I am physically unable to relax my upper body during kata. Should I give up Karate altogether?

Hanshi

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I've always been among the worst trying to memorize kata sequences. It takes me much longer to learn a kata than many of my students. And I forget them much too easily. I have friends who seem to never forget any kata they learn. Once I get a kata down, though, I've always done it very well. But if I'm away for a few months they grow fuzzy in my mind. Teachers often have the same problems, maybe even worse, that plague some students.
 

Flying Crane

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Yep I just reread those, very helpful for me! And well said.

I just wish the fellow would come back and let us know how he's going, hopefully he chimes in! If not, all these posts have been helpful for me anyway :)
The OPs history shows that he never came back after the first day that he signed up and came on.

I confess, I believe I unintentionally chased him off. I have some videos on a YouTube channel that I cannot simply put up for general viewing, but I sometimes share them with people in the context of a private discussion. I sent him a PM and offered to send him a link to view the videos because I though he might find them helpful, but I needed his email address to send it to him. His response was nice try. And that was it. He hasnt been back since.

I can only guess that he thought I was trying to pull some kind of scam with his email address. I was completely caught by surprise by his response. At any rate, I doubt he will be back.
 

_Simon_

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The OPs history shows that he never came back after the first day that he signed up and came on.

I confess, I believe I unintentionally chased him off. I have some videos on a YouTube channel that I cannot simply put up for general viewing, but I sometimes share them with people in the context of a private discussion. I sent him a PM and offered to send him a link to view the videos because I though he might find them helpful, but I needed his email address to send it to him. His response was nice try. And that was it. He hasnt been back since.

I can only guess that he thought I was trying to pull some kind of scam with his email address. I was completely caught by surprise by his response. At any rate, I doubt he will be back.
Ah that's a real shame... considering how helpful you were in this thread it's clear you weren't being dodgy, and rather nice of you to offer that to him. Considering how desperate he was I thought he'd jump at the chance. Yeah, hope he comes back anyway
 

Flying Crane

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Ah that's a real shame... considering how helpful you were in this thread it's clear you weren't being dodgy, and rather nice of you to offer that to him. Considering how desperate he was I thought he'd jump at the chance. Yeah, hope he comes back anyway
When I realized that he might be thinking I was trying to scam him I backed away from the offer and told him of course it is his decision, no worries if he isnt interested. I also told him that Ive shared the videos with a couple other members here, and offered to identify them and he could contact them and verify. No response. Really took me by surprise.
 

Graywalker

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Relax your shoulders, 1st move, relax the shoulders, 2nd move relax the shoulders..3rd yup, relax the shoulders.

Think on every move, 'relax the shoulders'
 

Koryuhoka

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I have been doing Karate for 7 years (currently in WKF Shotokan, 1st kyu brown belt, training in Canada). My sensei keeps telling me to relax my upper body and use my legs/hips for power. However, no matter how much I consciously try to do this, he keeps telling me I am too tense. I have been trying so hard for the past two years or so to relax my upper body and generate power purely from my legs/hips. I have reached a point that where I am trying so hard to relax that when I do kata, every technique I do causes my upper body to wobble and gyrate around like crazy. It almost looks like I'm drunk because of how much I'm trying to relax myself. But my sensei keeps telling me to relax even more, and at that point I don't even know what to do. I do not have any physical issues, as I am completely able to perform plyometric exercises of the legs/hips while simultaneously relaxing my upper body. But when it comes to doing any kata, it's like all of that goes out the window because sensei keep telling me "relax your shoulders."

I've tried stretching, I've tried strengthening my stances, I've tried abdominal exercises, I've tried kime exercises, I've tried contracting my lats, but to no avail; sense keeps telling me "you're too tense."

I have two options:
a.) Just keep doing Karate incorrectly and probably never receive my black belt (as this is something that I have seen people get failed for during Dan testing).
b.) Quit Karate altogether.

