Karate - Budo  
  The key features and principles for understanding karate  


  >> Stage karaté Vincenzo Figuccio 19-21 mai - Belgique english français
Aggression and stress
  Styles of karate
  Aims of karate
  Kihon, kata, kumite
  Physical principes
  Aggression and stress
  Kumite in pratice
  Dangerous spots
  Japan, Buddhism & Zen
  Karate and emptiness
  The book
    Shotokan kata
    Shitoryu kata
    Goju-ryu kata
    Takedown & MMA
    Physical training



Stress is a natural and automatic reaction of the body as it prepares to face a problem or danger. Under the effects of tension, the autonomic (non-conscious) nervous system increases the secretion of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, etc.) by the adrenal glands (the endocrine glands at the upper pole of the two kidneys). The resulting stress is felt by means of various events, such as muscle tension, tremors, palpitations, hyperventilation, sweating, intestinal disorders, impatience, irritability, aggressiveness, confused thoughts, difficulty in concentrating and remembering, etc. During stress or exertion, the body also secretes endorphins (a type of morphine) that have an analgesic effect and generate a state of well-being. These might also explain a relative dependence on sport or stress (among marathon runners, for example).

The manifestations of stress may prove troublesome in various circumstances (in the event of palpitations, for example, of excessive sweating during an exam). But, when faced with danger, stress increases aggressiveness, and boosts strength and speed, which can be crucial. Stress may be considered as an adaptive mechanism that enabled our ancestors to survive when they were in danger. However, thinking skills and fine motor skills are often altered. A defence system must integrate these factors if it is to be effective in stressful situations. It must consist of simple movements that are natural, fast and limited in number. Ten to twenty techniques are usually considered sufficient for dealing with most forms of aggression. There is little point in trying to master hundreds of complicated techniques, as it is highly unlikely that you will be able to use them if attacked. It is much better to keep repeating a handful of techniques until they become effective and automatic. It falls to each individual to find his or her favourite techniques and drills in the compendium of karate katas.

We can never claim to be able to prepare an individual to face a real assault. However, here are three areas that should not be overlooked:

1. Repeating simple and effective techniques until they become automatic and reflex actions.
2. Increasing body muscle to boost mass and speed of execution in order to augment the kinetic energy of blows.
3. At the same time, work should be done on psychological preparation by multiplying stress situations in training in order to develop self-control and the fighting spirit.

Various facets of karate make it possible to work on these three elements. The main areas are outlined below.

All the toughening-up exercises, such as makiwara work or kote kitai, are not just physical but also psychological preparations for exposing the practitioner to real combat.

Kihon, when devoutly practised, helps to develop the body, endurance, mastery of the basic techniques and perseverance.

Kata is also an extraordinary tool: it teaches practitioners how to manage stress as they are required to remain focused on the pattern of execution. An imaginary fight has to be mentally visualised and techniques executed at full power; kata also helps control movements in all directions.

The kihon ippon kumite applies the basic techniques with a partner. It enhances reflexes and control, and teaches individuals how to remain still, position themselves, block an attack and mount a quick counter-attack. It cultivates composure and boosts the self-confidence needed to forge ahead in a fight.

Shiai kumite will develop the same qualities whilst resembling real combat a little more closely. The blows are regulated and controlled in order to avoid hurting the partner, but this simulated combat breeds an alertness that is both calm and ready to pounce at the slightest opening. Concentration is required so that any opportunity can be seized: a slight lapse in concentration, a change of distance, a mistake in timing, etc. Competition, although far removed from a situation of aggression, can teach individuals how to manage stress and how to use it to their advantage. One of the key goals of karate is, in fact, learning to master one’s body and mind in stressful situations.

Jiyu kumite is a free form of combat where anything goes, except hurting one’s partner. No technique is forbidden: chokes, strikes (open or closed hands), kicks, fists, elbows, knees, digs, pressure points, ground strikes, throws, locks, etc. In this type of fighting,

although blows are struck, the practitioners must be experienced and able to control their techniques in order to respect the physical and moral integrity of their partner.
This kind of confrontation cannot take place in competition, because there can be no reward or audience to please: the integrity of the other fighter is too important for him or her to be subject to ego impulses that are very difficult to control.

In short, each part of karate has a purpose and should not be overlooked. Even if it is natural to have preferences, every aspect is useful for preparing physically and mentally for a real confrontation.

We should emphasise, however, that anticipation is the summit of the art: not simply anticipating an attack to that it can be countered, but rather avoiding dangerous situations or unnecessary confrontations for satisfying the ego. Anticipation also means preparing yourself for combat in order to deter any potential assailant, as it is rare that an aggressor attacks someone who is stronger, especially if he or she has respect for the other person.