries about karate training, part 1 – training outside the dojo….

I have written several articles on the ‘how, why and when’ of training in karate.  In March 2010 I asked the question, Karate training – is little and often best? In this article I pondered the difficulties in finding time to train solo at home and wondered if Funakoshi’s suggestion that three 10 minute training sessions each day was a more accessible way for people to train when they are leading busy lives.

Comments suggested that home training was a good way to follow up on things taught in class and reinforce them. People agreed that short bursts of training could be more easily fitted into everyday life, such waiting for the kettle to boil, sitting on the bus or even in the office.  Other comments received suggested that some of this training could be mental i.e. running through things in your mind or meditating.

Though I have arranged my life to fit in two long home training sessions per week I still often spend a few minutes just working through a kata or a combination whilst in the kitchen or looking something up in a book. Karate is never far from my mind and I still think that ‘little and often’ is a good way to keep on top of training, particularly when new things are being learned and need to be remembered.

In June 2010 I asked the question, Is extreme physical training necessary for martial arts? I had been surprised by the amount of physical fitness training some fellow bloggers did and pondered whether it was necessary, or whether you got sufficient fitness just from martial arts training. I wondered whether you just risked more injuries with this (often) extreme fitness training.

Comments suggested the level of fitness required depended on your aims e.g. self defence or sport. However it was also pointed out that physical training can actually prevent injury by improving the efficiency and strength of muscles, bones and tendons. Others argued that skills training in martial arts were more important than extreme physical fitness. I gradually came to the conclusion that I did need to supplement my karate training with some general fitness training, particularly coming up to black belt grading so I have instigated a personal training programme with which I continue and is documented on my other blog, Countdown to Shodan.

I then raised the subject of cross training in January 2011 – a subject that often polarises people’s opinions! This post, should a kyu grader be cross-training? led to a small flurry of posts on the subject on other blogs. I suggested that cross-training leads to a kind of comparative martial arts training, allowing you to see the similarities and common principles between different art forms. I still think that even a kyu grader can benefit from the different perspective gained by cross training, enabling you to put your main martial art into context, to see its strengths and weaknesses.

Most commenter’s remarks were in agreement about the benefits of cross-training though a couple of experienced martial artists cautioned against it, citing the importance of getting a good grounding in the basics of your main art first. I am starting to see the wisdom in this viewpoint at the moment as I fast approach my karate black belt grading. I have been practising basic kihon a lot in the last few weeks and have realised that I still have a long way to go with mastering basic kicks, blocks and punches. I am therefore considering (temporarily) abandoning my kobudo studies until after my shodan grading.

In conclusion then, I think that general fitness training is necessary to complement martial arts training. Good technique requires a level of strength, fitness and flexibility that may not be accomplished by martial arts training alone. However, I don’t think this fitness training needs to be too extreme unless, perhaps, you are training for sport and competition. One of the things I have learned from setting myself a fitness program is the importance of setting realistic, objective goals that challenge you to improve yourself. I am now trying to transfer that understanding of goal setting to my karate training.

I also think that if you are serious about getting good at your martial art it shouldn't ever be too far from your mind. This is why I think the idea of ‘little and often’ training is also important and enables real improvements to be made without having to set aside large chunks of time to train in. I think this is a way forward for people who genuinely don’t have a lot of spare time.

Finally, my thoughts on cross-training have slightly changed since I wrote my article. I have gained much from the cross-training in kobudo that I have already done and expect to gain a lot more in the future – but just now I think cross-training has become an added stressor as I approach my black belt grading. I pulled out of a tonfa grading last weekend as I did not feel ready and my mind just wasn’t in the right place. I will not grade in it until at least September now. This has taken some of the pressure off but now I have to consider whether to stop training in kobudo completely until after my black belt grading….

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. said...

Great summation Sue.

I definitely fine that karate is rarely far from my mind and if I have any spare moments where my mind isn't occupied (waiting for the photocopiers, in the supermarket queue, whilst zapping my lunch in the microwave at work) I'm invariably thinking about kata, or bunkai, or kihon.

I think this mental practice really helps.

As for the cross training - I think forgoing the Kubudo for the time being can only be a good thing. We can only concentrate on so much at once and your focus should definitley be on your karate in light of the impending grading.


Sue C said...

Hi Marie, sounds like you have the right mindset to be a dedicated karateka i.e. totally obsessed!

Not sure what we are doing about kobudo at the moment, my husband's keen to continue and the class is moving to a Sunday morning which is better for us so I might see how it goes. It can be hard to get back into things once you drop them and I do get a lot out of it.

Charles James said...

Someone mentioned to me once that training,

not getting familiar with other systems but

, outside the dojo is indicative of the current systems lack of basics and fundamentals.

Do you think this is true?

Sue C said...

Hi Charles, assuming that by 'outside the dojo' you mean training at home or in a gym then no, I don't think it's true. Why can a person not practice basic kihon in there own time outside the dojo? However, if by 'outside the dojo' you mean 'in somebody else's dojo' ie cross training, then possibly that could be true. If your main system is so haphazard that you can't clearly identify its fundamental principles or strategy then you might look outside your system to find something more coherent elsewhere.

I'm not saying that's the reason I cross-train. My karate system has a very clear set of fundamentals and we spend a lot of time looking at core principles and strategies for self defence.

I consider my cross training in kobudo as something supplementary to my karate training. I rarely think about kobudo outside the lessons whereas I think about karate nearly all the time. It's about keeping your eye on the right ball in my opinion but not necessarily to the total exclusion of all other systems.

Journeyman said...

Without re-visiting the topics themselves, I think it's great that your opinions are changing. It shows an open mind. We can't possibly have all the answers at any one time. The process or reviewing, rethinking, changing, improving, it's all part of the journey.

As far as you Kobudo, I say train if it's refreshing for your mind. If it's a hassle or it causes confusion, a pause might be helpful. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest. Of course, sometimes only a rest is as good as a rest...Good luck.

Sue C said...

Hi Journeyman, it's been quite interesting looking back on things I've written in the past - that's one of the good things about blogging, you have a permanent record of what you thought in the past and can compare it with what you think now. Other bloggers, like yourself, have been a real influence on my evolving thoughts and views. It's fascinating sharing the journey with other people from around the world, so thanks!


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