Years ago when I was training with Sensei Moshfegh, I recall a particular moment when he corrected my front stance. As I was in stance, ready to vigorously move to the next stance, Sensei Moshfegh kindly looked me up and down and said…” Your front foot toes, what are you doing with your toes?” Recalling my conversations with students of Nishiyama Sensei, I responded…”Sensei, I’m gripping the floor with my toes. Like a tiger, I use it to pull and push into the next stance!” He smiled, and said, “Relax your toes…” As I did so, I felt a slight imbalance in my stance, and recovered. Sensei smiled again and said ” When you relax your front toes, you lose balance, but if you engage your core instead, you regain balance. That is better for the body and better for balance.”
As years went by, that simple lesson had a profound impact on my own personal training, and I tried to observe the minutiae in others as they perfected their karate . Watching them encouraged me to try different methods to improve my own karate.
One method that has been particularity beneficial to me, has been the use of non stick socks whilst training on wood floors. The socks obviously create more slip, forcing one to slow down moves to prevent falls, but also creates a fluidity to one’s motions.
Mostly though, I’ve noticed that the use of socks forces extra work on the core muscles, especially in outside pressure stances like front stance or back stance. In these stances, with socks on, the feet no longer are the sole (no pun intended) stabilizers of the stance. Since the feet feel like they are slipping, one has to rely on the tightening of the core and gluteus maximus muscles to maintain balance.
I encourage others to try different methods in their personal training, be it the use of elastic bands, weighted vests, or ankle weights. My experience has been that performing kata in socks, more fully engages the core, and forces the body to control the muscles that are being used, by moving a degree slower…it is also a great way to clean the dojo floor!