Happy New Year! The celebration of the winter holiday is one of my most valued traditions. I find this season to exemplify transformation more than any other. The vibrant spring flowers, summer grasses, and fall foliage dim in comparison to the vast emptiness of winter. Change is everywhere. The universe is in a state of expansion. The earth spins and orbits around the sun. Relationships, directions and dreams are in constant flux. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant is change.”
When developing karate technique, repetition is very important. All of my habits, good and bad, have come from repetition. Consistent, mindful practice will determine the end result. In my classes with Hanshi Meitatsu Yagi, I often heard him say, “Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” Sometimes, students feel uncomfortable when I introduce them to a new technique. They are hesitant to do things they are not good at. I remind them of what it was like to be a beginner; how punching felt awkward, how difficult it was to coordinate everything. But it gets easier … we practice punches all the time during kata, sparring, and bag hitting. By the time a student reaches green belt, they have performed thousands of punches. That’s why it feels natural. With repetition, any technique will become easy. One of Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi’s classic quotes, “There is no secret to Karate but to train a hundred techniques a thousand times.”
I develop striking techniques through heavy bag training. I approach a new technique beginning with 30 strikes with both my left and right side. I focus on consistency and positive contact. When it feels comfortable, I increase it to 40 repetitions; then 50, then 60 … even 100 or more. Okinawan karate-ka are known to develop routines of 300 repetitions of a single strike. The first 30 strikes are just a warm-up. As the number of repetitions increases, so does the depth of understanding. To paraphrase Meitoku Yagi, “The best techniques come from subconscious thought.” Once you get past the physical and the mental, your natural expression becomes reality. This is consistent with all practice.
When preparing for black belt, often the greatest challenge is remembering what it was like to be a white belt. As beginners, we learn the proper technique for all the fundamentals. Correct stances and chamber positions are essential for stability and power. If we stumble or adjust to maintain balance, we commit physical and mental resources unnecessarily. Chamber hand position is the origin of the strike. If the position changes, it is impossible to predict its outcome. Sparring, bag hitting, and board breaking make us aware of the importance of precision. Through perfect practice and repetition, we can perform kata without thought or injury - freeing ourselves to visualize and explore application.
Consistency supports change, and change drives consistency. Change occurs naturally over time, neither hurrying nor lagging. It comes about appropriately, as a result of consistent repetition. In the words of Bruce Lee, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”