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4-24-07 Leyn Burrows Karate

I visited Leyn Burrows' dojo last night. I thought you might interested in some of my observations. It was a non-traditional class. He did his warmups by performing half katas. That is, he did the first half of every kata, except Sanchin. Then he did the second half of every kata.

As soon as he started the second half I understood what and why he did it that way. It provoked memories of me being complacent and not being in the moment, at times, when I did my kata. And I’m sure that's just what he wanted to happen, putting a different spin on the same old dance. It was an ingenious method of camouflaging repetition while maintaining curriculum. And as Bruce the 6th Dan commented, Mushin means empty mind not no mind. It really forced a thought process attempting to remember were to pickup from the first half and also perform the second half of the katas as the subject kata.

Leyn implemented two other exercises that had multiple lessons in them. He demonstrated how to work a heavy bag, again without becoming rote or mechanical. He did this by gathering his energy (psyching himself up) and then attacking the bag with a lead kick (didn’t matter what kind, front round house or side) and then unleashing a barrage of 10 straight, hook and uppercut punches. The punches weren’t necessarily hard but they were fast and compact.

And that’s were another lesson was presented. The energy of the punches was initiated from the floor. This method kept the punches from becoming windup strikes where the arm gets disconnected from the body. When the energy of the punch originates from Sanchin from the floor through the legs through the lats through the deltoids the punch delivers more power with less effort.

Another lesson, also in the disconnect/connect theme, was the pelvic tilt. Once you lean forward, to throw the punch, you break Sanchin. Now we’ve all heard that and we know that, but what does it really mean? It means you lose connection with the floor; thereby losing the energy that you would’ve drawn from the floor. And only your upper body generates the power (we knew that). He said to bring into play the pelvic tilt with every strike. Think about having sex, thrusting your pelvis with every strike.

Now these were a couple of minor lessons (major for me) that he wanted to present. But the major one was the removal of the robotics during the attack of the heavy bag. He accomplished this by spending himself. That is he did a series of progressive attacks, always leading with a kick; but increasing the number of punches from ten to fifteen to twenty, with intervals of gathering his energy (psyching) between each attack. The speed with which he punched the bag was unbelievable.

Another minor lesson he presented was how to increase the power of a punch without losing connection (reaching back with the arm). He did this by turning the opposite hip toward the target. This caused his upper body to turn away from the target, and allowed him to keep his arms in Sanchin, but placing his punching hand further from the target, thus generating a more powerful strike.

From all this came a conclusion, Uechi is in-fighting (where have we heard that before?). That’s why you need to keep your arms up and in Sanchin, maintaining the connection. You keep your arms up while being inside, because it allows good protection and quick striking ability without the loss of energy.

The class’ theme was bag work. Because in his next exercise he brought out two arm length bags and proceeded to have Bruce throw combination punches. There were multiple lessons in this exercise. The first lesson didn’t occur to me until after the session and Leyn began explaining what needed to be done to attack the bags properly and get something out of the exercise. He said there is a series of ways to hold the bags: straight up and stationary, circular – moving the bags straight up in front with a circular motion, moving the bags from straight up in front to straight up holding them out on opposites sides, and finally random positioning sort of like the way we hold a hand bag up then removing it before it can be hit.

I finally have a feeling of how to employ the tools (heavy bags and arm and hand bags) of karate. But the major lesson was to develop a rhythm while attacking the bag, in any of its held presentations, a rhythm that would replace the mechanical/robotic movements with free flowing/instinctive movements. The exercise develops increased sight reaction or a perceived anticipation of the target presentation. You move from the mechanical jab and drag step movements to the Mushin infested rhythmic movements. He didn’t care about miss hits, just as long as you developed a rhythm with your foot movements and combinations.

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