Several students at the dojo are getting ready to have a belt test. The question being asked is how is your practicing going? Answers vary from “not well” to “I ran my kata 4 times today.” The question I want to ask is how do you practice?I recently heard the story of Ben Hogan and his remarkable career in golf (you can read the story by clicking here). My Dad had Ben Hogan golf clubs and I had no idea who he was until after I heard this story. When you read the story, you learn he was a pro golfer who served in WWII, came back and was at the top of his career. Tragedy struck and his car and a Greyhound bus collided leaving him close to death. He not only learned to walk again after the accident, he won the triple crown of golf within four years of the accident.
How does this relate to the question of how do you practice? The article from the Ben Hogan museum says, “Hogan was known for his demanding practice regimen.” Of course the movie version of his practice regime was skipped as it is highly repetitive, full of discipline and focused work. That makes me wonder what our legacy of karate will be. Will we be able to say (your name) was known for his or her demanding practice regimen? Or more likely, “they said they wish they had spent more time practicing prior to the test”?
Here is an outside view on practicing from Ernest S. Williams in his preface to The Secret of Technique-Preservation, a book for trumpet players. In that book he wrote:
- “All practicing should preferably be done when the performer is fresh and alert; but there should not be any ‘let down’ of the daily routine, even if some mental or physical fatigue is felt.”
- “The first moment of the daily practice period must be devoted to ‘finding the technique anew.’”
To paraphrase Ernest S. Williams, his final advice is to practice when you perform and perform correctly when you practice. He would have made a good karate sensei.
I am practicing for a test as well. I know that my effort is unlikely to equal Ben Hogan’s or even what it should be. Yes, I am working to pass the test. I practice daily. I have been practicing with intensity for the last month or so. As I have stepped up the intensity, the one thing that has struck me is that the more I practice, the more I discover about my kata and how the kata relates to other aspects of the test and karate. Pass or fail, the practice has been good for me.
I am interested in hearing how you go about practicing. Here is what I have been doing for the last month or so. I have a membership to a local LA Fitness and in the morning I spend quality time on the gym floor with some mirrors and several heavy 110 pound bags running kata.Here is my routine:
- I generally run, warm up the arms and legs similar to our normal class structure, and lightly stretch.
- I have a favorite blocking drill that I went over with one of the classes today that daily reminds me of how to execute blocks and strikes. I have to discover how to block and punch daily!
- Then I run the katas needed for the test. I generally pick a different direction after running all of the test katas in succession to run them again.
- When I make a mistake or need to improve, I stop, rehearse the “broken” section and then re-perform the whole kata.
- The weapon katas are run using a small stick, a towel or anything else I have at the time. I do not bring my weapons to the gym. When the weather is nice, I do run the weapons outside and indoors I use some of the weapons to ensure my wrists are in the proper shape.
- At the heavy bags I perform my 100 punches and practice self-defense by hitting the bag at the appropriate time.
- I vary the speed of the workout from fast to slow to examine how and what I am doing when running kata.