When most people envisage karate, they see powerful snappy punches or kicks. They also envisage a myriad of muscles all contracting simultaneously to generate that power. Perhaps this is why most karate-ka are too tense and stiff throughout their training.
While tension is required at the end of a technique to give it the final bite, during any other part of the technique, the body SHOULD be relaxed.
Does your instructor regularly tell you that you’re too stiff?
It’s likely you focus too much on the strength at the end of the technique. By doing so, you introduce the tension too early into the technique and keep it too long after the technique.
So how do you beat this?
Focus purely on relaxing and give up the tension altogether (this is also an excellent opportunity to work on your breathing as well). Don’t worry if you are not getting the tension at the end of your technique, develop your ability to be relaxed (from start to finish) and once you are happy that you can perform a relaxed technique you can start to add tension.
So relax, relax, relax. Develop relaxation in your karate, and when you re-introduce tension your power output will be far greater.
Relaxing is the key to enduring karate
Getting rid of that 'stiffness' in your karate will not only benefit your snap, it will make a big difference in your endurance. We often blame our fitness for our becoming tired quickly, but if you have ever been told by your instructor that 'you’re too stiff', it’s likely the real culprit is your stiffness. Holding onto tension means your muscles are being over worked, and as such, you burn your energy supplies. The key to enduring karate is to learn to relax. A relaxed karate-ka can perform for greater periods, and yet, still have greater effectiveness and power output.
Relaxing is the key to effective kumite
In many ways, the key to developing relaxation in your kumite is to be relaxed in your general training. Let’s face it, if you are stiff in your general training you will likely be stiff in your kumite and vice versa. The benefits of relaxing transfer into kumite also.
Relaxed sparring leads to extended sparring: when you let go of tension you can spar for greater periods. When you are tense, you grow tired very quickly.
Relaxed sparring leads to faster attacks: Muscle tension works like your car’s brakes as it inhibits joint movement. When you let go of tension you are able to speed off the mark with explosion.
Relaxed sparring leads to better defence: People who are stiff in their sparring tend to try and think of an appropriate defence to what is coming. This is always going to be slower. When your body is relaxed, your mind also relaxes and blocking becomes instinctive.