Monday, December 30, 2013

Think Like a Cockroach

cockroach photo:  roach.jpgThe week between Christmas and New Year's Day is generally a slow one in karate land with not much in the way of regular classes happening. But one of our friends in NYC was holding class in his basement dojo and invited Training Partner Ed, myself and a a few students down tonight. And of course, we jumped at the chance.

Master Dave takes his karate very seriously, teaching in three different locations in the Bronx at least six nights a week. Because we travel over an hour to get to him, he likes to make the time we spend with him "special" in an "I don't think I can do another roundhouse kick" sort of way that makes your hair drip sweat. In addition to being a walking Goju and Shotokan kata encyclopedia, he is also famous for his "two minute drills" - where he fills the last few moments of every class with karate-related aerobic stuff designed to make you see what you're made of (or puke trying to find out). I aways leave his dojo wondering how I am able to even walk out - because not everyone does.

Tonight, after a invigorating warmup and some kihon, Master Dave had us work some lead leg kicking/lead hand punching speed drills. Speed was the operative word because fights on the street and in the ring happen fast. No one wants to get caught thinking of a confrontation-killing combination instead of moving to avoid, block or lay a hand or foot on an adversary. Openings, he said, don't come along all that often, and when they do, they don't tend to stick around very long. Good fighters look for openings and move in before they disappear. Great fighters find ways to create them.

"You have to think like a cockroach," he said "- because a cockroach will always find a way to get in."

Even the best fighters on the planet make mistakes from time to time by leaving something open while trying to block or counter - even if it is only for a fraction of a second. Finding that crack in the armor and moving in before it gets plugged up is the key to holding your own, he said. Then we spent the next hour following up defensive/blitz-stopping side and front kicks with lead-hand/rear-hand combos designed to help us think like a cockroach and get in - by any means necessary.

Next we worked more upper-body kihon with a makiwara, checking each other on form breaks and hitches that could telegraph intentions to an adversary. "Remember, the person in front of you can be a cockroach, too. He's trying to find a way inside," Master Dave said, reminding us that each shoulder dip before a reverse punch or slight drop in the lead hand before a jab is not much different than a gap under the pantry door: an entryway to the goodies on the other side.

Yeah, cockroaches are creepy, dirty little buggers that freak most of us out, but thinking like on when your dukes go up isn't a bad idea at all.


  1. I'm gonna see if I can translate this principle into something actionable in my practice. I likes, I likes.

  2. Very nice, Felicia! It's difficult to get that skill though. I try to watch others to find flaws and ways to exploit them, but so far can't do it while sparring - only when looking from the side.