Monday, June 16, 2014

Informing yourself

Some taiko groups have a lot of songs in their repertoire.  SJT has nearly (if not over) 100 total, yow!  Some martial art styles have a lot of forms as well - there are about 25 kata in Shotokan, plus or minus depending on what your sensei decides to teach.  If you're learning taiko songs or kata, you're never starting from scratch each time, right?  You have some fundamentals to build on, shapes and movements that you can relate to what's being taught.

In karate, we've been saying that everything you do should be informed by what you've already learned.  We start with shapes and movements that are foreign to most people, sure.  Gotta start somewhere!  But after one basic stance, punch, and kick, most everything else we teach can refer to those three techniques.  This new stance is like the first stance, but the weight goes here and the front foot goes there...  This new block is like the first punch, see how the arm initiates the same way but then turns upwards...  In this way, we are learning a language of the body by starting with three letters and going from there.

There's another, deeper level of informing yourself, in the mechanics of moving, in how one movement relates to another.  How does it feel to open the hips in this stance?  Is it the same to how they should move in another stance?  How does the fist tighten?  Is it the same when striking with an open hand?  How should your posture be at any given moment?  Should it ever deviate?

However, there's still a more fundamental aspect to being informed by your body.  In general, the further away something is from your core, the "stupider" it gets. Without a reference point to go off of, the hands and feet can do some really weird things, things that are disconnected from the rest of the body and unable to use power generated from the core.  If you know how to move your core, how to generate power and be efficient from your center, then that can inform your thighs and shoulders, which inform your knees and elbows, which inform your hands and feet. 

The only way this informed movement can happen is awareness through practice.  It won't come even just by doing something correctly, over and over.  You have to take the time and think about these connections, both slowly and as you're doing them regular speed.  This is invaluable training, even though it doesn't guarantee you're doing things the right way!

Understanding how your body moves as a unit is much more valuable than thinking of it in parts.  Everything you've learned should inform everything you do from that point.  If there's no reference to go from, then how do you know if you're doing it correctly - or even doing it well?

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