ONLY AVAILABLE ON CD
ISSUE 40 FEATURES
Hitoshi Kasuya 7th Dan. W.S.K.F
(Interview By Alistair Mitchell)
'Jumping' in Karate. By Bill Burgar
Sensei Enoeda's Crystal Palace Summer Course. (Report)
'To-Te Jitsu'.The Lost Manuscript Discovered.
Story By Ken B. Tallack
Making Sense Of Basic Techniques.
By Geoff Merrigan
Makiwara and Tamashiwara 'The Lost Arts'
By Don Warrener
Letters To The Editor
Shotokan News and Reports
Daniel Lautier 5th Dan JKA
(Interview By Jean Paul Deshayes)
Discovering Bunkai. By Bill Burgar
Heian Kyo 'City of Peace' By John Floyd
Sensei Hitoshi Kasuya 7th Dan. W.S.K.F
By Bill Burgar
Jumping can be a very useful skill in the martial arts. There are many instances where leaving the ground for a few moments can be the deciding factor in an engagement or at least enough to give you a few moments to regain your composure. YAHARA Sensei, for example, is renowned for somersaulting backwards over a corner judge to get out of a nasty situation.
First we will start off by examining how to get the most height and or length in a jump without regard to any karate technique. Then we will look at the compromises necessary to make the jump into a martial art technique.
Let's look at a few sports that involve jumping and see how those athletes use technique to aid their jumping ability.
I recently heard about an event in the 'old' Olympics. The long jump pit was 50 feet long and the record for the longest jump went past the end of the pit! How did they achieve such huge jumps? The secret was that they carried a special weight in each hand and by timing their leap correctly they could use the weights to pull them forward in the jump and then when the weights started to slow them down they would throw the weights backward so that the jumper was propelled forward (rather like using a jet engine).
The point that this demonstrates is that by using your arms (albeit without weights most of the time) it is possible to increase your height or length of jump.
The arms are important in jumping but so is the rest of the body. Technique is vitally important and the largest gains can be made by analysing and improving your technique. That is not to say that you cannot improve by other means.
I recently received an electronic mail message from Kelly Dooley, a Taekwando practitioner and keen basketball player from Texas and he says, "At 6 feet 4 inches tall and 220lbs, I find myself at a disadvantage in sparring when I leave the ground. However, in basketball you can't get enough height."
He continues, "My personal observations: strength training has proven (for me) to be very 'ineffective' for increasing jumping height. The most effective means I have found are:
1. losing weight ( I was a skinny 175lb in college but could really 'slam dunk' a basketball. Now it's quite a struggle although I am much stronger) and........
2. increasing muscle flexibility. Being good and limber makes all the difference in the world in doing jumping kicks in my TKD class."
Strength is not a big requirement in jumping, being light weight helps you but you must have sufficient strength to lift your own weight. However, losing weight just for jumping is not a sensible idea for a karateka. We need to find a balance between having sufficient mass to generate impact and being light enough to move quickly.
Since jumping forms a very small part of our activities, losing weight just to improve our jump is not a viable proposition. So, the best way for us to improve height and length is to improve technique.
The secret in jumping well lies in getting as much of your body moving upwards as soon as possible prior to actually leaving the ground. Try this exercise:
Stand with your feet together and legs straight. Keep your hands by your sides and without moving them at all and without bending your knees, jump as high as you can (remember to bend your knees as you land to avoid back injury). You won't go very high, in fact you will barely get off the ground. No part of your body is moving prior to you pushing off with your calf muscles so it is very difficult to get any height. In this exercise the reason for keeping your legs straight before taking off is to isolate the effect of using your arms. If you bend your knees you will use the major muscle groups in your legs to assist the jump and you will not be able to feel the difference that using your arms makes.
Now try swinging your arms behind you just before take off and as you are about to take off, swing your arms (like bowling a cricket ball under arm) forward and up. Keep your legs straight before you take off and bend your knees only on landing as before. Notice how your body feels it wants to go upwards as your arms pull you up.
Now try the same thing whilst holding some small weights in your hands and notice how much more the pull upwards is. Conversely try throwing your arms downward as you jump so you can feel how bad it is to have your arms going the wrong way for the jump.
Keep experimenting with the way you use your arms and you will soon find out that 'timing' is 'the' most important thing. The arms must be thrown upward at the instant before your last foot leaves the ground. Once you have left contact with the ground, throwing your arms up has a detrimental effect. Once in the air you then need to push your arms downward. The faster and stronger you push your arms up, the more assistance they will give to the jump on take off. If you get the timing wrong at any point your jump will not reach it's full potential.
Now do a similar experiment. Stand with your arms fixed by your sides, lift your right leg slightly off the floor. Keep the left leg straight (remember to bend it when landing). Then without bending the left leg and without moving the right leg or your arms, jump as high as you can. It won't be very high. Next, do the same jump but this time throw your right knee upward as fast as possible just prior to take off. Notice the difference in height.
