Karate Is Below The Belt
Saturday, April 09, 2011 Posted by Paul Cortissoz
I will get back to the Niju Kun series very shortly but I wanted to share a personal observation with you while driving home from class last night. Karate is below the belt.To those who have trained karate or any martial art for a period of time this comes as no surprise. In fact it is one one very first things we learn. What do I mean by karate is below the belt?
That power comes from the hips of course! So you may be saying to yourself no kidding. Please let me explain. You see, whenever I have been teaching new adult or kid students it it what I always harp on the most. "Rotate your hips....I should see your obi moving back and forth........relax your shoulders and twist from your hips........when punching or blocking move the hips first and the arm will follow". You get the idea. I am sure (and hope quite frankly) this rings in their head when they go home at night. You hips are your foundation coupled with your tanden or core. Do not get this right and you will never truly advance as a karateka.
So there I am last night getting the chance to practice some more advanced kata that I have not been able to do for a while. The kata was Enpi. Done it many times before. Too many to count. For those of you that know the kata, there is a move where you perform a double shuto uke while in a kokutsu dachi while remaining in the same spot. So there I was, happy to be doing Enpi, performing the moves, getting some decent snaps from my gi while punching and blocking and then my revelation! Sensei correctly pointed out that I was not getting enough hip rotation when shifting in kokutsu-dachi. I watched him perform the the moves and it was obvious he was able to do it flawlessly. So I tried it again. Nope. Tried another time. Nope again. Tried several more times with the same result, nope, nope, nope and nope. Sure I got the move, but was was not getting the power I should be getting because of me not rotating my hips enough.
So that was my ah-ha moment, but it may not be what you think. The "ah-ha" moment is really in several layers. First layer is obvious, power comes from the hips (see above). Next layer is also obvious, we can never stop learning or trying to improve no matter what belt you are or how long you have practiced. Next layer is a bit more deep, we should always be open to feedback and take it from a place of humility and self improvement instead of thinking once we have reached a certain belt or status we are immune to feedback. Next layer even more deep, how easy it is to forget your foundation and focus on what is not important (or less important). Because I had done the kata so many times I was kinda going though the motions. In fact, the way I had been practicing that move the whole time was wrong! Here I am harping on junior students to use their hips and I am not on this one, but important move. I was focusing too much on my upper body movements and less on the foundation- the hips- what was below the belt- below the surface.
All of these things above rang true to me in my car ride home. I certainly know what I need to practice on Monday! However we are not done with our layers above. The next layer of "ah-ha momentness" for me was how many people I have encountered in my life outside the dojo who have forgotten all of the layers I noted above. People who think because they have achieved a certain status they are immune to feedback or doing things a different way. People who think they "have it right" or "know it all" or are "better than others" and yet they do not/are not. People who do not have as strong a foundation as they think...in some cases it is a pseudo-foundation with no real substance. People who do not "walk the talk" or in this case "rotate the hips". People who were not self-aware to even know they need to work on things they think they are good at. People who were focused on the surface level of life (usually driven by ego) instead of of what was below the surface- below the belt.
But here was the real ah-ha moment of them all. My next question was, am I one of those people too?
I would like to think not, but in reality I can be. You can be. We all can be. If we choose to.
There are many lessons to be learned in karate that translate outside the dojo. So, let's all choose to focus below the belt.
Since 1988, Way Of Life Shotokan Karate has been committed to teaching traditional karate and values for a modern world. Under the leadership of Norman Smith Sensei, Way Of Life Shotokan Karate instructs hundreds of students at our various locations from beginner to advanced levels of all ages that come from across the New York City metro area. Our unique way of combining martial arts training, etiquette and philosophy with the modern concepts of fitness, self-defense and competition is unparalleled. We ensure your training is vigorous, while maintaining a safe and fun learning environment that encourages students to reach their fullest potential.
Way Of Life Shotokan Karate Do martial arts school is now offically open at 501 East Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck NY, 10543 serving the local Westchester County communities of New Rochelle, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Harrison, Rye, Port Chester, Mount Vernon, Scarsdale, White Plains and Yonkers as well as the Bronx and NYC metro area.