This Guest Post is by my friend, Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel was a writer and editor of Bugeisha, one of the finest Karate journals ever published. He teaches at the Ninchokan Dojo, in Los Angeles, California.
by Angel Lemus
I have always felt that Elbows are not emphasized enough in traditional Karate, sure one can find them hidden here and there in some movements of Kata but they are not very common. In the big 3 of Okinawan karate, Goju-ryu has the most, followed by Uechi-Ryu and last are the Shorin styles. Having grown up in Judo, and practiced a couple variations of Jujitsu and some Aikido, I always appreciated close quarter strategies and felt comfortable being "cheek to cheek". When I came to Karate I always felt that once the long, and middle ranges turn into close range, the "classically trained" Karate-ka shuts down and does not know what is going on and is basically a fish out of water. This has been proven many times over by the UFC and close quarter fighting phenomenon we see today. Of course Sports karate for the past 30 years has not helped as close quarter fighting is no allowed thus completely eliminating any possible skills to be learned by those who practice sport karate in this range (which if you think about it, it is really the only range there is in any real fight).
I have seen and practiced different elbow exercises from many styles but they all seemed to be kind of lame and insignificant. Usually done in a stationary stance where you just go through the motions of moving your arms mimicking elbow strikes without any "real intent". I have always had an admiration for Muay Thai and absolutely love the purity of intent in its practice, there is nothing "pretended' or hidden, nothing is pulled, or watered down. To me, Thai boxing is the best example of elbow application and I have always modeled my elbows after Muay Thai style.
I decided to put together an elbow form to teach my dojo and my fellow brothers in our group to supplement their training and fill the "elbow void". This form can be done fast with intent, with real world movement and it gives you a workout, it is fun, and stretches your upper body so you can loosen up and really make those elbows flow smoothly. I follow the "classical" kata model so that it is mirror imaged so you do both sides (23 moves each side), and you end up pretty much on the same spot.
I have always felt if you do not practice something you cannot employ it on demand when needed. Close quarter fighting is not about punching or kicking, it is forearms, elbows shoulder strikes, head butts etc.. you need to get into that zone in live it in order to understand it.