Every now and then, you get an “aha” moment, when something falls into place. I had one recently so I thought I’d share it with you. Although this was from a Karate instructor, it applies equally well to all martial arts.
I was on a seminar recently with Sensei David Hooper, an Englishman who has studied with the Japan Karate Association in Japan itself on and off since the 70’s and moved there permanently in 1988. He now lives in Tokyo and runs his own Dojo there.
Now the Japanese have the reputation for doing many hundreds of repetitions of a given a technique. My understanding was that this practice was mainly to achieve physical strength and stamina, whilst developing a very strong determined mind that can push through the pain and tiredness and keep going. Develop a strong indomitable mind and spirit, even if it ruins your joints in the process (especially knee and hips)!
Anyway, one the main themes of Sensei Hoopers seminar was achieving a high level of relaxation whilst executing your technique. He pointed out (and this is where the “aha” moment came in), that when you know you’re going to do about 500 front kicks, you pace yourself. When you pace yourself, you do each technique in a more relaxed manor, rather than what I call the “ug and grunt” of trying to ring out every last morsel of muscular exertion into the technique. This made sense to me. If you going full pelt, you simply won’t last for 500 kicks (and neither did the Japanese expect you too). However, 500 paced techniques, teaches you to maintain the structure and body mechanics; but do so in a very relaxed manor. And as anybody with experience will know, a relaxed technique is faster and can be more whip like”
Now I still think that doing hundreds of repetitions, especially kicks, will damage your joints and I still wouldn’t recommend it. I’m told that many senior Japanese instructors have had hip and knee operations, but it’s something that is not spoken of by them. However, I can see the value in doing a high enough number of reps that you need to pace yourself. It is one way to learn relaxation. Intuitively, we associate fighting skills with strength. It is what we grow up with as unskilled fighters always rely on strength. When children play fight, they generally wrestle and it is usually the strongest who wins. So men, especially strong men, are used to relying on strength and it takes a lot to let that go!