If both of these seem like bad ideas, then someone please, for the love of God, tell me exactly how to correct this problem. "Just relax," "work on your flexibility," "make your stances stronger," are vague answers that will not help. Right now, I am looking for a precise, exact solution to this problem so that I can stop performing kata so poorly and start doing Karate like I'm supposed to. I want to know what the exact secret is to relaxing the upper body. I want to know the precise order in which the muscles need to contract, what trajectory they need to follow, the timing of the contraction, the position of my spine, the position of my foot, the timing of my breathing, etc. I need extremely precise details on how to relax my upper body and perform kata correctly. I don't care if it means spending years on shoulder conditioning, I don't care if it means taking some weird supplement, I don't care if it means getting some bizarre surgical procedure to make my shoulders more relaxed, I don't care if it means getting cybernetic enhancements to force my shoulders to relax. This is starting to get annoying and I want to fix this problem so I can finally do Karate correctly after 7 years of training.
What would quitting do to remedy your problem??? Karate is not causing your problem. Maybe he should teach you how to relax, instead of telling you to do something you may not know how to do. Is your goal to get a black belt or to study life protection arts?

Do this. Take a wet gi top, and hold it at the collar with your hands at a distance of 12 to 14 inches. Snap it as if you were trying to snap the excess water off of it. You will find that if you try this while you are tensed, you will not be able to snap the garment. You HAVE TO relax, in order to do this. Karate technique is to be executed in the same manner. If you hold on to this idea, you should be able to perform your kata. Just think that the end result is that you want to snap water out of an imaginary wet, heavy garment when doing the movements of your kata.
 

dvcochran

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I've always been among the worst trying to memorize kata sequences. It takes me much longer to learn a kata than many of my students. And I forget them much too easily. I have friends who seem to never forget any kata they learn. Once I get a kata down, though, I've always done it very well. But if I'm away for a few months they grow fuzzy in my mind. Teachers often have the same problems, maybe even worse, that plague some students.
We definitely have some things in common. As I have gotten older Poomsae just do not stay with me like they used to.
 

Dlangly

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I have been doing Karate for 7 years (currently in WKF Shotokan, 1st kyu brown belt, training in Canada). My sensei keeps telling me to relax my upper body and use my legs/hips for power. However, no matter how much I consciously try to do this, he keeps telling me I am too tense. I have been trying so hard for the past two years or so to relax my upper body and generate power purely from my legs/hips. I have reached a point that where I am trying so hard to relax that when I do kata, every technique I do causes my upper body to wobble and gyrate around like crazy. It almost looks like I'm drunk because of how much I'm trying to relax myself. But my sensei keeps telling me to relax even more, and at that point I don't even know what to do. I do not have any physical issues, as I am completely able to perform plyometric exercises of the legs/hips while simultaneously relaxing my upper body. But when it comes to doing any kata, it's like all of that goes out the window because sensei keep telling me "relax your shoulders."

I've tried stretching, I've tried strengthening my stances, I've tried abdominal exercises, I've tried kime exercises, I've tried contracting my lats, but to no avail; sense keeps telling me "you're too tense."

I have two options:
a.) Just keep doing Karate incorrectly and probably never receive my black belt (as this is something that I have seen people get failed for during Dan testing).
b.) Quit Karate altogether.

If both of these seem like bad ideas, then someone please, for the love of God, tell me exactly how to correct this problem. "Just relax," "work on your flexibility," "make your stances stronger," are vague answers that will not help. Right now, I am looking for a precise, exact solution to this problem so that I can stop performing kata so poorly and start doing Karate like I'm supposed to. I want to know what the exact secret is to relaxing the upper body. I want to know the precise order in which the muscles need to contract, what trajectory they need to follow, the timing of the contraction, the position of my spine, the position of my foot, the timing of my breathing, etc. I need extremely precise details on how to relax my upper body and perform kata correctly. I don't care if it means spending years on shoulder conditioning, I don't care if it means taking some weird supplement, I don't care if it means getting some bizarre surgical procedure to make my shoulders more relaxed, I don't care if it means getting cybernetic enhancements to force my shoulders to relax. This is starting to get annoying and I want to fix this problem so I can finally do Karate correctly after 7 years of training.

