Jiyu ippon kumite – Kizami-zuki

This video shows the three main defences against a kizami-zuki (front snap punch, or jab) attack in the SKIF kumite system. The defences involve defending by attacking and off-balancing the opponent.

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Jiyu ippon kumite – Ushirogeri

This short video demonstrates and explains the three main defences against a back kick attack in the SKIF jiyu ippon kumite syllabus. Each technique is shown slowly and quickly in detail.

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Karate Spirit

I once asked Master Kanazawa, “What is the most important aspect of karate?” He answered, “Seishin”. “Seishin” means ‘spirit’, not in the religious sense, but in the sense of personal identity and of what we represent in life. This video tries to explain the concept of spirit and how it relates to karate.

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The Importance of the Black Belt

The effort to attain the black belt should not be taken lightly and once attained the responsibility should be taken seriously. This video talks about the importance of the black belt as it relates to your overall training.

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Enter form, exit form

There is a saying in Japanese martial arts that translates as “Enter form, exit form”. When you first see these words they don’t really make much sense as there is no context in which to place them. However the meaning should become clear during this short article.

The phrase refers to the process of learning that we go through during our journey along the path of martial arts.

First of all we walk into the dojo on the first day armed with a sense of excitement at trying something new as well as a little bit of caution because we don’t know what to expect. At this initial stage of our training most of us know very little about fighting but despite this lack of refined fighting skill, we possess something very useful. We possess natural reactions because of our survival instinct as humans, we have the element of surprise because the people in the dojo have never seen us before and therefore know nothing about our ability, and we are also unpredictable for the same reason.

So we come to the Karate dojo possessing “no form” and then we are put into a rigorous program of teaching us technique after technique, form after form and sparring drill after sparring drill. At this point we are “entering form”. After a couple of years of this training we no longer look like, react like or move like the person who entered that very same dojo two years earlier. In fact we have become quite proficient at executing all of the different techniques, we know several different “forms” and our sparring skills seem to have improved dramatically. What’s more, that white belt we were given to wear has now changed color to purple or maybe even brown. By anybody’s standards we’ve come a long way.

The problem at this stage of our training is that we are so immersed in “form” that when faced with a spontaneous attack that isn’t pre-arranged (like the sparring drills we practice) oftentimes our mind is so confused by choice as to which technique to use against the attack that our defense actually is ineffective despite our good technique. This is a common occurrence at this level of training because of the vast amount of new material that our minds have had to take in over the past two years and unfortunately for us this process will probably continue for several more years as we continue to accumulate knowledge about the martial art and try to integrate it and assimilate it into something meaningful and natural. This requires many hours of practice.

Finally we accomplish a higher degree of understanding and we now start to break away from “form” and we begin to slowly “exit form”. This process of “exiting form” also lasts for quite some time and is full of inspirational moments when we gradually start seeing things on a deeper level and from a different perspective. Simple things that we thought we already understood suddenly open up and show us something we had never thought about before, thereby giving us additional skill and knowledge.

Finally we fully “exit form” and essentially return to the beginning, to that same person who walked into the dojo on the first day possessing natural reactions and the elements of surprise and unpredictability. The only difference being (and a big difference it is) is that we now have a very refined skill base and an extremely deep level of understanding that just reacts to whatever situation it is faced with in an appropriate manner without thinking. Essentially all of the skills that have been practiced for years and years have now become second nature and we have finally reached the highest levels of the martial arts. This is what I believe is meant by the phrase “Enter form, exit form.”

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Jiyu ippon kumite – Mawashigeri

This video shows the main defences that are used against a mawashigeri (roundhouse kick) attack in the SKIF jiyu ippon kumite system.

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Jiyu ippon kumite – Yokogeri

Continuing the jiyu ippon kumite series is this video on the yokogeri attack. There are three main defences against the yokogeri (side kick) attack in the SKIF system. Each defence is shown in this video.

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Five Common Mistakes That New Karate Instructors Make

Becoming an instructor in a martial arts school is often a really exciting time because in many ways you feel like you have made it. In order to teach others you must have already mastered the basic content and now is your chance to “give back” your knowledge and continue the progression of your style. This is a great honor but it is not without its pitfalls. As any experienced instructor knows, teaching martial arts and practicing martial arts are in many ways two completely different things.

So if you’re a new instructor listen up and pay attention because, although you are probably a competent black belt student, you are a beginner in terms of teaching. Here are some of the most common mistakes that new instructors make. And by the way, if you are an experienced instructor reading this please don’t forget to tell some of your own horror stories to your assistant instructors so that they can learn from your mistakes too.

Mistake #1: Showing up to class without a lesson plan and “winging it”. This is a BAD idea for any new instructor. Planning is critical in all aspects of life and in any job. Being a martial arts instructor is no different. Just because you are good at your chosen art doesn’t mean that you can instantly snap all of the puzzle pieces together and teach an awesome class without a lesson plan from day 1. Even many experienced instructors refer to some type of lesson plan or overall structure before teaching each class. A lesson plan will guarantee that you are organized, that you don’t “freeze” on the spot, and that you aren’t constantly thinking “OK, what shall I do next?” If you’re thinking this, it means that you’re not focusing on your students!

Mistake #2: Trying to teach everything you know in one class. It is very tempting as a new instructor to feel the need to stamp your authority on a class and to prove yourself to your group as being very knowledgeable. Consequently in your first class you drill your students in every possible basic technique, all of the different forms whether they know them or not, and numerous partner work drills to the point of overload. This causes major stress to your students as they feel completely overwhelmed and, not only that, when you go to teach your next class you won’t have anything left to give them that’s new. There are very good reasons for a structured curriculum and a solid lesson plan.

Mistake #3: Teaching class so that you get a good workout. There is a difference between leading by example and training with your peers. In every class that you teach your primary focus should be on the needs of your students and not on your own personal needs. It will be inevitable that you will get a pretty good workout just by demonstrating the different techniques, forms and partner work drills to your students and it is also important to model these things well, but you must also allow yourself to watch your students so that you know which students need help. In this way you position yourself to give valuable feedback rather than just working up a good sweat.

Mistake #4: Being too hard or too easy. There are very often two types of new instructors. Type 1 is the drill instructor who wants to put the students through hell so they know who is boss, and type 2 is the friend who wants everyone to like him and is overly nervous about how well he taught each class. Try to find some middle ground here and work your students hard by holding them to high standards but also develop strong and respectful relationships with them and show them that you care.

Mistake #5: Allowing your students to decide on the content for the class. This is a BIG mistake because so many things can go wrong. First of all you can’t please everybody and by asking what your students want to study you will get requests for everything possible within any group – forms training, sparring, pad work and target training, and self-defense. You can’t possibly fit everything into one class and nor should you (see mistake #2). Also you are setting yourself up for failure. What would you do if they asked you to teach something you don’t know very well yet, like an advanced form or some knife defense that you may not have studied yet? You are the leader of the class and your students expect you to know what they need to study. Don’t abdicate your responsibility to your students and allow them to dictate the class.

These are some of the most common mistakes that new instructors make and there are of course many more. Keep visiting this site for future articles on teaching and how to become a better instructor, coming soon!

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Jion – Commentary

This video demonstrates and explains the moves of the kata Jion. Each move is presented in detail while giving a verbal explanation of the key points while doing the various moves.

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Enpi – Commentary

The kata Enpi is usually studied at the brown belt level and has a couple of variations depending on the particular Shotokan school. This version shows the SKIF version of the kata with a step-by-step explanation of the different moves.

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