Sunday, July 11, 2010


After reading my article, Motor Learning and the Karate Kid, someone asked me if I had the same thoughts on Mr. Miyagi’s training methods as I did Mr. Han’s. As a quick review, my first Karate Kid article discussed the two primary training methods used in sports and other physical activities: Blocked Practice and Random Practice. Blocked Practice is the more traditional form training, where the athlete repeats a single movement an endless amount of times to commit it to muscle memory. Random Practice, on the other hand, has the athlete training all the movements he or she has learned and performs them randomly, and as close to competition circumstances as possible.


In the 2010 version, Mr. Han, played by the legendary Jackie Chan, utilizes both types of training methods, to very different effects. Some of his methods are good, since they are actual techniques used by true martial arts practitioners to sharpen their game, including bodyweight and flexibility exercises, and target practice using such implements as tennis balls and wooden poles. However, as a nod to the original Karate Kid, the very first training method Mr. Han utilizes makes use of an everyday action and attempts to relate it to martial arts. This is the “jacket on, jacket off” training method. In my first Karate Kid article, I basically say that this training is completely useless, as the movements it employs are much too different from the actual motions the “Karate Kid”, Dre performs.


Now, pretty much everybody knows or at least has heard of “wax on, wax off”, Mr. Miyagi famous line from the original Karate Kid. It’s the technique that “jacket on, jacket off” was ultimately derived from, but is it equally as ineffective?

The answer is no. I hadn’t watched the Karate Kid for a very long time, possibly more than 20 years, and while I remember the key elements about it, such as bits and pieces of Daniel’s training and the tournament at the very end, I’d completely forgotten all the fine details of it. Good thing, too, because I realized after reviewing the original that the 2010 version is almost the exact same storyline as the original, with only a few tweaks here and there. I’d have enjoyed my viewing of Jackie Chan’s version much less if I knew this beforehand.

My personal feelings on cinema aside, the answer to the question I posed above is no. Before reviewing the original film, I’d have said “yes”, without any hesitation, but there’s actually more to “wax on, wax off” than meets the eye.

In the 2010 version, all Dre does at the beginning of his training cycle is pick up his jacket off the ground, wear it, take it off, hang it up, drop it to the floor, and repeat for what seemed liked several weeks in a row, even in the falling rain.


In the original version, Daniel does much more than just wax cars. Sure, that was day 1. Mr. Miyagi somehow has half a dozen cars out in his yard, which Daniel has to wax. He does this for an entire day, with very proper and very specific form taught by his sensei. At the end of the day, his body is completely sore, but he got the job done and, according to Mr. Miyagi, he did it well.

Unlike Dre, Daniel didn’t do the exact same thing in day 2 and the days that followed. Day 2 was sanding floors, which is almost the same motion as wax on, wax off, but with a slight twist. Daniel performed wax on, wax off with a circular clockwise motion with his right hand, and a counter clockwise motion with his left hand. The motions were reversed in sanding the floors, with the right hand going in a counter clockwise motion and the left hand going in a clockwise motion.

Day 3 was even more different than the last. This time, it was painting the fence, which Daniel had to do in a very specific upward and downward fashion. Day 4 was painting the house, which was performed in very specific left to right brushstrokes.

Everyone knows where this is all going, though. In day 5, Daniel suddenly knows the basics of Karate blocking, which doesn’t happen in real life. But, then, why do I say that “wax on, wax off” and its counterparts are more effective than “jacket on, jacket off”. Simple: conditioning.


As anyone who’s ever done house chores and errands for an entire day knows, it’s hard work and taxing on the entire body. This is actually how people of old developed strong bodies day to day, by doing all sorts of manual labor. Think about it. How often have you seen laborers who have very well developed bodies as you pass by on the street. Sure, there are some of them with grossly large beer bellies, but I find that there are even more with well developed muscles and firm bodies.

These people don’t regularly work out like the super models and elite athletes we all look up to, but some of them have equally impressive physiques. This is because they use their bodies to the limit on almost a daily basis as part of their jobs. Lifting heavy objects, hammering nails into pieces of wood, and pushing and pulling carts loaded with equipment all condition the human body very well, all without setting foot inside the gym. This is what I learned from my review of the original Karate Kid, and why I was so astonished when I saw “wax on, wax off” again in action for the first time in years.


So, what am I saying, that we should all work as manual laborers instead so we can all get buff the same way? No, of course not, but it does inspire one to rid the mind of laziness, get up and get some work done. Clean your room. Walk to the store and buy the needed groceries. Replace any burnt out light bulbs and broken pipes around the house. Mop the floors when they get grimy. Do it all yourself and don’t be lazy about it. Think it’s a waste of time and that you could be doing something of greater importance? Like what? Lying around and playing video games?

Believe it or not, these chores actually improve one’s quality of living, especially if done on a regular basis. By keeping your room clean, you prevent filth from accumulating; By fixing any holes in the roof, you prevent leaks during the rainy season; By walking to the store inside of driving or commuting, you’re getting some much needed exercise and saving some cash at the same time. These are all good things that will benefit you tremendously if you do them on a regular basis.


That’s not the end, though. As I was typing down my thoughts on the Karate Kid, I realized that I took in a bit too much. Yes, that means there’s more. Also, I didn’t really fully answer the question posed to me yet. “Wax on, wax off” and the first four days of Daniel’s training was only part of what Mr. Miyagi’s training regimen. Daniel did train for two months to prepare for the tournament, after all, so what did I think of the rest of the training sessions? Tune in tomorrow for the follow up article!
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