Monday, October 24, 2016

Don't look at the problem for the solution.

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In teaching karate, we often find that newer students especially put all their focus into what they can see.  This means most of the attention goes into the arms and hands.

Things happen like people leaning forward in an attempt to reach the target, squeezing the fist harder in an attempt to punch 'harder", scooping a kick up instead of snapping it because it feels like it's getting there faster, etc.

All three of the above examples aren't an issue of the foot or the hand.  They're from a misunderstanding of the fundamental behind the technique, and a high majority of the time, that fundamental comes from something they can't see when doing the technique.  I'm not talking about something in the organs, I'm talking about something they'd either need a mirror for or just have to look down while executing.  The former isn't always available, and the latter is very detrimental to almost any technique.

This translates to taiko pretty well, although there are differences.  It's often harder to watch ourselves play even in a mirror when arms are moving in broad swaths.  Whoosh!  Take odaiko, how much can you really see while you're playing on it?  On the flip side, if we're practicing a pattern that doesn't require a lot of movement, we can actually look down and watch our hands without affecting technique too much.

Getting back to my original point, often the things that need "fixing" aren't always in the obvious places.  Leaning forward to reach a target has nothing to do with the arms, it's about posture.  Squeezing the fist harder means the focus is on the hand instead of the connection to the entire body, where the power is generated from.  Scooping a kick because it feels like the fastest way to get to the target neglects the knee completely, which is integral to 98% of the kicks available.

As for taiko...  Inconsistent angles of striking?  Maybe your elbow isn't synced to your torso when you strike.  Bachi slapping against the head instead of striking cleanly?  Maybe you need to step away or raise your stance.  Arms and shoulders tired after a session?  Maybe you need to keep your feet and legs loose so the tension doesn't build up everywhere.  You get the idea.

Recording yourself and watching the video afterwards can be incredibly useful for this sort of analysis, but you should still look at other "parts" and not just the obvious.

There are two huge benefits to this sort of process, video or no.  One, you hone your critical eye which never stops being useful.  Two, you might find something else that deserves further study as you look for answers to the original issue.  As I've written before, analysis is probably the best path to progress.  But when it's hard to figure out what's giving you difficulties, it can really help to step back and look in a less-obvious direction!

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