Benefits of cross-training Tai Chi for a Karate Practitioner.

Karate is known for its hard hits and explosive power performed with recognizable stances and direct, powerful movements. So where does something like Tai Chi come in to play for a karate student?

The benefits are many and the overlap between them is too. Performed softly with slow relaxed movements, Tai Chi reinforces (or perhaps enforces) balance in the practitioner. Without balance, all movement is clumsy and ineffective. You can see it in a newer karate student, or perhaps you've felt it yourself. Moving forward quickly and sharply and something doesn't land right. The foot makes contact with the floor sooner than expected, or the momentum is too great and your weight carries past your center. Either way, there you are, off-balanced and struggling to quickly recover. 

 

 

Part of the slow movement of Tai Chi is to firmly place emphasis on moving within your frame. No overextension, no long stances. Balance. How this helps a karate student is through the slower movement. It means more time is spent which allows for greater awareness of balance and foot position, which will directly translate into better balance when movements are performed quickly. A karateka may be used to performing deeper stances, but this application will only improve those stances. 

Another benefit Tai Chi provides to the karate practitioner is in softness. Some karate styles are inherently soft, however most are hard. Focusing on sharp, strong, movements. Tai Chi's approach to movement being as soft and relaxed as possible allows for no loss of energy in transfer during a strike or throw. While a tense, strong, movement feels more explosive, it is actually taking away from the technique. Any time tension is introduced in the body, slowness occurrs naturally. Think of the stright punch for example. When executing a straight punch, the tricep tenses which shortens that muscle thereby extending the arm. The bicep's role is the opposite. Tensing the bicep shortens the muscle (lengthening the tricep) in order to retract the arm. By this it should now be obvious why tension slows down a strike. When executing a punch, any tension in the bicep is actively working contrary to the motion of the straight punch. 

These are just two examples  of the benefits a karateka can achieve from studying Tai Chi. Of course, there are plenty of ways to focus and develop these particular traits, many of them contained in karate itself. It is not wise to rush to study many arts in order to develop individual traits, but rather to dig deeply into your primary art. But if you find yourself with the opportunity to cross-train, knowing where the benefits a new art provides, and potentially what new habits may conflict with your primary art, will help you understand firstly if cross-training the art is a step-forward and secondly, how best to approach your training in both. 

I hope this helps shed some light on how these two arts come together. Tai Chi is a recent addition to theDojo and is already an excellent complement to the arts trained in our school. For these reasons and more, we continue to believe theDojo is one of the best martial arts resources in Casper!

/Sensei Kenneth Knight



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