January, 2010: Karate Speed Zones

Karate Speed Zones is a topic mentioned by Hanshi Duessel during his last visit in Hackettstown during our seminars. I had heard him talk about his concept previously on a number of occasions. After he returned to Pittsburgh, I decided to investigate this principle further (there is nothing like an idea who’s time has come). We must understand this critical concept, if we are going to advance in Isshin-ryu Karate. The same holds true in the way we learn as we progress from one grade in school to another (ranks white belt through green belt in the dojo), through high school (ranks purple belt through brown belt levels in the dojo), into college (ranks Sho Dan through San Dan in the dojo) and beyond (instructor’s and master’s titles awarded because of ability and dedication Renshi-go, Kyoshi-go & Hanshi-go).

We are aware of Hanshi’s quotation: “Speed+Form = Power”. As we think about it and the speed zones, why does one person learn more easily than another, progressing through the ranks more quickly and why does one person’s technique hit the target during sparring and another’s is blocked? One piece of the puzzle is speed. Another piece of the puzzle is timing. Yet other pieces are using the proper technique with the proper weapon to attack the appropriate target. Would a Pittsburgh Pirate baseball player try to hit a home run using the handle of a broom or a wiffle ball bat? The icing on the cake is developing the ability to use the proper training techniques at each rank, combined with the proper comprehension level and applying all of what has been mentioned with the appropriate speed and form. Trying to learn or advance too quickly generally slows one’s progress, rather than speeding it up.

As the sensei instructs the movements in kihon, kata, kobudo and kumite, remember how each movement and combination of movements is taught. That is the proper beginning learning speed. Do every part of each technique before beginning the next one. Resist the desire to move more quickly that the sensei instructs by trying to imitate the way the more advanced ranks perform the techniques you are learning. Make sure that each stance is set before the technique is delivered. With practice the individual techniques will join into combinations and movements will become more refined. Gradual progress, proper training and time will ultimately create simultaneous blocks and counters with speed, form, balance and focus. At higher levels the student will be able to “see” the opponent and the attack thus making his or her practice and performance “alive”.

Physical strength and conditioning are important as we develop into adulthood. As we condition our bodies, we remain healthy, strong and alert. A thought worth viewing is, what is physically strong for one person is weak for another. At this point in my life, I have not bench pressed 275 pounds in years but I now do more repetitions and sets than I did when I was younger. “Staying” strength is now more important than knowing that I can move a relatively heavy weight a moderately short distance. (But it was impressive, at least to me, then). Emphasize conditioning and flexibility because these qualities are the skills that will help us throughout our entire lives. With time our youth’s strength, speed and quickness refocuses on maturity’s enthusiasm, technique and timing to succeed. As is stated at the end of Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses”:

We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are,
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

At times illness and injury may limit our physical activity. If this happens we either take time off or we continue to train, doing what we can to advance the capabilities we are able to use. Working through injuries when appropriate, knowing no further injury will occur if we do what is reasonable, is a sign of maturity, dedication and discipline.

So, with all this being said, what must be understood if we are to use the proper speed zone? Strive to follow the direction of the sensei that knows how to best help each of us to improve. Practice daily demonstrating the proper way to do kihon, kata and kobudo and at the appropriate speed. When in the dojo, use the time efficiently; arrive early and be ready to start at the beginning of each training session. Practice what you have been taught and be open to improve when instructed. Lastly, have a beginners mind; be open to learn and review the skills you may feel that you know (perfectly). With this open and willing mind, each person will be able to learn more (happily) and become an exceptional karate student and person.

The first karate tournament of the year is at Warren Hills High School – – Sunday, February 14th.  I hope many of you will be able to attend.  I have pre-registration forms.

Please pay the beginning of each month

If paying monthly with more than one std. per family  – – additional student is a $10 reduction / month.

Those students that have paid for more than one month, the new rates will begin with the next payment.

Posted in Dojo Newsletter, Training & Inspiration.