Guest Columnists - Power
Where’s the power in Karate? How we can produce maximum speed and power in the real world?
POWER & SPEED
I now believe the basic principles of power production and transfer need to be re-addressed in Karate and are vital. We need to understand how to produce power internally and create leverage, "off the ground”, transmit it through something “you”, into something “your target”, to change it's shape or break it. This principle can be carried out at any speed to produce degrees of measurable effect with no ambiguity, “damage, disrupt or destroy”. Not just point scoring so often the objective in today’s Karate arena. The movement required to produce this effect is a direct consequence of a victory over an objective, causing an effect. A similar action prescribed for appearance without the inclusion of essential factors which govern movement and production of power 'effort' may look good but will not do the job as well. Prescribed patterns of pretty inefficient movement for affect, portrayed in “sport or modern Karate” systems today, are a prelude to failure if used in a violent conflict or for more practical reasons.
Walking is a good example of an inherent pattern that produces speed & power with a measurable effect, if it is done naturally. While maintaining a dynamic equilibrium, or proportionate weight distribution and displacement, speed & power can be transmitted via the ground, in a forward or backward motion. For example, right leg forward right arm back, hip leading the shoulder through the action. Equal and opposite action and reaction. This action in Karate is similar to a no stance stepping Gyaku Tsuki, done repeatedly with fluidity it has the appearance of walking. It is a pattern inherent to humans and can have a direct result on how you think you move. It defines the basic natural mobility and power transfer pattern. Not an imitation with over emphasised ingredients illustrated by many Karate movements. Naturally it covers in essence how basic kicking and striking actions should be analysed and studied in depth.
Without the essence of natural movement how can any Karate technique be considered natural or powerful? Similarity of movement is not good enough to supersede natures attempt for the most efficient methods of movement. To move we have to initiate a lever off the floor, we push down and back to go forward and push forward and back to stop or go back. The more leverage we use the more powerful we are. To fully understand Karate techniques we have to fully understand exactly what our body can or cannot do as a lever off the ground. This varies in body types, some fast, some powerful, some naturally fast and powerful. The style should suit the body not the body the style.
I think this is the main stumbling block of the prescribed styles of movement derived from sports Karate masters. Paramount should be our understanding of what role the ground plays. Without it we are going nowhere, how can we? In space if you hit something, would you move, or it? The ground is our fulcrum, the body is our lever, we must seek maximum traction efficiency when in motion, not for an affect of motion, effect verses affect. The difference is the key to realistic effective movement.
The long jumper jumps 30m but is disqualified because he crossed the line by 5 inches, 1st and 2nd places go to 29m jumps, but who produced more effort and effect?
To increase the potential of walking into the realms of combat we have to put it in perspective by increasing it’s effect. Walking up and down flights of steps increases the load and demands an increase in power output of your levers. Carrying excess weight contributes to the exercise and training procedure. The leverage that determines the speed and the power of the body will become evident. It's that leverage we want to increase the efficiency of. Speed comes as a consequence of practice and familiarity of movements. Take away the steps but keep the effort the same thing applies if you need to produce effective forward movement.
This type of training unfortunately is contrary to the prescribed methods of say Shotokan or other similar styles. For example right leg forward, right arm forward, stepping shoulders and hips in line. Oi-tsuki, army walk, rank and file, misinterpreted “martial art” perhaps. If you can keep in mind the way we move naturally while walking. You can still incorporate the basic principles of power transfer but not to maximum effect. If you don't know what they are you can't use them. You have to retain full control of your movements and not throw one half of you body in, leaving the thrust behind you. It must come with you as part of the movement as a whole. You don’t walk or run like that. You have to consider every moving part at all times or you would fall over. To practice stance and steps is wrong. We should step into a stance for a reason and out for another reason, a stance on it’s own is just a static posture. The dead and those about to be, practice with great effect static postures in battle. Karate is how we move and transfer power not how we look standing or in prescribed staccato motion.
To illustrate my theory I will use this example of a probable action. If you throw a javelin, as a consequence of the run up you build up energy in motion as a moving mass. By use of interconnection of long bone levers and muscles you can stop on an axis point. Release the javelin, by projecting your mass power into the ground with one leg, letting the built up energy go into the javelin as you let go of it. Like a pole vaulter that leg is your pole or axis. The rest of your body is still travailing on and around the brake leg, it's your axis point. If you increase the leverage off of this leg in the time and space available, you can project the javelin forward, inertia will add to the natural release point, and off it goes. Increase the distance thrown by an increase in effort. Measure your progress through understanding production of power. Energy is created off the ground through you, into the javelin. The run up is short and is there only to increase the potential of release. High jump, shot put, all good examples of relatively quick releases of power. You could say 100m sprint but the start is the most important part of the action.
I have learnt that the "basics" I require are in movement, not static postures, although I taught that sort of thing for as long as I can remember in my Shotokan days. My old Goju Master Steve Morris would use his arm and legs like baseball bats and they hurt like hell. He taught me how to produce that effect through effective movement not affective movement. For a good example of what not to do. Age-uki like Oi-tsuki in most modern styles is defined by it's movement but emphasis is placed at the termination point of the technique i.e. Kima or Kia whatever. Where as in reality the sweet spot, of a strike would be where a linear and rotational arm or leg movements coincide. At the moment of contact, this would be during the action and would only terminate on contact while leverage and movement is still accessible. Many modern Karate students train to make contact. I think we should train to improve the efficiency of the movement that will destroy on and during contact not what it looks like.
The modern Masters will always object to that type of description and insist that there are more factors to take into consideration. It's true there are many more things to consider but they aren't fully understood or passed on. They sometimes lack some of the essentials I mentioned in the above examples, they have to lead to failure when put to the ultimate test. I try not to pay too much attention to how I look but more what I do and why I'm doing it and what happens if I fail. The motive and objective initiates the needed response to create the required effect. The majority of Karate students I see train with mirror's copy an affect, or copy their mental images of their instructors in flight. Ultimately to only become parodies of the Masters they imitate. They think they have the wings and feathers but don't know how to fly. For many students the modern Master hasn't the time or the patients to explain in detail exactly what is required, and more to often the point, they aren't too sure what they are.
If it all makes sense to you good, if it doesn't, power up some steps, throw a ball and ask yourself what am I doing? Manufacturing and distributing power to cause an effect, to project yourself or the ball. Tactics is another ball game.
Alan Platt, 6th Dan.