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GNARL
GNARL's picture
Kihon

How important do you consider kihon training in karate? By this I mean basic techniques done in lines. Do we know if this was done in ancient Okinawa? There is an emphasis on having good "basics" in many clubs with instructors also putting great respect for having good basics. How important is this to having good technique? Isn't it already done enough in kata practice? Wouldn't we be better of training these techniques in more realistic ways on some form of impact equipment? Also, if one has achieved high rank, for example brown or black belt, is it really that important to keep training oi-zukis in every class? Would be great to get some opinions about this.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

GNARL wrote:

How important do you consider kihon training in karate? By this I mean basic techniques done in lines. Do we know if this was done in ancient Okinawa? There is an emphasis on having good "basics" in many clubs with instructors also putting great respect for having good basics. How important is this to having good technique? Isn't it already done enough in kata practice? Wouldn't we be better of training these techniques in more realistic ways on some form of impact equipment? Also, if one has achieved high rank, for example brown or black belt, is it really that important to keep training oi-zukis in every class? Would be great to get some opinions about this.

Just my own opinion, but I think the whole 'doing it lines for hours' thing is modern, there is something to be said about this kind of practice in moderation I think, over time you can see a difference in the technique of people who did this vs. those that didn't. As far as 'kihon' in general though, that doesn't just mean doing line drills, it also means fundamentals of body mechanics, impact generation, and working fundamental movements with partners etc. to my mind.

As to the historical bit, I don't know for sure (i'll bet someone here does though) i'm gonna guess that it became more common practice after the mainstreaming of Karate, where larger groups were being taught.

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi,

in the past there was just kata and the application of kata, called kumite. I once heard that the linework, a.k.a. Kihon, is just to improve single movements for kata turnaments, to make the movements look better so to speak.

You are absolutely right, it is everything in kata.

However, I use linework, but only after the introduction of a new stance or a new basic movement. After that I use the Taikyoku-form extensively. After the first movements are known I start with the Heian-Gata.

Hope that helps.

Regards Holger

Harry Mord
Harry Mord's picture
"Line work" (and all of the stylized kumite practices) are Japanese ideas and date from around 1935.
Mark B
Mark B's picture

We don't practice line work, I know many good pragmatic karateka do, its each to their own I guess. The only time technique is practiced against fresh air is during Kata.

On the subject of developing technique and impact generation, linework won't do it. There's only one way to develop good impactive technique, thats on pads, with an understanding of hip seperation, proper distancing and time on target . A good partner who can hold the pads properly is also essential, as is good honest feedback

All the best

Mark

Mark B
Mark B's picture

We don't practice line work, I know many good pragmatic karateka do, its each to their own I guess. The only time technique is practiced against fresh air is during Kata.

On the subject of developing technique and impact generation, linework won't do it. There's only one way to develop good impactive technique, thats on pads, with an understanding of hip seperation, proper distancing and time on target . A good partner who can hold the pads properly is also essential, as is good honest feedback

All the best

Mark

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Quote:
On the subject of developing technique and impact generation, linework won't do it.

A little confused by this, i didn't see anyone say line work would cut it or replace other training methods..and I imagine anyone with that opinion would be in a very small minority on this board. What I was trying to say is that 'kihon' (i.e. fundamentals) isn't just about doing things in the air, it also covers basic body mechanics, power generation, partner work etc.

In my limited time teaching people, the one place I have found partner-free kihon to be very effective is with people who come from no previous background of martial arts, or even any physical culture at all. For those people, I think line work can be a really good starting point.  I've found that people fitting this description often are not capable yet of either decent impact work, or decent partner training..in which case you have little choice other than doing this 'boring stuff' until they know how to move better.

I always find people's answers to this question perplexing, this stuff goes on in other arts and no one throws up their hands declaring it's uselessness, at least not as often. In Judo/ Jujutsu often you will practice your about-face entering for throws over and over, tai-sabaki drill etc. There are all kinds of solo training movements to be found in pretty much every martial art, i'm unsure why kihon should be different, or why it gets such a bad rap..maybe some people were just made to do too much of it! Or maybe the problem is in some cases, the kihon movements are disconnected from application?

