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This is some good fun. Each drill is totally unscripted and unrehearsed- the attacker is free to attack how he chooses and the defender is responding intuitively- so there is an element of “aliveness” to it that is often lacking in traditional karate. The drill is an “integration game” that allows both partners to experiment with techniques and strategies learned in other settings in a live fashion. The student in the blue shirt has been training for one year.

On all of these E&R drills, you’ll notice that not every attempt is successful. The defender’s main rule is simple: if a response does not come naturally, disengage, reset, and start over. This encourages him to hone responses that are natural for him, instead of trying to “make” techniques work, fumbling around while the attacker simply lets him. The unsuccessful attacks are included because they are invaluable feedback that lets the defender know when something didn’t work, or could have been done differently. It’s also a good reminder that martial arts demonstrations are polished and rehearsed shows, and usually do not address the realities of dealing with an impact weapon. By leaving them in the clip, the viewer can contrast the successful strategies with the ones that fail.

When the defender is successful in controlling the attacker, note that the engagement goes until the attacker is forced to the ground, forced to tap out or is choked.

Evasion and Response Drill: Random Knife Draw

The drill begins with light free sparring and negotiation for position. The student in the attacker role is carrying a training knife at his hip, and is free to draw the weapon whenever he chooses to, ideally when the defender cannot see it. The defender’s goal is to avoid incoming attacks and either control the weapon when possible or execute a response that prevents further attacks.

The instructor draws the knife at :14, and in the second iteration the student draws the knife at :55.

Attacks are done at half speed, and while we are not “knife fighters,” the attacker’s goal is to execute realistic, continuous attacks that also involve grabbing, shoving and kicking in addition to attacking with the knife. The main purpose of this drill is to expose the student to a scenario where a knife is brought into play at random during negotiation/fighting with a violent individual. Too many karate “knife defenses” are just “karate with a knife” which does not allow the defender to develop usable skills.

Evasion and Response Drill: Long Stick

Evasion and Response: Long Stick 2

Evasion and Response Drill: Baseball Bat

The attacker is wielding a plastic baseball bat as a weapon. The defender’s goal is to avoid incoming attacks and either control the weapon when possible or execute a response that prevents further attacks.

Karate people: look for a bit Naihanchi at :40, and Heian Nidan at 1:22 .

Please watch this second video clip to put the drill into a more realistic context for bat fights:

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Boy are we on a roll lately. Some more example clips from training at the Virginia dojo last night, including agility, conditioning and SAQ drills.

Medicine Ball Arc Passes

A medicine ball conditioning and agility drill. The student in the center is standing on a wobble board to work on proprioception and balance while catching and returning the medicine ball. The other partner orbits around him in an arc, maintaining a distance of 3-5 feet. This exercise is good for developing explosiveness on the returns, balance and stability, coordination, anaerobic conditioning and agility while moving in the transverse plane. These skills build a strong foundation for free sparring and grappling encounters, as well as conditioning for the knees and ankles when they are required to cut and bound.

Agility Ladder Side Run Into Front Kick

The student begins moving sideways down the ladder towards the pad with his feet pointing straight ahead. At the appropriate distance, he changes directions, pointing both feet forwards towards the pad, and throws a front kick into the pad, attempting to maintain as much momentum as possible. The pad holder then “chases” him back up the ladder as the kicker punches continuously. The drill is intended to simulate an encounter with multiple opponents that requires the kicker to rapidly change directions while moving in order to attack a target to the side.

Kicking is often trained as if it occurs in a “vacuum.” Standing flat footed in static stances negates any momentum or agility that the student may be capable of generating. For lighter students this mobility is a crucial way to add power to the kick, making it an effective entrance and potentially disabling technique.

Agility Ladder Quick Feet Into Front Kick

The student moves down the ladder employing rebound to move as lightly and quickly as possible. At the appropriate distance, the student throws a front kick into the pad without breaking his stride, attempting to maintain as much momentum as possible. The pad holder then “chases” him back up the ladder as the kicker punches continuously. The drill is intended to simulate an encounter with multiple opponents that requires the kicker to rapidly close with an attacker for a pre-emptive strike.

Tetris Tackle Drill

A TKRI Virginia student engaging in a power and agility drill on a tape agility ladder. As the student moves laterally across the ladder, the pad holder mirrors him and follows. When the student reaches the side of the ladder, he shifts directions and moves up one square and aggressively checks the pad as he does so. At the end of the ladder, the students reverse and repeat the drill. This drill allows a student to experience applying full-body power into a target while changing directions and moving forwards. It’s designed to simulate an escape or evasion situation in which the defender needs to break through or stop an opponent from advancing.

We had a lovely night of good, hard training on Tuesday, and I brought along the camera to get some examples of our performance/power phase training on video.

The first clip demonstrates a side plank. To many, “core exercise” is interpreted as doing lots of situps. Situps target the hip flexors more than the abdominal muscles, and are actually counter productive for this purpose.  Side planks strengthen the recruitment of the abdominal obliques and associated core stabilizer muscles. The variations demonstrated here further involve the stabilizer muscles around the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee joints in conjunction with added leverage against the core muscles.

The next few clips demonstrate agility work on a tape “agility ladder.” While moving down the ladder, the student is focusing on exploiting the rebound from stored kinetic energy to move lightly and quickly but powerfully. Hitting the pad at the end of the ladder gives the student an opportunity to experience how momentum and the drop-step can produce fast, powerful punches. As the pad holder advances, the student works on employing the same stability and agility while moving backwards and throwing punches as fast as possible, using the feet to dig in to strike forward powerfully.

Dave Campbell,  shown in two of these clips, underwent complete reconstruction of his left knee two years ago. This type of training, progressing gradually from slow to full speed, has helped him to regain mobility, power and speed.

This last clip is a very short sample  of makiwara work done in a more dynamic fashion. Instead of thrusting with the body as is commonly seen in karate, the student is punching ballistically, initiating with the chest and arm to generate speed. The momentum and drive of the body is linked upon impact. Although the hips are involved as a rotational center, the drive is primarily generated by the active propulsion of the legs. The rear heel is allowed to lift and drive forward, contributing to the forward momentum and allowing stored kinetic energy to rebound into the strike. Keeping the heels flat negates the rebound, lessening the dynamism and power generated, and also encourages excessive strain on the medial aspect of the knee and compression on the posterior lumbar spine.

Thrusting with the body produces a punch that is encumbered by the agonism of the latissiumus dorsi. Although it may feel powerful, such thrusting actually lessens the velocity of the punch, subtracting substantially from the power generated.


"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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