Friday, September 16, 2011

Jodo Slip'n'Slide

It was very hot at practice last night and, because I am not only a natural sweater (in general) but have particularly sweaty hands and feet, it was tough. Just moving around on the floor without slipping was hard. If I tried to move powerfully forward, my back foot would slip out on me, so I was forced to take tiny little steps. Sensei kept telling me, "Bigger! Step in powerfully!" and I kept mumbling about having sweaty feet. I could tell that he wasn't getting it. If you have dry to normal feet, then it is hard to understand, I suppose.

The other thing that was happening is that I could barely hold onto my jo. Obviously, this makes a lot of things really difficult. For example, dō-barai (a defensive movement where you swing the jo sideways to block a disemboweling stroke) is hard to do quickly. Because I knew I was going to be slow with it, I was beginning the movement too soon. Sensei kept telling me, "You're blocking before the strike has even started! That makes no sense! You've got to wait..." so I'd wait, and then I wouldn't be able to get the jo over to block in time. "You're too slow! You're letting him cut you! Faster!" I just couldn't win.

Having a wet jo and sweaty hands did have one unexpected benefit, though. Sensei is always talking about how you can only really put power in the jo when you slide your hands. The ability to slide your hands is the jo side's "secret weapon". Well, my hands were certainly very, very slippy-slidy last night. It was almost all I could do NOT to bash the tachi out of my partner's hands when I did hikiotoshi. As long as my angle was good, the jo went through the tachi as if it wasn't even there and my partner's tachi went into the floor, or into his foot, or behind him, wherever I wanted it to go. It was kind of fun ... except that I almost lost my grip on my jo every time.

What does this mean for all of you with normal sweat levels? You might want to try a few hikiotoshi strikes using a single glove or mitten. Choose one made of cotton, wool, or fleece that will enable your hand to slide easily on a dry jo. Then carefully (!) do some hikiotoshi strikes and see if the increased slide helps you put power into your strike. I would say don't deliberately try to put a lot of power into your strike, but just see what happens when your hand slides easily down the jo. Be careful because if your glove is very slippery, you may not have enough friction to easily apply the "brakes" at the end of the strike. Then take off the glove and see if you are able to relax your grip enough to allow a good slide. If anybody tries this, I'd like to hear how it worked out.


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