Connection to Karate Techniques are Vital

By David Gomez


If IÕve heard it once, IÕve heard every instructor IÕve ever trained with say it a thousand times, all karate techniques must have connection.

Websters Dictionary defines connection as: connection (ke nekÕshen) n. 1. a joining or being joined 2. a thing that joins 3. a relation; association

In the most obvious sense, connection with a karate technique has what is termed ÔexternalÕ expression. External in the sense that a visual analysis of your block, kick, or strike, examines the course of technique and the form of its movement. But in a less obvious way, yet of equal importance, the principle of connection also has what is termed ÔinternalÕ presence/application. It is internal in the sense of centralizing your focus (attention, mental and physical) to a specific target, balancing your center of gravity, and total body muscle contraction then relaxation (the ÔfullnessÕ of focus), while executing a technique.

The study of connection is directly related to the study of movement (known as kinematics), and much has been published on this topic (i.e.. - Karate Kinematics and Dynamics by Lester Ingber). Yet it is my intent in this simple writing to solely present a general overview, as best as I understand the principle of connection, based on nothing but observation, trial and error. I am in no way deterring the scientific study of kinematics in relation to karate. On the contrary, I encourage it. But my sole purpose here is not to explore the depths of what makes this theory work (get Lester IngberÕs book for that) but to make you aware that this theory exists and that it needs to become part of your karate.

The Three Step Process to Connection:

On countless occasions IÕve watched many karateka (one who is a practitioner of karate) in the process of learning how to move limb and body in an attempt to acquire an understanding, and ultimately a mastery, of a technique or kata (also known as formal exercise). It is the same process for the beginner, intermediate, or advanced student. First, we all learn the pattern of a kata or technique by observation and imitation. Second, we attempt to understand what these movements represent in a practical sense, and thirdly, we work at making these movements natural and effective. At this level, the entire body must then work as a unit and feel connection to the technique.

Step One - Connection by Observation and Imitation:

As we learn the pattern of a kata or technique by observation and imitation, we engage in external connection. We take the information visually received and attempt to copy them.

At first, coordination is a major issue. Your eyes communicate to your brain and your brain communicates with your muscles. At this point, itÕs usually the muscles that wonÕt cooperate. Your eyes know what they see, and your brain may, or may not, understand what it sees, yet your mind still attempts to tell your muscles what to do. With sufficient repetitious practice, you eventually achieve a reasonable facsimile of the technique youÕve been attempting to imitate. One that is somewhat pleasing to the eye, because it ÔlooksÕ right.

No one would argue the beauty of well coordinated movements. We see it in accomplished dancers, gymnast, practiced ball players, and karateka in finely executed katas. One of the greatest gifts I believe God gave us is the ability to adapt our bodies for a variety of movements. By way of visual stimulation, the first step in external connection, we can train our bodies to perform a variety of beautifully executed techniques.

Step Two - Connection by Interpretation:

After the pattern of a kata has been committed to memory, most karateka move on and attempt to understand what the techniques represent. This in and of itself is an ever growing process in that any one formal exercise or technique can be interpreted in any number of ways.

At the onset of learning a new kata, it makes most sense to attempt to find the most obvious and practical interpretations of the movements and techniques. As you attain a deeper understanding of the kata itself, most practitioners explore other plausible interpretations. This type of ÔconnectionÕ to your karate will become more and more important as your skill level increases.

I believer it is important to state one of the shortcomings commonly encountered by numerous martial artist at this point. Some stop exploring the interplay of connection within interpretation of technique and stunt their karate growth potential. They become complacent and only attain a shallow understanding of their kata and ultimately a shallow understanding of their art altogether. At all cost this must be avoided. Never grow weary of ÔstudyingÕ your art.

Step Three - Connection by Perfecting Natural Movement that Feels the Body Working as a Unit:

With the popularity of the home computer, more and more people nowadays are learning to type using a computer keyboard. That was not the case when I started to learn to type. I starting typing in high school the old fashion way. I learned on a manual typewriter. I can still remember some of the typing drills my teacher would make us do. She had given us a book that had a picture of our typewriter keyboard in it. She would ask us to keep our fingers on the typewriter keyboard and our eyes on the picture in the book. She would then call out letters of the alphabet and we were to type the letter she called out. We were not allowed to look down at our keyboard. We had to find the letter in the picture and then, without looking, use whichever finger was closest to that letter to depress the appropriate key (visual connection - step one).

