Sensei Adel Ismail is famous for asking his students this question! It’s all part of his no-nonsense approach to karate combined with a great sense of fun. We experienced this winning combo first hand during his 3 hour masterclass at De Havilland Campus Sports Centre in Hatfield.

I organised the Sensei Adel karate masterclass in conjunction with Stevenage JKA, and invited a couple of other local clubs to join us. The result was a really satisfying range of ages and grades all learning together.

Sensei Adel is a 6th Dan and member of the JKA Technical Committee. So this was a great opportunity for juniors to be taught by a really senior instructor and for all grades to practise, practise, practise their basics…

Punching with purpose

Punching effectively is a pretty important skill for a karate student but it’s not as easy as it looks.

So, in the first part of the Sensei Adel karate masterclass, we focused on our fists: keeping the perfect shape then making sure it travels directly to target in the fastest possible time. This is valuable instruction for all grades – getting beginners into good habits while helping the senior grades perfect their technique.

Making a proper karate fist

Every karateka (karate student) is taught how to make a proper fist so it’s effective but also protects its owner. A proper karate fist is fingers curled, thumb tucked in, no gaps so the whole hand is powerful – and secure.

The A-B of punching directly

‘A-B’ efficiency and effective use of your body so you punch straight – quite simple really, like proper karate. Sensei Adel used a belt to help guide the direction of the student’s arm. This simple training technique means it’s obvious when a student’s punch is too slow or less powerful than it should be because their arm moves off the line, losing energy and valuable time.

Sounds obvious doesn’t it – punching directly? Well at some time or another we’re all guilty of wind milling arms or chicken wings elbows (we have lots of unflattering descriptions to help us fix things). Basically, if it wastes time and energy, it’s wrong!

Strong stance, well-connected body

Back to our title – Do you want to do proper karate or just look pretty? Sensei Adel can make even the strongest man wobble, using just his little finger.

It makes us laugh and there’s a lot of good natured teasing but it’s a serious challenge for JKA students of all grades. The secret is a powerful stance but relaxed upper body. It takes a while to understand and lots of practice to even get close to achieving. But the resulting power and speed is so worth the effort (if only to avoid the embarrassment of being pushed over by a little finger…)

This is why we do karate

Karate, like many sports, is about being good at the basics, understanding why you do them and getting sharper and sharper. And certainly the Sensei Adel karate masterclass taught us this.

As with all his training, Sensei Adel gave us an advanced session but one which every grade could understand. Every single student took something away – how to improve a stance, practise a block or work on your core strength. For example, here’s a top tip: wait until the very last minute before blocking an opponent’s attack – just before they tense, using their momentum to deflect the punch with your whole body. Easy!

Thank you, Sensei Adel, for your time and invaluable instruction. We look forward to welcoming you back!

We’ve got lots of activities planned for the club – get in touch if you’d like to hear more.