Friday, 11 April 2014

"Holistic Control"

Tobi mae-geri
 As I have always said, quantity is never a substitute for quality when it comes to technical karate-do practice; in particular, and most obviously, in kihon-geiko. However, quantity does count when top quality form is maintained. Now, here’s the problem…  If you are anything like me, maintaining high quality form is very difficult when high repetitions are executed—especially when exhaustion sets in. Moreover, “the injury issue” also becomes a significant concern i.e. – overuse strains, pressure on the joints, etcetera.

The golden question: So, how can high repetitions be `trained safely’ so that “good form is reinforced” and made second nature (intensely grooved into the subconscious)? The answer to this question can be found in one’s common-sense. Essentially, technical practices must be varied and ideally done according to one’s daily condition.  Now this does not necessarily mean that one does fewer repetitions on one day and more on the next—although, of course, it certainly might. Instead, it comprehensively means that one “controls the intensity of their training” on any given day—according to their physical (and/or mental/emotional state). I’d like to add here that controlling intensity is possible, however, duration is usually not—when you are participating in someone else’s class.
The bigger picture: This returns us to the title of this post `holistic control’ which, unfortunately, our common-sense sometimes blotches out: irrespective of how long we have trained. Accordingly, this meltdown can occur due to numerous factors; nonetheless, the most common include `competition with others’; excitement (i.e. – a charged up/spirited class where one gets `carried away’); a tough day at the office; insufficient junbi-taiso (preparatory exercises/warm-up); rushing ‘too far beyond one’s ability physical ability’; and `raising the bar too high’ etc.... 

Migi chudan choku-zuki.
Having, and more importantly maintaining, holistic control means that “we are really in touch with ourselves when we practice karate-do”. Returning to the specific issue of maintaining `high repetitions of quality techniques’, one (for example) could consciously attempt to reduce their power and increase their lightness of movement. Such focal strategies, based on concerted/conscientious self-control, can contribute towards developing the psychological regulatory skills needed to further refine one’s karate-do (i.e. - when participating in a spirited class of high reps and great intensity, “…if a karateka can `selectively block’ out certain environmental influences/stimuli, they can move according to their own condition”. In this way, they can potentially conserve energy whilst keeping up with the class and, in doing so, and maintain precise form). It is worth noting here that this skill can be significantly accelerated under the JKA rules of kata in the elimination rounds (where participants perform the shitei-gata and sentei-gata `side-by-side’). Doing well, following this traditional format, requires that the karateka present their kata “without being influenced by the person performing the same kata next to them”. In particular, this especially correlates to the waza no kankyu (rhythm of techniques), which again directly links to psychological control.

 On the whole, holistic control is essentially another way of explaining `SHIN GI TAI’; that is, the `Body—Mind—Spirit/Emotional’ connection. Each influences the other and, in doing so, impacts (to varying degrees) on our training. In turn, training influences our mind and spirit/emotions; again however, the level of positive influence is determined by our own conscious effort.

Making a full circle, I truly believe that people “…by proactively seeking holistic control…” can avoid a lot of imprudent injuries, increase their technical performance, acquire greater physical strength/endurance, become mentally sharper, and even gain more satisfaction from their training.
Lastly, putting this into practice… Next time you are in a class and your technique starts to wane (due to high reps, fatigue, taking a big hit, or any other factors), attempt to `better use’ your mental control to guide your body. If you conscientiously do this, your physical training will further transcend its bodily benefits. Taken as a whole, I hope this post underscores that “…in many ways, holistic control is what largely transforms karate into `Karate-Do’”.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

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