Sparring Notes

ktadmin Posted in Awareness, State of Mind, Styles, Training notes, Video๏ผŒTags: , ,

I have been working with my students to improve their sparring skills this month, it’s a great hot weather activity! Sparring can be a tough skill to perfect since everyone wants to jump in the ring and mix things up. Sparring is a very dynamic activity but it can be broken down to individual skills which can be perfected. A short list of these skills include: technique, stamina, focus, and self-awareness. As with any skill technique is paramount to success. Put on some boxing gloves and get in the ring doesn’t make you a boxer, the same is true for Martial Arts sparring. To often I’ve witnessed students at competitions degrade their technique to wildly slapping and kicking.

Sparring matches are won by staying in control. Control comes from confidence and technique. Confidence is something people have to find within themselves. Technique is somethings an instructor can help you perfect. I won’t delve into technique specifics as they vary from style to style, but form is critical to minimizing your vulnerabilities and maximizing your opportunities. Stamina comes with the practice and perfection of your form and technique. As we get older we need to add additional cardio-conditioning! ๐Ÿ˜‰ With good technique and strong stamina you are well equip to win most matches simply by outlasting your opponent.

Focus is perhaps the more difficult thing to learn, as focus is probably the wrong word to use, since you need a lack of focus when sparring. Say what?!? If we focus on our opponent we forget about our surroundings, this may be OK in a sparring ring, but in a real fight that can be fatal. More importantly though focusing on your opponent can lead to signaling your movements. When I spar I typically spar primarily with my peripheral vision, this allows me to “focus” on movements as they occur not a specific movement. Let me give an example: if someone fakes a move with their left, then follows through with the real attack with their right… If I am focused on the person, then my focus will shift to the left fake, when the right comes in, I will have to realize it, shift my focus and then react. If I am focused on the situation, using my peripheral vision then I can more rapidly react to movements in my “sphere” of focus. Basically it reduces the thought process drag that comes from thinking to much. Relax your mind and your awareness becomes more basic, instinctual and reactionary. Hopefully that makes sense, I’ll be happy to clarify any of that.

Self-awareness is probably the most ignored part of sparring, though it is the direct result of good technique training and peripheral or sphere focus. When we spar it is important to be self-aware of your vulnerabilities. It is the only way you can truly improve your art. When you begin sparring your instructor will tell you what you are doing wrong. You should take this instruction as an opportunity to train yourself to find these corrections before you are told of them. The next step of course is correcting the problem, not always that easy. For example, two of my students where sparring and one would lean her head froward after a particular move. Her opponent realized this and he exploited it, with a downward strike to the head. A very bad way to get hit, a fight-ender. After the first hit, I pulled her aside and told her what she was doing. When she did it again I saw her realize it after it was to late. The third time her realization came a little sooner but still to late. Frustration was her enemy on the last point. She has the first part of self-awareness down and is now struggling with correcting the problem. It is a process, no different then learning your first martial arts technique.

I am including these videos for two reasons, first they are awesome! Secondly, they each demonstrate important aspects of sparring. See if you can figure out the importance of each video and post your conclusions in the comments section… Enjoy and pay attention!
[zdvideo width=”400″ height=”226″][/zdvideo]


Looking forward to the discussion…

The Meaning of the Brown Belt (3rd – 1st Kyu) – Revisited

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Styles, Training notes๏ผŒTags: ,

Previously I posted the meaning of the Brown Belt, the first of three brown belts in our Dojo.ย  I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and have written a different perspective of the meaning here that flows from the meaning presented for the previous two belts.ย  Here is the revisited meaning, post a comment with your opinion on both:

Now the brown represents the deep brown of fertile soil, so rich it almost looks black.ย  Ever more fertile the soil works with the heat of the Sun to push the plants growth.ย  Now a source of nutriment the student needs little assistance in this final step of training.ย  The training at this stage is just as arduous yet seems easier to the student.ย  There is a synergy of the physical and mental aspects of the art, things are clearer and seen from many perspectives.ย  The student is becoming a master.ย  At this stage there is usually one task left to perfect, one task that is unique to the student.ย  Like a fertile plot of land in the middle of the wilderness gone is the similarity as they stand distinct from their surroundings. ย  The student is higher in rank, he/she acquires more detailed knowledge and so the brown belt student learns to be more cautious and humble as his/her knowledge and physical abilities increase.

The Meaning of the Brown Belt – 2nd Kyu

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Styles, Training notes๏ผŒTags: ,

Here the student has advanced their skills and their self, having removed much of the parasites, stones and weeds.ย  Finally the soil is ready for the seeds the student has held until ready.ย  This begins the first planting of the seeds of their skills and understanding.ย  This is a critical step in the development of the individual for the soil is not giving life on its own yet but needs external nurturing and nutriment.ย  The extreme physical requirements continue relentlessly as the student works to protect the fragile first crop.