Far as 'in the past' stuff..I figure that body mechanics, basics of movement etc. were most definitely emphasized, the difference is that the learning method and presentation was abit more..organic I guess you could say, since generally Karate training was done with much smaller groups.

GNARL
GNARL's picture

Very good points. I would say the difference why nobody throws hands up with uselessness is because its slightly more useful in other fighting arts. Step-ins for throws and basic tai-sabaki mirrors throwing fairly well. The footwork one would use in practicing footwork and the footwork one would use in throwing would be the same. In karate doing an oi-zuki might have similar patterns to real life use but feels so very different. Success in a properly done kihon type oi-zuki is graded on proper knee position, punch being centered, hips square, shoulders square and down, draw hand back with elbow pulled back, etc. It's also rigid. An oi-zuki for fighting or self defense is proven useful when it had the necessary affect, stunning or knockout. Also, it's fluid and upon completion, something new is happening. It is fine to be "rigid" in kata because you're just using it to learn ideas and principles. But when we take the moves out of kata, as in kihon, we should make them simulate real use, not more rigid kata type work. I think kihon should be steered more toward pad work, partner work, etc and far away from where most clubs are today. Boxers do "kihon" too but its fluid and looks just like what they do in a boxing match. Karate needs the same and I do believe most pragmatically minded types are doing it.

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi all,

Zach Zinn, you make some good points, as I said, its each to their own. From my experiences at a previous club we did lots of linework, but thats not where my problem lies. I didn't start hitting pads until a fellow club member started his own club, and thats when I realised how little benefit I had gained from techniques against fresh air. Hitting pads showed me that good technique against fresh air is of little use when impact equipment is placed in the way, I constantly turned my wrist, which is extremely painful, because  technique was lacking.

I agree with GNARL when he says a kihon oi-zuki is graded on different criteria, we apply that criteria to Kata and that kihon should be steered more towards pad work, each to there own, but thats how we do things.

I apply the principle of the double hip when striking pads, I had the privilige of training in a small group session  under Peter Consterdine where we drilled the technique for hours. when I show the students at our club I may slow the technique right down to show the mechanics, but we  always have a pad at the end of the technique.

GNARL mentions Boxers, if we do briefly practice a technique or combo against fresh air to look at technique it would look more a boxing club than karate, especially on thursdays, when we wear casual training kit, rather than a gi.

As I say, thats just the way we do things

All the best

mark

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Without wanting to diverge too much into a mechanics discussion, if you think there is no value to practicing the standard karate mechanics (hikite, stance etc.)..why aren't you just doing boxing in the first place? I know it sounds obnoxious but it's not intended that way, it's a serious question. I agree about impact work, it's vital .I just wonder sometimes if maybe people are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

While I think kihon line drills can certainly get misused (and is probably worthless if it's totally divorced from application), I also think there are certain things in Karate kihon..again things like hikite, shoulder position, alignment and weight distribution that are Karate specific, they aren't quite the same as boxing, at least not modern boxing.

Another part of this is, I get the impression that when you guys say "kihon" to you that basically means the standard use of line drills in Japanese Karate..this is not what kihon means to everyone I don't think. As far as criteria for what is good..there are minutiae that matter and those that don't, while certainly asthetics might not be a good goal, you can take  a quick glance at someone's stance and body mechanics in line drills and know right away whether or not they even have the basic mechanics down...not focus on asthetics required. It's a mistake to look at this kind of thing in isolation, and I don't think anyone practices line drills as something to replace impact work, like anything in Karate the different types of training have a synergistic relationship.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Zach Zinn wrote:
Another part of this is, I get the impression that when you guys say "kihon" to you that basically means the standard use of line drills in Japanese Karate..this is not what kihon means to everyone I don't think. As far as criteria for what is good..there are minutiae that matter and those that don't, while certainly asthetics might not be a good goal, you can take  a quick glance at someone's stance and body mechanics in line drills and know right away whether or not they even have the basic mechanics down...not focus on asthetics required. It's a mistake to look at this kind of thing in isolation, and I don't think anyone practices line drills as something to replace impact work, like anything in Karate the different types of training have a synergistic relationship.

