Covid19 is continuously in the news and every day seems to bring so much change. All of the stores, restaurants, bars, flights, and workplaces that are either shutting down or reducing services are focused on one aspect of fighting the spread of the contagion – keeping one’s distance from others. In place of going out for any non-essential activities, the recommendation is to “hunker down” at home and make use of technology to accomplish what normally takes place face-to-face or in crowded spaces.
We are encouraged to do online shopping, online food orders, online classrooms, online work, and so on and on.
Fortunately, in today’s world, aspects of karate training are now possible via the internet too. So, since none of us can come to class for the time being, I wanted to say a few words about the value and caveats of learning karate online. There’s a myriad of “karateducational” videos to choose from on the internet, but which ones are worthy of your time? Well, you may not be aware of it, but each of you has already developed an “eye for good karate” which can help you to discern good karate from not-so-good karate. This should prevent you from spending your valuable time watching just any video you come across.
For example, I came across this video that is aimed towards teaching the very basics of Shotokan Karate-Do by a sensei from Texas. He seems like a very nice instructor who is passionate about teaching the art. This particular video was about basic stances. However, I was less than impressed because his demonstration of the stances seemed somewhat lacking for me. You see, most students (especially beginners) will learn much more from what they actually see the instructor doing than from his/her verbal description of the technique. The second thing that distracted me was…I couldn’t quite understand his pronunciation of the Japanese words for the stances, nor his counting (using “yon” for “shi” and “nana” for “shichi”), which I am sure, is the way he was taught. A newbie interested in learning about karate via the internet might gain something from the video (there are a series of these) but I suspect that it wouldn’t be of much value to you folks. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, but I’ll bet that you’ll form your own opinion after a few minutes.
By comparison, Sensei Rick Hotton (an American instructor under the JKA organization) gives, what I found to be, a very interesting lesson in the execution of hip rotation in the zenkutsu-dachi. This basic lesson might seem to be a boring topic to some. Yet, I was fascinated by his demonstration of outstanding hip thrust and snap techniques. Again, so much of what we learn is through watching excellent technique, supported by a clear verbal explanation of what the underlying muscles and joints are doing. If you watch Sensei Hotton, I’m sure that you’ll learn something new about something you practice all the time.
Happily, all of you know enough karate from your many hours of real-life training to be able to do a decent warm-up and practice at home, on your own. Watching good videos showing masterful execution of technique or perhaps documentaries about the history of the art are also a valid form of training at home. And don’t forget, the Resources Section at the HISkarate website contains videos of all of the major Shotokan katas for you viewing enjoyment.