Sunday 16 February 2014

Pedagogical differences: A brief case study of gyaku-zuki

The 'traditional' (foundational) gyaku-zuki.
  In jiyu kumite we “break the foundational rules” of kihon and kata by coming up on the toes (as opposed to keeping the feet flat). Just like a sprinter doesn’t run on their heels, being on one’s heels in a free-fighting match (or self-defence) is like turning oneself into a `sitting duck’: it is both defensively and offensively cumbersome. flat)e their body, but is eel from

So why do we train to keep the feet flat in kihon and kata? Let’s briefly look at the `traditional (foundational) gyaku-zuki’ and the `free-style version’ where the heel is raised. Please note the three photographs, the first being the `basic’/`traditional’ gyaku-zuki; the second being the freestyle gyaku-zuki—with a classical full hiki-te (pull back of the opposite hand); and the third, a simultaneous hidari gyaku-zuki with te-nagashi-uke (sweeping block)—commonly seen in jiyu-kumite matches.
The `freestyle' hidari gyaku-zuki (with nagashi-uke).

Criticism of the heel drive: Some Western karateka criticise the traditional Japanese idea of driving from the heel. And while their arguments are valid, they show a misunderstanding of the Japanese way: as they are steeped in `tunnel vision pragmatism’. I assure you that the Japanese are very aware that keeping the foot flat is not appropriate in the freestyle context. The fact of the matter is that the Japanese have shown time and time again that practicing “driving from the heel—in the foundational waza—results in better freestyle techniques”. Why? Firstly, because the foundational techniques and kata are highly restrictive; hence, when the restrictions are removed, one can move far bettere restrictive. hat the Japanesetion that they haven'  towards tr. Secondly, by keeping the heel down, one is more stable when hitting a target with full power (and the heel naturally raises without conscious effort). In this case, only practicing with the `heel raise' results in reduced balance/shock absorbance. 

Needless to say, one must not only practice the traditional/foundational versions of techniques, e.g. – the basic gyaku-zuki, but also the freestyle versions (jiyu kumite no kihon). What I am trying to say here is that "everything is about balance". Traditional and freestyle... Not one or the other...

The gapping pedagogical void: What I have consistently found, over the years of being here in Japan, is that there is often a huge void between the pedagogical approaches of Japanese and Western karateka/instructors. This is not good or bad, but I personally believe that having an open mind, and not jumping to uninformed conclusions, is the best way (especially when taking into account the language and cultural barriers, which sometimes result in technical misunderstandings). Taken as a whole, optimal development in Karate-Do will always be a balance of the foundational kihon, kata, and yakusoku kumite; and, of course, the `unrestricted' zone of jiyu-kumite training. All the very best from snowy Nippon, André.

The `freestyle' migi chudan gyaku-zuki (with hiki-te)
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

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