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The way our bodies move is the basis of all karate technique.  Our training should include methods to correct postural imbalances, which inevitably inhibit movement.  Too many older martial artists cripple around from years of abusing their bodies and just “pushing through” the pain.  That’s not fighting spirit, it’s just stupid.

Correct alignment, or being “stacked,” is the beginning of efficient body use. We have to learn the feeling of being truly balanced.  I used to think having good balance was a technique, like juggling.  If only I practiced enough, I would get it.  That’s not the case.

Everything about our posture and movement has to do with muscle conditioning.  Without using muscle, we would just be a pile of bones on the floor.  Our bodies are designed to function a certain way.  If muscles are too tight, they can limit our range of motion.  Also, we get in the habit of using the wrong muscles for a particular movement, because the right ones aren’t strong enough.  The more we move that way, the worse the problem gets.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Irregular movement patterns, or “compensations,” are signs of dysfunction.  I’ve been working with Bob to correct the problem of my right foot turning out.  This occurs primarily because I’m using my hip flexors, instead of glutes and hamstrings to stabilize.  So, we begin with SMR (Self-Myofascial Release) using the foam roller and stretching to “turn down” those hip flexors.  Then, we do specific exercises to strengthen the “underactive” glutes and hamstrings, like Romanian deadlifts.

My balance has improved, and I feel less strain in my knees and hips.  Ironically, as my muscles become more conditioned, I experience fewer “feelings” of muscular strength.  When things are working the way they’re supposed to, I’m just moving around fluidly and not really feeling where my power comes from.

Unfortunately, this condition is not permanent.  We must continually maintain proper function and work to correct any irregularities that arise.  Fighting is tough.  If we train realistically at all, our bodies will have to endure a certain amount of punishment.  And, we are likely to develop some new bad habits down the road.  It’s an ongoing process.

We occasionally use the drills in this video to enhance our balance, stability, and our ability to use our legs eccentrically to control ground reaction forces. A great many injuries in athletics result from poor balance, and from under developed eccentric and isometric control of the body. This is especially true when moving in the frontal and transverse planes. People tend to emphasize sagittal plane movements like squats, push ups, cable pulls, and bench presses in the gym while forgetting that fighting requires that we are able to control our movements in all three planes. These drills are designed to help address these issues prior to engaging in activities that emphasize agility and quickness.

There is a very informative article addressing training strategies to help prevent ACL injuries in athletes on the PhysicalTherapist.com site. Here is a brief excerpt:

ACL injuries are becoming ridiculously common amongst athletes from the junior high/high school level on through the professional levels of all sports. My personal thoughts on this issue have a lot to do with the poor training programs most of these kids go through. I won’t go there so much in this article, but want I want to look at is how best to prevent knee injuries from jumping.

The act of jumping and leaving the floor is not so much the problem. It’s the fact that what goes up must come down, and it’s not always pretty when it does. Landing incorrectly, with the knees in valgus, is a major cause of ACL injuries. Knee hyperextension is the other common cause of injury, but is a bit of a different animal. Hyper extension injuries are often the result of an inability to control the knee during deceleration so the body tries to pull out of rapid knee flexion and ends up over correcting into hyper extension. With these non-contact injuries, poor strength is usually at the root of the problem. This article will examine strength training as a way to combat ACL injuries.

Click here to read the rest.

The Effectiveness of Tai Chi on Improving Balance in Older Adults: An Evidence Based Review.
Published in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy by Sachiko Komagata PT, and Roberta Newton PT, PhD.

Click here to read.


"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin

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