Does your Coach really understand what they are coaching?

Does your Coach really understand what they are coaching?

I was reading some posts on an internet forum this evening and wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, or maybe both, just not sure which way around. To cut short a long and tedious thread, the thrust of the argument was, that it doesn’t matter where you do Karate and who with, as its all the same underneath. Sure there is an argument that nearly anyone can teach you how to wave your hand or foot in front of your body and call it a punch or kick, indeed some schools are based on this premise. At the end of the day a punch is a punch, right, well not quite. Imagine the following;

“Sensei, my punch isn’t very good, how can I make it better”

“Well you need to turn your fist ½ cm to the left and that will make it much stronger”

“Um, okay, thanks. Now how can I make it faster”

“Well you need to add more kime to the technique” 


 At which stage the hapless student goes off to practice, maybe and to see if they can figure out what they been told

Many people, particularly low ranking instructors don’t know any better, they think Karate is all about how the technique looks and don’t have the depth of knowledge to back up their teaching. Why? Well it was they way that they were taught.

If you take the same conversation and play it differently, with a more experienced instructor.

“Sensei, my punch isn’t very good, how can I make it better”

“In what way isn’t it very good”

“It doesn’t feel very strong when I hit something nor is it fast”

“Okay, well lets grab a pad and try some punches……….Okay when you are punching,  your shoulder is raised and as you impact, it is being pushed back”

“Oh, I didn’t realise I was doing that. Actually why am I doing that”

“You need to soften the chest and relax the shoulders as you punch and then the hand and foot need to land together at the point of impact, like this……….Do you feel the difference between both styles?”

“Yes I do, but I’m not sure on how to soften the chest and relax the shoulders like you just did”

“I know, I wanted you to understand the difference in the feel of a technique first, before explaining it to you. If I tell you, you might understand, if you feel it, you will understand better. Try this, stand in a natural stance, soften the muscles in the ankles, calves……etc all the way upto the chest. Now soften the chest itself. You’ll now notice that the shoulders are relaxed and lowered and you are breathing ‘through your belly.’ This is one part of the equation for generating speed and power in a technique”

“Thanks, is it that simple?”

“Laughs, not quite. We need to look at your posture now. One of the key components of a successful technique is your body condition.


“You need to be a stable posture, with good balance, distance and timing. Moreover you need to be able to deliver a technique with all of these components, whilst destroying your opponents own body condition.”

“Okay I get that”

“Good, well lets try that, so you can show me how well you understand the concept and can then deliver it.  We can then move onto start investigating being heavy, rooted and adding circles into your movements and their effect on the successful delivery of the punch and you can see their effect on the speed of delivery.”

Learning Karate or any Martial Art is a complex business. It needs someone who has been through the mill and understands in depth how to make it happen. More importantly, that person should be able to communicate it , to their students, so that they can learn how to do it like that as well, or preferably, to be able to do it better than the instructor.

To say Karate is Karate, no matter what, is like offering to take your partner out for a valentines meal to McDonalds rather than a sumptuous meal cooked by Jamie Oliver at one of his restaurants and then to tell your partner, after all it’s only food and it’s all been cooked.

Food for thought I hope, enjoy your experience and may your just deserts be rich, deep and full of calories.