Friday 24 March 2023

筋肉の記憶 (Kiniku no kioku) - MUSCLE MEMORY

Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei countering Yahara Mikio Sensei. Nakayama Sensei's 'tokui' was ukewaza.
 Today I'd like to talk about  筋肉の記憶 (Kiniku no kioku) also referred to as マッスルメモリー (MUSCLE MEMORY). To begin this article, let’s begin with a dictionary definition. 


muscle mem·ory

[muscle memory]


1. the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement:

"typing relies heavily on muscle memory" · "the secret to learning a technique like this is to do it over and over again until you have developed muscle memory"



So, with many repetitions, our muscles eventually remember various movements, techniques and positions. It also relates to how relaxed (or ‘incorrectly tense’ in the words of Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei) our muscles are, especially in relation to full speed motions under pressure (and, what I refer to as ‘red-line’ actions: where we are pushing to exceed our maximum explosiveness). Needless to say, when I practice and teach, all of this goes hand-in-hand. We'll get into that more later.


The key aspect of all of this is ‘THE INCREASE OF REACTION SPEED WITH OPTIMAL ACTIONS’, when under maximum pressure.


Accordingly, training new waza must be done extremely carefully and methodically. Otherwise, bad habits will need to un-learned later down the track. Sadly, and in reality, while not impossible, this is extremely difficult unless one is extremely determined. On a bright note, I’ve had the pleasure of helping many high-level karateka do exactly this.

This is also one of the key points behind supplementing our standard JKA style Shotokan with Asai Sensei's 'bujutsu extension' of it. As he said himself, "the koten (bujutsu)-gata are a blank slate, which function to further one's skill. This is why the more standardized 'JKF'/'WKF' versions of these kata, for the most part, remove their value. But this is the subject for another article, so I'll leave that there.   

Asai Sensei countering Kagawa Sensei. 

To be brutally honest, it is so common to see people training very hard and giving their best, yet actually making their karate worse. I am not talking about exterior looks here, but actual effectiveness outside the realm of the dojo and shiai-jo. This is a major problem around the world, and elucidates why "...access to top level training, feedback coupled with corrections and/or refinement is utterly imperative". Because, in this way, WHAT IS GROOVED INTO MUSCLE MEMORY IS ‘OPTIMAL WAZA’.

It is important to always remember that 筋肉の記憶 (Kiniku no kioku) or 'Muscle Memory' is essential, but it can also mean the grooving of bad habits.

For those seeking the Budo way of Shotokan and Karate as Bujutsu, if serious, you are welcome to apply to come to Japan and train as a renshusei here in Oita City. Those who have done this have greatly improved their karate skill by learning optimal actions and underpinning elements: that are simply not taught outside the most elite training sessions here in Japan. Furthermore, these aspects (with the exception of those who are uchideshi of top-level Japanese masters) are not shared with non-Japanese practitioners.

Asai Sensei and Enoeda Sensei (Early 1960s).

The name of my group IKS has a strong meaning and message. I-K-S: INTERNATIONAL (all people from ALL countries), KARATE (OUR art), and SHOTOKAN (OUR style). Therefore, the 'prime technical priority' is correct 筋肉の記憶 (Muscle Memory) -- of karate-waza -- for all Japanese karateka, and everyone outside Japan also. This not only benefits non-Japanese Shotokan karateka, but also Shotokan karateka here in Nippon. OSU, André

 ©️ Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

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