Foundations of Karate Techniques

1(The following treatise on the "FOUNDATIONS of KARATE TECHNIQUES" was taken from Suzuki Sensei's book Karate-Do. This book is strongly recommended for all serious students of Wado-ryu.)  

It is impossible to make progress in Karate without mastery of those two fundamental techniques, the punch and the kick.  Young people today often find it unbearable to repeat the same exercise over and over again but the almost monotonous repetition of basic techniques are the only sure and essential foundation for the development of effective Karate.  Many beginners arrive with dreams of marvelous skill and prowess, only to give up all too soon, as they tire of the simple, essential repetition of basic techniques.

It is no exaggeration to say that it is impossible to repeat these techniques too often.  There is infinite meaning to be gained from their repetition.  On the mental side, we build character through concentration, persistence and patience; on the physical side, we acquire bodily powers and control over our bodies.  We learn how to relax our shoulders in action, how to concentrate our energy into a single point or movement, how to twist our waist or our fists, and how to maintain perfect balance at all times.

It does not take long to acquire the foundation in principle, for this consists only of a few basic techniques; this, however, involves such profundity of skill in practice that one may say that one cannot achieve perfection (or anything near perfection), even in a whole lifetime.  Beginners should bear in mind that steady repetition of technique is crucial to development, even though this becomes a pain; it will be impossible to master advanced techniques without first internalizing the basics.

Avoid a strained punch or kick. If you are too conscious of your opponent in punching or kicking, you will tend, in punching, to move only your hand or arm, unconsciously putting your weight and power into your shoulder, and pushing your bottom out to counter-balance your body weight.  This is the worst possible posture.  Not only is your speed impaired, but your intended movement is obvious to your opponent before it happens.  In boxing, this is known as telegraphing a punch.  You cannot hope to be effective unless you overcome this tendency.

The most important point about such basic movement is that such strained movement will not knock your opponent down in one blow.  The essence of a successful punch or kick is that it is aimed at a point 8 to 10 inches inside the opponent's body.  In this way, he receives the full force of your strike.  Think of thrusting a needle firmly into a piece of paper; the hole made by your needle forms just one point, not a wide, ragged hole.

This is the kind of concentration you should aim for.  If you strike at the surface of your opponent's body, there will be no force left in your blow by the time it reaches its apex, because the effort will already be exhausted.  Concentrate all your energy on the blow, as if your entire body were one piece.

Maintain Balance: Keeping perfect balance at all times is important, especially between moves.  If balance is destroyed after a punch or kick, it is because energy has been wasted and the blow was strained.  One's weight should be concentrated in the lower part of the body, putting strength and power into the abdomen.  If the power goes through the shoulder, then your weight will be concentrated in the upper part of your body, which will make your balance top-heavy and vulnerable to upset by your opponent.

Maintain Concentration: Always concentrate your vision on your opponent, even if not looking directly at him; in practice, always imagine an opponent directly in front of you.  You must never look down, especially when blocking up or down, even if you are turning at the time.

suzukiCandleTwisting the Fist: (hineri) The karate punch is unique in that it is done with a twist.  You must learn this technique in basic practice.

The punching hand must be placed above the hipbone, with the back of the hand facing downward (hikite).  When punching, thrust it straight forward, so that your elbow touches your side.  Only just before the moment of impact does the fist turn so that the back of your hand faces upward.

At this point you must be especially careful not to lift the elbow, because if your elbow comes up you will divert some of the power of the blow into your shoulder; the direction of your punch will not be straight, and you will waste your energy in a punch which Is not sharply focused.

Points to watch in kicking: When kicking, you must not straighten the knee or lift the heel of the supporting leg.  This preserves both your balance and the power of the kick.  Without balance, you will be knocked over easily if your kick is blocked.  You must also take care not to lean over backwards with the upper part of your body when kicking.

kinckdefenseAs with punching, it is important to have the intention of using the entire body to kick.  Beginners may lean slightly forward with their upper body when practicing kicks.  It is not good to make a noise with your kicking foot when bringing it back to the floor.  That only means that you are wasting power and energy, and you will have difficulty in flowing easily into your next move.

Kick with a snapping motion, and withdraw all power from the kicking foot immediately after the kick is completed.  Draw your foot back without wasting energy and do not stamp your "foot down; this will enable you to kick several times in rapid succession if you want to, without having to alter your balance or position.  For this reason, you should prepare your kicking posture with great care.