After years of training in Goju Ryu Karate I needed more than what I was getting, I went out and got it. One of the things that really used to niggle was the insistence on inch perfect stances or dachi in Japanese. All the moving basics that served as stance practice was also irritating and detracting from the good stuff. This involved shuffling around as forcefully as possible from one stance to the next. The upshot was a completely unnatural, sub-optimal mode of moving between strictly defined standing positions or stances.
Now don’t get me wrong, at the time I enjoyed a good session of bashing out rep after rep of kicks and punching combinations up and down the dojo, it was always a good workout. But you do wonder about the value of such training. Sure your technique is good, or form rather, which is not the same thing. The trouble is while you can hit hard it’s all very effortful, whereas others are able to hit harder without so much effort, this becomes bothersome.
Anyone with any experience of karate or watching it will be aware of the nonsensical movements of practices such as 3 step sparring and it’s spin offs. I’m not a fan and really time could be much more constructively spent.
I came across a site the other day which exemplifies Karate’s over-insistance on strict form over function. This site has clear illustrations of ‘perfecft’ Goju Ryu Dachi, there are so many and they are so precise it’s all a bit of a shame. Confusing for a beginner and irritating for the more experienced, the real shame is that the act of moving between positions is, of course, necesarry and can be used in the development of power.
For instance, moving from a long stance to a short stance, say zenkutsu to sanchin, creates force through momentum. Furthermore, moving from the short cat stance, neko ashi dachi, which opens the hip slightly into a long stance such as zenkutsu dachi allows a greater potential for opening and closing at the hip and therfore potential to produce more power.
While there is potential within these movements for power to be produced, the trouble is so much credence is given to the actual structure, or form of the stances and feet placement that so much of the ‘internal’ aspect is lost. All the focus is on the feet when really it would be better used elsewhere in the body where the real power can be actioned from the opening and closing.
Karate training such as moving basics has potential to teach people to produce power, and some people naturally can do so, but it is in spite of the training rather than because of it. Stringently emphasising foot placement over other practises is getting it all inside out.
It would be much better to have someone practise opening and closing the waist at the hip and doing so while moving forward by taking a long-to-short shuffle step. By concentrating on these movements rather than correct stance, constructed of foot position and rigidly defined posture, the learner’s feet and posture will gradually take care of itself. Sure they will need pointers but what they don’t need is an idealised form forced onto them. Then of course you would need to practice this movement in sparring or partner work.
Put simply, people are built differently, those with short legs will struggle to have a long enough zenkutsu dachi or low enough neko ashi dachi for some Goju Ryu Karate teachers, no matter how hard they try.