Are you kidding? This is a concern in Shotokan?
I've seen people win w/Kata and look like they're holding a grenade in their butt the entire time.

There are people who every flaw no matter how insignificant will show in their Kata, ask anyone 6+ foot tall.

Dan is the accrual of knowledge and experience, not perfection. Most people only start to learn any type of mastery after 1st Dan.

Blackbelts are harder to teach than lower ranks because you know the basics, now I have to start with the hard/good stuff.

Don't put a lot of concern on ranks. There used just to be four at one point: White, Green, Brown, Black. Now I see, 10-12 Kyu Ranks, tips, stripes, lines, whatever. There's no formalized legal regulation or licensing in most places on who can be a Black Belt and what makes one. There was a program on Amazon at one point where they sent you a certificate as a 2nd Dan in some form of Shiren Ryu? and they just trusted people to study. In fact in some places on this planet if you have a "Black Belt" you have to register at the police department before being a tourist, it comes with extra burden of proof on your part.
 

Koryuhoka

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From the long-time head of NGA: "Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast."

I have been doing Karate for 7 years (currently in WKF Shotokan, 1st kyu brown belt, training in Canada). My sensei keeps telling me to relax my upper body and use my legs/hips for power. However, no matter how much I consciously try to do this, he keeps telling me I am too tense. I have been trying so hard for the past two years or so to relax my upper body and generate power purely from my legs/hips. I have reached a point that where I am trying so hard to relax that when I do kata, every technique I do causes my upper body to wobble and gyrate around like crazy. It almost looks like I'm drunk because of how much I'm trying to relax myself. But my sensei keeps telling me to relax even more, and at that point I don't even know what to do. I do not have any physical issues, as I am completely able to perform plyometric exercises of the legs/hips while simultaneously relaxing my upper body. But when it comes to doing any kata, it's like all of that goes out the window because sensei keep telling me "relax your shoulders."

I've tried stretching, I've tried strengthening my stances, I've tried abdominal exercises, I've tried kime exercises, I've tried contracting my lats, but to no avail; sense keeps telling me "you're too tense."

I have two options:
a.) Just keep doing Karate incorrectly and probably never receive my black belt (as this is something that I have seen people get failed for during Dan testing).
b.) Quit Karate altogether.

If both of these seem like bad ideas, then someone please, for the love of God, tell me exactly how to correct this problem. "Just relax," "work on your flexibility," "make your stances stronger," are vague answers that will not help. Right now, I am looking for a precise, exact solution to this problem so that I can stop performing kata so poorly and start doing Karate like I'm supposed to. I want to know what the exact secret is to relaxing the upper body. I want to know the precise order in which the muscles need to contract, what trajectory they need to follow, the timing of the contraction, the position of my spine, the position of my foot, the timing of my breathing, etc. I need extremely precise details on how to relax my upper body and perform kata correctly. I don't care if it means spending years on shoulder conditioning, I don't care if it means taking some weird supplement, I don't care if it means getting some bizarre surgical procedure to make my shoulders more relaxed, I don't care if it means getting cybernetic enhancements to force my shoulders to relax. This is starting to get annoying and I want to fix this problem so I can finally do Karate correctly after 7 years of training.
Look at this video. This is what you are missing out on by affirming that you cannot do something. He goes through different stages until he does it full power. When he does, pay attention to the sound of the room when his elbow hits his hand. Don't you want this? Do not put any limits on your self. It's not healthy in general to do so.
 

Patience

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The OPs history shows that he never came back after the first day that he signed up and came on.
I read this entire thread with interest and concluded that the OP simply wanted to have others tell him it's OK for him to be tense. He seemed intent that nothing could help him except that everyone else knew some quick and simple secret to relaxation that he isn't clued in on. There is no secret; some people are relaxed naturally without thinking about it; others have to work on relaxing consciously. I'm in the middle, and have known karateka on both ends of that spectrum.

But surely he must be doing something (many things) right if his instructor has ranked him up to 1st kyu? I'm curious as to whether he continued with his practice, but I guess we'll never know.
 