Again the timing is most important. The right leg must be travelling up as fast as possible as you take off. If you add your arms to the jump so that the arms and the leg are moving up at the moment of take off, you will have a large part of your body mass going up and therefore your muscles don't have to push so hard to get the same height. The important thing here is that your centre of gravity must be moving upward as fast as possible.
Up until now we have been trying to ignore the use of the leg muscles by keeping the leg straight prior to take off. Now let's see how to make the most of the muscles in the legs.
If you watch a long or high jumper, just before they take off their whole body dips downward, stretching the muscles and tendons in the leg like springs. An instant later as they start to jump up the energy stored in those springs is released helping them to jump higher or longer. Have you ever noticed that when you are walking along and you come to an uphill stretch that you lean forward at the waist slightly? This is not for balance as you might expect but it stretches the glueteal muscles (buttocks) to a length where they are more efficient for the work at hand.
A similar thing happens during the dip just before take off. The muscle is moved into the optimum position and then used to send you upward. Similarly the quads (the muscle group on the front of your thigh) reach their optimal length when the leg is slightly bent. As stated earlier, strength in these muscles is not the main requirement, they should be limber and finely tuned and not just large - notice how high jumpers are usually tall and thin and similarly long jumpers are not over bulky.
OK, so you may be the world high jump record holder but that does not make you the world's best fighter. Unfortunately the technique of jumping does not mix well with the technique of fighting. Throwing your arms up in the air to get more lift may help you jump higher but it doesn't make for a very good guard. Therefore we must make a compromise between jumping and fighting to give the most effective mix.
There are many factors to take into consideration. For example take Tobi Yoko geri (jumping side kick). This technique can be performed from a close or distant position. If you are close and your opponent is punching at you, you will require your arms to guard. However, if you are further away you will not need them for guarding and can instead use them for gaining lift.
Lets look at a few jumping techniques in particular. First the jump in Heian Godan. The main requirements here are to leap from Renoji dachi (L stance) turning in the air through 90 degrees, keeping the legs tucked in and bringing the hands to the sides. Then on landing bring the hands forward in an X block (juji uke) and sinking into a low kosa dachi (cross leg stance).
In this instance when the arms are brought to the sides they cannot be thrown upward, therefore they must be thrown forward in a circular motion a little earlier and then pulled upward towards the waist as you take off. This is the only upward motion they can make but it is better than none at all.
At the end of Enpi kata the jump is simulating throwing someone so in actual fact you should try not to use your arms so much. (Nakayama Sensei said that the reason you jump up high at the end of Enpi is because kata is done alone, you practice lifting your own body-weight in this instance as opposed to actually lifting an opponent. He also said that to achieve great height when you start the jump - transfer your weight onto your back leg (left) and use the drive from this leg coupled with the leverage and momentum gained by lifting the (right) - knee, as fast and high as possible as you take off). The purpose of simulating the throw is to develop strength in the legs and hips and as such trying for extra height by using the arms is going against the purpose. Therefore you should jump as high as possible without using the arms. If you do use your arms then you are guilty of just trying to look good by jumping higher than anyone else - don't loose sight of why you are performing a particular technique. Of course in a competition ill informed judges may be looking for a spectacular jump in which case you may make the choice to use your arms to make it look better, that is your choice.
Nidan geri (double jumping kick like at the end of Kanku Dai kata) is where you leap into the air and kick at chudan height with one leg and then at jodan height with the other leg. This requires good timing. It is important to snap the legs back quickly otherwise the top half of your body will swing forward in mid air, placing your face nearer to your opponent and in a position to be hit. Again you can use your arms to a certain extent especially if you are starting at a distance from your opponent but you must take up a guard in mid air ready to defend or strike as you land.
In kata Kanku Sho there is a turning jump where you take off facing obliquely upward and turn in mid air to land in a horizontal position. Many people make the mistake of jumping too high here.
In 'Best Karate' by Nakayama it says that you are jumping under the attacking arm and therefore the jump should be low. It is therefore important to rotate quickly in mid air. The duration of the jump should be short. It therefore requires more skill to control the fast spin.
Probably the most famous and difficult jumps of all is the one in Unsu kata. You have to leap up into a tucked position, rotate 360 degrees and strictly speaking you should kick, 'jumping back kick' on the way down, although people that can actually do this are very few and far between. The take off position is with the left hand stretched out in front of you and this makes using this for extra height very difficult. The right hand can be used however, as can the right leg which kicks, mikazuki geri (crescent kick) into the left hand just after take off.
Jumping is a skill that needs a great deal of practice to perfect. Work on your timing and the use of the whole body to improve your technique.
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