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Reflections on Reflections

posted Dec 23, 2011, 3:06 PM by Eric Banks   [ updated Dec 23, 2011, 3:07 PM ]

“People only see what they are prepared to see.”

 -Ralph Waldo Emerson


Finally…it’s taken pretty much all year, but we have mirrors, and they are up, and they look great!  Since we left the community center at the end of 2008, we’ve been training sans mirrors, and it’s been good, really good in fact, but training with mirrors can be good too, if done correctly.  I think there are several pros and cons to using mirrors in training, but overall, the positives outweigh the negatives.  To get the most out of training with mirrors, I suggest the following:


Use the mirrors to check technique form, the overall “look” of your technique.   It’s interesting that what we think we are doing or how we believe we look when performing a technique is often different from the reality.  I liken this to a young child drawing a picture of their mom or dad; in the child’s mind, that picture is a perfect representation of their loved one, but when viewed from an objective (adult) standpoint, that paper contains just some random squiggles and maybe a few circles with lines that could loosely be interpreted as stick legs and stick arms.  Adorable?  Yes, certainly, but not quite what the little tyke was really shooting for, not quite the ideal.  So, when training, check external form first, the look of your technique; be sure stance, posture, body action and overall technique path, etc., lines up with the principles that we constantly talk about.   Also, I suggest viewing your technique from as many different angles as possible.  Take special note that as you correct your form, it is very, very important to work on cultivating the deeper feeling of correct movement—first recognize it and then work to capture it on the inside and tie it to your breath so that you can learn to use that feeling rather than having to guess or always look a mirror.


Along with checking form, I recommend slowing yourself down and critiquing the starting action and ending action for each technique.  Notice any excess motion, hip tilt, shoulder lift, head bobble, etc., and then work to minimize / eliminate those inefficiencies until the technique is smooth, flowing and powerful from start to finish.  Take your time …go slow first, and most of the time, then, once you have tuned into and can maintain the correct feeling, and tied it to your breath, pick up the speed.


Greater self-confidence is one of the side benefit of mirror training.  Just about everyone, at some point, worries about their class and outside of class, whether they are doing karate or not.   When you can actually see yourself improve or effortlessly perform a technique with grace, speed and power, it not only makes you feel good, but it also gives you a mental and emotional boost to keep on progressing.


Of course, when it comes to mirror training, there is one more thing that needs to be addressed:  the “coolness factor”.  You know what I mean.  It’s when you see yourself execute a crisp technique and you realize just how cool you, and karate training, really are.  For some, all they have to do is walk past a mirror, any mirror, to experience this.  My only recommendation is…when you feel the coolness factor take over, don’t smile so big that you break your concentration, especially if you’re executing a deadly gyaku tsuki.