I knew it would happen one dark night. Minding my own business, walking out to the henhouse I was suddenly attacked. My legs were kicked out from under me in a flash, I had no time to even figure out what was going on. The concrete path came rushing to meet my already battered nose….
Luckily, karate to the rescue! My training kicked in and I was saved from serious injury and certain doom.
You see … the previous day I had repaired a concrete drain in my back yard. To discourage our menagerie from walking on the freshly laid concrete, I tied ropes around the area at about (foolishly) knee height. Predictably, I forgot they were there in the dark and walked into them at speed. The rope stretched a little before rebounding under tension and whipped my legs back and out from under me, sending me face first at the (now dry) concrete. My hands splayed out with my elbows narrower, braced against my body, like shock absorbers they took the energy, my nose stopped about an inch from the ground. I thought to myself ,’Well that was silly, put the ropes up a little before you hurt someone’. I got up, adjusted the ropes and went inside to my family. It was only the next morning it occurred to me that my position was rather like an open handed double chudan-uke. It took no energy to stop myself as, instead of opposing the force, I ‘went along’ with it and brought myself to an orderly stop. It felt so natural I just didn’t think about it. The posture I have described is one I practise each day – and so it got me thinking about pressure, force, practise and usefulness.
There seems to be a lot of discussion in the martial arts legends and stories about very severe training, prolonged intensive training, training day and night every night etc. But I wonder about that. In practise, short periods of intense training seem to be of benefit, but only in seasoned practitioners. Newer exponents seem to be in a hurry to push very hard, and be able to do what senior practitioners (yudansha) can do – right now! This seems to be a mistake that often leads to a loss of enthusiasm or worse, serious injury. The strongest practitioners I know practise most days, occasionally extending, adding a little at a time – each day. The difference between the two is like a rock hit by a tsunami, or a rock sitting in a stream.
It seems to me that nothing useful is left in the wake of a tsunami, only jagged edges, chaos and destruction. It is the daily washing, the steady stream of years of practise that gradually smooth the stone into the hard but gentle symmetry that sits well in the empty hand. And so it is with the study of karate do I believe.
After all these years and thousands of repetitions, my nose was saved by a single correct push up! Or was it sanchin? I guess I’ll never know.