Saturday, November 11, 2017

An issue of Alignment

Karate has changed a great deal to me over the years.
Originally it followed a very different, good paradigm, Among things, hard body conditioning, lots of kata study, lots of kumite, and lot’s of open tournaments in those days.
As a new black belt I often was called to judge forms I had not studies at open tournaments, It did get confusing. As a corollary seeking places to train and work out, I trained in many schools, Kung Fu, Shotokan, Shorin Ryu, Goju Ryu, Washin Ryu and many others, learning lots of forms during those training sessions, and remembering them as I was taught being a black belt means you don’t say I can’t.
In time, I often had knowledge of what I was judging.
At that time as much as I did not know there was a difference between Okinawan karate, and Japanese Karate, I also was unaware at how many subdivisions there were in Shotikan, Goju Ryu, Shorin Ryu and others. But I was somewhat informed.

Among things I found many judges would give higher scores to poor kung fu performances, probably on the belief not spoken but felt, that kung fu must be stronger than karate, and scores should be given accordingly. Not so much in black belt divisions where there was a different dynamic among those few giving scores. But that is a whole other story.
What threw me most was how to judge those custom built forms showcasing individual strengths? I am sure I gave many improper scores.
Then late one night my Tai Chi/Kung Fu instructor  gave me private instruction, totally tearing my tai chi form down after 15 years of practice and work Literally hundreds of corrections. Then he explained what I was doing wrong, just with a slight touch again and again that left me floundering each time. He then showed me what I was doing wrong and how to correct it, and a tool to use to do so, that slight touch. It was using correct energy point alignment.
Without going into the details at this time, later I quickly discovered the same thing worked with my students karate (and my own), where if they were incorrect the slightest touch would make them fall.
It caused a lot of cleaning up to take place, and a superior tool for class. And the thing was, it wasn’t magic, just doing the kata properly as originally shown (for the school involved).
But at that time I also discovered that energy point misalignment was a perfect place to attack, a weakness to be exploited.
By extension a way to judge anything, even when the system is unknown.
Every stance, form, etc. has a stronger alignment, where that touch will not destabilize the performer.
The better form a performer does, the higher their score should be, as they are making fewer possibly fatal mistakes.
The more flaws in their alignment, the lower their score should be, at they are making more possibly fatal mistakes.
I had discontinued tournament attendance and judging, but went a few times to watch and I stand by this opinion. Those custom built forms showing the performers strengths, most often also had dead moments where poor alignment was present. Where a simple touch could down them, I now had a method to know what I was awarding.
However, I was no longer interesting in judging anybody, just developing my karate and my students further.

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