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Look First

Last night at class I mentioned that the first thing that usually moves at the beginning of a kata is your eyes (and head) -- first you must look in the direction you will move.

In Fukyugata Ichi, for example, you look to the left. Of course, as you look you are also beginning to move your hands and body. You do not just move your head in isolation.

I should note that this does not apply in kata where you are moving forward in the first motion. In Gojushiho, for example, you move forward. Since you are already looking forward, there is no need for a special movement. However, you would still "look" to make sure where you are going.

The idea is that you look before you are committed to moving.

I remember in high school. We were goofing around on the bleachers at the football field. Once of my friends executed some Karate movement (which I can't remember) and stepped off the bleacher with one foot. His foot and leg scrapped down the rough edge of the wood. Lucky he did not fall off, but it was pretty painful to be sure.

He should have looked first.

I always remember that incident. Before you move in any direction, you have to look first to make sure that it is safe. You might step into a hole (or off the side of the bleachers). What if a truck is coming at you? You can't just block -- you have to be able change direction!

So it is important to be aware as you move in any kata. You can't just dance around daydreaming. Of course it is usually safe and clear in the dojo. The floor is flat and there are few, if any, obstructions. But outside there are unexpected obstacles and people trying to hit you. It could be dark and hard to see. You have to "look" hard. You have to be aware.

It is like the expression, "look before you leap." Look before you move in kata.

One other thing. We always say look with your nose. This means that you have to turn your head when you look, not just look with your eyes. In Fukyugata Ichi, for example, if your keep your head facing forward and just look to the left with your eyes, you will have a big blind spot on your left side. But if your turn your nose to the left, you will be able to see completely without any blind spots. Turning your nose is another way of saying turn your whole head -- do not look side-eyed.

I also like to say that this "turning the head" and "looking" are like changing lanes when you drive. You quickly look first -- it is not an exaggerated movement. Just a quick look to make sure it is safe, and bam! -- you move.


Charles C. Goodin