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How Many Movements?

This post relates to hanmi and body alignment.

Let us reconsider Fukyugata Ichi (if you do not know the kata, I will try to describe it sufficiently for your to envision it).

You are standing in a ready position facing the front. You turn to the left and step/slide into a left zenkutsu dachi (front, bent leg stance) with a left gedan barai (downward block). Then you step forward with your right foot into a right shizen dachi (natural stance) and execute a right junzuki (punch). You started out facing the front. Now you are facing the left.

OK, how many movements have you done?

Classically, the answer is two (the left block followed by the right punch). In books, you would see three photos:

1. the ready position;
2. the left block; and
3. the right punch
So, not counting the ready position (yoi), there are two movements, right?

Not so fast. Why are there two movements? Is there a block and a punch, or is there a block-punch? Are the movements separate, of part of one multi-part movement? This may seem like an odd question. But when you think of the movements as separate, you perform them as separate. When you think of the movements as connected, you perform them as such.

If someone punches or kicks you and you only think of the block, you will surely get hit! The idea is to counterattack, not simply to block. The block is executed for momentary protection -- the punch is what really counts.

The block and punch are not separate movements. They are part of one flow -- with the emphasis on the punch. If you only block, no matter how many times you do it, you will get hit.

If you think of the movements as being separate, you will put equal emphasis on each. But as a flow, the block will be used to pass or enter the attacker to deliver the punch.

As for shoulders, if your shoulders are square during the downward block, you will be wide open for a punch (or kick to the groin). Hanmi is much safer and less exposed. If your shoulders are square during the punch, again you will be wide open for a counter -- plus, you will not penetrate as deeply as you could in a hanmi position. In a hanmi position, your punch extends an additional 3 to 6 inches.

There is another way to look at movements. Take a video of the block-punch sequence. Now, if you looked at the individual photographs of the sequence, you would see dozens, even hundreds of movements (depending on your frame capture setting), not just two. It is hard to see where one movement begins and one movement ends -- BECAUSE THE IDEA OF A BEGINNING AND ENDING OF MOVEMENTS IS ARTIFICIAL.

In nature, movements flow from one to another. They are connected. The energy for one movement can flow to the next. In fact, recovering energy on the recoil from a block or strike is an important aspect of the body dynamics we practice in our dojo. The recovered energy can be used to initiate the next movement/sequence.

Why just two movements? If you were writing a book, you would have to worry about space. It is one thing to show 20 photographs for a kata -- it is quite another to show 20 photographs for each movement.

Here is another HUGE problem. In competitions, you must hit the right marks and snap at the right points. But the points that are expected are based on the assumption of discrete, separate movements. As such, many Karate students learn a staccato, robotic form of movement that is useless in actual self defense. A boxer who moved like that would get killed in the ring!

How many movements? Be careful what you think -- it will determine the way that you move.


Charles C. Goodin