Occupying Space

You’ve really gotta enjoy those nights at training where you get to partner up and start putting into practice all those combinations that Shihan James Duggan drills into us up and down the class during Kihon Ido (basics with movements).

In today’s post we are going to explore the thought process required to correctly transition from practicing basic techniques into thin air and executing them on an opponent. The biggest challenge we face in this transition is not speed, accuracy or the strength to endure the pain of repeatedly being used as a crash test dummy.

It is the ability to occupy your own space and control your opponents. There is a reason our instructors constantly refer to the battle that is fought during kumite. This battle occurs because our intent is not just to land the perfect yoko hijiate or execute a mae geri with precision.

Our intent is to maximise our level of control.

As a beginner, this can be as simple as controlling our movements so that we do not harm our opponent more than what is required to practice the techniques correctly. As a black belt our control refers to our ability to maximise the space that we occupy. There are a couple of elements to this level of control; the first is what we actually can control and this is based on our ability, the second is what our opponent perceives us to control. Mr Miyagi is a great example of this (seriously how great is that movie!).

Do not underestimate the old.

Portrayal of Chojun Miyagi in the original "The Karate Kid"

So how do we do this Jay Sempai?

I have three pieces of advice for today that once again have been instilled in me by James Duggan Shihan. The first one is get your basics right, and minimise unnecessary movement. Remember Less is More. When an opponent is trying to attack you and you are completely still yet ready to strike it can be pretty intimidating. I have experienced this in sport karate tournaments where my opponent is jumping around losing all interface with the ground and I’m as still as a fly, perceived as an easy target but confident that my reactions and muscle memory will maintain my defence and counter attack.

The second. Ensure your projection of energy and the end point of your attacks is through your opponent. When you attack someone or someone attacks you it is not a fight for the space that overlaps between us. You want to take the space that is right beneath their feet, unearth them and ensure that they do not feel comfortable when they squaring off against you. James Duggan Shihan dismisses the term ‘bridge the gap’ in favour of ‘take the space’.

And finally, have intent when striking an opponent or defending ourselves. Our intent when practicing on our opponent is not to perfect the movement; it is to keep what is ours and take what is theirs. The movements, techniques and strikes are just tools to accomplish this.

There is only one constant in life, and that is self. The battle is won when your opponent no longer has control of their space and therefore has lost themselves. At that point control is claimed by you and you have the power to decide the final result.

All pretty hefty when we are facing a fellow Karateka in the dojo but remember the dojo is our safe place and how we train is reflected in what we do. That is why the more proficient you become the less people actually try to start trouble with you. They perceive an essence, a danger, and they are less willing to challenge that.

Renshu Owarimasu