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Back to basics: The importance of kihon

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AP Photo/Bill Haber

Progress comes to those who train and train. Reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere. - Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido.

During the NFC Championship game today, Brett Favre arguably cost the Vikings a trip to the Superbowl when he threw an interception with 7 seconds remaining in regulation.  Pundits were quick to point out  that Favre made a fundamental mistake, by throwing across his body and ignoring an open running lane straight ahead.

While this was not a life-and-death situation (except perhaps to Vikings fans), this is a fairly graphic example of what happens when the basics are ignored.  Focusing on the basics is one thing that most martial arts masters and teachers can agree on:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once,but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. - Bruce Lee 

A student cannot possibly truly understand a technique until he has at least performed that technique 300,000 times. - Mas Oyama

Master the basics. - Gogen Yamaguchi

Every style has its repertoire of fundamental techniques.  In the Japanese martial arts, the word kihon is used to express the concept of basics or fundamentals.  Mastery of kihon calls for perfection in execution, and perfection in application. 

Perfection in execution comes from repetition.  While good martial arts instructors will make their students focus on kihon, ultimately, it falls upon the student practitioner to have the dedication and patience to perform the basic moves over and over, doing each one as if for the first time.

Perfection in application comes from the mental fortitude of focusing on the core of the art and resisting the temptation to engage in esoterica and fancy techniques.  Kihon can also mean core, and as the core, should dictate default behavior.

Simply put, focus on the flash, ignore the basics, and disaster follows.

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