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Ways to Move

I am going to state something obvious: there is is a big difference between hitting air and hitting a heavy bag.

Most of the time, we are hitting air in Karate. Unless we are pairing off with a partner or hitting a heavy bag, makiwara or even a log or rock, we are just hitting air. And really, hitting air is hitting nothing. There is no resistance (or so little that it does not count).

Why is this important? We generally practice kata in Karate to look "good" while hitting nothing. We are practicing "air" kata.

When you hit a heavy bag, your hand and body stops because of the impact. In fact, the bag kicks back. You have to brace your body for the impact. You have to punch through the bag, and lock up your muscles and joints so that you will not be knocked back.

If you hit air the same way, you would probably injure yourself. When hitting air, you have to adjust your timing so that there is a nice, clean "snap." This is like hitting the surface of the bag without penetrating it. How can you penetrate air? If you tried, you would probably throw out your shoulder.

So the timing and focus differ, depending on what you are hitting.

If you hit to look good, it probably will not work very well on a heavy bag or object. If you hit for impact, you probably will not look too good. One is pretty and one is ugly. Sometimes it is better to be ugly. I can just hear some of my senior friends. They would say that it is always better to be ugly.

Moving in different ways might present a problem for beginners. But advanced students can adjust their timing and focus according to what, if anything, they are hitting.


Charles C. Goodin