Karate Thoughts Blog

Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1700+ Posts... and Counting

More on Becoming Fluent in Karate

This is a follow-up to my post, Becoming Fluent in Karate.

There are so many similarities between learning a language and learning Karate.

In writing, we must first learn our alphabet (basics or kihon).

Then we learn words (techniques or waza).

Words are assembled to form sentences (multiple step applications or yakusoku kumite).

Sentences are combined to form paragraphs (kata).

Paragraphs form chapters and eventually a book (a style of Karate or ryuha).

In our native language, we can speak without thinking about which words we should use. The words just flow naturally. As I said, the language does not get in the way of expression.

In Karate, we learn to respond to attacks instinctively, without thinking. If we have to think, "He is punching with his right, so I should block with my left" (for example), we will never have time to defend ourselves. We have to be able to react from muscle memory imprinted from years of training, and only afterward realize what we have done.

Words can have multiple levels of meaning. So can techniques. One technique can have multiple levels of application -- a simple strike, a parry and strike, a joint lock, a dislocation, a take down, etc. Some people express themselves in Karate with an amazing level of sophistication. Others are still at the "baby talk" phase.

My wife likes to tell out children that, "It is not what you say, it is how you say it." This also applies in Karate. "It is not what you say, it is how you say it." "It is not what you are doing, it is how you are doing it."

If Karate is like language, you could say that some Karate people say a lot but don't say much at all, and other Karate people say very little but those few carefully chosen words speak volumes.

I know some people who are not only fluent in Karate, they also speak other languages. You have to watch out for multi-lingual Karate experts!

Analogies to language are not limited to English. Asian languages also have multiple writing systems. Please see: Kata, Bunkai & Calligraphy, by George Donahue. Our Sensei, Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, compares movement in Karate to the kaisho, gyosho, and sosho calligraphy forms -- and he expresses this beautifully in movement.

If Karate is like language, then you better be very careful about what you say. Choose your words carefully, and say something useful.


Charles C. Goodin