The Meaning of the Brown Belt – 3rd Kyu

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Styles, Training notes๏ผŒTags: ,

At this point the student has mastered the basics and developed deep roots in Kokushin-Kai.ย  Brown is known as an earthy color, such as dirt or soil.ย  The brown belt signifies the soil in which the roots of mastery begin to take hold.ย  This brown signifies virgin soil never worked or perfected, never enriched or aerated. The previous belts provide the seeds however they find themselves unwelcoming soil to foster growth.ย  Like the task of the farmer to tame the land, so does the student need to begin to their self, to remove the parasites, stones, and weeds.ย  To let in the Green of life, the Blue of the sky and the power of Purple to make this fertile ground.ย  This is as great a physical task as it is mental task for the student but no Mastery of the art can be attained without it any more than a seed can grow properly on unwelcome soil.

The Meaning of the Green Belt (6th Kyu)

ktadmin Posted in Profiles, Styles, Training notes๏ผŒ

This is a repost from January 2006 that someone requested. And since I just had three more students advance in rank I thought I would oblige…

Green BeltGreen is the color of life and growth. The green belt indicates the beginning of your life as a Martial Artist and growth as a person. We live in the present but for the future, and growth is necessary and essential to that journey. Growth stimulates change, which we must accept even though change often causes feelings of insecurity. Growth does not always come easily and is rarely without some discomfort or pain, but the achievements of our previous growth and the memory of those pains should motivate us to work harder. You begin with the Green belt so that you will always be reminded of the importance of this growth that will lead to the perfection of your Self.

Empty Hand – Deadly Fist

ktadmin Posted in Styles, Training notes๏ผŒ

We make a fist from the moment we are born, clenching our fists against the unknown. Fully grown we are still prone to instinctively clench our fists in sudden stressful or fearful situations. But as we grow and mature many of us forget the proper way to make a fist. Without this knowledge we stand a better chance of hurting ourselves then those we would defend ourselves from.

The fist, or closed fist is the most well-known of the Martial Arts form. The karate chop may be more popular, but the fist is our main defensive weapon. Simply clenching your fingers into your palm does not necessarily make a correct fist. There are important facts to master before learning to use your fists properly.

Bottom view of Fist Side View of Fist

The two pictures above demonstrate a correctly formed fist from the side and top. Notice the fingers are all curled in as tightly as possible, and the thumb is folded down over the second row of finger segments. The tighter the fist the more powerful it is and the less it will hurt the owner. If a fist is not tightly clenched then some of the striking force goes to compressing the fist. In a tightly formed fist very little of the striking force is lost to compression meaning most of the force is applied to the surface you are striking (like the face). This however is not true unless you are striking with the correct surface of the fist.

The striking surface is the one inch square beginning at the top of the index and middle finger knuckles, downward. The direction of the strike and the alignment of the supporting wrist are also incredibly important. In the following picture notice that the wrist is aligned with the two wrist bones (metacarpals) so that the any backwards force will distribute and dispress through them. The wrist-fist alignment must not allow for any torque of side force to be applied to the wrist bones, meaning the wrist need to be straight.

Correct Striking Position

The truth of the above rules are simple principle to demonstrate with a heavy bag or willing padded opponent. ๐Ÿ™‚

One more important option remains, to make a horizontal strike or a twisting strike. I horizontal strike means that the fist begins and ends in the same orientation (palm facing the floor, wall or ceiling without change). This is a straight punch from a ready position. With a twisting or screwed strike (classic karate strike) your fist begins palm up and ends palm down at the moment of impact. This unscrewing motion can create a vortex or twisting effect through the body structure and fluids thus resulting in a more penetrating strike. This of course is more difficult to perfect but once performed correctly the difference is immediately noticeable.

With a straight punch there is less room for error and therefore this is a safer punch for a beginner. However the torque punch or twisting strike can be significantly more powerful. With either type of strike though it is important to remember that your finger tightness, wrist position and orientation are critical to correctly using this defensive weapon. Incorrect positioning, orientation of the wrist or tightness of the fingers can result in broken bones for you not your opponent! When training practice slowly to perfect the form and technique then gradually increase the impact to a padded target to avoid injury. Of course please alos seek the instruction of a qualified instructor.

Train Hard, Train Often!

What is a Sensei?

ktadmin Posted in A Zen Thing, Styles๏ผŒ

SenseiBad Sensei

Sen means “before”, Sei means “life, birth, living or lived”. Thus a Sensei is someone who has experienced something before you. He has walked the path you are planning to follow before you, he can tell you what to do. In more general terms, it’s a teacher, normally the head instructor of the Dojo you are attending.

A Sensei should be a person you can take inspiration from, whom you respect but feel comfortable enough turning to in a time of need. A Sensei should not use their students as tools for their egos to prove how superior they are. To the contrary the Sensei should lead their students to discover their strengths and weaknesses so they may grow and florist in the Martial Arts and life.

Find the answers to this and many more questions in the New Frequently Asked Questions section!


The Most Powerful Martial Arts Attack

ktadmin Posted in Competition, Styles, Training notes, Video๏ผŒTags: , , ,

This is an awesome video presentation of various styles and Martial Arts strikes and kicks. While they attribute power to specific styles the important thing to note is the power of the specific attacks used since most styles include all of the attacks demonstrated (at least mine does!)

