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Guest Post: No Stances...

This Guest Post is by my good friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel is the creator of One Minute Bunkai. The URL is oneminutebunkai.com.  He and I are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

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No stances, strategy, and the relationship of the players/pieces involved

I love the pleasure of NOT worrying about stances, the liberation of that part of your consciousness that has to think of stance delivery as you travel through your kata.

Now I just step out there and not think of what my feet are doing, why?  Because I can. Because I'm not a beginner and I know that my feet, legs, and my lower body know what to do instinctively according to what my upper body is doing.

Its like my upper half and lower half are communicating with themselves checking with each other to ensure that everything is running in optimal condition assuring maximum power and results. Thus it leaves my higher functions to do their part, my eyes to see/gather input about situation surrounding me to allow my "instinct" adapt to the ever changing and chaotic nature of combat. My brain is put on shelf on standby mode so it can have a coffee break and look at the spectacle like someone watching a movie (but it does not butt-in).

Think of it like a tank crew, the tank commander is on the turret gathering intel, making command decisions and barking out orders putting the tank in a good offensive position while at the same time putting it in the best defensive position as possible. The tank driver only drives taking commands from the commander, the ordinance/fire chief aims and fires, the unit of 3 depend on each other, and one cannot possibly do it all at the same time. The commander is your self/instinct, your feet/legs are the driver, your hands/arms are the fire control.

I have found that by abandoning the focus on stances it is a liberating feeling that brings your awareness to a higher level that allows you to focus on the fighting while working kata. Your kata practice should feel like when you are attacked aggressively by your partner and you just move and do your thing. In partner work you don't stop to think for one second about stances. And if you do, that split second will cost you. In partner work your entire focus is (should be) on the attack aimed at your opponent, you just move in whatever "stance" you land in, and it will be correct and it does not need a name.

Going forward I will rely less and less on stance labeling when teaching my new students, at the beginning I will just say step here and there and bend your knees. I will say to them look at me and do what I do, "Mitori Geiko" learning by watching. I will just make minor corrections but not spend so much time (as I have done in the past) on making their cat stance look picture perfect. Because ultimately what matters is can they hit hard, not does the stance look pretty. And if the student is with you for many years he/she will figure it out over time. Of course this method will not work in sports karate because sport kata needs long pauses and the dramatic stances for judges to see the perfect balance and beauty of the presentation­ it is what it is.

In arriving at this juncture I now understand when I see videos of the old masters doing their kata and they always look like they move with a sort of abandonment of what stance they are in at any given time in their kata, the more experienced and older the less predominant stances are. When I wore my early karate diapers I used to see the old films and think, look at those old guys they can't do stances right anymore. Well now I'm wearing my advanced Karate Depends and loving it.