On Monday night at JKA Oita, after finishing my kata practice at the back of the class, I called over two of the black belts to join me at the rear of the dojo. I’d watched their jiyu kumite and decided to help them with their respective kamae.
Their kamae were too low and fists pointed incorrectly, which meant they were highly exposed against an opponent with a correct kamae. Likewise, sometimes they made their kamae too high. Accordingly, I fought with them both and demonstrated the incorrect kamae (that they were using up until this session). In this way, they could compare and contrast between what they have been doing, and what I was showing them. I also taught them how the kamae most effectively changes according to maai, their size, the opponent(s) size(s), positioning/angles and circumstance; furthermore, the criticality of unsoku/ashi-hakobi (footwork) in relation to these aspects.
Straight away, from their expression and determination in practice, they ascertained that my point was essential: as when they fought me they could not hit me, nor realize my attacks until they felt them land. Of course, I attacked with full-technique; however—as always—I did not cause any damage.
After several rounds of the jiyu-kumite with them both, and with each other, their defense capacities were unsurprisingly improved, as were their attacks. Actually, their jiyu-kumite was 100% better. Overall, it was great for me to see them enhance their defensive and offensive abilities; moreover, the smiles that followed. I have a saying when I teach, “the best compliment is when one themselves knows that they have improved”.
To wrap up, I’d just like to stress a couple of things. Firstly and generally speaking, simple matters count! Funakoshi Gichin Sensei stated that “Victory and defeat hangs on simple matters”. Indeed, this goes far beyond Karate-Do: it is a life-skill. If you not only do the simple things right, but do them extremely well, you are putting yourself in a strong position of chance (for whatever you are trying to achieve). The alternative of this is to have ‘very little chance’. Needless to say, relying on ‘lucky chances’, ‘flukes’, ‘easy circumstances’, or the like, is not an intelligent way to achieve any goals: or live life for that matter! Success is always about hard work; determination; entering into uncomfortable places—outside of one’s comfort zone—in order to go to the next level; and, of course, plenty of guts/strong spirit.
Secondly, and more specifically pertaining to your kamae: it is utterly essential to have self-awareness. What I mean here is that often we think/believe we are doing the most simple things well, when in actuality we are not. In reality, this is a very human thing, and is ‘a work in process for everyone’. Of course, no one is exempt from this. Certainly, in the case of ‘the simple matter of having a good kamae’, there is no time to waste, especially if you are like me and you care about your dental expenses.