As I was listening to Penn State’s Baroque Ensemble play Heinrich Biber’s “Battalia a 10” last weekend, it made me think about karate.  Strange?  Perhaps, but let me explain.

The Ensemble focuses on music from the Baroque period and often uses the style of equipment (ex. Bows) common to that period, rather than modern equivalents.  They feel that it’s truer to the sound as it was intended to be heard.  The Director explained that many of the themes and elements within the piece would have been familiar to audiences in the 17th Century and meant to evoke specific events or happenings (ex. Battles, death, resurrection).  While listening, it made me think about how great it is as musician, or even a listener, to have
this form of music available and how it provides a connection to musical history.  Playing this music transports you back over 300 years, and it’s easy to imagine a similar Ensemble in Salzburg creating the same sounds, evoking the same emotions.  

Which led me to Bunkai.  By practicing the traditional kata and associated Bunkai, we retain a connection with our Karate forefathers.  When I practice Seisan or Kusanku, it links me in some small way to Pechin Takahara (1683-1760) or Tode Sakugawa (1733-1815) and the various forms they may have passed down that ended up as foundational elements of Okinawan Karate.  I think it’s pretty cool that what I’m practicing here in the hills of Central PA is linked to what was practiced 300 years ago in China and Okinawa.

Finally getting thru some of my back issues of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Just a quick note on an article from the August2012 issue.  The “Association of Maximal Strength and Muscular Endurance Test Scores with Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Body Composition” by Vaara, et. al.  discusses commonly used physical performance tests that are supposed to evaluate max aerobic capacity and muscular fitness.  We’ve all
seen these or been subjected to these, for example, 1-minute pushups, sit-ups, 1RM bench press, BW squats etc.  
They can each serve their purpose and are especially useful when testing large groups with little or no equipment necessary.   In this article articipants were asked to perform as many reps as possible in 60 seconds for the push-up, sit-up, and BW squat respectively.    What did they find?

 “The results suggest that the performance of repeated squats is mainly dependent on aerobic (and anaerobic) capacity rather than on maximal  strength characteristics, whereas push-ups depend also on maximal force of the upper extremity muscles.”

 The takeaway message for me was to know what you’re testing.  By administering a 1-minute pushup and squat test, you get a quick assessment on upper body strength and indication of aerobic capacity.  Quick and dirty, easy to administer and count. Simple is good.

Been recently spending some time banging on my version of the Hillbilly Mook Jong.   I built it a couple years ago out of 1 ½” PVC.   Yeah, I know that you can’t apply a lot of force to it, but that’s not why I built it. 
I wanted to use it to work on form, not power.  I had dabbled a little bit with Ip Man’s Wooden Dummy form, but never learned the whole thing.  I finally decided to drill the individual sections and have it complete by the end of the year.  At this point I’m thru 4 of 7 “sections”.  

Some may ask, why bother with a wooden dummy form? 
As Samuel Kwok states: “The Jong’s purpose is to reinforce correct structures and angles, to foster the development of flow and to allow the correct, full expression of Fa Jing (last moment energy) which we can never use on a live training partner without the risk of seriously injuring them.”  I find that without always
having a live training partner, it’s a useful way to practice pak sao, tan sao, bong sao, lop sao etc. and flow between the techniques.  It’s also an interesting way to explore insights into the application of various hand positions, traps and guards from some of the traditional Okinawan katas.  

If you’re looking for resources, there are a couple of videos of Ip Man on YouTube doing the form. Some of them are of decent quality. The best book I’ve seen is “Traditional
Wooden Dummy” by Samuel Kwok& Tony Massengill
.  If you can afford to drop $500 - $1,000 on a true Wooden dummy, and have a place to put it, good for you, go for it.  If not, there are plenty of plans out there to make one out of PVC, whether it’s 1.5” or up to 8”pipe.  In an afternoon with $20 in pipe, a hacksaw and some PVC cement, you can
rig something and be ready to play in no time.  Have fun!