Training Notes from 10-21 and 10-22

I trained with Tucker-Sensei this last weekend on the 20th and 21st of October. We worked on Hanbojutsu, bojutsu, and sanshin. Both sessions were really good and I enjoyed being outside at Piedmont Park.

The following are some of my thoughts from my training.

Saturday was good. We worked on some kamae with the sword: Hira, Ichimonji, and Jumonji. I haven’t ever really trained in these, and have only done the Ichomonji one once. I did rather well for having done most of them either twice before, or never. These are all about distance and keeping your eye on your opponent while escaping the sword. Have you ever rolled and tried to watch what your opponent is doing at the same time? Typically, we roll and keep our eyes in the direction we are rolling, but trying to watch behind you is rather trying, to say the least.

I did gymnastics and tumbling when I was young, so this is a little awkward. However, doing them over and over again, you start to get the hang of it, and watching the world around you go upside down, around, and your opponent twirling in your line of sight is rather interesting. I did well with these and we continued to the hanbojutsu.

We worked on tsuki otoshi, uchi waza, and yuki chigai. Tsuki otoshi is a striking move with the uke coming in with a knife, uchi waza is a sword evasion technique with a fabulous hanbo twirl to the head or hands (it’s a lot of fun), and the last one is a technique with the uke coming at you with a knife and you end up doing a katate nage move.

Saturday training was a success, now on to Sunday’s frustrations.

We worked on ken kudaki and keri kudaki (destroying the arm and leg) moves, bojutsu, and sanshin. I felt pretty good with them. The point with ken kudaki and keri kudaki, that I learned is that you want to get to your opponent just as they start. Granted, we’ll train as the punch or kick comes in, and then do our movements. You don’t want to move too soon as the strike is coming, but as it’s moving – don’t let the strike settle and then move; rather, move just before the strike is complete.

For ken kudaki so no ichi (arm crushing form one), you want to hit-hit the arm as you move away from the second potential threat of the other possible punch. It’s not a hit and then a hit, it’s two quick hits as you move and using your body to make the two contacts one right after the other.

For ken kudak so no ni (arm crushing forme 2), this was a little harder as you are moving off-line and drawing the person in and DOWN towards you. Rather than staying tall, you want to take your angle and lower yourself as you bring your uke’s punch (or opponent) down towards you. Then you kick the arm up, and move in towards the arm and punch it as you use your body velocity on the upwards punch. Sounds difficult doesn’t it? It is. Both of them. It’s all about timing.

Actually, all martial arts – and life – are about timing. There is good timing, but then there is efficient timing. The timing that we train in is about efficient timing. It’s that beat between the beats that makes a difference, and it can mean the difference in being hit, or being able to attack your opponent before they have a chance to fulfill their intended purpose.

So, the frustrating part. We then worked on sanshin. Chi, Sui, Ka, Fu, Ku (Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Void). You can feel the earth as it is solid, and that’s what Chi gives you. Water is something you can feel, but it has an element of being not solid. Fire you can feel, but cannot exactly touch. Wind is something you may not expect and has an ethereal feel to it. Void is something you fall into and know nothing, much like kyojitsu (a false truth).

Other than going into each one, the frustrating part of it was the movement for each one. Most of us pick up our feet to rock in the opposite direction so that we can then move toward the direction we want to go. This extra movement can telegraph our intentions. I was at a seminar with  Shihan Rob Renner who taught this idea. Rather than moving, just pick up your foot and drop. Pick up your foot, not roll to the balls of your toes and pushing your body the other direction and then moving towards the other, but just simply forgetting about your upper body and picking up your whole foot and dropping in the direction you want to go. Seems counter intuitive, but it works.

Let’s say you want to move right. You want to put your weight on your right foot, pick it up, and drop it towards the right direction. It’s moving off balance, but not. We always want to correct ourselves by going in the opposite direction, but in this case we aren’t. Also, your opponent will think you are going to counterbalance yourself, but actually you’re continuing to move in the direction you want or intended.

Another thought in this is that you have to separate your lower body from your upper body. Shihan Andrew Young has taught this. He does a lot of figure 8 exercises that make your upper and lower body not coincide with each other.  You need to be able to move your lower body in the opposite direction of your upper body, but without leaning. This takes a lot of training, and a lot of NOT thinking. Try moving towards the right and not lean your upper body, and then do the same by going towards the left.

Combining both Shihan Young’s and Renner’s ideas will essentially help you move your body in two directions at the same time, but not. You want your body to be disjointed. You want the upper body to move in one direction while the bottom can move in the other. I have found that I tend to lean in one direction and stay that way because that’s what my body is doing. This comes from years of athletic training and it has been difficult to untrain that type of movement.

I became frustrated because I thought that I wasn’t making the extra movements, but I was. I was rocking towards the opposite direction of my intended movement, thereby telegraphing my intention. What I needed my body to understand was to move my arms, trunk, and lower body separately, but at the same time. Another hard concept to understand.

The thing that I am taking away from this last training is that I need to “fall” into my movement, rather than “moving” into it and keep my body flexible enough to be disjointed. By doing so, I separating my body and adding the concept of kyojitsu.