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In Praise of Kata For Exercise - Tandoku Renshu

Judo Kata Tandoku Renshu Complaints

I've herd untold complaints over the years about the Judo Kata Tandoku Renshu.

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What is Tandoku Renshu?

Tandoku Renshu is the official name given by the Kodokan (Professor Kano's Judo school) in the book Kodokan Judo, to series of Exercise movements, that comprises of the first part of a much longer Kata known as Sei-Ryoku-Zen’yo Kokumin-Taiiku. It was devised by Professor Kano because he said, as I understand it, that he found the Calisthenic type exercises boring and not relevant to Judo. It is often performed in Kata competition as a Kata in itself. Below is a video version of the Tandoku Renshu. The term Tandoku Renshu can, I'm told, also be applied to all forms of individual exercise.

So what's wrong with the Tandoku Renshu?

Well from my pointing of view, nothing.

But those who hate it would say:

  • It's not real martial arts
  • I'm a competition player and Kata has no relevance to me
  • The punches and kick are not how you would really do them they would be ineffective

So let's deal with these one at a time:

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To those who hate it would say: "It's Not Real Martial Arts"

What does that mean by the way? I'm sure I don't know. This statement is bandied about but I dare anybody to define Martial Arts. Sure Martial Arts is applied to fighting arts but it clearly means much more than that. It is just as readily applied to the way we live our lives and the philosophy with which we live or that is endorsed by a particular style. The Budo if you like.

Saying something from a particular fighting style is not "Real Martial Arts" without first defining what you mean by that, is just meaningless and the definition is, to say the least, elusive. So to dismiss a Kata because it doesn't meet with your approval is not an argument at all but mealy a statement of your personal taste.

To those who hate it say: "I'm a Competition Player and Kata has no Relevance to Me"

At least this statement is honest. However, it's just not true!

No matter how competitive you are every athlete that is worth their salt will practice certain movements over and over again.

Runners will practice their running action as well as work on their rhythm and timing.

Swimmers will rehearse their stroke contiguously tweaking arm, hand, leg and body position as they go. Without timing, they can never make it to their peek.

Judo Players will sooner or later do Uchi Komi in some form or other in order to perfect a throw. And every time a Judoka works on a combination what is that if it's not Kata.

Kata is an integral part of athletic training. You can't do without it as hard as you may try. So just because the Kata I practice is not your Kata how is that a reason to dismiss it.

To those who hate it would say: "The Punches and Kicks are not how you would really do them, they would be ineffective"

This really does miss the point of the kata. The Kata was, as I have said, designed to be an exercise. The emphasis is not on the kicks and the punches but the movement, the stretching and the exertion. The improvement in balance and accuracy alone makes kata worth it.

It has an added bonus that I suspect was at the core of Professor Kano's thinking when he developed it: the movements are martial arts movements, even if they are or are not good punching and kicking style.

One of the things that I had drummed home to me when I was training to be a coach was that the best exercise you can do for your particular sport is that particular sport. The problem is always how do you do warm-ups and stretchers.

The warm-ups are not that hard, usually, a mild form of your sport is easy but the stretches are another thing. Most sports have to do activities that are not related to their sport in order to get the necessary stretching done. But the professor went one better. He came up with a series of exercises that are, stretches and is related.

What are the Actions of Tandoku Renshu

There is stretching: I have to say some very satisfying stretching I've found
Rotation: something seriously neglected by many a Judoka
Slow Movement: there is nothing like building up to something slowly
Fast Movement: done right it gets your heart rate up very satisfactorily

Even if the kicking and punching actions are wrong and I have to say that the more Tandoku Renshu I do I am not convinced that that is true, the principles are there. Frankly, I don't care if they are good style but as a teacher, I'd rather have a student doing an action wrong that had the right general idea than try to get something perfect from the start.

Mind you, you don't want to program in bad habits either but minor corrections are great. I'm no kicking and punching expert but I'm reasonably sure that the Tandoku Renshu gives plenty of good foundation.

You don't have to do it as a Demonstration

There are many people that believe that the Tandoku Renshu has to be performed in a formal fashion only. Can I encourage people to get away from that from time to time? I love to see kata performed but it was intended as an exercise as well.

If you do it in your club or on your own you don't have to be restricted by the number of times you perform particular movements and actions. If you feel the need to repeat one of the actions 10 times why not.

Why not try it as an exercise before you can it. And Sensei's try it as a warm-up on your class.

Start off slow and then do it again faster and then once more as fast as you can. watch the laughter go up with the heart rate and feel the stretch and improvement in balance and accuracy.

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