Tuesday 1 June 2010

Focusing on what really matters

I am deeply thankful that my late teacher Shuseki Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai many times advised me on "How to teach karate correctly". And probably the biggest point that he emphasized when instructing others, was 'focusing on what really matters'.

Asai Sensei didn't mind if you did things a little differently, as long as it didn't 'interfere too much' with the application he wanted to teach you. Probably needless to say, this is 'very unique amongst traditional Japanese karate instructors of his generation', (who often get fixated on correcting the most irrelevant details, typically seeking "the look" they prefer). And now, more problematically, merely to "win the gold medal".
As a result, Sensei could teach many variations of techniques and kata as his focus was on the practical application of karate movements, as opposed to merely appearing sharp, or looking a certain way to win shiny plastic cups. This is something I have always assimilated as an instructor. Of course precise form still matters, but this, more than often goes overboard, especially within Shotokan circles. Beyond shodan (first degree black belt) form must not swallow up the effectiveness of karate itself (as a practical martial art of self-defense).

I'd like to conclude by saying that I am by no means claiming "form is not important", of course it is! Sure, we must constantly seek to move more efficiently, and more precisely. However, this should not cause karate instructors, and more experienced practitioners in general, to become so consumed by precision that, in actuality, effectiveness is low-priority within ones training agenda. Whether training or teaching others, first and fore mostly, "focus on what really matters", then everything else will fall into place.
Best regards from Oita, Japan. - André

© André Bertel, Japan 2010.

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