Training Structure

Uechi-ryu drills are used by the student to practice individual techniques, such as a block, strike, or kick. They can also be used to condition the body to withstand the blows received during a fight. This drill is referred to as arm pounding and leg conditioning. Drills are the usual way to introduce a new concept or technique to a student.

Kata is the most fundamental way to study traditional martial arts, including Uechi-ryu Karate. Kata can best be described as a prearranged fight against an imaginary opponent. Kata is the martial art's version of boxing's shadowboxing. The purpose of kata is two-fold. The primary purpose is to train one's body to react automatically to an attack. By repeatedly practicing defenses and attacks, one is able to condition the body to react without the mind having to think through each movement. This heightened condition is referred to as mushin, or no-mindedness, and is the same state which allows one to catch a ball without having to think through each act involved. Kata builds on "muscle memory"--a movement that is repeated until it becomes automatic.

The secondary purpose of kata is to train oneself to perform individual self-defense techniques. Kata develops strength, balance, power, as well as the ability to flow from one technique smoothly to the next. Kata forms the base on which Uechi-ryu skill is built. A person who practices nothing but sparring will only be an average fighter, no matter how long or how hard he trains. On the other hand, a person who devotes himself to kata will become a truly great fighter, even if he never practices sparring.

Bunkai is the next level of kata study. Bunkai, literally translated, means application. Whereas kata is the study of self-defense techniques against an imaginary opponent, bunkai adds real attacks by another person, which the practitioner must defend against, using the techniques taught in the particular kata. This study allows the student to practice the individual techniques taught in the kata in a more realistic way.

Pre-arranged kumite differs from bunkai in one important area. Bunkai can be practiced one technique at a time, thereby concentrating on individual execution, or bunkai may be practiced with each attack coming in rapid succession. In the latter, the student defends himself by working himself through the entire kata. On the other hand, kumite is always practiced as a continuous series of attacks and defenses. These drills teach the student how to move away from attacks, and into counterattacks, without losing balance, and without moving too close or too far away from the opponent. This is known as distancing. The student also practices timing, speed and targeting. These drills are choreographed, so both students know where each attack, defense and counterattack should go. The key to this exercise is to make the fight look unchoreographed and realistic. In other words, if one student anticipates his opponent's moves, rather than react to them, the exercise is not being performed correctly.

The last level of study involves freestyle kumite. This exercise is designed to teach the same concepts as pre-arranged kumite, but with the added difficulty of not knowing your opponent's next move. This drill combines all of the exercises previously discussed. In order to be successful, the student must use techniques and balance learned in kata, directing them to the appropriate targets learned in bunkai, while maintaining proper distancing learned in pre-arranged kumite. If the student is able to effectively build on each level, the ability to defend oneself becomes automatic.