The other day I read an article in a publication I receive talking about safety on the road entitled “Think Slow”. The author referenced a game his “friends” would play when they were in their youth where you say “think fast” while doing something that they can not avoid but can not help but react wildly. This article painted a picture of youth and mischief but made some great points.
In our Karate training we work to prepare ourselves for unpredictable things. We work to create reactions that will serve when we do not have time to formulate thoughts. (refer to the kempo hakku; Reaction must occur without conscious thought). Sanchin is at the foundation of our training; a way of forging a body and mind that is able to handle the stresses of this possibility. Sanchin is preformed slowly to develop control and focus on detail among other things. When we practice Kihon (basics) we often do them slow “for form”, then faster. It is usually stressed that we should only go to the pace where we can do the move with the form we are striving for. In kicking practice slow kicks are often stressed again for form, however we notice that slow is more difficult as it is work to hold our foot up longer and it exposes challenges to our balance we may not notice when going faster. As a student it is easy to be eager to move on to the next kata or push to get to the next level. The thirst for knowledge is a good thing but not at the expense of technique. The same thing is often stressed in strength training that the form is most important.
Often we remind of how Goju Ryu has only 12 kata. Why do you think this is? Could it be that the founders wanted you to ‘cross train’ (in all styles) so they would make this easy to become a part of a “greater” curriculum? I have seen many school advertising that they teach Goju Katas in part of their curriculum. Could it be that they had 12 levels so you only needed 12 to get all your belts or that they were so in tune with the yearly cycles there is one for each month? Could it be that there is not a lot of information to transmit so it only amounted in 12 kata? Hardly. Perhaps the founders intended us to spend more time on things and take it slow to get a full understanding of all contained information. It is said that Miyagi Sensei would teach a student Sanchin and one or two other kata depending on their body type… (Wait there are 12 but you are only going to teach me 3? And I am only going to do Sanchin for 3 years… ) As you can imagine it may not fit in the YouTube generation whos’ culture may explain why there are schools that have 40 or more kata. Even our Kobudo Curriculum may have 12 weapons but the bulk of our training time is done with the Bo, Sai and Tunkua and to a lesser degree Nunchaku. Each weapon has basics and few kata,(Bo 5, Sai 3, Tunqua 3, Nunchaku 1). Much time is dedicated to basics then progressing to kata, Perhaps to develop skills that become second nature and can occur in the absence of conscious thought. Additionally of note It has been my experience that the skills learned with these first four scaffolds to the more “advanced” weapons.
For January we will recommit to basics and Sanchin training. The more we examine even the most basic technique we find a wealth of information in an ever deepening practice. Taking our time to lay down the foundation ensures high degree of skill adaptability and proficiency. Refer back to the tortoise and the hare if you want, Slow and Steady wins the race.