There is a famous quote from Bruce Lee, "Boards don't hit back." Well, he's right. They don't. But breaking, or tameshiwari, is an important part of martial arts training, when undertaken with the right mindset. It teaches focus, builds confidence, forces commitment, and can be a test of your own ability and how it has improved over time.
Today, we’re discussing the primary lesson from Pinan/Heian Sandan, the third kata in the Pinan system. So far, we’ve seen not only how Master Itosu codified and condensed key fighting principles with these kata, but we’ve also explored how each lesson should be layered over the previous to create a complete fighting matrix. Let’s expand this matrix by looking at the next principle: Rotation. Rotation is a powerful tool in martial arts and in self-defense. It can be used to generate tremendous power, and it can be used to redirect strong attacks.
Kata trains and conditions the mind, body, and spirit. A layered approach to kata teaching lends itself to comprehensive and practical personal safety and self-defense. There exists no other martial teaching tool so honed for this purpose: the transfer of information from one party to another in such a way that the receiving party is able to take ownership of, and utilize, the received information to solve novel problems, independently.
It was Archimedes who said, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” While this may seem obvious, look at any brawl between untrained fighters and I challenge you to locate a straight line technique. In this lesson, again Itosu is helping us to overcome our untrained instincts by reminding us to direct our forward drives along the shortest, and therefore most efficient route.
Often times, we are faced with challenges. You may find yourself, at any point, in front of a major life obstacle, or a very unpleasant business dealing. Perhaps you don’t like a particular someone, or maybe you’re having a hard time adjusting to a loss. Whatever it is, and despite how difficult it may seem, the fact remains....you have a choice in how you respond.
Forward motion is the most natural kind of motion for the human body. We have better balance moving forward than we do moving backwards or sideways. It is a function of our anatomy that we are best suited to move, walk, run, play, and use our limbs in the forward direction. It only makes sense then that this would be the fundamental lesson. It’s a crucial one though, because in the chaos of conflict, we can quickly lose our bearing, orientation, and balance if we’re not ready and trained. Therefore, we train to move forward toward our opponent, no matter what.
Traditional Chinese martial arts, the source of Okinawan karate, typically produce martial competency after 10 years of training. Itosu sought something better, something outside of this established tradition. He wanted to redefine the standards of training and develop martial proficiency in less time. He also wanted to be able to spread karate in a big way. With secret traditions taking decades to master, karate was ready for a breath of fresh air.