Kumite Footwork Exercise

Are you ready for a quick kumite footwork drill that helps develop strong quads, explosive movement and agility?

AWESOME!

You’ll need a sparring partner and a pair of focus mitts.

It works like this:

  1. Partners face each other in their fighting stance at kicking range, left leg forward.
  2. The Target  holds the mitts in front of their body with palms touching (picture and imagine praying).
  3. The Fighter  waits in anticipation for the Target to present the mitt to hit.
  4. With their left hand the Target shows the mitt at a position for a front leg jodan mawashi geri  (upper level roundhouse kick).
  5. The Fighter skips up with the back foot, chambers the knee and fires off the kick, recoiling the leg and placing their foot to the ground next to their other foot, legs slightly bent at the knees.
  6. At the same time the Target EITHER shuffles backwards or pushes forwards one  slide .
  7. The Fighter must react appropriately after the kick.

In the case of a retreating Target, the Fighter pushes forwards using the loaded spring of the BACK LEG into forward stance, and delivers reverse punch.

In the case of an advancing Target, the Fighter pushes backwards by loading up the FRONT LEG and driving backwards. At the same time the Fighter must move the back foot as to regain their original fighting position, and follow with slide in reverse punch.

[HINT: Pay attention to what you/your students do after the kick! A common mistake is to fall forwards instead of recoiling the leg and driving forwards. This action leaves the fighter open for the counter. It also puts the fighter in a position unable to chase their opponent should they double-shuffle backwards. Conversely a fighter who recoils and springs forwards has momentum and can push forwards again if their opponent moves further back, breaks line, etc.]

Typically we to this exercise for 10 repetitions before changing roles, and of course then working the other side of the body. The objective is for the fighter to develop strong explosive movement, to be able to anticipate the target’s movement and react appropriately ensuring proper distance and timing for their technique.

Here’s a quick visual, just because I know you love my stick figure animations. 😉

kumite

Try it with you students and if you like this kumite drill I have a ton more of them here.

Enjoy!

— Jason

Develop Your Weak Side

How many karate-ka does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one. But he’ll do it 10,000 times with his right hand, then 10,000 times with his left.

(This is the part where you laugh.)

In all seriousness as much as we karate-ka like to think we are equally proficient on both sides of our body, the reality is we’re not.

The fact is most of us are right-side dominant, and not as coordinated as our left-handed brothers, since “lefties” have to adapt to our right-handed world.

Side note: Unless you’re left handed you probably don’t realize how much of a challenge it can be with daily tasks in a right hand world. Think about writing, scissors, tools, measuring cups, etc. For lefties, check out https://www.leftyslefthanded.com/ – You’re welcome. =)

Anyhow, let’s get back to the original point.

Typically, by nature we are a one-side dominant species. Approximately 85% of people are right-handed according to Scientific American.

But why?

Well it’s to do with the left brain controlling the right side of the body. The left brain is also what controls speech, and when the written word came to be, it was therefore natural to write with the right side.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

This explains why other primates (who can’t speak or write) don’t tend to favor their right side, yet us wacky humans do.

However one of the requisites of karate is that we train both sides equally. But how many of us seriously do that in every aspect?

ZERO would be a good guess.

Here’s why:

It would be a fair assumption most traditional karate dojo practice either Pinan or Heian kata, wouldn’t you agree?

If we look further at kata it’s apparent they were developed for defense with right side attacks first in mind. Think about the first move in any pinan/heian kata… you turn/move away from a right-handed attacker.

(A savvy reader might argue these right-handed attacks develop a strong left side defense. And I would agree… which is followed by a dominant right hand counter.)

In addition many of the finishing techniques/kiai points are made on the right side of the body. This holds true for almost every kata. This evidence reinforces karate is a right side dominant fighting system. 

Still need more convincing?

Try doing Pinan/Heian Godan as the mirror image of what you regularly practice. You’ll probably get through it, but not smoothly. There are certain techniques that you almost only ever apply with the right side of the body. And when you attempt the lefty version of these you’re bound to feel like a beginner all over.

Consider the kosa dachi/uraken kiai point in Pinan/Heian Godan, or the first move in Bassai Dai for example. How often do you practice these moves on the left side during kihon (basics) or bunkai (application) practice? I’m guessing not very often if at all.

The left photo shows the first kiai point in Pinan Godan. The right picture is a reverse image of the same technique.

With all of this in mind, it becomes apparent why lefties tend to do quite well at karate since they already have the left side dominance as a natural ability. They learn through repetition to be proficient with their right. Often times they can hit just as hard with either side of the body, or perform difficult techniques on either side without much thought.

Makes sense, yes?

And if you’re a right-handed karate-ka, guess what? Your right will almost always be stronger and more coordinated no matter how much you practice both sides equally. It has the natural advantage already. So equal numbers of reps will keep it ahead of your left, less dominant side.

So what’s the solution?

In order to feel more coordinated on your weak side, a simple exercise would be to make a list of movements from kata for which you only practice the right side of the body. Take those movements and incorporate those directly into your kihon (basics) section of class and you’ll see a marked improvement in your students’ skill sets.

For example, from yoi dachi have your students step in (on your count) to kosa dachi and make uraken per the picture above. On the next count have them return to yoi dachi. On the next count they step in with the other side of the body. Repeat.

What other techniques can you think of to practice in this manner?

Post away!

 

 

Removing Boredom from Basic Repetitions

You know as well as I that student boredom is the number one reason for students to quit karate. As karate instructors we have the responsibility to keep our students motivated, focused and working hard. However some students would rather watch paint dry than do basic reps.

BORING!

dojoSo how do you keep your class interested and still get them to do basic repetitions with the passion they once had?

It’s easy… just involve them in the learning process.

I’ll say that again just in case you missed it.

Involve them in the learning process.

This keeps them ENGAGED and INTERESTED and keeps BOREDOM on lock-down.

For example, instead of simply having your class do 20 lunge punches, followed by 20 front kicks, and then 20 back kicks, ask for your students’ involvement.

Here’s what a typical day at my dojo might sound like during the basic repetition portion of class.

“Who can name one hand technique?”, I ask.

“Oi-zuki!”, shouts one student. (That’s Japanese for lunge punch)

“Ok, great”, I say, “Who can give me another technique. This time with the legs?”

“Mawashi geri!”, shouts another. (Roundhouse kick)

“Perfect. Ok so here’s our new combination technique. First you make oi-zuki then immediately make mawashi geri off the rear leg. Ready! Ichi… Ni…. San…”

Once my class is done with the first set of 10 reps for this new combination, we switch sides and repeat. Then it’s on to the next one.

“Ok, next combination… Joseph – name a technique.”

“Mae geri”, he answers.

“Thank you. Someone else?”

“Uraken”, says Tommy.

“Ready, step forward into your fighting stance, kamae-te!”, I shout.

“Mae-geri / uraken combination on my count…. Ichi… Ni… San…”

This is a great way for you to have your students do their basic reps every class but with a twist. They never know exactly what the combination will be, so that keeps them focused and interested. It’s also a great cognitive karate exercise because they are challenged mentally to put together combinations they may never have practiced or thought about before.

You can scale up the difficulty of this exercise in the following ways:

  • increase the number of techniques per combination
  • make the combinations only hand techniques, only leg techniques, or combination hand-leg techniques
  • restrict the techniques to only one side of the body
  • etc

Your class will always be challenged no matter the skill level or experience.

What other ways can you think of to modify this exercise?

Your feedback and comments are always welcome.