(In)complete Control 2 – Kinaesthetics

Despite my dislike for training to emphasise control and form there may be benefits derived from this type of training. Sean over on Gisoku Budo blog has been able to use the ‘Form Police’ approach to his advantage, in more ways than simply achieving good form and controlled technique. Sean’s blog records “training experiences and thoughts on martial arts from the perspective of an above-knee amputee”. Sean has a very inspiring post entitled Learning to walk again through karate and after reading the ‘Form Police’ post on here Sean responded.

It’s great that Sean has got so much from

“Standing in funny stances with plenty of minute correction is …. (important)…. to understanding the inherent functions of my body, especially with regards to my physical disability”

Put simply, emphasis on form in karate has benefited him immensely. By becoming aware of how his body is working (improving his kinaesthetic sense) he has been able to participate and succeed in karate and improve his general lifestyle. This is a wonderful outcome and his dedication is an example to all and gives credence to the insistence of emphasis on form.

I do wonder, however, whether the other students in his club have been so successful in understanding their inherent body functions as a result of minute corrections. Sean having to overcome the “free-swinging hinge in the middle of (his prosthesis)” to attain sufficient balance to kick from his artificial leg would surely enforce a high degree of kinaesthetic awareness to be successful. This confound the assumption that minute correction itself was responisbile for heightened boady awareness. Even if we accept that the insistance on correct form and minute correction leads to an advanced body awareness or kinaesthetic sense, which is hugely useful in martial arts training, the question is whether or not this emphasis on form provides the optimal method of attaining this?

Kata is an expression of perfect form in karate, or at least it’s an attempt. Kata performance, of course, varies in it’s execution, although there is generally a striving for it to be performed ‘just so’. The kata arena is a good example of when ‘minute correction’ in karate is rife. I can watch a lot of kata on you tube or in dojo’s, but I don’t often see very much in the way of heightened kinaesthetic sense. Quite the opposite, usually there’s very little evident, and as such the performance is rather ‘empty’. So while kata training provides plenty of emphasis on form perhaps it is not the optimal method of attaining body awareness,  it all depends on how the kata is trained I guess. When emphasising form and control throughout technique execution during kata or elasewhere, there is not necessarily any body awareness training going on. However, if the emphasis switches to focusing on feeling how we move to perform these techniques there may well be kinaesthetic training occurring.

Some people are biased to learning through body awareness, this is natural to them, others may acquire this awareness by concentrating on form and control when learning to punch, kick or whatever. If the goal involves  in transferring significant force into a target concentrating on form/control does not achieve this in an optimal manner. It’s all very well being aware of whats happening kinaesthetically, but if whats happening is of little value there’s little point in attending to it.

The question is how transferable is any body awareness knowledge gleaned from training emphasising form/control to self-protection training? But thats another post…..

5 thoughts on “(In)complete Control 2 – Kinaesthetics

  1. I think if you practice kata often enough correctly emphasising the body movements needed, then surely this must come into play instinctively in a self defence situation. Im thinking of when Sophia does her kata. It is much slower than that of most people and you can really see her body sinking and rising in relation to the techniques that are part of the kata. You can almost see the attacker. If we were all to practice in that way, Im sure it would show benefits in real partner work.

    Thinking about my problems with sanchin because I couldnt feel my core muscles, it wasn’t until Matthew showed me how to recognise that I was engaging them by the reaction of other muscles in my groin that I actually started to understand what I was doing. I can remember people adjusting my hips and saying ‘Can you feel that?’ but I just couldnt. I didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like until I was taught a different way. Unless you have a proper knowledge of physiology, you’re never going to be able to give the student the knowledge of how/what to feel by minutely correcting from a visual perspective.

  2. Hi Jon,
    I’m enjoying your blog, something new to read in my Lunch breaks.

    One thing puzzels me though ! why do you continue to train / practise kata ?
    I read the blog and your very Steve Morris orientated in your views & training philosophy, so how does the kata square with Steve’s methods ?

    Reading the comments left on the site, your students appear to be looking for the ‘fight’ to fit the Kata, and vise/ versa.
    Do you think kata can have any real life effect on how you actually fight, when the s..t, hits the fan.

    It’s a genuine question Jon, I interested why you guys would choose to spend training time on Kata.



  3. hi Rob, thanks for reading the blog mate. We don’t spend a huge amount of time training kata, but we do retain kata. Goju Karate has several kata but the whole system is supposed to be underpinned by sanchin kata. I’ve learnt more about this kata from Steve without ever having specifically trained the in kata with him. So I keep it and extrapolate from it so that our students can use it as a reminder of the Morris fundamentals. I do rather fancifully extrapolate from the kata, if you read my post on sanchin and Steve’s two posts on Turning the wheel, you’ll get an idea. I will write more about sanchin in later posts.

    It’s the only kata we tend to run through, although we refer to others. I get the students who have been with me for a long time to extrapolate from other kata to encourage lateral thinking. So I will ask them something like

    “what does saifa kata give us” they hate this kind of question as they have to think for themselves rather than get spoon fed everything. So I suppose people commenting on here probably are tryign to fit the fight to the kata, it’s what a lot of karate people do or try to do.

    I find that there is very little time in the regular classes for kata these days so we only ever do any on the ‘extra’ sessions we have at the weekends every now and then. So actual kata performance per se isn’t a big part of the training at all…….but there’ll be more in future posts.

    I am about to run a sanchin course for a karate group down south this weekend. It’s the second time I will have gone there, and there will be clinch and ground work and kicking included, this represents a significant extrapolation from the standard form. I’m certain that there are high ranking karate Shihans and sensei’s that would find my extrapolations almost sacrilegious, while there are also bound to be some that would enjoy them, even if they perhaps didn’t agree with what i say. But I’m not really bothered.

    I left the ‘traditional’ association so I could do what I wanted, which i pretty much did anyway, so we just get on with our own thing, which is very much underpinned by Steve’s approach. It’s added a huge amount to what we do.

    KB – if your kata performance emphasises useful movements and these are extrapolated to ‘fight drills’ and the like then these useful movements can be ingrained and so the kata practice has value. But IF the valuable movements are not used in ‘fight drills’ there is reduced chance of transferring these movements skills from kata practice to a fighting/self protection scenario. So the kata practice then has reduced value.

    If the kata performance is rushed and the useful movement skills are lost, then there is nothing to transfer anyway and so the kata can lose its value completely. Then it’s pointless doing the kata.

  4. Hi Jon!

    Loved the response, I really appreciate the time you’ve put into it, and of course I’m feeling very chuffed from all the good vibes from your post!

    I think you’ve hit on an extremely good point with kata, in that there’s an arguable sense of pointlessness unless you combine appropriate application and drills to your kata. The extent to which you can do this is still something new to me – in the previous style I trained in, we were taught a basic explanation of what we were doing, and I simply continued with that.

    I’ve written a couple of blogs over the last month or so detailing the new insight I’ve been learning through some expanded kata applications and theory. It’s amazing what is actually in there, even something as deceptive as Heian Shodan in Shotokan can hold a great number of practical applications (see my blog for details, I posted a link back to another blog yesterday that demonstrates this). We’ve also started training in flowing kata drills, where the applications for different techniques are taught to flow from one to another in a practical sparring application in-class, but with real effectiveness within the context of a self-defense situation.

    So for me, this level of insight is quite new, but I’m finding it very rewarding looking into the way these static movements actually translate into grabs, chokes, holds, strikes, combinations and so forth.

    Keep it up Jon, really enjoying your blog!

  5. Pingback: Kinaesthesis and Proprioception 1 – describing the feeling « EPIC martial arts Blog

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