There is a karate myth that Renzoku only means “no count” – that it is nothing more than a command to perform kata without a verbal count for each move. The moves are still performed as if there was a count to separate them – moving from one posture to the next, with an intentional pause in between.
This can be a useful way to practice. But it omits much of the value of renzoku practice.
“Renzoku” as it is used in the context of our training does not mean “no count,” and it does not mean slow motion. It means continuous. Renzoku practice is complementary to, but distinct from, a practice method that emphasizes the explode-and-release cycle for each individual technique.
In “explode and release” practice we isolate each move, and explore the compression and release phase of each technique. We learn to increase the compression – using all the muscles of the body as we, for example, move the elbows to the center line, raise the knee to the chest, make full use of the waist rotation, create vertical or concave shoulder and hip compression, while moving to enter or evade, gain correct range to follow up, and establish a secure foundation.
We also learn to increase the expansion phase of each move, using full extension of the body weapons – the arms, legs, hands, feet, elbows, knees, etc. to the target, using full extension of the spine arch, and full use of the helical waveform of energy produced at the waist.
This way we learn to draw the opponent in, maneuver, and generate power with full commitment, energy transfer, and optimal, full-body integration.
Isolating each move and learning how to optimize it is necessary and valuable. As a result of this we are able to increase the amplitude of the compression-release cycle – getting quick, complete compression and fast, full expansion. And we are able to increase the frequency at which we can produce the cycle: we get fast and powerful. But leaving it at that omits a key dimension of renzoku training which is indispensable for mastery.
Renzoku can be done vigorously or slowly. Either way, it gives an opportunity to explore two other critical aspects of how to move.
One, we examine the move. How it works, how to position and move all the components of our body in relation to one another, creating a single, flowing structure as we shift from move to move.
Two, we examine our performance of the move. If there are flaws in our balance, if there is a place where there is a weight shift, a slight fall, a cant off-axis, adjustments and compensations, imbalance or displacement – we will detect them more easily when moving in slow motion renzoku.
We can feel what is happening at a subtle level when moving through the kata. Moving fast it is possible to overlook some balance issues which do not appear significant when we are practicing on our own. But in contact with an opponent these flaws in posture, flow and balance can create self-inflicted errors, and open gaps which can be exploited.
This is why we need to build on the habit of full commitment to each move. Although that is essential, we need to go beyond it. We also need to train the posture transformations as we flow from move to move.
In renzoku (or in single-move practice at more advanced levels) we need to connect with the action of the opponent. We can do this with clear understanding of the bunkai in our mind’s eye, or in contact with a training partner. This is indispensible for high skill kata training and for real combative benefit.
If we simply reposition our body in space, even if the postures are sound and all the elements of form are polished, the connection between the waist, ground and body-weapon to target will be incomplete.
By having a muscle-memory understanding of the bunkai for each movement we will gradually unify our body, because our intention of what we are trying to accomplish with each technique will be clear to us.
Then our energy will follow a complete pathway, making a firm connection between the waist (meaning the koshi and the hara, terms for the mechanical and energy origins of the techniques), the foundation, and the target contact point – unifying our body, tactics and will in purposeful combative motion.
Renzoku, continuous flow practice, is a key element of kata training for skill mastery, optimization of body and mind unification, and for self-defense application.
It is good to include this in your contact drills and kata training.
Post Copyright © 2021 Jeff Brooks, author of The Good Fight – The Virtues and Values of the Martial Arts – available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.
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