'I don’t wear a headband. If you want to, you can!' says karate World Champion Jordan Thomas. 'Don’t disillusion me, Jordan!' I bark, perhaps a little aggressively. I’ve watched three seasons of Cobra Kai in a week and I am all about a karate headband / floppy fringe combo.
Kick-ass comedy drama Cobra Kai is a spin-off of ’80s classic The Karate Kid. Resurrecting the original actors, it follows underdog Daniel LaRusso (now 'chopping prices' and 'kicking the competition' as the owner of a successful car dealership) and his high school nemesis, sneering country club bully Johnny Lawrence (now knocking back beer for breakfast).
Season three dropped just a few weeks ago, and fans are already clamouring for season four, so I’m clearly not the only one revved up by the Cobra Kai mantra STRIKE FIRST! STRIKE HARD! NO MERCY!
This is why I’ve turned to Jordan, whose karate credentials suggest he knows a thing or two. His father is William Thomas who won the World Championship in 1992. 'That’s the year I was born, so I came out punching and kicking,' says Jordan, who won gold in the European Championships in 2014, before becoming World Champion himself in 2016.
OK so first things first. Can 'wax on, wax off' make me a karate champion? It would be super handy if I could combine Mr. Miagi’s methods with cleaning my kitchen. Jordan? 'Um, there’s principles, yes. It’s like going to the gym and learning a functional movement, then applying it to the real world. So yeah, you can get some of the basics from that, and transfer over.”
Excellent! Here’s more of Jordan’s advice for becoming a karate badass in lockdown…
Yoga is great for developing the flexibility, balance and co-ordination that you need for karate. I do a lot of yoga to open the hips and develop leg control. Strengthening the core prevents injuries because it supports your structure, making your body robust. This allows you to move more easily, without the muscles or joints giving way. I go on a Wattbike, because moving at speed, or against resistance, develops my kicking. Running is also a good form of cardio because, like karate, it’s on your feet. Strength training is important so you’ve got power behind the movements, to execute what you want to do accurately, and to make you more explosive.
Practising hitting and kicking on punch bags is good training for karate. I do a lot of bag work. It’s great for cardiovascular fitness and you feel good at the end, because you can let all your stress out on the bag! If you don’t have room for a punch bag, get some focus pads - you can take them to the park. You’ll need someone else to hold them up, so rope in your partner or anyone else you live with, or someone in your bubble. It’s good fun, and cushions or pillows work as a make-do measure.
Martial Arts Immersion
Bring karate training into your everyday life. It’s not just 'wax on/wax off' and 'paint the fence'. The Japanese way to scrub the floor is on your hands and knees. This develops your core, which is important for punching and kicking. When you walk, do a high march, bringing your knees up as high as possible. This mobilises your joints and develops the muscles around your hips, improving your ability to kick. You can do it on the spot, or when you walk to the bathroom. Practise kicks by turning light switches off with your feet. I do this at home in a slow controlled way – and I do the same thing to close cupboards. Instead of opening doors and walking through, I’ll play around with just opening it slightly, then moving through in a dynamic way, to develop my defence skills.
POW! BOOM! ZOOM!
YouTube is full of online karate classes. You’ll find loads of videos showing the basics, to get you started for free. The majority of karate clubs are doing Zoom sessions during the pandemic, so you’ll be able to take part in a live class from home. Go to the English Karate Federation to find a club. If you choose one that’s local to you, you can continue to train with them after lockdown. Lots of karate teachers have been doing outdoor sessions so you might find a nearby teacher who (lockdown rules permitting) will train with you one-to-one outside. Find a teacher whose style suits you. You might find that straight away, but if not, look for another teacher, because it’s your journey.