Are there any Mcdojos out there representing or I should say misrepresenting Knockdown karate.Read this interesting article.
But still, many Karate-ka are unsure if their dojo is a McDojo™ or not.
And frankly, I feel bad for them.
Like we say in Japanese:
“I no naka no kawazu, taikai wo shirazu.”
(“A frog in the well does not know the great sea.”)
It’s hard to know if your dojo is 110% legit or not – unless you’ve travelled around half the world, visited different masters and tried various dojos for comparison.
So, today I decided to set the record straight – by spotlighting three particular traits that I believe every great dojo features.
Things I’ve seen with my own eyes.
There are obviously more than just three things that separate great dojos from McDojos™, but these should give you a starting point for evaluating your own dojo.
Hopefully, you’ll recognize at least ONE trait.
If not, well…
My deepest condolences.
So read closely, as I now reveal 3 guaranteed signs your dojo is NOT a McDojo™.
In a legit dojo, sharing of knowledge always comes first.
Money comes second.
Smart practice, super hard training and steady progress are the fundamental cornerstones in the teaching philosophy of a great dojo.
Not how fat your wallet is.
Don’t get me wrong though: I’m not saying a good dojo can’t operate as a business. It sure can.
However, if you need to pay hefty fees to learn things you’re already supposed to be learning, chances are big you’re in a McDojo™.
Because a good sensei genuinely cares about his craft. That care will undoubtedly be manifested in the very atmosphere of the dojo. The main concern of a great sensei will always be your physical, mental and spiritual development.
Not how many digits your bank account has.
That being said, let me reiterate: A great sensei should be paid accordingly. There’s nothing honorable in selling oneself short, and everyone needs food on the table.
Yet, when opportunity arises, a good dojo goes for knowledge first, profit second.
McDojos™ are fundamentally the opposite.
Many Karate-ka are often slow to appreciate how their beliefs about human violence can be distorted by a slavelike adherence to their dojo’s training methods (often disguised as “following tradition”), as well as by a natural desire to avoid injury during the course of training.
Nowhere is this as obvious as in a McDojo™.
In fact, it’s possible to become a “grandmaster” in Karate, and to attract students who will spend years trying to emulate your skills, without ever discovering that you have no ability to defend yourself in the real world.
Sadly, this is the case in McDojos™ – where training is often based on a single person’s distorted perception of reality, rather than actual reality.
Training in a real dojo should always be based on truth.
Just hard, cold, facts.
See, the meaning of tradition was never to blindly follow the footsteps of masters.
But to seek what they sought.
A great sensei knows this.
And teaches this.
Anybody can shout: “50 crunches!”
But few people can explain why, and how, those 50 crunches will actually make your Karate better.
See, in a McDojo™ you often do useless stuff for the sake of doing them.
In a real dojo, on the other hand, you do stuff for a specific purpose:
Because, a real sensei understands that you don’t have time to stagnate. Your time is precious. Life’s too short to suck. And Karate is more than a hobby, social activity, “exotic sport” or physical exercise for you.
Karate is a vehicle for self-discovery, where you’re relentlessly reaching for the edge of your potential in the quest of understanding yourself.
(Read that again.)
It’s about finding your true self.
Your true character.
And, faced with the prospect of guiding you on that arduous journey, a McDojo™ sensei panics. Because, frankly, he can’t lead you to a place he’s never been himself.
That’s why a McDojo™ can only challenge you up to a certain point.
After that, it’s only quantity – never quality.
Instead of, say, 3 effective ways to improve your previous techniques!
More is not always more. More is often just a distraction.
Less is more.
Especially in a great doj
Jesse Enkamp is a self-titled Karate Nerd™, best-selling martial arts writer
A GSP movie
The mae geri, or front kick, is Kenji Yamaki’s favorite. He insists it’s the most versatile leg technique in the martial arts, and once you see him demonstrate it, especially when he uses it as a counter, you’ll agree.
The foundation of the front kick is built on properly chambering your kicking leg. “The positioning of your knee is the key,” Kenji Yamaki says. “From a standing position, you have to be able to chamber your knee as high as possible, and that’s what gives you the luxury of options in terms of where and how you place the kick. If you bring your knee up high, you can kick at any height. But if you chamber your leg weakly and only bring your knee up slightly, your mae geri will be limited to the waist or lower.”
With his knee held high and close to his chest, he slowly extends his foot to my chin. Re-chambering his leg tightly with his knee high, he extends his foot to my solar plexus. After bringing his leg back to the chambered position, he slowly pushes my front thigh backward. “All three kicks were the same mae geri with the same chambered position but with three completely different targets,” he says.
If you set up your front kick properly, distance is irrelevant, he claims. Now, some karateka may get their kicks “stuffed” by an opponent who knows how to close the gap and refuses to allow enough distance for the karateka to accelerate his foot.
“That’s a problem only for a fighter who has a slow and low chambering motion,” Kenji Yamaki explains. “If you chamber rapidly and bring your knee up very high and close to your body, the mae geri is very useful. A spring is only as useful as the degree to which it is compressed, and a kick is no different. That’s also part of the reason I like to use the ball of my foot when I do mae geri. It gives me greater reach and more extension through my opponent.”
