Western New York Karate Center
May 27, 2016
Karadakitai (pronounced, kah-rah-dah-kee-tie) is the Okinawan term for body conditioning. The most commonly practiced form of body conditioning is kotekitai (pronounced, koh-teh-kee-tie), arm conditioning. But there are other foci for body conditioning such as ashikitai (foot conditioning) fukubukitai (abdomen conditioning), etc. While not unique to Isshin-ryu, reportedly used in similar styles such Shohei-ryu, the practice of body conditioning has fallen out of favor in almost all other martial arts as the emphasis on sport karate has taken precedence over self-defense and preparing for practical application of martial arts in real world situations. This week we focus on the reasons a serious martial artist should engage in karadakitai.
The purpose of body conditioning is multifold. First, is the physical “toughening” of the body. Karadakitai provokes a physiological response in the body that reduces the experience of pain and injury over time. Martial artists who engage in karadakitai report less bruising and less injury related to ever increasing physical impacts. Some propose that there is an increase in the activity of the basement membrane between the dermis and epidermis and an increase in the density of the reticular region of the skin but there is little scientific evidence to support this. There is some evidence reported for an increase in the density of the skeleton, which would reduce the likelihood of bone damage, related to the “microfracturing” associated with the “sub-traumatic” injury associated with activities like karadakitai. Regardless of the physiological explanation, the outcome remains the same; those who incorporate some form of karadakitai in their training also report less physical consequences of the practice of martial arts.
The second purpose of karadakitai is the mental toughening of the martial artist. As most students can attest, the first time they are asked to practice a technique with a partner, even though they have been practicing the technique successfully on their own, is experienced as being awkward. The truth revealed by that experience is martial arts techniques are not solely the mechanical execution of a coordinated set of body movements; there is a mental component associated with physically interacting with another person particularly one who is viewed as a threat. Furthermore, the actual experience of a potentially damaging blow, to an unconditioned body, can lead to the person having an acute stress reaction. The first time a person experiences being significantly struck can be quite literally stunning; that the struck person becomes unable to access their training for what they should do next and will remain immobile. This could obviously have devastating consequences if a person is in a real life situation where the initial blow is only the start of a series of attacks. Karadakitai gives a martial artist the opportunity to become used to physical contact with other people. More important, it can desensitize or make the martial artist less reactive to being struck and better able to maintain their ability to respond effectively.
The third purpose of karadakitai is the spiritual toughening of the martial artist. As said by General Sun-Tzu, “to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.” Thus, it could be said that one of the most important abilities a martial artist should seek to perfect is the ability to win a fight without fighting at all. In the study of kiaijutsu and kime, we can see that projecting a spiritual energy that convinces would be attackers that they will fail, can end a fight before it has even begun. Karadakitai is one method for developing one’s kime or, put more mundanely, confidence. The practice of karadakitai over time will inform the martial artist that they are much sturdier than might be imagined and that while certain physical threats remain unpleasant, there will be increased confidence that one will survive nonetheless. That increased self-confidence, based on the repeated experience of being able to manage punishing strikes, can not only buoy one through a confrontation and inoculate one to despair, as indicated above, it can have the effect of causing an attacker to despair and quit possibly without attempting a single strike.
I encourage all martial artists to incorporate some form of karadakitai into their training. Talk to your sensei, learn body conditioning techniques, and start toughening up your body, mind, and spirit!