Recently I was teaching in one of our Dojos. It was a wide range of Students from Beginners to Sandan. Ido Kihon was the original theme and in particular one block from our syllabus that was used in various combinations and increasing in complexity as the grades increased.
The Beginners tried to get their head and body around just about everything they were asked to do. Finding it difficult to perform the correct route of the technique and by moving into the correct position and employing the right principles.
Further up the line the mid range Kyu grades were more proficient but struggled to keep consistency and bring in power through the correct mechanism whilst they performed the technique as the ‘Block’ that they were under the impression that they were practicing.
Moving further up the line again and not only were they performing the given block but also combining it with other techniques and different stances.
Then higher grade students were trying to be dynamic and powerful whilst starting by moving into the block then switching to other techniques and in a certain order, moving through various stances before they then move off again to repeat on the their other side.
I then tasked the students to pair up and apply the ‘Block’ against their partner. I asked them to move forward as is done in Ido Kihon and experiment with the movement. Most of them struggled more than ever, faced with having to apply the technique and make it useful. This is perfectly normal as there is the added pressure of having the pace and distance set by the opponent.
I asked the Shodan and above Students to be very natural about this technique. To be very ‘Free’ and be faced with an opponent who is going hands on with you in an offensive manner. I asked them to look at how useful the movement was and how their position and placement of footing affected the whole thing.
There came a moment where one of the Seniors was berating himself though. We got into that issue and it became apparent that a certain perception had to change with a certain amount of acceptance. This particular Student who is always keen to train and progress and be happy to work hard hammering away at relentless kihon, was trying to apply the technique and perform and apply it the same as in the Kihon. It wasn’t working. I wanted them to bring the principles into play and to lose the form and shape of it all. I wanted them to use the ‘useful flinch’ of it.
You see the Student could not successfully apply and make the technique work because he was still thinking of it in it’s ‘raw’ form. Therefore he was being unnecessarily unfair to himself and once an explanation was given a different demeanour was apparent. It was another ‘Aha’ moment.
The message is trust in what you are doing and in what you are being asked to do knowing that at some stage you’ll have to let go of the shapes and let your body do the thinking. Let your body remember, not your mind. Of course the only way to achieve this state is by repetition and practice and when it is employed there is not much that is aesthetic about it. We all have to go back to training in it’s raw form no matter how experienced or proficient you think you are. Under pressure is where it needs to work otherwise the consequences for you are dire! Training is a tall order but totally worth it and brings it’s own habits that then need to be broken.
The journey continues on and on.