Sunday training last night and it was a really interesting class for a couple of reason.
There were only a few of us there as it's the start of the holiday season. Just myself, Kendo, Jon (blue belt), Sensei Chrissy and Shihan Dave. Such a small class (particularly in the adult class) brings a number of advantages, and what could be a big disadvantage!
The good side is that you get to work more indepth on things. We worked more complicated pad drills than usual (my shoulder is still grumbling from elbow strikes, it doesn't like those much) and Kendo and I got to work on our 10 step taisabaki and iron out a few kinks which was great because it's a requirement for our next belt grading.
The down side of course is that any mistakes you make are more glaringly obvious as Shihan has much less people to look at. That was the cue for me to completely forget all the escapes/controls we've worked on. Soooo frustrating. We've done these things countless times but when it comes to thinking on my feet I make the same mistake of thinking TOO MUCH. I over analyse instead of just reacting. I know that ultimately I should be able to end up with a control no matter what course of action I take. In a real life situation I can't ask my attacker to start again why I get it "right". I just frustrate myself so much because I over think it all the time. It's like banging my head against a brick wall. I know that the reaction is going to come with practice, that my muscle memory will eventually kick in this control situations (some times it does and I really feel like I'm connecting with the movements) but I annoy myself by letting my brain get in the way.
The smaller group and therefore more intense escape/control training also highlighted another bad habit of mine which I'm increasingly aware of which is that I don't "finish" the control. I don't see the movement through to a conclusion (the preferrable one being to ensure that your opponent doesn't get back up, obviously). Again I think practice is the only thing that's going to fix this. I need to get more confident with the escapes and controls until they're second nature, then I can look for the finishing strike.
So much to learn!!
A good portion of the class was spent on Kata (yey! My favourite part of karate :)). The small group gave a great opportunity for Shihan to pick up on areas where individuals needed correcting (stances, blocks etc that needed tweaking). It was good to have feedback on all of the kata we've done so far. It's easy to get caught up with the ones you're working on and let the others slide. We also did a very interesting exercise where Shihan had the four of us stand back to back in a square and perform the first of our Tagioko kata. We all know this kata, its the second on our syllabus, but it was really funny just how much concentration we had to put into it when we were faced with performing it in a different orientation than usual. I don't think any of us realised quite how much we associate the turns etc in the kata with our relative position in the dojo. Your brain is clearly thinking...okay, for the next part I'm turning towards the stage wall, for this part I should be facing the door. It was funny to do the kata without that association. Proof that we should try to avoid marking our kata out by external landmarks I think. Food for thought.
For me, the best part of the class was Shihan talking us through Bunkai for the kata I'm currently working on. The whole process of bunkai totally fascinates me. I love seeing how the movements in the kata can be applied. It makes the whole thing make much more sense to me when I can see what each movement is supposed to be doing. It takes them from just a random series of actions into something that actually has meaning and practical application. I think it gives a much better grasp of how to perform kata. I can't believe some schools don't do any bunkai at all. I can't really see the point of learning a kata by rote with no idea of what it's supposed to do. That seems like folly to me.
I've been struggling a little with this kata. Even Kendo commented whilst I was practicing at home the other day that of all the kata we've done this is the first one he's seen me look uncomfortable with. There's a lot of concentration on breath and stance in the kata (not to mention 2 evil, evil turns that have me wobbling all over the place!!) and whilst I've gotten the pattern down to pat pretty quickly I'm struggling to execute it well. I'm hoping that the study of the bunkai is going to help with that some.
More opportunity to practice tonight at the Monday class anyway. I'll see if it can actually help me improve any.