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Class Musings – Day-to-day and Extremes

February 19, 2012

The last lesson was yet another unusual lesson.

One of the students complained about pains in his neck and shoulders, and it just happened that I have been working on joint mobility and some isometric stretches. Joint mobility is the end goal of stretching and other flexibility exercises. You want your joints to have a full range of motion instead of being stiff. You can have great fighting skill even without joint mobility and suppleness, but you won’t have quality of life.

So even though I prefer to jump right into the good stuff (taijutsu, that is), this lesson I took some time to lead the class in those exercises that have helped fix the imbalances within my body. They worked, they helped relieve the pain and stiffness that student had. The problem with them, however, is that they were quite time-consuming. We only had time to work on the neck and shoulders before we went on to the lesson proper.

And we had to move on!

Recently, I read about a vicious assault case in Singapore.

You can read the details in the above link, but in a nutshell, three expats attacked a Singaporean taxi-driver, and when two passer-bys tried to help the cabbie they were attacked too. One of them was repeatedly kicked in the head and face. The local police were disappointing, they actually allowed two of the three attackers to flee from Singapore. And have dragged their feet in trying to bring those two escapees to trial.

For me, two things really came to mind:

1) the viciousness of the attack – it was unprovoked, and couldn’t even be justified from a criminal point of view. Criminals engage in violence for the sake of their objectives – money, revenge, and all that. This act of violence was totally senseless and random. What did those expats stand to gain from it? Nothing!

2) the passer-bys could have been MY students – have I done my best to prepare them for REAL violence? As I work with them on kamae, power, distance and all that, am I teaching them what looks good and artistic? Or am I teaching them practical skills and principles that would help them should they were find themselves in a similar situation?

This causes a lot of tension within me. Why? Because I know my class isn’t ready for all the stuff I want them to work on, so I can only patiently lay the groundwork and foundation for the future. Adapting our taijutsu basics to fighting in close-quarters or to protect someone else requires a decent level of basic skill in the first place. But it’s all too easy to just stick to the familiar, keep my students working on the same old stuff over and over again, and not stretch them (or myself) in the understanding and applications of our art.

The Suntec assault case was like a pounding backbeat in my mind as I worked with my students that class on sui no kata and ka no kata.

  1. Block, people! Block as you let your body “fall” away from the attack.
  2. Get your shuto right! Too far and you miss, too near and your strike is ineffective, you’ve wasted your time and you may have closed into a wrestling match with someone stronger and bigger than you.
  3. Put your foot at the right place! Class is worlds away from the heat of battle. Use the safety of class to really master your footwork; in a violent encounter you will not have the luxury of thinking through your moves, calculating your distance and re-doing your steps if you get them wrong.

If all goes well, within the next two months I’ll move on to hanbo. But if I want my students to be able to benefit fully from a few months on hanbo, they’ll need to have their basics in place. And that is my objective for this quarter; to get them as skilled as they can be within this short period of time.

So far everything is going as I expected, and I am glad for that! I hope I can keep up the momentum during the next lesson…

俊傑 (Shunketsu)


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