Catching up on a few weeks’ worth of training

This one’s a bit belated, so apologies for the delay!

While I didn’t train last week (more on that later), I have been working hard in and around class the few weeks prior to that. Training during both of those weeks was really full-on… or if it wasn’t, I was working myself as hard as I could in class to get the most out of it. Since I’m keen to grade in December (or at least aim for it), I’ve been really conscious of getting my syllabus mastered to a reasonable degree of proficiency. Training has involved a lot of work on basics and fine-tuning form to continue pursuing perfect execution, form, power and focus. I’ve been trying hard to lower my stances and keep my strikes as solid as possible and maintaining proper form. We’ve been regularly working on kata, and I’m now at the point where I have the basic patterns and forms solidified in my head, and it’s now about execution, form, strength, all that good stuff. There were a few sticking points which Sensei has gone through with me that I hadn’t picked up on, but I’m confident I’m at the point where I can begin to dig deeper and execute the kata with a greater sense of skill and awareness.

We’ve also been going back to working on go-on and ippon kumite – as I’m gradually moving through my kyu grades, I’m now being expected to demonstrate a greater variety of techniques as part of my training. At first I was having trouble trying to pin down to what extent I can expand upon the usual/simple counter techniques I’ve been using, but in one of those lightbulb moments I’m prone to having, I’ve worked out that I can incorporate a lot of my basic combination drills and movements from kata into my responses. This has immediately opened up my available repertoire responses available to me through these drills, and I’m looking forward to continue working on them.

I’ve looked at time frames and will discuss the topic further with Sensei this week, but I have a feeling that should I intend to grade in December (and I do), I’ll need to be constantly revising my syllabus throughout the weeks in the lead up to grading. I started this last night by systematically going through my syllabus in the late evening to ensure I’m confident with all the techniques, and will be putting extra time aside to work on my kata, basic combinations and consider my options for ippon kumite. What’s new in this grading is the incorporation of bunkai into the exam, as well as the performance of an additional kata besides my grade-kata and kihon. The latter I’m not too fussed with as my gradings for my previous style saw everyone go through every kata in the lead-up to their grade kata, it’s just another step I have to be aware of.

So, it’ll likely be a busy couple of weeks, but I’m determined to make this grading and do well – I don’t want to simply scrape by, as I know I’m better than that.

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Note to self – don’t over-complicate things :P

I was reading a great piece Matt wrote over at Ikigai Way about how over-complicating technique when it comes to martial arts can be extremely counterproductive when translating said techniques into a real-world scenario (here). I can definitely see what he’s getting at, and can also relate to over-complicating things ๐Ÿ™‚ I think part of it might be due to how my brain operates with all its lovely idiosyncrasies, and part of it might be a determination to try and look outside the box so much (and thus impress with a broader understanding of the technique) that it loses focus and meaning.

This is particularly important as I have a grading coming up in December, and from here onwards I’ll be expected to dissect and provide bunkai for previous kata to demonstrate that the forms aren’t just a dance, but have practical application and techniques that can be applied. Ever since I had my eyes opened to the extent to which you can dissect kata to discover the hidden depths of application contained therein, I’ve found a really satisfying challenging in this realm of martial arts study. While I’m still pretty green when it comes to it, I have to say it’s really rewarding, and I’m glad its a formalised part of my training.

Again, my problem with doing this is not to over-complicate things, and to demonstrate what will ultimately be a 7th-kyu perception of bunkai, and not trying to go too deep in demonstrating bunkai that it gets muddy. I’ve already done that a bit in class already, and have found that, at this level, it’s great to think outside the square, but it’s equally important to adhere to the old adage that you need to walk before you can run ๐Ÿ™‚

But back to Matt’s post, I believe there’s a place for crazy, out-there thinking when it comes to breaking down kata, but it is absolutely essential that you bring the application to something that can be easily applied to the scenario if you can use it. To borrow from his example, there’s little utility in wasting time trying to recall a fancy grapple/sidestep technique when a straight-up block/parry/counter would suffice, as the time taken to cycle through your options may well negate any form of defense.

At higher levels of expertise, when you have drilled those particular techniques to a fine art and have built in the required muscle-memory to support them, it maybe well be a different scenario.

Importantly, as long as you have a guiding set of principles to cope with the act of violence, regardless of your level of technical expertise, I think this is the most important thing to have, as the principle can be acted upon faster than a specific arrangement of techniques. To that end, I think studying bunkai is important, as it begins to teach your mind about the core principles behind the techniques you are performing, whether it be as part of your basic drills or as kata, so you can apply them when needed. Granted, it takes a great deal of time to achieve mastery thereof, but as long as the core principles are understood, it doesn’t matter if it’s a fancy collection of techniques or a standard oitsuki – the technique must, ultimately, be applicable in a scenario of self defense.

… and that’s my jumbled response ๐Ÿ˜€

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Bunkai is deceptive

Next time you think something with the relative simplicity of Heian Shodan doesn’t have much to explore insofar as practical application is concerned, maybe you should think again. Patrick’s blog is always a really good source of information, but this is perfect timing, as bunkai has become a regular topic of exploration in class over the last month in particular. I’m finding the continuous exploration of this when performing and studying kata extremely fascinating. This post will also act as a bookmark for when I want to participate to bunkai discussions in class; should also be a really good resource for other students in class who might be interested too!

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