Advanced Strategies to Improve Your Shotokan Techniques (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this article, martial arts instructor Kyle Funakoshi — son and student of Kenneth Funakoshi (who appeared on the June 1992 cover of Black Belt), as well as fifth cousin of the legendary Gichin Funakoshi — began breaking down advanced strategies for better shotokan techniques. Part 1 covered rhythm and timing. In Part 2, Kyle Funakoshi explores how your shotokan techniques can benefit from the understanding and practice of feinting and baiting.
How Feinting Can Improve Your Shotokan Techniques
Feinting is defined as a strategy for taking your shotokan techniques to the next level that entails the use of a deceptive movement to distract your opponent from your true intent. It’s often a matter of partially executing a technique to elicit a reaction from him.
“If a beginner tries to throw a feint, he’ll face several problems,” Kyle Funakoshi said. “Because he doesn’t know how to control his body yet, it won’t be believable. It’s important to do it only after you’ve reached a level where you can relax your body enough. You want your opponent to believe you’re attacking him and react to it. Then you can control the situation.”
The key to executing a convincing feint, Kyle Funakoshi said, is movement: body movement, head movement, hand movement and hip movement. “It’s not just about moving your hands. You have to make it believable in every way.”Challenge No. 2: Even though you’re using essentially your whole body to sell the feint, you must avoid committing to the point that you can’t follow up with one of the real shotokan techniques from your arsenal. “You have to make it short and quick,” Kyle Funakoshi said. “If it’s too long or there’s too much of a lag time, you might get caught or your opponent might not react because he knows nothing is coming in.”
Kyle Funakoshi’s reference to the thought processes of the opponent begged a follow-up question: Are there some people who simply will not react to a feint and some who will react to anything? “Yes,” he confirmed. “If they don’t react, it’s because the feint was too fast or you’re not at the level yet to throw it effectively — in other words, your opponent is faster than you and can see that you’re not going to commit.”
Knowing that feinting may fail if you’re facing a faster foe, should you try it once and immediately move on to other shotokan techniques? Not necessarily, Kyle Funakoshi said. “I would give it a couple more tries because sometimes the person is slow. Maybe he doesn’t have the reaction time to respond to your feint. Maybe you have to change the rhythm or timing of it. Instead of 100 percent, you might have to slow it down in the beginning to create an opening.
“Also, if he’s tired, he might be too exhausted to react to anything. Then you can kick or punch him at will. If he’s fresh, he’ll be more on the ball and likely to react to your feints.”
How Baiting Can Add Even More Surprise to Your Shotokan Techniques
In a way, baiting is the opposite of feinting. In feinting, you do something to create an opening. In baiting, you do nothing to create an opening. That “doing nothing” might entail keeping your hands high to give the impression that your body is exposed or keeping them down so he thinks your face is exposed. Either way, Kyle Funakoshi said, you counter when he comes in for the kill.
The strategy would seem to be risky against an unfamiliar opponent because he might be faster than you. “That’s why you should do it only when you feel comfortable and you’re fast enough,” Kyle Funakoshi said. “If you’re at a tournament, it’s a good idea to observe the competitors, to study how fast they are and what techniques they like to use.”
Another key to success is following up with right counter for an opponent’s shotokan techniques. Should your response be preplanned, or does it depend on how he takes the bait? “It’s not something you can think of on the spot — as in, if he does this, I’ll do that,” Kyle Funakoshi said. “It has to happen instantly because there’s no time for thinking.”The secret, one would suppose, lies in having had sufficient kumite experience to figure out what the best shotokan techniques are for each situation. “That’s right,” he said. “It has to be natural, like the way animals fight. They don’t think; they just react. That ability comes from experience you gain in the dojo. There’s no secret to it.”
How to Integrate These Methods Into Your Shotokan Techniques
The progression to mastery of these methods for improving your shotokan techniques starts with practicing drills in which you try the strategies on your partner in the dojo. “After the drills, you have to develop your ability to apply them in dojo sparring matches,” Kyle Funakoshi said. “Once you have a feel for them, you can try tournaments. There’s no easy way to master them. It’s like kihon kata: You have to practice slowly and correctly at first, then the speed and power will come.”
Now for the big question: How far along in your training should you be before you start using them? “At least first-degree black belt, which comes after about three years, assuming you train two or three times a week,” Kyle Funakoshi said. “Before first degree, you should be practicing the basics slowly and correctly, which leads to proper development of the muscles that affect the execution of your techniques. Once you’ve got the basics down and your body has developed, you can perform the techniques correctly and with explosiveness. After that, you can get into these kumite strategies.”