Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Thought/Technique Archive

Technique of the Week (October 31th, 2008)

From Kyoshi David Baker

Muscles in Karate:

Karate provides an excellent, overall workout, training all major muscle groups.

I once asked Master Ueshiro which were the most important muscles for karate and he said, “Calves and traps.” And if you look at photos of him as a young man without his gi top, you can see his very large, well-developed traps that rise above his shoulder line. Likewise, Master Nagamine shows well-developed traps into his early middle age (65) in photos without his gi top on pages 32 – 33 in “The Essence of Karate-Do” (paperback edition).

Also, as you develop in karate, be aware of the overall balance of your muscles. In other words, the style is meticulously balanced between left and right. But sometimes we will focus on certain exercises for a period of time that may develop one set of muscles so much that they may cause an imbalance vis-à-vis its opposing set of muscles.

For instance, sometimes we’ll do a lot of pushups, punches, chishi and other triceps exercises. So, if you develop a chronic soreness in your elbow, at the triceps’ insertion (top, outside of the elbow), then do some bicep curls or other exercises to strengthen that muscle, to correct the imbalance and relieve the strain in the elbow.

Similarly, we do a lot of deep knee bends, squatting, low kata and other quadriceps exercises. So, if you develop a chronic soreness at your quadriceps’ insertion (top, outside of knee), then do some hamstring curls or other hamstring exercises to help balance the strength of the hamstrings relative to the quadriceps.

Finally, most people are aware of the need to maintain the strength of our abdominal muscles, but it is also necessary to exercise their opposing muscles in the back. There are many ways to do this, including yoga – which Hanshi enjoys; chiropractors and sports doctors have lists of back exercises to do; and there is a very good book from the early 1970s that had been out of print called “The Bad Back Book” by Jerry Wayne that Hanshi had recommended to the group back then. Some higher-ranking Black Belts may have a copy, used copies are available online, and Ox Bow Press recently reprinted the original.

Domo arigato gozaimasu,
Kyoshi David Baker