Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Karate Reference Points

Racquetball is like karate.

I know...I know. But in my mind, I could probably draw comparisons between karate and practically anything. I had a racquetball lesson this week. The instructor was fabulous. I saw as sign on the announcement board at the gym for a free racquetball lesson. Last week, I decided that I needed a lesson. I left my name at the front desk and within a day I received a phone call. Here's the kicker...on the phone the racquetball coach knew who I was due to my regular court time. It just so happens that the coach is in the adjacent court playing wally ball. He mentioned that he watched me play and I would benefit from a lesson. (That was a nice way to tell me that I stink at racquetball. I told my brother and he laughed.)

Time for the hour lesson.

The racquetball coach walked on the court and I announced "I am terrible at racquetball". He told me that he was going to review the basics of the game. He wanted to review racquet position, swings, court position and serves.

The coach discussed the proper way to hold and swing the racquet. He told me that a swing has three elements...a level swing, proper connection between the racquet and the ball and feet/body position. When those three elements coincide, it will be a perfect swing. A player needs to step into the swing as the racquet connects with the ball. A karate reference...This is similar to how we teach a punch. A punch is not isolated to the arm. It is the connection of the body movement, hips and fist that create a strong punch.

Next up...court position. I had a tendency to watch the action. I would hit the ball then stand there and watch the ball until my opponent hit the ball. Bad idea. I need to move and get in position to receive the ball. During the lesson, I learned where I was supposed to go after I hit the ball. The person who controls the center of the court usually wins. This concept clicked immediately when I referenced it to the control of center line in martial arts.

The racquetball coach proceeded to instruct me on the proper and lobb. He demonstrated then he had me practice. The coach suggested that I mix up my serve by changing my target spot on the court. Lure your opponent in by serving to the right side of the court and then once they get used to this...change your serve. He gave me a few tips in dealing with a left-handed (dear brother, I hope your practicing) player. Mixing up your techniques to draw out your opponent sound like a good sparring tip to me.

My hour was up but the coach continued. He was a great instructor. His enthusiasm for the sport of racquetball was obvious. He wanted to teach and he wanted others to appreciate the game. The coach asked if I had a few more minutes. My free one hour lesson turned into an hour and a half. This one lesson made me want to play more, learn more and improve. (I can only hope that I have had this effect on some of the karate students.) The coach wants me to join the beginner racquetball league at the gym. I am interested but it falls on a bad night. The coach said he would stop in our court every once in a while and give me some pointers.

With racquetball, karate is my reference point. The racquetball instructor gave numerous analogies from other sports such as football, basketball and soccer. These references went in one ear and out the other because they did not make sense to me. As soon as I translated the racquetball concepts into related karate concepts...I understood.


elizasmom said...

I took belly dancing once and found similarities in terms of some of its principles to karate, and one of my new karate students is an ex-ballroom instructor who picks up on things that a beginner usually doesn't because he sees similarities there. I'm starting to believe that good practitioners of almost any movement discipline will discover some of the same ideas underpinning any other practice they check out!

Rick said...

If you care to think about it, there's a strategy for pretty much everything that we do.

Michele said...

elizasmom: Interesting about the ballroom instructor and belly dancing. You make a good point regarding the benefit of movement disciplines.

As a karate student, I learned to examine the fine details of movement. When I was recovering from ACL surgery, I needed to re-learn how to walk correctly due to an obvious limp. I spent hours in front of the dojo mirror watching and refining my walk.

Rick: So true...

Colin Wee said...

I was coaching a former high level squash player last night, and we were doing a low block to the groin. While she was clearly uncomfortable hitting her opponent in his cup ... her backhand swing was fantastic and there were resounding smacks everytime! Hahahahha. It was fantastic! Smiles all around. Colin

Michele said...

Colin: Excellent story. Good for her!

Littlefair said...

What is racquetball?

Michele said...

Littlefair: Similar to squash and British racketball.