The beauty of Kenji Yamaki’s front kick lies not only in its versatility but also in the way he employs that versatility. A high and tight chambering motion again comes into play because it sets up your opponent’s defensive reactions. If the other man responds to your knee lift by pulling his leg back, you can fire a knockout high front kick. If he reacts by tilting his head backward, you can plant your foot in his midsection or bury it in his thigh.
To boost the impact of your kick, Kenji Yamaki recommends weight training. “The power comes from the degree to which the leg is chambered prior to kicking and then from how suddenly you can go from that compressed position to a fully extended position,” he says. “Doing squats really helps you develop that power and extension. Just make sure to do them with a full range of motion. Simply making a little dipping bend at the knees isn’t going to give you the full power-building benefits of the exercise.”
The yamaki-ryu round kick, or mawashi geri, begins the same way as the art’s front kick. Unlike the methodology that other styles advocate for their round kick, Kenji Yamaki says you must ensure that your initial phase features a high, tight knee position.
As we stand once again in the space between the tables, Kenji Yamaki launches what appears to be a front kick. He lifts his knee, and I slide to the outside to let it pass. But with a quick rotation of his hips, he transforms his attack into a round kick that whizzes over the back of my head. Grateful for his control, I ask him to extrapolate.
“Mawashi geri has more options than people think,” he begins. “Depending on how you rotate your hips, the kick can cut upward at an angle, into the target perpendicularly or downward at an angle.
“The mistake most fighters make is in how they try to achieve power in this kick. It shouldn’t be a big, looping knee lift like you’re trying to swing your knee around. The kick has to be deceptive to be effective, and using the high knee as the universal chambered position is part of that deception.”
While we stand there, Kenji Yamaki shows me how, from a single starting position, he can deliver a high round kick to my head, a standard round kick to my ribs and a downward, cutting round kick to my thigh.
I quickly learn how poorly a standard leg block works against a Kenji Yamaki round kick. He asks me to lift my limb in Thai fashion to stop his attack, and as I do it to forestall his midlevel kick, he loops his shin over my defending leg and crashes it down on my thigh. “The beauty of this way of kicking is that you can use the instep at long range and the shin at close range,” he explains. “There are no limitations.”
The yoko geri, or side kick, is the final entry on Kenji Yamaki’s list of preferred leg techniques. Despite the fact that it’s considered a basic move in numerous arts, witnessing it being used to score in competition is like coming across an endangered animal in the middle of Manhattan.
Kenji Yamaki admits that it’s not one of the most common techniques in competition — but it should be. “There are lots of fighters who don’t practice the yoko geri outside of doing kata because they feel that it’s a low-percentage technique for scoring,” he says. “But it’s still very important in self-defense and in the ring.
“One of the best times to use the side kick is after you set it up properly with a round kick. If you throw a fake mawashi geri and draw your opponent in a little, you can follow it with a yoko geri from the same leg and drive it up and under his guard.”
To illustrate his claim, he fires a quick round kick at my thigh. I instinctively slide backward, but he capitalizes on my retreat by running me down with a stepping side kick. “You can use this kick as a quick stopping technique to halt an opponent’s advance, but if you want to get the maximum force out of it, you have to put your hips and weight behind it,” he says. “In this way, the yoko geri can be your most powerful kick.”
Kenji Yamaki then relates an incident that took place while he was training with Oyama: “[He] was teaching us one day, and I watched him punch a tree as he was telling us how to develop power. The tree was about 1 meter (3.3 feet) in diameter, and his punches were shaking the leaves. He said: ‘This is how you punch! This is how you use your power!’ That image never left my mind.”
Kenji Yamaki’s remarkable kicking techniques reflect that same method of combining speed and power for the most devastating results. He honed those attributes during his years of grueling workouts and forged them into the legacy he now passes on to his students in America.
Here is an interesting article by Karate Coaching. Please leave your comments. OSU!
The big knuckles a karate-ka has developed on his hands are called “ken-dako, 拳ダコ” in Japanese. They are typically developed on the index and middle fingers. Typically, the young karate-ka would proudly show off the bulging and discolored knuckles as a proof of their “hard” training. It is almost like a war medal or a qualification badge. We all know how these knuckles were developed. They became big from the ponding, thousands of times on the piece of karate training equipment called a makiwara. The question I bring up today is if these big knuckles are really necessary for a karate-ka to be called an expert. The thoughts I share with you are purely my own personal opinions. I do not claim what I am proposing is correct but one thing I can say is that I have a very strong opinion about this subject.
