Start Training with Sensei Mirror

Some students and karate practitioners like to watch videos of their kata so they can diagnose what is not correct yet and build on what they do well. There’s a simpler way of seeing your own abilities that is more important than video: a mirror… or, as I like to call him, “Sensei Mirror”.

Below are some of the benefits of training with Sensei Mirror.

  1. You can see… you! Otherwise you always have to rely on others to help fix and adjust what you can easily see in the mirror. You may attend class twice a week, but you probably pass by a mirror a few times a day. Take advantage of that!
  2. You can make your own corrections and get a better sense of proper technique. Your own corrections are often better because you understand how your body feels when you do a technique properly. Doing it, seeing it, and feeling it is how we learn, and the mirror helps us bring all three of those sensations together, and learn in a more effective way.
  3. You look at you — right in the eyes. Good concentration starts with focused eye contact. Sometimes it’s hard to get used to looking at a fellow student directly into the eyes with great intensity. It’s easier if you practice it in the mirror… by looking at you!
  4. If the mirror is large enough, it helps you develop peripheral vision. You learn how to take in your surroundings, left and right, high and low, while still having focused eye contact. It’s amazing how wide our range of vision is when we pay attention to it. This helps us defend ourselves because we are focused and aware at the same time.
  5. As you progress, you are taught visualize an opponent when executing all techniques (punches, kicks, blocks, etc.). Make Sensei Mirror your opponent. All proper techniques when taught assume that your opponent is the same size as you — so a middle punch is delivered to the same spot it would be as if your opponent was punching you. You can see that in the mirror better than you can feel it practicing without a mirror.
  6. The more you practice good targeting of punches and blocks in the mirror, the better prepared you are to find those same targets on someone of a different size.
  7. You can see how you might appear to an opponent. Do you look like an easy target? Do you protect your centerline? Do you have a confident posture?

By practicing in front of a mirror we start to consider ourselves as our own opponent. This is not really new. When we study martial arts we are always overcoming our limitations in knowledge and physical ability. We don’t always feel like practicing, and we don’t always feel like learning. By considering ourselves as our own opponent, we strive for more knowledge and to always improve our abilities and techniques. Many students have said that as they studied martial arts they came to realize that the times that they did not feel like practicing or going to class were the times when they needed the practice and the class the most. Very often they found that those turned out to be their best classes and best performances. They learned that self-discipline grows from practice, and the discipline of martial arts helps them in other areas of their life. Sensei Mirror is very good at creating self-discipline.

When it comes time to practice alone, look in the mirror. We see ourselves and what we are and what we do at that very moment. We see how we can be improve and we can see how much better we were than before. Sensei Mirror can enhance what we learn in class and help us improve our karate in many ways. Sensei Mirror provides us with a sense of progress and accomplishment as we pay attention to what we can more plainly see.

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The Centerline. What is it? Why is it important?

Most martial artists are familiar with the “centerline.” We have heard our instructors say “protect your centerline” or “attack your opponent’s centerline”. What are they talking about?

The centerline is the axis that runs down the middle of the body. Draw an imaginary line down the forehead, between the eyes, down the middle of the nose, through the middle of the chest, existing the center of the groin. This is the centerline. Why is it important?

Many of the important targets you are trying to attack and the ones you need to defend are down the centerline of the body. We protect ourselves with blocks or body positions so we are not hit in our head, eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus, or groin.

A person’s center of balance is often along this axis as well. Targeting the centerline gives you advantages over your opponent.

The use of stances and blocks is the foundation of centerline protection. Students do not learn this explicitly at the beginning of their karate studies, but it is in the basics of learning proper stances and proper targeting of punches. This is why we teach them to punch while giving them a target by facing them directly.

The reason for this is to ensure that the legs/feet are aligned properly (length and width) and that blocks are in the proper position when they are initially taught. Instructors want to ensure that the beginner student is punching down the center of their body.

As the student progresses in ability the importance of protecting one’s centerline and attacking the opponent’s centerline is stressed. Slight adjustments to the upper body, turning to the left or right, will help shield the centerline from a direct attack. With this adjustment of the upper body it is important to practice all blocks to ensure that they are executed effectively without causing unnecessary stress to the body or limiting the range of motion. Care should also be taken to ensure that punches, kicks, and other strikes can still be delivered to the centerline of the opponent. The centerline can also be protected with slight shuffling of the feet (side-to-side, backwards, etc.). The goal here is to avoid direct contact to your centerline while still placing yourself in a position to deliver a counter attack to your opponent’s centerline.

The figures show that only a slight change in position protects the centerline and also puts your hips in position for executing powerful techniques.

Centerline fig 1 & 2 image 060417

Considering that most fights are conducted at close range, it is extremely important that the student learns how to rotate his upper body, shuffle his feet, and block to avoid direct blows, often fatal blows, to his centerline.

Students must also learn to mount an offense while using these counter measures. Unless there is a one punch knockout both opponents in a fight will get hit. As is said in card playing “to shuffle you have to deal.” The goal is to minimize the trauma that your body receives while maximizing the trauma that you inflict on your opponent. How do you do this? One way is to protect your centerline while attacking his! This is why the centerline is so very important.

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