Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On September - 28 - 2013

music-head-converted-copy_edited-11Stevie Wonder sang, “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand….” Music is like a language, all on its own, with or without words. Music has been described as “the language of the soul”.

Music can be a stimulant to intellectual and cognitive development. If you can associate a piece of music with something you are trying to remember, the information will come to you when you hear or even think of the piece of music. Songs can also be associated with a moment in time. If I play a song from my youth, I can remember events from my past. Music is an amazing tool to help build and maintain knowledge.

Introducing music to your training may seem strange. I don’t want you to develop the idea that all katas are performed to music and start competing in kata to music competition. What I am suggesting is using music to further help understand rhythm. The International Karate Daigaku’s Shuseki Shihan Frank Woon-A-Tai introduced me to training to music a long time ago. There is a video online somewhere of myself and Sensei Nick Quesnel doing an exercise under the guidance of Shuseki Shihan Woon-A-Tai. This exercise has us bouncing in stance to the rhythm of a piece of music. Then we take turns springing forward delivering a punch against each other to the beat. (If anyone has seen this video, please post a link to it in the comments. I have looked for it but can not find it.)

02bLearning and developing a sense of rhythm is essential to karate. All kata have a very specific rhythm or timing. Once you know and understand the rhythm, your kata will flow. Another area where rhythm and timing is key is in kumite. Sparring against an opponent requires you to understand how to pick up on your opponents timing and rhythm. This takes time and lots of practice. That is why we do not start off with teaching free sparring. We walk lower ranks through different levels of sparring; sanbon kumite (3 step sparring), ippon kumite (1 step sparring), juyi ippon kumite (semi-free sparring) and finally juyi kumitie (free sparring). At each level, you have the opportunity to experience different attacks and counters. This allows for connection to the rhythm of opponents and to see different attacks and learn how to defend against them. If you practice sparring to music, it will help develop a stronger understanding of the rhythm and timing.

One of my favorites katas to perform to music is Kanku Dai. I was taught the kata by Sensei Janice Pyke to the song, “Je t’aime moi non plus.” If you look for this song to practice the kata to, try to find and instrumental version. The lyrics are very risque. Remember that you are not performing the kata to its natural rhythm. Since you are using the music, the idea is to adapt the kata to the song.

Many years ago, a few of my students came to me after a class and told me that they were doing kata at a dance. They performed the techniques of Heian Shodan to a song that was playing at the dance. Everyone moved out of their way and stood in amazement of this new dance. They told me that some of the people at the dance asked them if they could teach them this new strange dance. When they tried to explain that it was karate they didn’t believe them.

Mixing karate training and music may seem strange but adding the stimulant to your karate development will dramatically help your skills. Once you experience the benefits of music as a training tool, you will see an huge improvement in your training. Try a little at first and then expand on it as your skills grow.

Categories: Teaching/Training

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