Years and years ago in the 1970's i started KARATE training.....When you went into the school gymn we would immediatly start warming up excercises which included a variety of stretching excercises. These consisted of spreading and bending the legs and hips in a variety of cringe forming positions of a totally unatural positions and then once you'd forced yourself into this god awful ,painful position , you then started bouncing to force yourself further into the position to pull the ligaments and tendons. And to add to the fun and twanging tendons ,clicking knees and hips we would have a fun-packed time as partners would press you down into the splits leaning on your shoulders or as you lent against a wall with your leg in the air in front or to the side, they would put their shoulder under and push them further up.....Oh happy days!
I was always able to kick to head height insofar as i'm physically a short arse , with short stubby legs. Many of my fellow Karatekas were able to do the splits and the longer limbed had amazing kicking abilities, but to this day i still cannot do the splits, but could deliver a hefty boot within the limits of my god-taken limited reach.
The funny thing was before i did any training i had to do this 10-20 minute warm up, but when i walked about my hips often felt quite stiff. But the fun started with my knees. Whenever i knelt down my knees used to click horrendously.......I remember looking at the magazines in a branch of W.H.SMITHS.....I wasn't looking at the high level mags, but the comics at the bottom.....I knelt down and this 'K-K-KRACK!!!!' as my knees cracked horribly!.......Everybody in the shop went into a hyper-cringe mode, they looked at me with horror and wondered how a young fit looking teenager could be racked with arthritis and rheumatism!....I shruggled and smiled with a slight touch of embarressment and left the shop.
The funny thing is that when i went to live in India i was introduced to TAI-CHI by SENSEI SUBRAMANYAN. This introduction shaped my KARATE and changed my life as after a few years i'd learnt a lot from the slow relaxed movement of the TAI-CHI and the great MASTER KANAZAWA one of the true masters whom i had the pleasure of meeting on a couple of occassions and he'd studied TAI-CHI with his KARATE for many years and introduced me to the benefits of relaxed movement with proper breathing. A TAI-CHI sifu, MR WONG in KUALUR LUMPUR explained breathing to me and when we stretched instead of the tendon twanging ligament tugging bouncing stuff we would adopt a position and gently stretch using deep breathing.
When i came home and wasn't able to train at various clubs due to transport difficulties i started traing in my Karate moves and techniques in a slow relaxed Tai-Chi way ,concenterating on breathing . When i trained in a club i just did as i was told and would punch and kick with full power ,grunting and yelling like you'd expect. But the time by myself i suddenly began to understand stuff i'd taken for granted for all my life, why did i have to do this or that , when i did this or that?.....But now i'm nearly 55 , i'm faster and more powerful and more supple than i've ever been ....No cracking, clicking joints.
Slower is faster....Gentler is stronger....The mystical internal energy ,CHI, if you like is all in the breathing, it all hinges on the breathing.....Just stop breathing for 10 minutes and see how you feel!