We had a great class today at the dojo. It was all about the fundamentals of karate. The youth as well as the adult classes concentrated on the basic elements of karate. Our head Sensei often says, “All power comes from a good stance.” And today we worked on perfecting our stances.
Vince Lombardi, the world class football coach, famously began the first practice of the season holding a football and saying, “This is a football.” That is really getting back to the fundamentals. Similarly, John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, began every college season with a lesson on the correct way to put on socks and tie basketball shoes. After I began attending classes, I would have benefited from another class on how to tie belts!
The two coaches mentioned above always went back to the fundamentals of their sport. They also had teams that performed the fundamental tasks well. Of course both coaches are mostly remembered for their teams’ winning records. What does their focus on fundamentals have to teach us? They knew the power of applying fundamentals and reinforcing them in regular practices. They employed the power of small, daily, fundamentally correct practices with their athletes to get the best performances from the athletes that they coached.
We are a Shotokan dojo and have our roots in Okinawa where the soil is sandy. We can only imagine how difficult it is for a warrior defending his home country from foreign invaders on horseback. Now add to the situation that you have to be rooted in a good stance to defeat this foreign invader in the sand. You would have to know the fundamentals and have practiced them to make your stance. History is always written by the victor in a battle. So we know the answer. The warriors in Okinawa practiced the fundamental elements of the stance and did them well.
Today we performed very simple drills, just moving up and back on the dojo floor performing simple strikes. I know I was sweating about half way through the adult class. At random intervals we were stopped and our stances checked to ensure we had the proper fundamentals. When stopped, our Sensei pushed on us to see if we were in a good (or bad) front stance and if we were able to stand our ground. This was a great class–very technical for us with each stance and strike as well as very engaging as we had to think again about how to move in front, back and horse stance. We even had a bo staff check on our posture and knee position in our stances.
Of course today we did not learn a new kata or technique. I would imagine all who were in class today relearned lessons that were first taught to us when we were white belts. Sensei was kind enough not to start each class today saying, “This is a front stance…” We did review the basics, and if you wrote notes like I did, your fundamentals are going to be just that much better. This was an easy class from a material standpoint. It was also a fun and challenging class.
If you did not make class today the question for you is, “How is your front stance?” When you move forward are you in embusen? [Quick definition: Performance line, the floor pattern of a given Kata. Also, the head height, do you bob up and down? All Shotokan Kata will start and finish on the same spot.]
I know that I will work this week on the drills we did in class. I will pay attention to my feet referencing and how well I move backwards in a stance as well as forward.
February has been our month focused on practicing. We began focused on the three part method of Learn, Practice, Apply. We shifted our focus to answering the question How Do You Learn That New Skill? And last week we asked Are You Pursuing Mastery?. This week’s wrap up with the class on fundamentals capped off a great month for us at the dojo. We trust you are learning the fundamentals, practicing them and applying them. If you would like assistance, Sensei Mae and Sensei Glen are happy to help with the fundamentals as well as the more advanced skills. Remember, the basics done well make everything else look easy.