Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Don't neglect the basics.

Dave Lowry tells a story about his early judo days where a few students were promoted to first dan at a tournament. As the head instructors gave their words of encouragement to the participants, one particular judge had the following to say:

"Today, you've all taken a large step forward. Now, I hope you'll take a large step back."

While I think that Lowry was making a larger point about self-examination, there are times when all of us must take a step back from what we are working on and return to our basic techniques. As we progress in rank over the years, new challenges are placed in front of us. Other challenges we may seek out. In all of these cases, we will eventually reach a point where we feel "stuck." A place where we feel we've reached an limit on our improvement. We may even see someone who has developed beyond our ability and lament that we will never reach their level of proficiency.

At these times, I think it is most prudent to return to the basics. After all, that is what got us to where we are in the first place. It is a lot like losing your keys and re-tracing your steps.

Originally uploaded by tommrkr

I know: how on Earth will practicing front kick help with a completely unrelated skill such as nunchaku, teaching one-steps, achieving the splits, etc? Very little if you only focus on cranking out a hundred kicks.

You have to truly examine your basics. Feel yourself go from stillness to motion, empty to full, um to yang. Be aware of your body mechanics, strive to refine the motion. Move only that which is necessary.

Perhaps after a long time of practicing nunchaku, you will be very sensitive to your shoulders and upper body. Previous flaws in your basic technique are now revealed to you for improvement.

While reviewing Tan Tui 2 weekends ago, our guest Sifu mentioned the concept of the "stealing step." He talked about the deception of closing the distance, keeping the opponent focused on the still upper body while moving forward. Here within this new technique was a return to basics: avoiding telegraphic movement. Something to re-apply to other techniques.

As a result, my sensitivity to this problem been renewed.

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