The Importance of proper exercise for Karate.
By Sensei Lorne Bruch, 2nd dan (http://www.elitechitoryu.ca/)
Article Commentary by Sensei Jason Armstrong:
Fitness: Is it necessary for a real fight?
If one does encounter a real fight should fitness be an issue? The answer is no - as we train in karate to end any encounter within seconds to 1 minute. If the fight lasts longer than that we have not performed well. Despite this, fitness is a key part of mind and body development, and it allows one to push the body, and hence the mind, in training to develop technique and determination under physical hardship. Therefore, despite having little relevance to most street fight scenarios it is an important part of our training as Sensei Lorne describes below.
Main Article by Sensei Lorne Bunch follows....
Conditioning exercises play an important role in all styles of Martial Arts, and yet are often disregarded in many dojos in an effort to make more time for basic training. Many modern day schools have eliminated exercise from their training regiment completely. As well as being a huge fundamental error in Karate training, this is dangerous to the student and over time will most likely cause serious injury. Conditioning the body before karate training is an absolute necessity, and each exercise should have a direct correlation to the motions in practice.
There are four basic fundamentals in respect to executing proper form in exercise - breathing, technique, relaxation and tension. If all basic fundamentals do not enter harmoniously into the exercise, the necessary elements of speed and force in all motions will suffer.
Although often overlooked as an essential part of any exercise, breathing plays an important role to those who study Karate do. Not only does proper breathing technique help relax and focus the students efforts but it also plays a key role in timing the oxygenation of cells and the expulsion of carbon dioxide. This factor alone aids in the minimization of fatigue and undue stress on the body. Controlled breathing helps regulate the heart as the intensity of the exercise increases, helping to increase stamina.
Each exercise begins with the body in a relaxed state yet upright and alert. Before the stretch is executed a quick breath in through the nose taking in as much air as possible is required and simultaneously a slight tightening of the abdominal area occurs. As the stretch begins, air is forced out by the diaphragm in a controlled manner. When dynamic tension is required at the end of the stretch the air is expelled "almost" completely at the exact moment of tension. It is this principle of timing breathing, relaxation and tension with proper technique that enables a student to develop extremely fast and powerful motions.
Proper technique begins first and foremost with proper instruction and continuous effort on the part of the student. As well as maximizing the positive effects of an exercise a commitment to proper form maintains the integrity of the motions involved. Because of the direct correlation of exercise to motions preformed during practice, if the integrity of a stretch relating directly to the form of a side kick is compromised, then the form required for the kick is also compromised. There are no exceptions to this basic rule of martial art exercise. In Karate no motion is useless, wasted or without purpose, and all have a logical relation to practical training.
Relaxation and tension are the most important training elements utilized to produce both tremendous speed and force. Stretching the bodies muscles over time leads to relaxation of the muscle tissue. A relaxed muscle carries with it no resistance when performing a motion thus, resulting in speed. Proper timing of dynamic tension at the end (or impact point) of the motion results in tremendous power. Motions are practiced diligently using fast relaxed execution until the impact point. By tensing the body at impact and relaxing immediately after, the force of the entire body is delivered through the weapon (hand foot etc.) into the target. It is important to note that delivering the motion in this manner causes the target to receive all the force, the deliverer receives very little.
In Karate, most schools of thought follow the premise that during an altercation, the attackers motion is blocked and an opportunity for a counter attack is created by the defender. Combining force as outlined above personifies the idea that only one counter attack is necessary to end the altercation.
If both exercise routines and motions are practiced in this manner, the effectiveness of all training is maximized, brining out the full potential of the students skill.