Fundamentals, an investment
I recently started teaching a karate class again. Because of the Covid pandemic, we need to maintain social distancing, and touching each other is right out. So i opted to really base this class on Kata. (If you don't know, Kata are formal exercises from Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, that feature sequences of prearranged movements to be learned and practiced.)
The First month, we're doing the two Fukyu Kata (Ich and Ni) created by Shoshin Nagamine. These Kata are foundational to several styles of Karate. They're pretty basic kata. Simple blocks, simple punches, a kick in the second one. There was a time when I pretty much thought they were just something to do until you learned the "real" stuff.
As it turns out, there's a depth there, that I didn't notice at first, and suspect that many people miss. It's the same with certain classical texts. You can read them, but if you don't sit with them for a while, and ponder, and apply, you miss out. It's about investing in your practice. You can go through the motions. You can even be taught the Bunkai (Application) of the movements. But you'll still miss out unless you spend some time in thoughtful practice.
As an example, in the first move of Fukyugata Ich, you step out to the left, execute a low block with your left hand. THen You step forward and execute a right middle punch. When you say it like that, and do it like that, it's pretty simple. But what if you go just a little deeper?
First, what do your eyes do? They see the bad guy. Your weight starts to shift to your right foot (Judo players can talk volumes about that weight shift, as can Tai Chi Practitioners. There's a compression that happens, and an explosion that sends out your left foot. That foot movement sets up a stretch reflex through your torso, Pulling at that left hand, until finally it lashes out into a low block.
Now, your weight goes into your left foot, again that pressure builds, a drawing in, and you back foot starts to move closer, closer to your other foot. Then Poof, like two magnets of the same polarity, the feet slip by each other, and you step forward with your right. Again, that twisting, stretching action in your torso. At the point of maximum stretch, Your foot finds it's spot, and you release their pressure. Your hand flies out in a punch.
And That's just the primary, obvious parts of the movement. There's all this other stuff that happens as well. What's the secondary hand doing? (Hint, it's never doing nothing....) What happens to all that force? (Remember energy can't be destroyed, only transformed)
That was two moves. Of 25 or so (Everyone counts it a little differently)
But, it's not just a karate thing. THe same kind of thing occurs in all sports. It occurs in studying spiritual texts. But you have to be willing to practice. You have to be willing to sit with your practice, and notice what your body does, what your brain does. If you're gonna do it, you might as well do it well.