Just a quick note to say that I agree with the sentiments expressed above by Zach. I think such practise can form a valuable part of the larger whole. The problem is when they are divorced from the larger whole – as they often are – and we have kihon being practised to get good at kihon. As a way to improve body motion and structure I think kihon training can be valuable. Again, it needs to be part of a whole with other methods working together to form that whole. It’s no good if it is isolated from all else or done at the exclusion of other vital methods though.

All the best,

Iain

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi all,

Zach, I don't think I stated at any point that I place no value on standard karate technique, and we place great emphasis on this when we practice Kata.  I'm not a ''boxer'', nor do I claim to be, I am a karateka and proud to be so. Just because, when practicing impact the technique may not ''look'' like karate doesn't mean weight distribution, the aesthetics of good form and technique etc. are abandoned, the opposite is true.

The application of hikite, stance etc are obvious components of kata and its application, and those principles are drilled at close quarter, with attention to detail, slowly in the initial stages, with attention paid to ''kihon''.

As I've stated previously, its each to their own, I'm not suggesting your approach is wrong, or doesn't achieve your goals, Iain agrees with you, I don't disagree, I just use a different approach to achieve basically the same goal. 

All the best

Mark 

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Mark, it occurs to me I may have sounded like I was trying to invalidate a different approach as 'not karate'..sorry if so, wasn't my intention. I understand fully where you are coming from, and I hope I didn't sound like a jerk.

It might be worth focusing on the 'traditional' bit for a moment here, there are definitely some Okinawan teachers who emphasize things like learning stepping and stance training, it differs in my limited experience from 'kihon for kihons' sake as found in muchJapanese Karate..but for sure focus on stance, posture, stepping and movement, body mechanics seem to be a part of some traditions prior to mainstream Karate.

You can even find accounts from Funakoshi and others about spending some time training by just standing and moving in stance, this kind of exercise is considered pretty vital I think to some Karateka (though maybe not a majoriy). It's often viewed I think as 'busy work' by many modern Karateka.

One thing to consider here, are kata just "libraries" of tactics, or are they also instructive in other areas, in terms of how/when to move etc.? If you only view them as collections of tactics, with mostly instruction on what to do, but little instruction on how to do it, then both kata and kihon are for the most part useless to do without a partner. If you view them as having an integrated relationship with applicaiton, where the body mechanics and movement in the kata/kihon play a central role to the application itself, then there is merit in a certain amount of 'air training'  isolating these things when it acts in support of  the other stuff.

Anyway, this is an interesting thread!

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi all,

Hey Zach, no offence taken. Again, you make some good points. When talking about proper stance and so on I do tend to cover those kind of issues during the practice of kata and application, but our conversation has set me thinking whether I could, perhaps incorporate some linework into our training, particularly techniques which would use the basic Zenkutsadachi and long cat stance, the aim being to help lower grades to ''get'' the motion and form better in isolation.

The point you raise about how kata is viewed is a sound  one, and I view them as inseperable from application, they give you the what to, how to, where to, and the best angle/position from which to do it.

Certainly showing an application ''in fresh air'' is something I would agree with, I've done it this afternoon during training, I tend to demo against air, slow, apply the given technique properly against a body, then show it slow against a body, repeating the three steps if required, as you say it isolates and supports other stuff.

All the best

Mark

GNARL
GNARL's picture

Very good point overall and I am enjoying this discussion. I think in the end we all have the same general ideas about this. There is surely merit in practicing stance, body mechanics, posture, weight transfer, etc. This should be done in isolation to learn the movements, then taken to kata, then taken a more realistic movement on pads. I think we can all agree that that systems works well to reach our karate technique goals. Is there inherent trouble, however, if we see black belt grade students who can do perfect zenkutsu dachi oi-zuki and have been for decades, but cannot use the same technique to even move a pad, bag, or human body part? Most would agree there is but the overall abundance of karate classes are reinforcing this type of training over and over and over. This, in my opinion, is the problem with basics. Instructors and students place some almost mythical value over doing them as if those who are doing their basics and can move properly do "real" karate and the rest of people training otherwise with impact work are just "non-technical brutes" and what they do will never work because of (fill in the blank with something that violates karate aesthetics). My personal opinion.

