Reference Points

Reference Points


When we first began to do karate, we found many of the movements unnatural. We struggled to situate our bodies in relatively uncomfortable positions and to memorize sets of movements. At this stage, our initial reference points (that to which we compared the new things we were learning) for the physical movements were perhaps from other physical exercises or sports. As we learned self-defense applications, we may have based the interpretation on what we had seen in movies, or just tried to visualize as we went based on explanations from the instructor.

As we gained experience in karate, we were able to use some of what we knew already as reference points as we learned new techniques, movements and strategies. We used our knowledge of the kata we knew already as we learned new kata. We studied how to change the timing of our blocks or attacks based on a basic timing that we practiced so many times before.

Some people who have done karate for many years seem to feel that they have done all there is to do in their art; that since they have memorized all the kata and won a few medals at tournaments, they have taken their study as far as it can go.

There is always more to learn. There are always ways to make training challenging.

Reference Points in Kihon (Basics)
In kihon practice, we do not always need to “march” up and down the dojo floor. We can shift to the side, spin to the back, etc. We should not neglect our “normal” practice. But we can do what I sometimes call “basics with a twist” and deviate from the mundane to stimulate our minds and bodies to get more out of training.

For more on changing timing in kihon, please see article August 1998.

Reference Points in Kata (Forms)
Your “reference point” in kata would usually be the kata as normally practiced. But how you change from this reference point could be varied considerably. For example, you could change some techniques or timing. Or you may want to try perfoming the kata facing a corner instead of the front of the room. An experienced and talented karateka should be able to alter his/her kata perfomance in various ways.

For more on kata application possibilities, please see article March 1999.

Reference Points in Kumite (Sparring)
Just as with variations in kata performance, in kumite you could also add or change a technique or timing, or face a different direction. You could also practice sparring with more than one other person.

For more on the subject of kumite timing, please see article June 2002.

Wrapping It Up
For more on changing angles in kihon, kata and kumite, please see article from May 2003. And don’t forget to keep aware of the basic principals while you do whatever you do.  Creativity can greatly enhance your training, in both keeping it “fresh” and also more eduational.  But while trying to “think outside the box,” keep one foot inside the box, or at least awareness of what you are deviating from.  Our training is built on standard techniques and training methods that should not be overlooked, but can be expanded upon.

Keep thinking. Keep learning. Keep training.

Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published April 2005)