I step forward 45 degree with the left foot, the other foot now pointing to the right, and both knees bent. I set my stance and lower my center of gravity. At the same time I inhale as I slowly wrap my arms against my body; left hand reaching for my right hip, right hand reaching for my left ear, turning my upper body turning to the right to minimize the impact of a punch hitting me. I put on a burst of speed bringing my left arm out to strike the attackers arm as they attempt to punch me. Quickly I counter the attack by throwing a right punch to their solar plexus. I exhale. Inhaling, I slowly wrap my arms against my body this time turning it to the left with my left hand reaching for my right ear and my right hand reaching for my left hip. As if I were pulling a rip cord on a lawnmower I pull hard with my right hand sending to strike my attacker on the side of their head. I exhale. My left foot forward and left knee bent, I calmly and slowly slide my right foot up next to my left foot then out so my right foot is now forward all while my knees are still bent. As soon as my right foot has planted, my left hand launches from the left side as I strike the next attacker into their solar plexus. I exhale. Inhaling again I wrap my left hand to my right hip, right hand to my left ear, body turned to the right. I pull my left hand from my hip as if I were pulling my cellphone from the holster. The last quick sequence of moves I blocked the attacker’s punch, while moving my left foot forward, and striking their jaw.
My imaginary fight is soon interrupted as people try to get around me in the hallway hoping they don’t get on the receiving end of my punches. I move out of the way and stand against the wall. As I wait patiently outside of the restroom for my turn I resume practicing kata in a space that’s barely 5 feet wide. Though I could make the long trek back to my desk to wait 10 minutes then walk back to only find out the restroom has a new occupant. Usually I have a few moments to spare because someone is writing a novel on their phone or napping. – Yes there are bathroom nappers. So I’ll run through one my first kata’s ever learned two or three times.
For the people that do not practice martial arts; a kata is a pre-arranged set of basic punches, blocks, and kicks at an imaginary opponent. This is similar to ballet or a ritualized dance. Martial artists have spent years debating the practicality of kata. My first instructor swears by the fact kata is useful for training. He once told me a story about a man in Okinawa who practiced a kata several times a day for 20 years.
Queue the memory cloud over my head as I retell the story that was once told to me:
A man participated in a tournament where he defeated 9 opponents simultaneously. When asked how many people he worked out with daily he replied “hundreds and thousands”. People were confused by his answer. He elaborated that through kata he was training against an infinite number of opponents.
I am not sure if this is a true story or not, I haven’t done a Google search on it.
Recently in the last year or so I realized the value in practicing katas. The one thing I really like is that kata’s helps me get used to doing the combinations of strikes, kicks, and blocks in one fluid movement. I practice to keep control of my balance and making sure my center of gravity is set low on the first move. Once the height has been set I have to control my movements and the transition from one stance to another softly and be undetectable by the attacker. Controlling speed and timing is important; don’t be too slow when speed is needed and don’t be fast when slow and steady is crucial. Breathing is the hardest to conquer; inhaling and exhaling at the wrong time will exhaust muscles and then fatigue sets in.
Lately as I am waiting in the hallway I revisit Seisan the first kata I ever learned. This particular kata is complex and utilizes all of the blocks, punches, and kicks in 52 moves. My first time through the kata is sloppy. My legs and arms are not warmed up. Second time through is looking better but have had to stop a few times so people can pass through the hall safely. After the third attempt the kata is sharp and crisp.
I find that practicing my kata’s has a meditation like quality to it. On the days I get upset over something work related the stress has faded after I have gone through the kata’s. After running through a kata 3 or 4 times the Bathroom Napper is finally awake or finished writing his novel. Either way the stall is vacant; it’s my turn!
Hmm…could the hallway on 10th floor be a potential dojo?
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