Karate at a higher level
by Sensei Neil Prime

There comes a time in your karate training when you have to look beyond the simple kick, punch, and blocking techniques that we practice on a regular basis. It is obvious that an advanced technique will be more efficient and effective than a basic technique. But how do we get to this end result and how do when know when we have a strong enough understanding of the basic techniques to now take these basics to a higher level?

To teach at a higher level, there must be a higher level of understanding of what the implications of the technique are. Physical strength and natural abilities will only carry a karateka so far. Unless you have a complete understanding of the techniques practiced you will never be able to reach beyond an average or above average plateau.

Understanding a block is much more than just moving your arm to stop a technique from hitting you. There is total body movement involved. This requires knowledge of how the body moves. There is timing and distancing involved. This requires knowledge of reading the technique being delivered. There is a certain amount of strength involved. This requires physical conditioning. There is confidence involved. This requires practice and knowledge of all the above to a point where you know in your mind, without a thought or doubt that you can redirect the technique being fired at you by your opponent.

This understanding of the technique can never be fully taught by your sensei. You can be led in the right direction, but you will have to attain much of it yourself with the guidance of your sensei.

Through the years of training I have made a few discoveries. There is always a cute little philosophical saying that goes along with each discovery but basically I find that only through wanting to be at a higher level will you ever reach your goals.

When I train and when I teach I have great respect for the most minute details. To teach this doesn’t always mean that the student will fully understand. True again that they may not always be able to perform in the intended manner. But what is important is that the “concept” of the technique is also taught and learned in the early process so that the student will have more insight to the advanced form. This will help ease the transition from basic to advanced. This will mean the difference of looking and seeing the difference between basic and advanced in another person. This will make the student feel the difference when their own body starts to make these transitions. This will help in the understanding of effortlessness. This will inevitably help you gain the confidence required to perform at the highest possible level.

To learn at an advanced level you must be willing to receive and analyze.

Don’t mistake this for doubting the ability of the technique or the teacher. You have to be very rational in your judgement and if there is a hint of uncertainty in your rationalization then you have to explore further. In other words, you have more knowledge to gain through more training. This is like proving your theories or “gut feelings”. Without reasonable explanation or cold hard facts, you must accept the teachings as face value… for the time being.

I bring this up because sometimes people tend to become narrow sighted with knowledge. This seems to be an oxy-moron or sorts, but it happens.

Once you get beyond this you must be able to put the mechanics together which indeed is another great feat. Understanding a bit about kinetics and physiology helps. Although feeling the difference works too, I think understanding why your technique improves with certain body motions helps gain a higher understanding.

There is more to karate training than physical combat. Many strong fighters have lost to a smart fighter. Many strong fighters don’t look at the mental aspect of the martial arts, leaving out a very important part of your ultimate degree. If you don’t build mental strength with the physical, you can be easily led off your path through frustration.

I know I have much work yet to do in my personal training. The positive point here is that I’m glad as I enter my 22nd year of training that I still realize this, more now than ever. The scary part is not knowing how long forever is, because I feel at the rate I’m going it’s going to take me forever to get it right!

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