Monday, February 15, 2010

Look behind the obvious.

I love those moments when I'm at one dojo and I find something that mirrors an aspect in the other.

The other night at taiko, we were in working on small-drum techniques/chops/rudiments. This particular session was mostly focused on diddles, hitting multiple notes with the same hand quickly. Right right right right left left left left, etc. I wasn't having trouble with the drills, so I started watching others and analyzing my own technique.

I realized long ago that it's nearly impossible to keep the notes even if you lift your bachi up with the hand that's not striking (raising the left while striking with the right). When you strike with that hand, the first note will be louder due to the increased height you've given it, compared to the following notes. This particular night, I started thinking about the levels of my own bachi and hands. I noticed that the height that the tips of my bachi return to hardly fluctuates at all, but that my hands - specifically my wrists - would come up higher than the tip on the hand preparing to diddle. I let the weight of the bachi keep it down, and the velocity of my wrist snap would generate a solid hit - without needing height.

That led me to think that the key to even striking isn't what you're looking at (the bachi), but what's behind the motion (what your wrists are doing). I teach workshops on that sort of thing, but here was when the "aha!" moment hit me.

In Shotokan karate, we have the term hikite, or the "pull-back hand". When a technique is thrown with one hand, the other hand goes back to the hip, palm up. At first, this is counter-intuitive, and there are reasons cited for why we train this way in the beginning, but it's not important here. One day, a black belt was talking about not thinking about hikite as a pull-back, but as a pull-into. Instead of just pulling the hand back as a reflex, he said to think about grasping an opponent and pulling them into the attack from the other hand. He then demonstrated by hitting people thusly...which hurt. :)

Ever since then, that concept has stuck with me. It helps me feel I'm delivering a technique into someone instead of just striking at the air. And that night, when I made the realization about noticing wrists instead of bachi, remembering that concept of hikite came out of nowhere and the "aha" came forth.

Mind you, this post really isn't about the "aha". It's about seeing past what's right in front of you and finding the truths that lie beneath. So take something that you do without having to think about it...and think about it!

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