Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Technique of the Week (July 4th, 2010)

Kyoshi Michael Mackay
Ueshiro Midtown Karate Dojo


Onegai shimasu, and Happy Independence Day, Hanshi, Sensei and fellow Deshi,

This week's technique is about "trade offs." Every blocking technique in
USRKUSA is engineered to protect the body and forcefully strike the
attacker's punch or kick. Yet sooner or later we find the two goals
conflict. Maximum chambering of the hands may generate great power but
leave the ribs exposed. Failing to chamber fully may protect the ribs but
the block will loose acceleration, range and power. Splitting the
difference - though technically correct - may be insufficient for dealing
with a particularly fast or forceful attack. Depending on the
circumstances, a student is faced with any number of trade offs. Go for
speed or power, relaxation or tension, flexibility or strength, focus or
fluidity, foundation or agility. The list of opposing principles in our
style is formidable, especially when time is of the essence. If every
technique was simply a matter of breaking bricks, we'd always follow the
path to maximum power. But fielding a real attack requires finesse: an
ability to make instantaneous decisions regarding which martial skills
are needed most, be it to dodge a bullet or stop a stampeding bull. These
split second trade-offs mark the difference between life and death. So
how to train them?

Work pre-arranged fighting and bunkai with different training partners to
expose your reflexes to a variety of attacking styles. When performing
kata, use visualization and the mirror to alternate between blocks that
generate maximum power vs. those that offer maximum protection. Show the
difference in kata such as Fukyugata san that include multiple techniques.
Be proficient with that "perfect" block that balances both power and
protection, but expand your range by practicing each aspect of the block
to the extreme: 10 blocks that devastate your opponent, 10 that keep you
from getting hit, 10 that show lightening speed, 10 that bypass your mind,
followed by 10 executed with full concentration. Do not become stuck
(i.e., overconfident) with one type of block simply because it "works" for

After hours of exploring these subtle trade offs, "The response in
battle," to quote Hanshi, "must come from mushin - no mind - only
split-second reactions, like stepping on the brake of a car or swerving
without thought when the situation presents itself. There is no time to
think about what to do, we simply must react." "If one has time to
prepare before the actual engagement," Hanshi explains, "then focus only
on your breathing: expel every other thought."

234 years ago, America's first patriots gave up their security to fight
for freedom. Each of us faces trade offs of varying magnitude every day.
With proper training, Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA can teach us to
optimize such trade offs for maximum success.

Domo arigato gozaimasu, Hanshi,

Kyoshi Michael Mackay
Ueshiro Midtown Karate Dojo