Tradition and Bunny Hops

2:15 PM Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bunny hops – putting your hands behind your head and hopping around the dojo floor – is bad for your knees. And several other exercises that don’t come to mind right now are in the same category of “seemed like a good idea sixty years ago” and today we know are not. We know much more about physiology, the functions of the human body and its parts, than we did half a century ago. Further, we live longer than we used to which means that the practice of maintaining the body is even more important. I mean where are you going to live for the rest of your life? In that vein I took a look at some of the exercises that we have and might use in the warm-up before class, and I have quietly dropped some of them.

I am not bound by tradition when empirical evidence proves that an exercise I was taught is not getting the job done, and, in fact, may be causing injury. Now that is an easy thing to do; drop or change an exercise because of evidence that it doesn’t work. The question is, why is that so hard when it is an interpretation of a technique?

Look at it this way: I will drop an exercise like a hot potato if evidence proves that it might injure me. Why, then, will I not do the same when the evidence proves a self-defense technique might get me seriously hurt? Here is the question for you: is the hesitancy to drop a known interpretation that will get you hurt because of an allegiance to the instructor? The system you bought into? Or is it just a lack of really taking a look at what is being done? So, what do you say it is?

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  1. I agree with you Kris. Exercise, I feel, should make you healthy...not harm you. Some of the exercises performed decades ago were designed with one function...develop your body into a weapon.

    Today, our reasons for training are for health...physically, emotionally, spiritually.

    Shinzen Nelson

  2. Yes!

    That is clearly a large part of the picture. The historical context is critical, and so is the present context.


    Kris Wilder

  3. I often wonder the same thing. Something that really gets me is the idea that we must always be subservient to tradition.
    This amounts to nothing more than the status quo.
    Why must something be 'this way,' often the answer is 'because Sensei said so.'

    I have a bad knee because of doing Shiko Dachi too low, and I practiced A LOT of Seiyunchin.
    I raised the stance because I refused to quit practicing when the doctor said to (Not necessarily the best thing, but it actually did help).
    So, as a result I looked at all the stances, shortened, raised, ect.

    My kicks are also lower, I'm not going to pull a muscle trying to kick the head when I am not that flexible to begin with.
    I aim Mai Geri at about knee level, if there is a groin kick, I use the knee, seems easier and more natural for me - less work.

    I have caught a lot of flack for this in mainstream groups.

    Another thing to look at is the stress placed on the lower back in bouncing around during a sparring session if there is no 'give' in the floor.
    I know an Aerobics Instructor that got put out of a career due to a back injury because of this and they said it was prevalent in the biz.

    Its' not breaking with tradition, it is refinement of tradition and I don't think there is any better way to honor tradition.


  4. Hi Kris, As a beginner back in 1965, I had the opportunity to train with some Choi Li Fut guys in Manila. The guys in their 30s (having trained for quite a while by that age) were impressive. So were the guys in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s! Then I went to Okinawa... the guys in their 30s weren't impressive... they were flipping awesome! The guys in their 60s were essentially crippled. So which direction did I choose? Of course, I wanted to be flipping awesome too! Thank goodness for modern surgical technique. Now, like you, I've dropped all the old knee killers from my training and teaching. There are other ways to develop great athletes and fighters. I'm a pragmatist. Prove that something works better, and I'm on it.

    Ed Sumner

    Ed Sumner

  5. Ed -

    Good to see your hard earned wisdom show up on the blog. Trust all is well in NV.

    Kris Wilder

  6. I learned a very usefull thing from Sensei Chenin when I trained in Spokane. "Take care of your health" The longer I train the more I get from this one notion for training. Makes it easier to drop harmfull techniques or exercises.


  7. Ah yes...

    His dojo kun. Good point.

    Kris Wilder

  8. In regards to the technique aspect of your post, I first would want to understand the mechanics - Do they fit ME? Some techniques start out on the wrong foot in the first place, requiring a heavy reliance on strength, speed, or hyper-flexibility. Anything requiring me to jump-spin-back kick the knife out of the attacker's hands isn't going to get much attention or effort from me. I prefer techniques that I can carry with me into old age & still apply.

    If it's something that works, and needs only moderate physical abilities to apply, HOWEVER, requires a lot of effort to understand and apply correctly...hey, I've got nothing but time. I believe that the underlying principles of any well-structured technique will present themselves if you are putting forth effort, and it's the principles that are important - not the way they're strung together.

    Also, a thing to look at (in my opinion) would be the attack that said technique is a response to. For instance, that high-low double punch in Rohai Kata...That attack is almost exclusive to the Kata itself & I have never seen it executed in a fight, under any circumstances. (This is leaving out such particulars as "alternate bunkai" or any tuite techniques it might contain. I am speculating purely on the physical aspects of the technique as they are presented in Kata.)

    I've seen some techniques in forms that are responses to attacks that, frankly, I can't bring myself to work because people just don't attack that way. It's rare, but not uncommon.

    Bobbe Edmonds

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