Friday, March 25, 2011

Training Methods: Rocky versus Karate Kid

So which do you prefer?
  • Mary Ann or Ginger?
  • Trek or Wars?
  • Connery or Niven or Moore or Dalton or Brosnan or Craig?
  • Diane Chambers or Rebecca Howe
  • “Wax on, wax off” or “Put on the jacket, take off the jacket”
Everyone who understands these options, has a preference. Niven? Seriously? I always preferred Connery, but changed to Brosnan after “The World is Not Enough”; Craig hasn’t won me over yet.

The last set in the list above entered our lexicon via the Karate Kid movies; the former in 1984 and the latter in 2010. I’m a wax on, wax off kind a guy, only because the movement of the hands as demonstrated by Mr. Miyagi are more easily understood by martial art students than the complicated windmill actions of Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). Now contrast these memorable scenes from any of the six Rocky, i.e. Sylvestor Stallone movies.

In all of the Rocky flicks (the last three of which truly were Picture Horror Shows!), the predominant message was that tough, tough physical training along with a heavy dose of ambition is the key to success. Thus begs the question; should karate classes be more about physical conditioning or more about technique (e.g. hyung, One Step Sparring, Ho Sin Sul, etc...).

My classes always start out with a heavy dose of physical exertion. This includes stretching and limbering, as well as calisthenics, and a lot of work on basics such as blocking, striking, and kicking. My own children, both Black Belts, claim that I can't take my own class. Jerks.

Self defense requires physical fitness, stamina, strength, and endurance. One of the best outcomes of a hard workout is learning that your body can go further than you think possible - you just need someone to push you beyond your self-imposed limits.

But … timing is more important than speed, distance trumps stamina, and precision wins over power.

To be clear, speed, stamina, and power are important and conditioning will improve these attributes - but an artist’s effectiveness will quickly plateau if these are over emphasized in training.

Repetitious work with hyung (Forms / Kata / Patterns ) reinforces the almost instinctive reactive motions that improve balance, technique and precision. One Step Sparring is an excellent tool for developing timing and distance.

As a student or instructor, if you’re wondering how to allocate class time - favor hyung and technique practice over pure exercise and physical conditioning. Yes, those are important, but the repetition of technique, balance, timing, and distance will make the difference in both tournament competition as well as actual physical confrontation.

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