Monday, July 11, 2011

One Steps

If you're studying a relative of Karate, then you understand the concept of a "one-step" defense. Attacker steps back into a front stance with their punch chambered, and awaits your permission to attack. You indicate that they are allowed to attack - usually in the form of a kihap, nod, grunt, what-have-you -- and they step forward into a front stance while executing a center punch. You respond in kind with the predetermined one-step.

Some people will probably find endless repetition of these skills to be tedious, a tax on their memory, impractical, and so on. In my particular system, we have 90 prescribed one-steps that are rationed out on the way to black belt. At each Gup examination, you are expected to demonstrate a basic competency with them. Some people really enjoy getting to their next rank and learning the new one-steps. But, in our system, there are no more new one-steps once you reach Cho Dan. You can imagine how devastating this must be to some people hoping to be able to rattle off 100 ways to kill a (one-handed unmotivated and compliant) man, and falling just short of this goal. Makes me want to just get every issue of Black Belt Magazine I can get ahold of and start memorizing MORE one-steps so my brain can have an un-ending list of ways to impart death and destruction spoon-fed to me.

As it turns out, I occasionally get a student who claims they've exhausted the one-steps of their value and want to know where to go from there. In fact, I once had a white belt proudly proclaim that they had "mastered" their required one-steps and were wanting to move on to the next set.

I will now pause for a moment, so that like-minded instructors can roll their eyes, think of one of their former students (as they almost always end up being a former student) sigh, and come back to the article.

Annnnnd, we're back!

To these frustrated students who have found my blog in their effort to learn more ways to kill a man and are waiting for the pictures, or preferably videos of new ways to file in the back of their mind... students who are most likely breathing with their mouth open in frustration at all of this very small text, finger hovering over the "back" button... I present you with:

How Good Are You -- Really -- at One Step Sparring?

I don't care if you know 5, 10 or 100 one-steps. Let me lay down my levels of expectation and see how many you can rise to meet. If you can swipe the pebble from my hand, I will show you the secret llama-hand techniques of Tom Soo Do.

1. You can perform all of your required one-steps, without hesitation. That means your partner isn't uncomfortably figeting in a front stance with their chambered punch waiting for you to remember if you need to step left, right, block, kick, whatever.

2. You can perform all of your required one-steps, in random order, on demand. I say "show me #10" and you do it without hesitation.

3. If I punch with the left hand (or as cho dan bos call it, the "wrong hand.") you do not fall apart into a sputtering mess, but you instead have learned to defend yourself against a two-handed attacker.

4. IF you can do #1 and #3, you won't mind if I get rid of the time-consuming concept of announcing my intention to attack and waiting for your permission, will you? I'd really prefer just to jump at you with either my right or left hand without warning.

Now we're starting to cook!

5. Cool. Now, remember how when earlier I would only throw one punch, and then stand very politely and still while you whirled around me like an impressive banshee? You're a big kid now, so I'm going to block that counter attack and see what you do. I'm also going to wiggle out of joint locks and reverse throws whenever you give me the opportunity to do so.

6. When you hit me with your strike, channeling the spirit of Ikken Hisatsu, I'm going to look at you, brush the dirt off my dobohk and look at you with a "If I wanted a kiss, I would have called your mother" sort of expression. In other words, your technique didn't finish me, so now what?

7. That's a nice ready stance you are starting from. Looks very official and a very convenient position from which to receive the attack. Yeah. I'm going to go ahead and shove you really hard and while you concentrate on getting back to a balanced point, I'm going to attack you because I'm just a mean guy that way. I may also elect to do this from any direction while your eyes are closed, just to get you used to the whole "surprise, bad guys don't care about you!" thing.

8. You're starting to get pretty good, so you won't mind if I invite a friend? Good, because he's going to rudely grab you from behind while I punch you. Frankly, I need every advantage I can muster at this point.

At this point, you can tell I'm not a professional blogger, because if I were, I would have thought out 2 more possibilities and then entitled this post "10 Sure Fire Ways to Step Up your One-Step Training." I should have been more up front about that, and I apologize.

By the time we've gotten to step 8, you might see that we are a long way from the original material. But that's a good thing, right? The one-steps were designed to be a bridge to sparring and self-defense and present the concepts needed for survival in a safe and educational environment. I do not advocate grabbing a white belt from behind and having someone else rain blows upon them, at least not until the third class.

Progressive training is where the one-steps can shine. Forms and one-steps are merely dead expressions of the martial art you study. Pieces of dialog. How YOU put them together in your own special way is what makes them alive, growing and thriving.
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