Recently we had a visitor at my dojo who was watching our Kata training. They were interested in classes and showed up on a day when we were working our Kata deeper than normal, studying the principles, breathing methods and use of body dynamics to generate power and Kime (focus). During these types of classes I go around to each student and test their focus and composure by striking set areas of their bodies during the Kata movements. After the class was over I met with the interested student and the first question they asked was “Why do you HIT your students”?
First off I don’t “hit” my students. The method of conditioning we were doing that day has been around before any of us teaching Karate today have been. It is part of the development of the Kata cycle and helps the student to learn fine muscle control, focus and development of their fighting ability. Students are never struck full force and beginners are always struck lightly. As the student progresses in rank and ability they will be hit a bit harder but, by that time, they are prepared for it.
The person visiting was a black belt from another area school and, through our conversation, they had never been hit in their training, especially during Kata. This student felt that what they saw was abuse which made me chuckle a bit. It is conditioning the body, not abuse. Abuse is when a person gets joy out of harming others and does with that intent, not to mention they hit others very hard with malicious intent. None of that takes place in my dojo at any time. My students are struck in a predefined manner during training, targeting areas that are weak to strengthen them. It begins lightly and progresses to harder hits but, as I stated before, we never strike full force. That is not the goal of this type of training.
So what is the goal then? He had asked. It is to condition the body to take strikes, learn how to ground one’s self for self defense and teaches you how to focus on the task at hand and ignore the outside influences. It is simply training to be prepared to fight. In a real fight if you focus on the hits you take you WILL LOSE. Learning to ignore a bit of pain, to move beyond on it and focus on taking the attacker out is very important in self defense training. This is achieved in many methods in a good dojo and one of those ways is Kata conditioning.
The funny thing is that beginners often freak out a bit but eventually love getting hit by Sensei during Kata. Why? Personally I have no idea but I think some of it is because they FEEL the improvement and begin to enjoy pushing their limits. I am pretty sure that was the case for me when I was a Kyu rank (below black belt) and even beyond.
So, in short, I don’t hit my students. I condition them. Don’t freak out when you witness this because they know it is happening and it is never malicious. One very neat thing about this type of training is that it definitely shows your weak points and builds them into strength, which is part of what Karate training awesome!
Train hard, enjoy the Kata and seek to always improve.
Steven Franz, Rokudan
Shorin Ryu Shorinkan