Friday, January 8, 2010

New Year, New Beginning?

Well, today was the first class I took at the dojo this year. Thanks Miles for handling the earlier classes. Apparently, others were also done with the coughing virus and also some were down from cat fleas. No matter, getting sick is part of life and God's way of telling you to take a break.

Now speaking of breaks. We were going over Ikkyo today with a beginner. Initially I wanted everyone to use blade hands to control uke's arm. Running it just over the elbow to rotate the arm and using center to bring the body down. Needless to say, this is not that easy when you first start out as the propensity to slip is there. With proper musubi, it won't happen. And using the blade hand is good practice so that you don't resort to gripping and then failing to connect with partner and instead start to use strength. Now when we start using strength or rushing it, inevitably something will go wrong. At the least of it, uke recovers center. At the worst, we have uke with a broken elbow or a sprained one at best. This happens when uke's arm is straight and nage applies pressure on the elbow. So its better for everyone when the elbow is bent. For nage, bending the arm doesn't detract from the efficiency of ikkyo. With skill and experience, ikkyo can be done with a straight arm and without hurt or injury. But for now, bending the arm would be the safest course. [Picture is from Joint Pain Experts]

Nevertheless, I had to adjust this method for our new student who is quite petite. It also just so happens that uke for the day is kind of a big guy. So instead of using a blade hand, I had the student use the inner part of the thumb and forefinger. Not to grip with the whole hand, but only the inner part. It has a better fit to uke's arm in that it starts out as rounded. Also, rotating uke's arm is crucial. After which, nage abuts uke's wrist to nage's hip and spears his elbow down using the whole body movement.

Now, this moulding of nage into uke's appendages is nothing new. We've practice this a bit some months back and it constitutes good practice to learning awase and musubi. If we maintain our body form and uke as separate entities, it'll be quite difficult to connect with him. Gaps and broken connection would be too frequent.  Wherever we touch uke, we must fit our body to his shape. When the shape fits, its easier to link with him and to become one. So sometimes, if we find it difficult to do awase, it'll be a good idea to pause and study the body contact. See if there's a way to adjust a bit so that the contact becomes naturally connected.

We also did tenkan walking today. Its good practice for connection, weight underside, relaxation and also chushin. When you tenkan and remain connected with uke, you can drive his center forward using the wrist to palm connection that you have with uke. Weight remains underside and atari is seen to be working here. If you pull, uke will certainly pull back. But if you connect, and then walk with your center, provided that your hand remains extended and relaxed, uke will walk with you. Its like a horse with tight reins I suppose. Not pulling, just firmly in the correct position.

Another basic exercise we did was sayo nage from katatedori gyakuhanmi. We did not do kihon method. Instead we focused on extending uke's hand up and then as we align his chushin, we drop our center to collapse his center. Doing this allows the beginner to concentrate on the center movement and controlling of chushin. Doing kihon would have confused a beginner because most people would rely on neck sweeping and from there a contest of strength begins.

An interesting thing happened after class. A minor accident that occurred because someone did not apply zanshin. Well accidents happens to everyone, but we must also realise that when this weakness is revealed we must not become flustered. Instead, immediately focus on regaining center and calmness. I notice our student panicked a bit. Even though he did nothing rash, but a calmer attitude would probably have saved him some money tonight. In any event, I had regretted not explaining zanshin earlier in class today for the benefit of the beginner. It seems that the older student still has yet to remember his lessons instead.

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