Soon enough she was able to call out many letters without much delay in my response. After a while, she started to call out simple words like cat, the, hat, and car for us to type. As you can probably guess, it wasnÕt long untill she was calling out whole sentences for us to type. I learned to type by observation and dictation. I also did many drills from a book that reinforced observation as communication to my fingers which gently rested on the keyboard.

Once I got beyond learning where the letters were on the keyboard, I wanted to know why it was best to use certain fingers for certain keys. I also wanted to know why the arrangement of letters on the keyboard were laid out just the way they were (interpretation - step two).

It was at this point that I began to realize that the keyboard is set up to accommodate the group of letters that are common when writing in the English language. As to certain fingers for certain keys, it was as simple as I had been told by my teacher on the first day, ÒItÕs easiest to use the finger closest to the key you want to depress when typing.Ó With all the success I had made to this point, I still wasnÕt feeling very natural or comfortable with my typing abilities (step three: connection by perfecting natural movement that feels the body working as a unit).

I started watching my teacher, and those in my group, who I could clearly see felt comfortable as they typed. I noticed that not only were their hands on the keyboard, and that their eyes were keenly focused on following ever letter in the material being typed, but their whole bodies were involved in the process of typing. I observed that the material being typed was placed at about the same level as their eyes in order not to bend and strain their necks. I noticed both feet were flat on the floor, straight backs, relaxed shoulders, and wrist in line with the forearm above the level of the keyboard. It was apparent that their whole bodies were connected to the entire process of typing. As I began to do the same, my typing skills greatly improved.

Karateka must find the third step of connection, connection by perfecting natural movement that feels the body working as a unit, just like I had to find connection with my typing skills. It is a process that all serious karate students must undergo. If all you ever attain is external and interpretive connection (steps one and two), without pursuing a working of your entire body as a unit (step three), you will never attain a mastery of kata or technique.

Sadly, I have seen many karateka with much potential give up their interest in the martial arts at this point. They give up because continued diligence means hard work. They give up because their techniques never become natural to them. The techniques donÕt become natural because, get this, they give up. ItÕs a vicious cycle.

Regrettably, I have found in many, but not all, instances that the person prone to this terrible cycle has an even greater pertinacity to manifest this lack of diligence in many areas of their lives. It indeed saddens me to hear of a former karate student, or peer, as a person who becomes known for repeatedly giving up at any endeavor they engage in. As I am not a doctor who has studied this observation in a scientific manner, I want to make it clear that I am only stating a generalization of my observations from a vantage point of twenty plus years in the martial arts. Yet I believe, if you are this type of person, that this cycle can be overcome. With the grace and help of God, sweat and persistence on your part, you can break this stronghold in your life and be successful at whatever you put your mind to.

When it comes to connection of technique, the Japanese have a saying about studying karate that I find most remarkable. If a Japanese person wants to explain that he or she is studying karate, they say, ÒWe are strengthening our stomachs.Ó A human beings center of gravity is found slightly below the belly button. By strengthening your stomach, you come into contact with your center of gravity. As you begin to understand the feeling associated with strengthening your stomach and finding your center of gravity, you soon begin to understand the connection a technique has with your stomach and center of gravity. In essence, you are connecting your technique while pursuing natural movement that feels the body working as a unit (step three).

Total effectiveness of technique cannot be attained without step three, perfecting natural movement that feels the body working as a unit. It is a process that cannot be averted. Sometimes an individual comes into connection with a technique and performs it quickly. But for the most part, connection is a process of due diligence.

I would like to caution my readers to never take refuge in karate theory. While it is important to study why techniques work the way they do, one should train without worrying about theory. Simply put, as one of my SeniorÕs once told me, training outweighs theory.

Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan) wrote:

ÒTrain with both heart and soul without worrying about theory. Very often a man who lacks that essential quality of deadly seriousness will take refuge in theory.Ó (Gichin Funakoshi, Karate-Do My Way of Life)

The dichotomy of such a statement, and the wisdom of his experience, are displayed in such a statement. You see, it is in the training that we validate or invalidate theory itself. Not withstanding, if something works, even if it shouldnÕt, like the bumble bee whose body is to heavy for itÕs wings, yet it still flies, then...thatÕs all that matters.

Continue to Experience the Difference This Club Makes...

GKA Main Page | GKA/AJKA Instructor's Bios | Mission and Purpose Statements | Questions Often Asked | USA Team Training | Guest Book/Comments | GKA contact and location information | Links | Pictures of Students Training | Monthly Articles |