Thursday, March 11, 2010

Size has its drawbacks

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big guy, but in the arts I do, this is a drawback. In iai, being big just means that your movements are not going to be as sharp, or as quick, as a smaller person's. There also seems to be "more room for error". If I'm leaning forward 5 degrees when I should be standing straight, it's a little bit more noticeable on me than on somebody who is much smaller. That can make the difference between winning and losing in a Taikai.
The other thing is that being large means it's much more tiring. My muscles and joints receive a lot more wear and tear. I can't practice as long before I get tired, and in the long-term, I'm damaging my knees.
In jo, being large means that I can muscle people around, and get away with having techniques that only utilize, say, 60% of my available power. The other day, I had one of those wonderful/terrible practices where somebody noticed I was doing something strange, and decided to try and help me fix it. This time, it was hikiotoshi-uchi. I've learned a few different ways to do this strike. (Well, saying "learned" sounds like I actually mastered them - let's say I've been told a few different ways to do it.) My strike is okay, and usually knocks my partner's sword out of the way reasonably well, but it's got a lot of problems, too. If I had actually mastered any of these ways, I think nobody would have an issue with my technique, but the problem is that I am reaching in 3 or 4 different ways at once, and that doesn't really work.
One of the upper-level students was working with me, and had me do the strike repeatedly. "Don't bend forward." 8 or 9 repetitions. "Keep your left hand over here." 10 or 12 repetitions. "Twist your foot." 7 or 8 repetitions. "Your timing's off." "Tip of the jo should be over here." "More vertical." "Strike deeper."
By this time, my technique had been dismantled and was falling apart. Sensei walked by and asked "What the hell are you DOING?" (I'm paraphrasing.) I actually had no idea. Sensei gave me a few more pointers (contradicting some of the things the senior student had told me - this is Budo, after all!) and although I did get a few really nice, smooth, powerful strikes in there, I was left feeling like, "I have no idea what I'm doing anymore - I'd better practice harder!"
And that's a great thing. Not every class, but once in a while, we need to have somebody come and really shake us up.


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