I love Friday night classes, as they are usually geared towards sparring and kumite. My major weakness. We started with body conditioning and moved to focus pad drills. The emphases last night was on knee strikes. Fogarasi Sensei spoke to us about not only the importance of knee strikes, but the proper applications and distancing, both for competition and self-defense application.
I am finding with each class my cardio is improving, especially since quitting smoking. However, once we got to sparring, things changed. Though I have improved, I was finding myself gassing out rather quickly. It in turn makes me frustrated, which concurrently makes me breath harder and it all becomes a circle. Not exactly the Mushin state I spoke of in my last post.
When it came turn to spar with Senpai Mici Fogarasi I was gassed, but she gave me great advice. She said I was gassing out because I was so intense and breathing incorrectly. She ‘forced’ me to relax and change my breathing to diaphragmatic breathing. I was breathing through my mouth.
During sports performance, if you want to move fast, you must breathe fast. Exhaling air through the nose is much faster and sharper then through the mouth, which means you can move faster if you exhale through the nose. Breathing through your nose slows down the number of times you breathe in a period. Some studies say breathing through the mouth means 60-70 cycles per minute whereas breathing through the nose is about 40-50 cycles per minute. A slower breathing cycle means that you use less energy for breathing and also that you’re probably absorbing the oxygen better since it is a deeper breath. Your body will be less tired when you breathe through the nose .
If you watch pro level fighters, they have a very fast “hissing” sound when they breathe and their punches are much faster/sharper. Slower, calmer, deeper breathing means you will have more energy, be more aware, and hit with relaxed sharp punches.
As senpai taught me last night, mouth breathing isn’t useless. When you punch very quickly, you exhale in quick little bursts, or “hiss”, through the mouth. So you can use the mouth for breathing sometimes, but only use it to exhale when you punch or kick. The short burst of air through the mouth seems to add a quickness and sharpness to your strikes while conserving air for more strikes if needed. It was a great lesson from Senpai Fogarasi. Osu!
Finally it was time for me to spar with Fogarasi Sensei. His control and precision was incredible. He too kept getting me to be less intense by forcing me to slow down and use more control. Any time my intensity increased, he turned up the pressure to centre my energy. Sparring with him truly is a lesson. I loved the way that he not only worked with me, but made me work. Like my last blog post, this was the lesson in mushin, or ‘no mind’.
It is difficult to explain in words, but what I find happening during sparring is a sort of “tunnel vision”. Because of my fear, intensity, and breath, I form tunnel vision. What Sensei was teaching me was to no longer have my mind bound by fear or self-consciousness. To have my mind open, focused and spontaneous. By relaxing and breathing properly, the tunnel vision was leaving, and I was able to “see”. Anticipate and react.
Fogarasi Sensei is teaching me to be free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego, not only during fighting, as it translates into everyday life as well. Relaxed focus. There should be no “thought”, so that we are free to act and react towards an opponent. The martial artist will then rely not on what they think should be the next move, but what is their trained natural reaction or what is felt intuitively.
I know this true state of Mushin that Sensei is teaching me will take many years of dedicated practice. I am glad I have someone like Fogarasi Sensei to show me the way. Osu!
As the legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō said, “The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.”
Fogarasi Sensei is a great teacher and I feel very lucky to have found this dojo to be taught the lessons that are not only valuable in karate, but in life. Sensei’s lesson to me last night reminded me of something Kancho Joko Ninomiya wrote in his book, “Spirit is the most important element in kumite, because it alone will take you into the moment and allow you to sense the rhythm and find the opening — suki — for any attack. Power can be defected every time by strategy and technique, but you need the heart and spirit to stay calm. That way you can find a path into the eye of any storm, no matter how loudly it may roar.”