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Class Notes – April Sanshin 01

April 13, 2013

If I have to summarize the most important parts of the most recent lesson, I’ll say it is all about kamae and distance.

Yes, there was a conditioning aspect to it too. Doing wall chairs and the other drills will build our fitness, if you are not fit in the first place. Working on the kneeling back bends (Kokutsu, page 8 of your notes) will not only improve the flexibility of your spine, it will also strengthen your back and your core (during the rising part). The rest of the spine awakening exercises we did in class will improve your overall health and energy levels as well.

But when it comes to the techniques proper, the key factors I want you all to work on are kamae and distancing.

Newer students:

We did chi no kata from Sanshin no Kata (page 16 of your notes). Pay special attention to your knee positioning at both the first movement (stepping back) and the second (when you swing your arm forward with the san-shitan ken). Common mistake: leaning forward when performing the strike. Don’t. Keep your spine straight. Think wall chairs.

Other important exercises that help you get your chi no kata right are the railing drill (both with the front heel constant and later with the back heel constant) and palming the wall. These help you build your awareness of distance and teach you how to generate power. They are scaffolding exercises, which means that once you actually get your chi no kata correct you don’t need to do them anymore (unless you really want to, of course!). Keep your spine straight throughout.

Experienced students:

We are working on sui no kata (again on page 16). Common problem: once people start doing hand movements, such as the jodan uke (upper level block) and the omote shuto (page 12) their knees and spine go haywire. Watch out for that.

Years ago, one of the best fighters I know (he could probably break me in 2-3 minutes) taught me that during qigong (Chinese breathing exercises) I have to maintain two different ideas at the same time. I have to feel as if my arms are extending/expanding outwards, and my legs/feet are extending into the ground, being rooted. All that while keeping the correct posture. It sounds easy, but it isn’t. It is very easy to just let your concentration lapse on one aspect when you are thinking of the other. And to those who are well trained in this can easily see in your body when you forget to maintain any one of those ideas.

Maintaining the correct spine and knee positions while doing chi no kata and sui no kata is just as difficult, if not even more so. But that is how we develop whole-body awareness and coordination.

Why is all this so important?

When I worked with some of you on omote shuto, you could tell how just a slight shift of your rear foot a couple of inches into the correct position meant the difference between working hard to get power and hitting powerfully and easily. This is whole-body awareness, applied to hitting a moving target. I won’t be emphasizing these details that much later on this year. So you have to take ownership of your training, review these notes regularly and work on all this yourself.

Some additional notes on sui no kata here

Later on This Year

We will be working on the different aspects of skill, namely:

  • Control over your own body – the ability to make your body do what you want it to do. You move where you want to move to, you hit effectively, you roll without crashing your head on the ground.
  • Control of the weapon – whether it is the hanbo, katana or something else. You should be able to make your weapon do what you want it to do. Don’t ever injure yourself with your own weapon, that is painful not only to your body but to your ego as well!
  • Control of the opponent- what disrupts his balance, what messes up his attack and what makes him want to go home and whimper in pain. This will include studying more realistic attacks (self-defence scenarios) and how to counter them.

We are currently working on the first aspect of taijutsu skill, but frankly, it is a never-ending road. So later on we will move on to the other two aspects. By then I will still mention the details of good movement (first aspect), but we will have less time to work on those in class. If you can’t get those to work I may just teach you some short-cuts to tide you through until next year, when I will return to them again.

So work seriously on the details now, so that you will have a good foundation for the material I will be teaching later on this year, OK? Keep practicing, and I’ll see you in class next week!

Junjie
俊傑 (Shunketsu)
Singapore

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