• Elbow Techniques

    Most kicking and punching situations involve dealing with an opponent at a distance.  On the other hand, close- range defense usually involves grappling and throwing techniques.  Between close and long distance lies a middle area covered by a powerful natural weapon- the elbow.

    Elbows are perfect close range weapons.  Because the elbow has a small, sharp surface, it delivers a penetrating blow to a small area and is a natural weapon that can be developed without years of practice.  It should be used when free movement of the body is restricted. 

    The actual striking surface for an elbow technique is either directly in front or behind the point of the elbow and not the elbow itself.  Power comes from a combination of shoulder and waist action.  Extending the shoulder joint slightly allows more energy and power to be released into the arm when the technique is delivered.  Combine this with the whip-like power produced by a relaxed, twisting motion of the waist and a tremendous penetrating force results.

    Hands are clenched into fists as the strike is performed by driving the elbow upward, forward, sideways, downward, and backward.  The elbow must be deeply flexed and kept close to the body so that the strike is not weakened.  Both elbows may be used simultaneously against a single or multiple opponents.  The action is very fast and in most instances, circular.

    One of the most devastating strikes is a strait upward smash aimed at the attacker’s chin or jaw.  The striking arm’s hand is formed into a fist with the knuckles turned upward.  The elbow is kept close to the body as the body is twisted at the waist and the elbow is quickly brought up to strike the target.  In a self-defense situation, a miss is a good as a mile.  Be aware of the distance required for contact.  Before retaliating to the threat of any attack, be sure that an aggressive act is really necessary.  The desired result of any defensive action should provide time to leave the area or summon help. 

  • Heavy Bag Training

    If used properly, heavy-bag training is a good substitute for a live training partner. It provides an opportunity to practice powerful hand and foot combinations against a solid moving target that reacts to being struck. Individual or combination techniques can be focused toward varying heights. Distancing can be either long-range (kicks) or very close-range (elbow or knee strikes).

    Heavy-bag training can enhance footwork. After setting a bag in motion with a powerful kick or punch, the bag should be left to complete its swing to stimulate a live partner’s reaction to a strike. The motion of the bag provides a great opportunity to practice side-stepping and repositioning for follow-up techniques. When changing position, attention should be given to keeping the body centered on the target of techniques can be executed. To utilize valuable practice opportunities, a moving bag should only be stopped by a countering technique (kick or punch).

    The variety of techniques available to use on a bag is endless. A student must control the bag and not let the bag dictate movement. He can stand and receive the bag by “slipping”, deliver combinations and/or stop the “aggressive” bag with a power technique.

    Endurance is a prime factor is any sport. A tired participant makes mistakes, becomes slow and probably will be physiologically beaten. He may lose his match because he hasn’t trained for endurance. The continuous body motion of action and reaction while heavy-bag training can be used to increase cardiovascular endurance. Work-out time should be divided into rounds with a brief rest/hydration period between rounds.

    Heavy-bag training may be awkward at first. Growing accustomed to the required rhythm and movement of this type of training will give the practitioner a feeling of mental and physical satisfaction.

  • Hot or Cold?

    People are easily confused about treating sports injuries. Should an ice pack or the heating pad be applied? Our bodies go through stages as we heal: acute, subacute and chronic. This first step in treating any injury is determining which stage of injury is being experienced.

    The first stage, the acute stage, begins with the injury and lasts for approximately a week. During this time there is an increase of mast cells (tissue response) in the bloodstream and an increased release of histamine, both of which cause swelling at the site of the injury. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) should be combined to reduce local bleeding which produces swelling, pain and muscle spasms.

    Ice should be applied in a cycle of on for 20 minutes, off for 20 minutes (repeated as often as needed). Use ice with caution because if it is left on for too long a time without the “warming” sequence, tissue damage similar to a burn may occur.

    The next stage, subacute, usually lasts up to three weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Continued swelling and scar formation is likely. Ice may still be used to control swelling and pain. Heat should be used before exercise and strechting. The same type of guide line should be used when applying heat as with ice – 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off – as needed.

    The final phase is the chronic stage that typically lasts between 6 months to a year. Ice and heat may be used interchangeably during this stage. It is a good idea to use heat before a workout or activity then use ice for any inflammation caused by working out.

    Always warm up/stretch before any activity. Use the same routine after the activity to minimize muscle tightness. Manny injuries are caused by a lack of preparation before engaging in muscle use. If an injury does occur, use common sense, immediately cease using the injured area, and apply RICE.

  • Kime vs. Sun-Dome

    The essence of karate techniques is kime. The meaning of kime is an explosive attack to the target using the appropriate technique and maximum power (intensity) in the shortest time possible. Long ago there was the expression ikken hissatsu, meaning “to kill with one blow”, but to assume from this that killing is the objective is dangerous incorrect. It should be remembered that the students of old were able to practice kime daily and in dead seriousness by using the makiwara or striking board.