Tai Chi in Action

ktadmin Posted in Styles, Training notes, Video๏ผŒ

The other night I got into a discussion and was asked what the best Martial Art is… Of course this is a loaded question and like everything else in the world everyone things theirs is the best! Obviously that isn’t possible so anyone that disagrees with my way must be wrong… ๐Ÿ˜‰ just kidding… So the question was which Martial Art is the best. This led to talking about some of the competitions I’ve seen and some I’ve posted about here. Boxer versus martial artist, kung fu versus karate, etc. Then I threw everyone a curve ball which I like to do…I said Tai Chi. That look you have right now, that is the same look they had! Yes, Tai Chi the moving meditation that old people practice so they don’t break anything, Tai Chi. Why?? First let me say I do not practice Tai Chi and have never even taken a class. What? That’s right. I base my opinion on my years of practice and reading and research and interactions with other martial artists. Tai Chi is a moving meditation but it is a Martial Art, one that focuses almost entirely on control of yourself. In a very recent post I wrote about this very topic, if you can control yourself you can usually maintain control of a situation. But there is much more then that. Tai Chi taken years sometimes decades to perfect and it is all done in slow motion focusing on the flow of Chi. Chi is the power behind all of the Martial Arts (if you believe that sort of thing) but Tai Chi spend the most time developing it. It is also my opinion that Tai Chi isn’t a very effective Martial Art until you have practiced for many years. Long years of repetitive learning make the motions practiced second nature. Any fighter with built in reaction is a formidable opponent. I have also been told that since you practice Tai Chi very slowly it changes your perceptional awareness allowing you to seemingly slow down the movements of your opponent. So there I said it, Tai Chi, I know there will be those that ridicule my opinion, especially the MMA crowd. I welcome your thoughts and comments, even your ridicule :p But remember this is my opinion based on my experiences, etc.

It may be useful if you can see how you can use Tai Chi as a fighting art and how the movements are based on actual Martial techniques. With that in mind I found this video:

The Uses Of Tai Chi Chuan

Using Yoga to Improve Martial Arts Skills

Sensei Posted in Styles, Technique, Training notes๏ผŒ

Note: This article was written by director_mitch A.K.A. the Window Manager and is cross-posted on his site.

Tae Kwon Do, probably more than any martial art, emphasizes kicking – a typical TKD match will be over 80% kicking. In order to win you need kicks that are high enough to hit an opponent’s head. After all, if all you can throw are waist-high kicks, you become pretty easy to defend against. The second thing you need is mastery of the spinning kicks – back kick, spinning-heel, and tornado kick – which help in misdirection and counter-attack.

And in order to kick high and spin, flexibility and balance are a prerequisite. As I advanced into the Tae Kwon Do “middle belts”, I felt that in order to progress into the upper ranks that these two areas really needed improvement. I was certainly developing these skills as a part of my regular TKD training, but I started to search for a way to accelerate their improvement.

For flexibility, yoga was an obvious field of study. I had heard about the popular Bikram “hot yoga” for some time and thought I would give it a try. But I entered the yoga studio with some trepidation, expecting to find a bunch of aging hippy vegetarians. Instead I found an attractive young lady sitting behind a computer. Not wanting to seem too granola, I immediately declared “I’m hoping to improve my martial arts skills and thought I would try some yoga.”

“Yes,” she replied, “we get one of you signing up about once a month. In fact, John is getting ready for our next class and is a martial artist. You should talk to him.”

Soon enough I was talking to John, a seven-year practitioner of Tai Chi. He extolled the virtues of yoga and how it improved his martial art practice, and encouraged me to join. Fifteen minutes later I was standing next to him for my first class. Four months later I consider yoga a extension of my martial arts training and go at least once – usually twice – a week. I consider it so much an extension of my TKD practice that I sometimes catch myself unconsciously bowing as I enter the yoga studio.

My flexibility has definitely improved, but the largest improvement has been in my balance, where the improvements have been considerable for such a short period of time. My back kick went from mediocre to very good, and my spinning-heel went from non-existent to something I am comfortable using in a sparring match.

Bikram yoga is a set of twenty-six postures that are done in the same order in every class. It is what I call the “balancing series” of poses that I think has helped my martial arts the most to date:


Reference Bikram South Pasadena – Postures

These poses may not look that hard, but remember that you hold the poses. Twice. On standing-head-to-knee the first pose is for sixty seconds. If you can hold these poses for that long, throwing a back-kick and having your body extended in something that approximates the balancing stick for a fraction of a second seems easy.

Another difference in yoga is that when balancing on one leg, the standing knee is locked with the thigh contracted. TKD kicks are done with the standing leg slightly bent, improving balance and stability, so again I find yoga harder than the martial arts for balance, meaning mastery in yoga makes for ease in the martial arts.

The flexibility improvement promised in yoga is also apparent, but that improvement is coming more slowly and will take a longer period of time to master.But like martial arts, yoga is a life-long practice, with true mastery always being just beyond the grasp. I consider them complementary arts and highly recommend yoga to anyone who wants to improve their martial arts skills.