Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

February 23rd, 2014

From Kyoshi David Baker,Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA
founded by Grand Master Ansei Ueshiro

Our targets, selected by the Shinden, are uniquely effective and vulnerable

And precise. “The size of a dime.”

Like the small, center bull’s-eye of a target at an archery or rifle range, we also aim at a small bull's-eye, rather than merely “launching projectiles down-range.” (We don't always hit the bull's-eye, naturally, but we always aim for it.) In fact, the human-shaped targets at a range are of a head and torso, with the "bull's-eye" in the center of each, which are the same precise targets as our Jo-dan and Chu-dan targets of nose (brain) and xiphoid process (solar plexus).

And precision is important because, if we miss the target with our strike, that’s not only a missed opportunity, but because our limb is away from our body, we’re now more vulnerable to a counterstrike from our opponent. We’re in a worse position than if we hadn’t thrown that missed technique in the first place.

On the other hand, if we miss the exact bull’s–eye, yet hit our opponent, we can still do damage. Master Ueshiro was a great believer in attacking with full commitment and power. Therefore, a closely missed strike will usually damage the area around the target and may still elicit the desired result.

But of course the precise target, struck with force, is the goal of any striking technique. Done properly, one such strike should, ideally, neutralize our opponent and end the threat.

There’s a scene in the film The Patriot where the protagonist instructs his two young sons, while hunting, to “Aim small. Miss small.” In other words, don’t just aim anywhere on the body, but choose a small, vital target and shoot it as accurately as you can.

Visualization can assist as well. In karate, we use certain mental exercises, often with eyes closed, where we visualize, or “see” ourselves doing a kata or technique, without actually doing it physically. This is vital, to enhance accuracy because, for one thing, we can imagine perfection, and by imagining perfect technique, we develop the psychomotor skills inherent in the visualization process to augment our physical ones. In other words, we can’t perform perfection, but we can imagine it, and by our visualization of perfection, stimulate the nerve impulses for correct technique in our physical kata.

Thirty years ago, a Black Belt at Hombu conducted an experiment for his course work at chiropractic college. He had a number of us thrust the point of a wooden bo through a steel ring, whose hole was approximately two inches in diameter. We were then separated randomly into three groups. One practiced the exercise. One visualized the exercise. And the third group spent half their time practicing and half visualizing.

After several hours training, over a couple weeks, he then re-tested the three groups, and the group that had used visualization only improved the most. The groups were too small to base any broad conclusions, and the results were somewhat skewed by one outlier within the visualization-only group who scored a remarkable six out of six during the final test, but it was “eye opening” that both groups that employed visualization improved better than the practice-only group. This gave evidence that visualization enhances one’s ability to perform a physical task. (A theory one can see practiced by just about every Olympic athlete, visualizing with eyes closed, before each run.)

So, aim at a small, specific target each time. Aim as precisely as you can. Always improve; never be satisfied with your results. And use visualization to help burnish, because “perfect” practice makes for a “perfect” strike, should you ever need it in a real confrontation.

Domo arigato gozaimasu,
Kyoshi David Baker,
Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA
founded by Grand Master Ansei Ueshiro
under the direction of Hanshi Robert Scaglione