    Kime may be accomplished by striking, punching, or kicking but also by blocking. A technique lacking kime can never be regarded as true karate, no matter how great the resemblance to karate. A contest is no exception; however, is against the rules to make “hard” contact because of the danger involved.

    Sun-dome means to arrest a technique just before contact with the target. Not carrying a technique through to kime is not true karate, so the question is how to reconcile the contradiction between kime and sun-dome. The answer is this: establish the target slightly in front of an opponent’s vital point. It can then be hit in a controlled way with maximum power without making contact.

    Conversely, it is essential for a defender to learn to absorb a strike, no matter how hard he is hit. To show pain and incapacity invites a quick defeat. There must be no flinch or facial expression after receiving a well timed strike. Any sign of weakness will only energize an attacker to become more aggressive. A defender should look into his attacker’s eyes and transmit a message (“Is that the best you can do?”) that will plant a seed of doubt or hesitation.

    Training transforms various parts of the body into weapons to be sued freely and effectively. The quality necessary to accomplish this is self-control. To become a victor, one must first overcome himself.

  • Breathing Problems and Prevention for Kumite

    Prevention and Screening

    1. Athletes who may have or are suspected of having asthma should undergo a thorough medical history and physical examination before kumite.
    2. Athletes with asthma should participate in a structured warmup protocol before kumite or other strenuous sport activity to decrease reliance on medications and minimize asthmatic symptoms and exacerbation.
    3. The referee staff should educate athletes with asthma about the use of asthma medications as prophylaxis before exercise, spirometry devices, asthma triggers, recognition of signs and symptoms, and compliance with monitoring the condition and taking medication as prescribed.
    4. The referee staff should ask if any medical conditions exist before beginning the match and to have the athletes medication (i.e. inhaler) be visible and available at ring side


    The referee staff should be aware of the major asthma signs and symptoms:

    A. confusion

    B. sweating

    C. drowsiness

    D. difficulty exhaling

    E. low level of oxygen (looking pale)

    F. use of belly muscles for breathing, huffing and puffing for more than 30 seconds after stopping activity

    G. wheezing

    H. cyanosis (turning blue)

    I. coughing

    J. hypotension (low blood pressure)

    K. mental status changes

    L. loss of consciousness

    M. inability to lie supine

    N. inability to speak coherently

    O. agitation


    • For a sudden asthma attack, the athlete should use their inhaler. In a severe attack, the speed of getting the medication is of the essence.  More than one dose may be needed for severe attacks.  If 3 administrations of medication do not relieve distress, the athlete should be referred promptly to an appropriate health care facility.
    • Inhaled corticosteroids or leukotriene inhibitors can be used for asthma prophylaxis and control. Athletes should be taught to use these medicines as prescribed by their physician if they are to compete in kumite or other strenuous sport activity.
    • Supplemental oxygen should be offered to improve the athlete’s available oxygenation during asthma attacks.
    • If despite treatment, the asthma attack returns on the same day once kumite resumes, the athlete should be removed from competition.
    • In the athlete with asthma, physical activity should be initiated at low intensity levels and training intensity gradually increased while monitoring occurs for recurrent asthma symptoms.


  • Grassroots

    When Mike was three he wanted a sand box. His father said, “There goes the yard. We’ll have kids over here day and night. They’ll throw sand and it’ll kill the grass for sure.” Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

    When Mike was five, he wanted a jungle gym with swings that would take his breath away and bars to take him to the summit. His father said, “Good grief! I’ve seen those things in back yards. Do you know what the yard looks like? Mud holes in a pasture. Kids digging their gym shoes in the ground. It’ll kill the grass.” Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

    Between breaths when daddy was blowing up the plastic swimming pool, he warned, “They’ll track water everywhere. They’ll have a million water fights. You won’t be able to take out the garbage without stepping in mud up to your neck. We’ll have the only brown lawn on the block. Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

    When Mike was 12, he volunteered his back yard for a camp out. As boys hoisted the tents and drove in the spikes, Mike’s father said, “You know those tents and all those big feet are going to trample down every blade of grass, don’t you? Don’t bother to answer. I know what you’re going to say- “It’ll come back.”

    Just when it looked as if the new seed might take root, winter came and the sled runners beat it into ridges. Mikes father shook his head and said, “I never asked for much in this life – only a patch of grass.” Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

    Now Mike is 18. The lawn this year is beautiful – green and alive and rolling out like a carpet along the drive where the gym shoes have trod, along the garage where bicycles used to fall and around the flower beds where little boys used to dig with teaspoons. But Mike’s father doesn’t notice. He looks anxiously beyond the yard and asks, “Mike will come back, won’t he?”

    Summer is here. Children are one of life’s most precious commodities. Appreciate your children’s activities and spend time with them while you can.

