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 Post subject: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 10:06 pm 
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After conducting a web search for crane style chinese kung fu on a whim I was met with several youtube videos of people doing forms. When I came across tai chi videos I noticed that they moved in "very" slow methodical movements in their forms. Here's my question.

Is there any value to performing Uechi kata movements in this slow methodical smooth manner in a training regiment?

Your thought are appreciated.


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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:36 pm 
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I'm going to hop on this one Steve and tell you absolutely!! It's one of the most important practices for the long run... We used to practice 3 katas religiously at Kadena, Sanchin, Seisan, Sanseiryu.. Every time those 3, or the highest Kata they would know if not up to Sanseiryu yet.. We would practice the first Kata of the set slowly and try for perfection of technique, step, grip on floor, and focus ( not quickly, but good focus) Second Kata would be just as fast as you can. (not so much power, just speed and Mochime) Third Kata was Speed, power, and focus (trying to combine every thing into one at the end while remember to try to bring back some of the perfection of technique from the first kata.. The slower kata will be where you start to get the positioning, body alignment, proper formation of weapons, and believe it or not the proper plane on you circle blocks and even the right starting/stopping point (shoulder, head, shoulder) I know Rick Sensei puts a lot of emphasis on planes of the Mawashi Uke.. For good reason!!! :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 4:26 pm 
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Steve Hatfield wrote:

Is there any value to performing Uechi kata movements in this slow methodical smooth manner in a training regiment?

Hello, Steve!

I'll cut to the chase and say yes. Now I'll chat about it.

Let's start with me mentioning that in the 1982-1983 period of time, I dedicated some hours to practicing Yang style short form. I had several friends who walked me through the form, and I took some trips up to the DC area where I got a chance to work with Robert Smith. Had that gang been any good at the martial applications of taiji, I'd probably still be practicing. But for the most part Mr. Smith seemed content on being the pied piper of granola heads and chisters. While I'm all for a magical mystery tour if that's your thing, it wasn't mine at the time. Then I had the opportunity to do Goju and aikido with a former Green Beret. Let's see now... Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or Panama? At the time, getting real with martial arts was what scratched my itch. Whatever the hell that chi sheet was, I figured I wouldn't stumble on it with a group of people who never did push hands. Like a typical boy, I had to touch it, taste it, and feel it to make it real.

That said... my journey as both student and teacher took parallel and concurrent paths. All while I was trying to flesh out my core style, I was also trying to flesh out how I was going to turn my students into accomplished artists. And while I thought it was interesting to see what "the masters" were doing, the routine and monkey-see-monkey-do approach bored me to tears and left me wanting. My geographic isolation turned out to be a blessing. I got a chance to experiment.

Several things enlightened me to the "try it slowly" approach.

The first harks way back to 1974 when I needed a lateral menisectomy (removal of the shock-absorbing "O-ring" in the knee) to "fix" an old injury. I do regret that surgery as newer methods would have repaired rather than remove that vital part, but... Oh well. Water under the bridge. Understand this though. I went from running college track to martial arts. My right leg was my lethal weapon. I particularly enjoyed deploying a powerful, long-legged roundhouse upside someone's head in a sparring match. I enjoyed it because I could - as if I had been trained in Muay Thai. But now I had a post-surgical, perpetually swollen knee. And I needed to make that thing work.

I got back into the dojo immediately. After 4 days in the hospital, I was sitting in the windowsill of UVa's Memorial Gym doing the hojoundo on my backside. I slowly got to walking, and slowly began trying to reconstruct some semblance of martial competency with this recovering leg.

One thing I took to doing was a slow-motion yoko geri with my painful right leg. I did it because... it was something I could do. Nobody told me to do it. It just felt good doing something martial with my leg. I would lift the knee high like a good crane, and send the leg out as slowly as possible. My knee tolerated the motion, and my stabilizer muscles agonized over the movement. It was different, it was fun, and most importantly it was something I could do.

A few months later several of us got to sparring. When I was a young lad, sparring was the raison d'etre of my martial arts. I would foolishly take anyone on. It's hard to explain... It's being full of youth, of hormones, and loving the sponteneity of it all. So after several of the teachers in the school did some matches, I got up and decided I'd do my first partner exercise in months with a black belt in Hapkido.

What happened next is difficult to put in words. The frustrated tiger finally came out. I charged at him with a barrage of hand techniques. Then something magical happened. For lack of a better way of describing it, my right foot came off the floor without my permission, and executed the first decent yoko geri that I had ever done in a sparring match. It came fluidly, with speed, and with a power that took this Korean kicking specialist off his feet and sent him against the wall. We all stopped to savor a very strange moment. Something worked... and we didn't quite know what. But I had an idea...

Years later I began studying core muscle movement in earnest. There was a convergence of my old athletic self (from years playing baseball) and my newer martial self. I was finding parallels everywhere, and running into people who understood how to put the caffeine in the Uechi style. But then I had to practice it and - hardest of all - I had to teach it.

