Saturday, September 6, 2008

But is it Bunkai? Part IV

It never was a simple as just a technique and how to use it. Skill development is a critical portion of training. Some aspects are a function of time, the longer you do something the better you become at it.

The simplest example I would suggest is how after about 10 years of work on a form you really begin to relax when you practice. Your body is working more in harmony, not fighting yourself, and you naturally drop your center. Those factors in combination likewise increase your power and your speed naturally.

There are training methods that also can factor in.

At this point in my narrative I’d been training 20 years in Isshinryu, about 15 years in the Yang Tai Chi Chaun (and other Chinese arts) and over a dozen years training with Tristan Sutrisno. Then one night at a summer camp, about 3am Ernest Rothrock pulled me away from the camp and took me in the middle of a dark field and told me to start my Yang form. While I saw him on a regular basis for most of my time I had been practicing on my own, and over the years felt I had developed some skill. Incorrect of course.

Within minutes Ernest tore what I was doing apart, showing me every error in infinite detail. To make his point he’d lightly touch me and I’d fall out of balance. He wasn’t striking pressure points, but showing I was ready to fall myself.

It was more than a little frustrating, getting so many corrections, trying to keep track of them instantaneously, but then he stopped and changed my life.

He now showed me what was required to do it correctly, the structural context of how correct body alignment for a technique increases power and focus, and how the slightest mistake contributes to the loss of power and ability.

It was no magic pill and now everything was all right, but a tool, not to change the art, but to know how to perform it better (and in turn become a superior teaching technique). It’s value in demonstrating in a direct way why the student MUST follow what you say, what they lose when they’re not and more importantly what they gain when they do.

Ernest explained how he had been training for about 15 years when this was explained to him, so I was getting it about the same time in my study. So of course I will take me the rest of my life to learn how to fully use it.

The interesting thing was it wasn’t just about Tai Chi. I saw the immediate parallels to Isshinryu and had an interesting time when I returned home to show my students what they were doing wrong so a touch could unbalance them, and how to change to perform their art truer and develop more power.

Follow then what such a toolbox offers.

If you can see what you’re student is doing incorrect robbing their power, in turn you can look at any movement and find the same issues. Knowledge of another system’s kata is irrelevant. You can understand the power of the alignment in any movement and learn how to recognize flaws that are inhibiting their power. No longer interested in tournament competition, it was interesting how this became a took that realistically could evaluate individuals performances.

That isn’t all, for if you can evaluate inconsistencies in another’s performances, defensively you can recognize where an attacker is weaker and more open to attack.

What is that skill worth, being able to recognize weakness in another’s technique?

So a few minutes standing in a dark field and a life time of work ahead.

A tool to use with all students, even beginners, to help shape their ability stronger.
A tool to use with other discovers to understand the principles behind their use.
A tool that is shared with advancing students when their basic skills are strong enough to allow them to stronger shape their own art.
A tool to allow myself to become stronger day by day.

For it’s not just about moving cleanly through air, it’s how to move more efficiently through an attack. Movement knowledge and application potential is not enough, its how to keep developing higher levels of skill.

While this may seem like enough it still was not more than the opening of the larger story to come.

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