PASmith
PASmith's picture

In Shidokan we mostly do Kihon from Sanchin stance, in unison, with kiai's.

I'm not sure on the utility of that really but I do feel it lends a certain character to proceedings. There's something about group unity and cohesion that is fostered I think with that sort of unified movement. I also feel that it helps people blend into the group without feeling self conscious. It's easier to kiai in a group and so feel it can bring on a little bit of confidence.

It's not something I'd stress massively but it's a part of training I'd probably retain if I ever taught. At the very least I can rationalise it as a collection of techniques students can draw a suitable (for them) pre-emptive strike from.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

GNARL wrote:

Very good point overall and I am enjoying this discussion. I think in the end we all have the same general ideas about this. There is surely merit in practicing stance, body mechanics, posture, weight transfer, etc. This should be done in isolation to learn the movements, then taken to kata, then taken a more realistic movement on pads. I think we can all agree that that systems works well to reach our karate technique goals. Is there inherent trouble, however, if we see black belt grade students who can do perfect zenkutsu dachi oi-zuki and have been for decades, but cannot use the same technique to even move a pad, bag, or human body part? Most would agree there is but the overall abundance of karate classes are reinforcing this type of training over and over and over. This, in my opinion, is the problem with basics. Instructors and students place some almost mythical value over doing them as if those who are doing their basics and can move properly do "real" karate and the rest of people training otherwise with impact work are just "non-technical brutes" and what they do will never work because of (fill in the blank with something that violates karate aesthetics). My personal opinion.

Maybe i'm just lucky (in fact, I know I am to have the teacher and group I have to train with), but I literally don't know anyone who has done Karate kihon for years but can't move a punching bag, i've never met anyone like that  in my years of Karate training.  I'm sure plnety do exist but i'd say that's an issue with lack of training in one area, rather than the presence of the kihon training.

Quote:
Most would agree there is but the overall abundance of karate classes are reinforcing this type of training over and over and over.

Not sure I fully agree here, I see just as many classes covering up technical aspects of training by simply patching class time with lots of physical conditioning (do you  need someone to teach you pushups?) than I do time on kihon. That's just my own personal experience though..it's hard to define what "most Karate" does because actually it's quite different from place to place and teacher to teacher.

Again it really comes down to whether or not you thnk the kihon themselves are teaching something that is applicable to the impact work, the partner work, the sparring and whatever else. If you don't, and think you might as well just do the techniques, really there is no need for solo kata either, you might as well just have a list of techniques ala Jujutsu and do them that way.

Right now most of my group are  friends who are shodans or close in a style of Jujutsu, the Karate movements are different enough from what they learn in Jujutsu that isolating the solo movement is not only desirable, but totally neccessary to 'get' the stuff. I don't spend a ton of time on it, but everything we do I include a small bit of solo focus on the footwork, movement, or whatever else we are pounding out..so far it seems to be much more effective than when I was not doing it.

The other thing about this kind of training, obviously it requires active participation from both the instructor and the student, focus on just banging out 50 reps might not be nearly as beneficial as doing just ten of them with proper focus and guidance. Anything done as 'busywork'  might not be the best thing, whether it's pushup contests that takeup half the class or endless kihon, things done just to fill up time are just that - filler.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

GNARL wrote:
Most would agree there is but the overall abundance of karate classes are reinforcing this type of training over and over and over. This, in my opinion, is the problem with basics. Instructors and students place some almost mythical value over doing them as if those who are doing their basics and can move properly do "real" karate and the rest of people training otherwise with impact work are just "non-technical brutes" and what they do will never work because of (fill in the blank with something that violates karate aesthetics). My personal opinion.