What I found myself doing is hours upon hours of tearing things down and building them back up again in my dojo. I was the mad scientist, and my students were my lab rats. I drilled them and drilled them and drilled them. I'd start with stupid-simple movements done slowly, and then put the pieces together. But I wasn't just having people do movements while standing still. I also was teaching them how to integrate the power of turning, shifting, and stepping into their hand movements. It had to be done slowly so they would get it. It had to start simple... and work to the complex. I'd layer the details on one at a time, and slowly bring the speed up. On a good day, people were doing techniques without any natural "beginning" or "ending" points. I was just having them do these circular ditties were we just kept moving. As the speed was increased, we'd feel how the non-robotic movement led to tremendous energy. I'd speed them up more and more and more until I'd lost all but maybe one student in the class. And then we'd drop it, and I'd pick it up again the next class.

And then one day it dawned on me. I had independently stumbled on the method to the madness in slow taiji practice. It's all about giving the individual a chance to savor the movement of the legs and core. Good movement is complex and nuanced. It takes careful study. But if you start to feel it, then you can turn up the volume.

And then you have Eddie Van Halen on steroids! 8)

- Bill


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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 5:08 pm 
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Thanks Stevie, we spoke via pm.

Thanks Bill. You raise some very interesting issues. After a hiatus from Uechi and having only attained Shodan, I find myself way too stiff with many of my movements. An issue my sensei's are working on pretty regularly. "Too stiff" has become pretty much my watchword. Anyway, I liked several of the points you brought up.

First let me say (and it's hard to put into words) that the "slow" I'm talking about is not just going slow for the sake of slowness. And I think we're on the same page. I can't find the video that caught my attention but here's one that kind of makes the point.....


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYCn9CWsEx0


I know nothing about this fella or his style but, while watching him I'm seeing some of the same things I saw in the other video. It's like there is a dynamic tension at all times. It is smooth and flowing, yet it's not loose. And you can see how his hips and core seem to lead and maintain control while his appendages seem to flow out from the core. I'm especially intrigued when he lowers himself and one of his legs extends off in a direction quite aways but he never looses his core or his balance. It's a "feeling".

Another thing I find when I try this with a Uechi kata, is that I can concentrate on every muscle coming into play during a technique and actually feel that muscle contract, loosen, etc..

And these dynamic tensions can be increased or decreased so that I'm really giving the muscles involved a hard workout.

I am currently reaquainting myself with Seiryu and I'm playing with this method of practicing.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Steve


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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:04 pm 
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Steve Hatfield wrote:

I can't find the video that caught my attention but here's one that kind of makes the point.....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYCn9CWsEx0

This is an excellent example of many of the concepts I'm working on. Several in particular...

  • The energy is coming completely from his legs and hips.
    .
  • Note the coordination of upper body movement and lower body movement. Your average Uechika steps or turns, stops, does a hand technique, stops, steps or turns and stops, does a hand technique ad nauseum. Every time you stop, you kill the energy you generated with the strongest muscles in the body. Every time you do an upper body technique with no leg movement, you're drinking your coffee with no caffeine. And that's just wrong.

    Note that this guy never stops moving. And his hands move as a response to what's going on in the lower body.
    .
  • Note the slight delay between the lower and upper body movement. This is sequential summation of motion. Long story...

Steve Hatfield wrote:

I know nothing about this fella or his style but, while watching him I'm seeing some of the same things I saw in the other video. It's like there is a dynamic tension at all times.

It's very important to note that there is no dynamic tension in his upper body. Otherwise the SSM won't work. The body won't whip unless the upper body is relaxed. The tension in the hands is supposed to be like holding a caterpillar in your grip. The structure needs to be firm, but the moving parts need to be as relaxed as possible. The dynamic stretch reflex will work without conscious thought.

Steve Hatfield wrote:

It is smooth and flowing, yet it's not loose. And you can see how his hips and core seem to lead and maintain control while his appendages seem to flow out from the core.

You got it!

Steve Hatfield wrote:

I'm especially intrigued when he lowers himself and one of his legs extends off in a direction quite aways but he never looses his core or his balance. It's a "feeling".

He has an exceptionally long stride. I always try for this when doing my walking lunges (with weight on my shoulders) and for the same end results he's seeking.

Steve Hatfield wrote:

Another thing I find when I try this with a Uechi kata, is that I can concentrate on every muscle coming into play during a technique and actually feel that muscle contract, loosen, etc..

And these dynamic tensions can be increased or decreased so that I'm really giving the muscles involved a hard workout.

I think it's important to separate training from practice. We do resistance training to get stronger. We practice and do whole-body training to get coordinated and learn how to turn strength into power. Training is about burning energy to get strong; practice is about being as efficient as possible with your energy.

Steve Hatfield wrote:

I am currently reaquainting myself with Seiryu and I'm playing with this method of practicing.

Excellent kata to work on coordinating lower and upper body.

Start with the fancy circle moves in 4 directions. Integrate the two 90-degree and 180-degree turns into the hand movements until it is all one movement. When you start doing that, you'll see that there's a logic to the directions you are turning. The way the lower body gives to the upper body will become obvious.