A makiwara has become an iconic training tool of karate. It seems that every dojo must have at least one makiwara post to claim its legitimacy. Most of the sensei of dojos I have visited almost always showed me their makiwara posts very enthusiastically. A makiwara comes in various heights, thicknesses, . and of many different kinds. I have already written a chapter on training with a makiwara in my book, Shotokan Myths. If you are interested in this subject please refer to Chapter 4 in my book (available through Amazon and Kindle). In fact, I must say that makiwara training is one of the most popular topics that the karate-ka wishes to discuss. I am the main contributor of Karate Coaching (www.karatecoaching.com), the worlds most advanced and comprehensive online karate instruction service provider. The editor told me that the demonstration clip of my makiwara training received the most attention.
As a conclusion in Chapter 4 of Shotokan Myths, I wrote in essence that the senior yudansha need to graduate from makiwara training and move to the next level of training. I almost wanted to write that makiwara training was no longer needed for the senior practitioners but I decided not to. I was afraid my true meaning would be misunderstood by such a comment. It is true that many senior instructors including the world famous ones are believers of makiwara training. Those instructors include Funakoshi, Shotokan founder, Mas Oyama, Kyokushinkai founder, Tetsuhiko Asai, Asai-ryu karate founder and Higaonna, 10th dan Goju-ryu. It is well known that Master Oyama and Higaonna both have huge knuckles. I am not completely against makiwara training. Those masters are professionals as well as karate experts so those knuckles are well fitting and there is nothing wrong with that.
After having written that I would still say “no” to the original question; “Do we need big knuckles?” I am sure many readers will wonder why I say this. Probably many of you will argue that by having big knuckles the practitioner’s effectiveness (destruction power) of his fists will increase. One karate-ka told me, “Sensei, a fist with big knuckles is like having a 44 magnum gun. If you have the untrained knuckles you cannot break the bricks or 10 tiles. A fist with the small knuckles would be a 22 pistol.” Even though I am not sure if the analogy is quite accurate, in essence I agree to what he was trying to tell me. Even then I still say we do not need a set of big knuckles in order to be qualified as a senior karate-ka. You do not need more than a 22 pistol to kill an assailant in a standard self-defense circumstance.
Let me explain why I claim that we do not need big knuckles.
• The biggest myth with huge knuckles is the following. The big knuckles are toughened to the point a fist with those knuckles can knock out any opponent. However, I must say that simply having big knuckles does not necessarily translate into a destructive or scary punch. In the case of a magnum gun it does have tremendous fire power no matter who shoots it. But you must remember it is a gun and a punch is a totally different story. In order to have an effective or devastating punch, one must learn how to punch correctly. A big and toughened fist can be a good tool or at least a scary looking one but it must be backed up by a punching technique to make it work or effective. If your punch is slow or delivered poorly then it will not matter regardless of the size or the hardness of your fist. In fact, if you want something for your self protection it is better or more useful if you would carry a baseball bat or a stick. If you are a professional karate-ka who can train 4 or more hours daily then it is not a problem to punch a makiwara for 15 minutes or even longer . However, I assume that the most of the readers can only train 2 or 3 times a week and each training period must be 90 minutes or shorter. In this situation I hate to see a practitioner spend the valuable 15 minutes pounding on a makiwara. Don’t you think spending that time on kihon or kata is better or more productive for your karate improvement?
• Secondly, I do not think the idea of showing off the deformed knuckles bodes well with one of the karate-do values called humbleness. This is the same idea of not showing off one’s blackbelt to the public. When I was in a business meeting in Japan I used to hide or position my hands so that the discolored knuckles would not be visible. It was not because I was embrassed with the fists or felt ashamed of karate training. In Japan the people would easily know what my fists mean and I did not want to intimidate anyone. I may sound as if I’m exaggerating but it would be like placing a knife on a negotiation table. I do not think the sight of big knuckles will bring any pleasure to anyone who are non karate-ka.
• The third reason is most important. As we advance in the skill level of karate we need to graduate from the crude punching and overt techniques to more advanced techniques. They are less visible and more like piercing or tapping techniques that are mainly aimed at the kyusho, the critical parts of thebody. The kyusho such as eyes, neck, ears and groin are typically soft and the toughened fits and hands are not necessary to deliver an effective attack. At those targets a fist, a knife hand, the finger tips and a wrist are all effective even if they are not toughened. In addition, once you learn the one-inch-punch technique you no longer need to smash your fist into an opponent to knock him down. Of course this is an ultimate technique but it is not magic and anyone can learn it.
• Another reason why I discourage anyone from developing big knuckles is the ill consequence it may cause. I am afraid the deformed knuckles could result in an arthritis symptom when a practitioner gets old. I do not have the medical expertise nor scientific data on this so I would like to receive the input from the readers on this.
• Lastly, I am sort of a romanticist. Frankly, I hate to see our fists deformed and making them look like those of a zombie (see the photo below). This is far from beauty and I detest it. Earlier I explained that the toughened fists are not necessary to deliver an effective karate technique. So, why would you want to deform your fists?
Karate is the genetleman’s art and this is exactly what Funakoshi wanted. For those reasons listed above it is my strong belief that the ugly fists do not fit in the art of karate-do.
These are my personal opinions and the feelings I have towards Kendako. You are welcome to leave your opinions and thoughts on this subject.
by Shihan Yokota