I think that this is good summation of the situation as I see it. What people sometime fail to appreciate is that good basics should be what leads to effective motion and big impact. It’s when basics are practised as an isolated “end in themselves” that “functionality” is seen as an alternative to those basics. However, there should be no such disconnect as it is solid basics that result in functional motion when trained correctly and as part of a synergistic whole.

All the best,

Iain

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

I think Kihon is useful.

Given that people presumably make their own way into my dojo I have never really figured out why they can no longer seem to put one foot in front of the other when they first start. Nevertheless, some line-up work exposes those difficulties immediately and you can work on putting it right. Kihon can help develop fluid coordination of movement.

I have found that when you pair people up straight away and try to get them to do a technique, they are far more concerned with, for example, getting someone to the floor than they are with getting the technique right. Now I know that ultimately, that's what we are all more concerned with but the dojo is the place to try and get it exactly right so that you have half a chance of doing something half decent outside when the adrenalin drops. Make your mistakes in the dojo, not the street. Kihon can help with drilling precision of movement.

Much karate is overly and unnecessarily complex. However, while there may be a myriad of techniques, there are far fewer basic postures, movements and structural alignments that make them all work. Kihon can help ingrain these basic patterns of movement. Drilling works. It’s why the military do it. Drilling means that once you can no longer rationally think and you lose control of fine motor skills, (adrenalin, fear, exhaustion), your body will do what it has been drilled to do. Kihon can help ingrain basic patterns of combat structure/movement.

From what I have seen, a lot of styles will teach people to punch simply by holding up pads and having people hit them (I know I am generalising here and I do so to make a point). And that approach undoubtedly works. However, Karate takes a different approach. What karate does (or is supposed to do) is break the punch up into its component phases of trigger, release, impact.  Kihon is only concerned with the trigger phase of a punch – with the alignment, stretch reflex , torque etc, needed to fire that shot out like a bullet. You cannot train the release this way as with no target, you need to slow the shot down immediately to avoid injury; and you cannot train the impact phase – that’s what makiwara, pads and people are for. However, if you fail to put all three elements together, you’re punch will be weak. Kihon is meant to happen as well as impact work, not instead of. Used in this way, Kihon can help develop genuine impact power.

Finally, it is my opinion that you need a degree of intelligence to train in a ‘traditional’ art such as Karate because you need to be able to see the big picture. The Karate approach to combat is basically to chop it into tiny little pieces and attempt to perfect them all independently. So we have Kumite, Kihon, Kata, Ne Waza, Bunkai etc. all taught (at least initially) almost as separate units so to speak. But if you are to have any chance of using karate to its potential as the real fighting system, which it undoubtedly is, you need to be able to piece all of these separate elements back together again to make the whole. 

You see some people who have just developed on or two of the elements, say kumite, but no kata/bunkai – these people often believe, truly believe, that sparring is the closest karate element to real fighting. You get other people who do virtually no kumite (often within the same style as the previous lot) and concentrate on kata and bunkai in the firmly held belief, that these elements are the closest karate elements to real fighting. Further, you get some clubs that have bought into the 90% of fights go to the ground nonsense and place their emphasis there; others believe that no one could get them to the ground in the first place and so ignore it and concentrate wholly on stand-up.

But of course, as is usually the case, the ‘truth’ lies somewhere in the middle of all these things. For me personally, most of my experience away from the dojo has come from doorwork, and in that scenario, ‘fighting’ is much more like bunkai, than it is sparring.  Usually someone squares off, tries one big technique and you are required to deal with it and incapacitate as soon as possible – bunkai.  But, although rare, I have ended up exchanging blows with people in a free flowing format – like kumite; and, although rare, I have ended up- rolling around on the floor with people – ne-waza style.

The fact is that to be a good all-round fighter you need all of it and kihon is to my mind one of the component parts of developing a good fighter.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Great post Gavin, lots of stuff to chew on there.

I'd be interested in hearing how some people 'do' this kind of training, it occurs to me that we might all be working with something slightly different ideas in our heads when we talk about kihon movements..i'm curious what exactly this means to other people.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Fantastic post that Gavin. Thanks for sharing.

All the best,

Iain