  • Character

    “Martial arts have flourished in Asia as away to build the body and character. As schools have sprung up across the nation, Asian martial arts have become a new American sport. While schools have struggled to remain true to the ancient masters, commercialism has become an economic reality in order to survive. This unfortunate turn has dealt a serious blow to the very principles that have served as the pillars on which these centuries- old disciplines has stood. In some cases, concern for building a positive character has taken a backseat to physical prowess. Virtues like respect, loyalty, courage, and justice, characteristics on which the 16th century founders of Asian martial arts built their way of life, have unfortunately gone by the wayside in many cases. The ability to live by these virtues is a great test for the martial artist, the ultimate goal being the development of self-realization or perfection as a human being.

    Respect should be earned, not demanded. A student should respect an instructor because of the skill, knowledge and code of ethics which the student hopes to attain. It takes courage to continue when one has failed. Courage gives the peewee competitor the inner strength to wipe away tears and continue. It makes it possible for the only female student to attend class where there is no encouragement. Loyalty is a concept of being faithful to ones comrades and instructors that is as old as time itself. Nations have been built or destroyed by an abundance or lack of loyalty. The one virtue that served as midwife to the tradition of Asian martial arts during the unjust medieval times justice. The outlawing of weapons and a continual brutalization of peasants led to the creation of a martial system whereby the body was conditioned and trained to serve as a weapon.

    Building character and living by a code of ethics, not only increases confidence, but also prepares students for life. Martial artists need to teach each other how to live in harmony. The ancient principle or respecting one another needs to be recaptured.”

    By kickboxing champion, Graciela Casillas

  • Judgement Calls

    Scenario #1

    Marilyn is a college freshman. She has an apartment away from home for the first time. The creep next door wants Marilyn to go out with him, and thinks it is fun to tease her. He often jumps out of the bushes and grabs her from behind, or tries to steal kisses at the laundry room.

    Women and undersized children are often harassed by larger, stronger individuals who see them as easy prey. The solution to this problem is basically psychological. The way to stop annoying behavior is to remove the gratification the antagonist receives from his actions. Refuse to go along with the game. Maintain a confident, assertive attitude. Avoid nervous giggling, whining, etc. Physical aggression can be checked by effortlessly breaking away from the harasser’s grasp. This simple action can unnerve the aggressor to the degree that he will leave.

    Scenario #2

    Roger is a top-notch karate black belt who expects- and generally receives- easy victories at the tournaments he attends. His friends wish he would lose now and then so he wouldn’t be so egotistical. One day Roger gets into a bar fight and kicks the drunk in the head. The man dies and Roger is arraigned on murder charges.

    Scenario #3

    Hank is 20 years old and athletic. He studied judo when he was a kid and has confidence that he can take care of himself. When confronted one day by a robber with a knife, he attacks the man and barely survives after emergency surgery.

    Scenarios #2 and #3 could have been avoided. They are prime examples of errors in judgment. Swallow pride and walk away. Knowing when to use self-defense techniques is more important than the techniques that are actually used. Techniques for the self-defense can, and should, result in injury to an attacker. However, they should only be used in situations that seriously threaten life or well being.

  • Demanding Sensei

    “Sensei seems to be in a constant state of perpetual dissatisfaction wish us because none of us live up to his standards.”

    Is this person speaking about your Sensei or mine? The truth is probably both. I could easily say the same thing about Sensei Marlon. Sensei is never satisfied with me no matter how hard I try or how much progress I make. Sensei creates a sense of tremendous discomfort in me at times. But I know Karate training is not suppose to be a cake walk and that is has to be uncomfortable sometimes if I am going to grow at all. I just always keep in mind that it’s a technical dissatisfaction, not a personal dissatisfaction. You have to be careful that you don’t confuse the two.

    One of the first things you need to know about a demanding Sensei is that he generally is demanding of everyone, not just you. It’s not personal. Students have a tendency to assume that he is just picking on them and they feel pressured. But let me ask you a question. Has it ever occurred to you that the most demanding instructors are the ones who push you out of your comfort zone and help you rise to a new level of competence? It is frequently the demanding instructor who will bring you the best in you. It is important and necessary to be open to what they have to teach you without taking their behavior personally.

  • Desire

    Whether you are a beginner or a “battle hardened veteran” of the martial arts, growing depends on desire. An intense desire to learn about oneself and one’s art is essential to truly progress. The drive to understand something simultaneously unlocked doors to further knowledge by pushing oneself beyond fear, beyond laziness, beyond excuses and beyond psychological barriers.

    A student who is not really trying to learn about his art may think he has been studying 20 years. In reality, he has only been studying for 3 or 4 years because the remaining time was spent merely repeating what he already knew with no effort toward improvement, physically and mentally. One has to mentally strip away the hindrances and see the art as a child, through “new” eyes. Viewing an art as a child should bring questions to mind and open new paths for exploration. Don’t continue to spend time on what has already been developed through mindless repetition, but research to find what was missing during this development and build on what is already in place to continue to improve.

    Cultivation of desire can put a student at the top of his field. One does not necessarily have to be born with special skills to achieve success. Hard work and the desire to develop and constantly improve can replace a lack of natural talent. Persons who are genetically skilled but never use their abilities can be surpassed by a student who has the internal motivation to learn and succeed.