Holmejr

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The problem is not on his end; it is on my end. And the problem isn't my knowledge of how to contract and relax; the problem is that nothing I do seems to please him.
Maybe hes not a very good instructor. Or maybe he only wants to train what he considers prodigies. If he makes you feel terrible about your effort, then something is wrong. Not everyone is the same and not everyone comes around at the same speed. There is a difference between criticism and constructive criticism. I must also say the some take any constructive criticism very harshly. Maybe this is you, maybe not. In our art (Eskrido de Alcuizar) , even though we believe there is a better way and a not so better way, we look more for result than form. Not everybody is a Fred Astaire! It might take you until after your black belt to relax or maybe you will never relax, but so what. Its about a personal expression of an art form. Who is the better artist MC Escher vs. Pablo Picasso?
 

drop bear

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I read this entire thread with interest and concluded that the OP simply wanted to have others tell him it's OK for him to be tense. He seemed intent that nothing could help him except that everyone else knew some quick and simple secret to relaxation that he isn't clued in on. There is no secret; some people are relaxed naturally without thinking about it; others have to work on relaxing consciously. I'm in the middle, and have known karateka on both ends of that spectrum.

But surely he must be doing something (many things) right if his instructor has ranked him up to 1st kyu? I'm curious as to whether he continued with his practice, but I guess we'll never know.

I can't imagine tense is a deal breaker.
 

dvcochran

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I think this guy is just looking for confirmation bias. No matter what has been posted he has tried it to no avail.
 

minn8325

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The OPs history shows that he never came back after the first day that he signed up and came on.

I confess, I believe I unintentionally chased him off. I have some videos on a YouTube channel that I cannot simply put up for general viewing, but I sometimes share them with people in the context of a private discussion. I sent him a PM and offered to send him a link to view the videos because I though he might find them helpful, but I needed his email address to send it to him. His response was nice try. And that was it. He hasnt been back since.

I can only guess that he thought I was trying to pull some kind of scam with his email address. I was completely caught by surprise by his response. At any rate, I doubt he will be back.
This is single handed one of the most toxic self righteous places on the internet. I would recommend you delete your account. I deleted mine and I had to bring it because they kept sending my E.mails of all the awful, self righteous, and narcissistic comments I got regularly and today I wake up to this one.

if I still new how I would crash the server just to make it stop.
 

dvcochran

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This is single handed one of the most toxic self righteous places on the internet. I would recommend you delete your account. I deleted mine and I had to bring it because they kept sending my E.mails of all the awful, self righteous, and narcissistic comments I got regularly and today I wake up to this one.

if I still new how I would crash the server just to make it stop.
Deleted your account and yet you are here? Hmm???

It annoys people when others set up duplicate accounts under different names to come on here and rail against the truth just because they don't like hearing it.
It is bad enough with certain first name regulars who spew toxic non-truths all the time.

Didn't I just read you on the TKD reddit doing the same stuff?
 

Oily Dragon

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This is single handed one of the most toxic self righteous places on the internet. I would recommend you delete your account. I deleted mine and I had to bring it because they kept sending my E.mails of all the awful, self righteous, and narcissistic comments I got regularly and today I wake up to this one.

if I still new how I would crash the server just to make it stop.
Still better than MySpace.

The best time to relax is Friday. Because Saturday night is for fighting.
 

gspell68

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I've always been among the worst trying to memorize kata sequences. It takes me much longer to learn a kata than many of my students. And I forget them much too easily. I have friends who seem to never forget any kata they learn. Once I get a kata down, though, I've always done it very well. But if I'm away for a few months they grow fuzzy in my mind. Teachers often have the same problems, maybe even worse, that plague some students.
I find this to be an issue, too.
A lot of my problems actually stem from muscle memory.
Like the elbow strike to an open palm move, I always wanna follow through with the double down block from near the end of Bassai, for one.
Theres probably a dozen others.

It doesnt help that I took up Seibukan for a couple of years while stationed in a Shotokan desert, so thats a whole nother set of kata moves rattling around in my head.
 
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