Sunday, January 29, 2017


by Phillip Starr

There is a saying that tell us, “The music is not in the notes, but the silence in between.” This is a very profound statement that can apply not only to music, but to martial arts as well. Just because there seems to be a “space” between the notes doesn't necessarily infer that they are void. The next time you watch the performance of a kata, pay close attention to the the spaces that seem to exist between the individual techniques and postures. Is there anything there at all or are they truly empty?

I have seen many practitioners almost prance through their sets, placing great emphasis on the techniques but the spaces in between their blocks, punches, and kicks were just so much dead territory. They were simply “posturing”; their forms amounted to nothing more than a rather lengthy facade of martial arts poses, as if they were being photographed for the cover of a magazine. Oftentimes, they would drop their hands to their sides before executing the next technique!

In genuine, traditional forms the placement of the hands and feet in the so-called “empty space” is very specific. There are reasons for that, not the least of which is the fact that various striking, kicking, joint-twisting, and throwing techniques are often concealed within them. The spaces are not really empty at all! Moreover, dropping the hands or waving them about meaninglessly provides the (imaginary) opponent with large openings, “windows of opportunity” through which he can deliver an effective counter-strike.

This same idea applies not only to the performance of kata, but to the practice of combination techniques as well. What seems to be an “empty space” in between the individual techniques must not be barren. You must ensure that you don't open the “window of opportunity” too wide and provide your enemy with easy entry. The placement of your hands and arms, your legs and feet, and your physical posture must be very precise so as to afford you maximum protection during the execution of your combination.

In the practice of traditional martial arts, nothing is wasted and nothing is done haphazardly. Every movement, every gesture, is to be done just so. There's a reason for everything, including what appear to be “empty spaces” because they really aren't empty at all.

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