For years I had questions about the many ways this movement was done. Once I got the whole-body coordination, I stopped paying attention to all the variations. My body told me how to do the motion.

- Bill


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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 9:59 pm 
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I think in my initial thought called "dynamic tension" I may be misrepresenting what I mean. Sitting here trying to do it so I can explain it the only thing that comes to my mind is "a focused, smooth, slow movement done with great concentration". And I'm not even sure that fits the bill. Hard thought to put into words for me.


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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:19 am 
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No worries, Steve. Your loss of words puts you in good company.

For many, it's kind of like defining pornography. You can't put it into words, but you know it when you see it. :lol:

- Bill


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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:57 am 
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Bill is the Master when it comes to explaining Kinesiology!!! For me, it's more of the above... But let me bring this question and observation up.. People talk about timing in Katas.. How many notice when a Circle block starts slowly and ends up at light speed? Where in the Katas do you see it? And who doing it? I myself like the baseball metaphor... Sort of like the wind up and the pitch? The great thing about practicing slowly is that you can see the simplicity without being overwhelmed by the depth!!
Van Halen on steroids Bill??? Right on Brother!!!! Got to love it!!! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 2:21 am 
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Ok.. I watched most of his Kata.. Like Bill said, not so different from what we do.. Just different perception of techniques and driving distance I think... Everything that I do in Kata is based on a few fundamentals.. Heel to toe, Fingers at shoulder height.Elbows one fist distance from ribs, Shoulders pulled down, one rib, Tunden rocked forward, Big toe touching ground first... Now we're getting a bit advanced .. OK.. But step by step, I want to make sure that by body is in proper alignment... Why Steve??? Think about your firearms training.. It's all about 2 things.. What are they? Breath control and body alignment..You want to get the most power needed from your frame as possible at the critical moment of impact.. So do I!! :D And what I've found is that if my body is properly aligned at various stages in any Uechi Kata to the basic specs I set forward earlier, then that is exactly what I should expect..For example.. When performing any Tenshin exercise, or in Kanchin, why does the Mawashi Uke come to finish at the exact same time as you are simultaneously dropping into stance, pulling buttocks in, and locking heels and knees into a strong Sanchin stance??? Try a few times and ask Rick Sensei... Not Magic. We just try to make it look that way..

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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:26 pm 
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I'm following you both, really I am. And I'm loving the discussion. But I'm still not making myself clear. I guess the simplest way of stating it is this......when I watch people practice typical "Uechi" kata slowly, they don't look like this. I'll bring it up with Rick sensei Monday night and see if I can explain what I mean. Thanks to both of you.


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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:21 pm 
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Steve Hatfield wrote:

when I watch people practice typical "Uechi" kata slowly, they don't look like this.

I know exactly what you mean, Steve. See what I posted; that explains why. Most Uechika don't know how to combine the leg and the arm movements.

Tomoyose Ryuko once said the secret to the kata was the movement in-between the movements. Think about it.

- Bill


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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:32 am 
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Steve Hatfield wrote:
I'm following you both, really I am. And I'm loving the discussion. But I'm still not making myself clear. I guess the simplest way of stating it is this......when I watch people practice typical "Uechi" kata slowly, they don't look like this. I'll bring it up with Rick sensei Monday night and see if I can explain what I mean. Thanks to both of you.


Hi Steve,
That's something a lot of karateka, myself included, notice when they try to emulate Taiji.The reason why doing karate kata slow doesn't look like Taiji is that they are not the same. There is often a different feel to the moves that have to do with with structure, how weight is shifted to move, jings, the 13 postures and the eight techniques. I did a lot of push hands before I ever did the Yang short form and I think that's the best way for a karate person to get a feel for what's going on in the form. For example if you don't know how roll back or ward off feels then you may have a harder time doing it with the right feel in the form. FWIW A lot of Taiji folks don't actually do push hands with intent or applications and are like wet noodles in the form.

Here are some videos of applications that may connect the movements in the form to what you're looking at. Also note that there are several types of Taiji, some move slow, some move fast, some emphasize grappling and others striking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_luDzL03vw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ1OOPdk ... re=related

Now in my opinion doing kata slow is excellent but don't try to make it look like Taiji, it'll just frustrate you. Also you have to really understand what's going on in your karate, especially how the feet and hips are used to move and how to get that to work slowly which won't always be easy.

I'm rushing through this but will see if I can find some good examples over the next few days.

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 Post subject: Re: Kata practice method
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:20 am 
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Quote:
the secret to the kata was the movement in-between the movements. Think about it.

- Bill

Musicians / composers understand this very well and of course dancers.
Also think of why when we hear someone speaking in a language we do not comprehend they often seem to be speaking very
fast. Is it because we do not "hear" the pauses? My parents spoke French and my friends found they spoke without a "breath" between words. However, I could hear the silence between words. Kata is much the same and the more you can study the pauses or in-between movements the more interesting and deep it becomes.

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