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Friday, September 28, 2012

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet . . .

Students always want to execute blindingly fast Bruce Lee kicks, punches and delayed death touches. It looks great on the movies because that is where they belong; in the movies.

Take kata for instance. How fast is too fast? Well to arrive at the proper answer we need to look at the function of kata. Kata is designed to perfect basic techniques and present them in such a manner as to allow beginners to see potential applications of the movements and allow advanced students to develop their own bunkai.

However bunkai and “favorite techniques” are pretty much worthless. Should an occasion arise where you are called upon to use your skills you automatically revert to basics. Blame it on muscle memory. When Billie Bob makes a disparaging remark about your parents (specifically your mother) and steps in to sucker punch you you don’t stop to think “cool he’s going to throw with his right, I’ll step in, middle block, flip my blocking arm around into an arm lock, counter strike with a palm heel to his chin while I sweep him with my from leg!” No, you execute a middle block and counter punch before you even realize what you were doing.

Why? Because you did the middle block – punch 2,000 times in the dojo. The fancy technique you did maybe 20 time 4 months ago. In a crisis you really have “mizo no kokoro” – mind like water and it flows to the familiar, the tried and true: basics, not fancy.

In a real-world confrontation numerous different Catecholamines (hormones and other chemicals) are dumped into our system. These chemicals prepare us to either fight or run away (fight or flight response) They speed up our reaction time, narrow our focus of concentration and focus our mind.

So what does that have to do with speed and kata? Wait for it.. .

When we practice, even at “full speed” it is not adrenline driven, anxiety induced hyperspeed. In a real fight every thing is far fast than we every plan for; everything is sped up. If we doing blindingly fast training those techniques become sloppy and befuddled in a real fight. If we train “dojo full speed” then when the need arises we execute proper effective but rapidly delivered techniques.

So how do you know when you are moving too fast in training? When you blur. Remember: Wax-on . . .Wax-off not "Wax-on-Wax-Off"!

By that I mean when there is not a distinct transition from one technique to another. “Punchblock” should be executed punch/block. One count kata practice deprives us of this training (though it has it’s own uses). Kata, by the count, allows us to learn to execute distinct, precisely delivered techniques before going on to the next technique. In a well performed kata, even when done fast, a trained on-looker can see distinct individual techniques, not a Bruce Lee blur.

Challenge: Try delivering a block and punch full force, full speed in makiwara training. It’s a little slower than FTL (faster than light) kata movements, isn’t it?

Cox Hakase

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