Short practice notes
- 3/16/2010 - Sensei Ramos noticed that my chambers have been getting
a little sloppy, with my elbow rotating out away from my body. An adult
male who has good back muscle development I think has a generally harder
time with this. A left shoulder injury 15 years ago also seems to have an
impact for me, since my left chamber is worse than my right. But, there's
almost always a way to improve. I was trying to make a chamber position and
then lean against a door frame to push my elbow back towards the center of
my back. Another stretch I've thought of is to reach back with the opposite
arm and pull my elbow across. This can be tricky getting into position.
First I reach my right arm behind my back, with the back of my hand against my
back. I can then put my left arm at my side and grab around the front of my
left arm at elbow height with my right hand. I then bend my left arm to bring
it into chamber position with my left fist at my left hip and my right hand
still around my left elbow.
- 3/16/2010 - I've been doing a little better at initiating stepping with
a hip rotation. Maybe one exercize to try would to break down the movement.
When stepping forward from a left front stance, start in half front facing,
then bring the right hip forward, as if making a reverse punch. Then let
that motion carry the right leg forward into right front stance.
- 3/16/2010 - A student in class last night noticed that she wasn't seeing all
of her opponent. I had the same problem until last year when Sensei Tarrant
found me narrowly focused on the solar plexus of my opponent in one-step
sparring. I had heard various bits of advice like looking into your
opponent's eyes or trying to see a triangle made by the opponent's eyes and
shoulders. Another exercize is trying to blur your focus. Sensei Tarrant's
advice as an exercize was during kata, especially on the 270 degree turns, to
keep my eyes open and track a line at waist height around the room. At the
dojo in Redding where I occasionally train there is a ballet stretching bar
at just the right height. Another exercize that helped me was to look
past the shoulders of the opponent to the wall behind. You can imagine spears
coming from your eyes past and over your opponent's shoulders.
- 1/16/2010 - I noticed that one of the young students in class was flinching,
turning her head away and closing her eyes during one step sparring when
I attacked. At first, I tried to give her more distance, but with her
eyes closed, she still couldn't tell that my techniques ended a safe
six inches away. I asked her to concentrate on keeping her head
straight and eyes open and she got it right away. I wish I had been
reminded of that. It took years for me to realize that was my problem in
sparring. I was easily overwhelmed when I flinched at one technique so
I couldn't see the remaining techniques coming. I helped train myself
by having another student repeatedly do very light techniques with hand pads
on, punching my chin and cheeks. It was good targeting and control
practice for him, and good training for me to stop flinching. Several years
ago another exercize that helped was getting a boxer's speed bag and
training with it even for a few minutes a day. That helps in hand timing
as well as getting used to having an object come rapidly at your face, in
order to resist blinking.
- 1/9/2010 - my cat stance in Bassai Sho didn't appear to show enough
internal tension. Sensei found a solution for me to concentrate on
putting weight on the front foot on the big toe joint, rather than
keeping the entire ball of the foot on the floor.
- 12/31/09 - recently I found that focusing on bringing my hip joints forward
helped me get a better pelvic rotation in backstance.
The visualization was easier than focusing on the end result of pelvic rotation
- 12/31/09 - I'm doing better about stepping with my toes rather than heel
but it means I'm lifting my heel up and stomping when I land. Now
I'm trying to make toe and heel touch, without the ball the of the foot.
Maybe that can transition into keeping the entire foot light and flat,
skimming the floor.
- 12/31/09 - thinking about tightening my stomach muscles like a situp
helps keep my pelvis rotated when feet come together in transition
- 9/2008 "Monkey feet" refers to turning in the toes while in an external
stance. External stances all require "outside tension": a gentle pressure
outward, using the leg adductor muscles. One can envision that on a
slippery surface, the outside tension would force the feet apart. The
challenge is to use only the necessary leg muscles to do this, and not
tense up the rest of the body. This tension locks the legs into stance,
preventing the knees from shifting position when the hips rotate.
- 9/2008 It's easy to say relax, or intend to relax, but hard to do it.
It's a long process to discover every tense part of the body. Standing,
doing the Tai Chi Chi Gong form, at one point I discovered my backside
muscles were tense, and I was able to let the whole muscle just drop and
relax. Try tensing and releasing the backside when standing with knees
well bent. I later found that my elbows were out, rather than hanging
naturally when doing "hold the ball" posture. My left elbow is still not
relaxed enough. Relaxing the lower back is also hard. I find that there
is still tension when in a low stance, stepping out at an oblique angle.
I tend to stick my backside out, because of lower back tension.
Concentrating on exaggerating the forward rotation of the pelvis can be
- 9/2008 It seems that key elements of Hangetsu kata is both the rare
internal stance, and a downward body movement to generate power. Internal
stance requires a constant small exertion as if to bring the legs
together, once stance is set. This brings the knees together and keeps
them from moving when the hips move, much the same in purpose as for
external stance. The downward body movement appears in the repeated
sequence of front kick and down block. Retracting the kick and placing
the foot down generates power for the block. A similar motion occurs at
the end of the kata with the crescent kick and downward punch. The
current practice of making this punch a mid-level punch would seem to
break this connection.
- 9/2008 Body connection. This appears to refer to the pattern of movement
in which all parts of the body move together with optimal leverage and
conscious purpose. The most dramatic lesson of this for me is in Gankaku
kata where from crane stance high/low block the raised hand transitions to
chambered position on the hip. The hand cannot simply drop, but must be
gently and purposefully brought down by contraction of the lattisimus
dorsi (chicken wing) muscles. A similar connection I found was in "wave
hands like clouds", where the low block hand transitions to the low
position of "hold the ball". It must be in sync with the hip, or that
hand has no power.
- 6/23/07 - chambering my draw hand tightly enough continues to be a
problem. I may need to do some targeted shoulder and back stretching and
maybe some strength training to improve it. Thinking about pulling my
elbow down, as well as back towards my spine, seems to help.
- 6/19/07 - It can help stability to think of having a rod driving from the
heel into the ground. Another image is of a fire hose shooting water.
This visualization works very well in a standard Aikido exercise of first
trying to keep the elbow locked as your partner tries to bend your arm,
then imagining the arm as a fire hose. Your partner likely won't be able
to bend it then.
- 6/14/07 - I'm learning forward when rising from the one-knee x block in
gankaku. The trick is to put weight on the rear foot, as well as the
solid front foot, until one can rise enough to put all weight on the front
foot while keeping the torso vertical. Sensei mentioned that ISKF may be
going back to Best Karate as the authority, since the masters can't agree
on changes. That would be great news.
- 6/12/07 - It's a challenge to remember to keep the leading edge of the
pelvis low when preparing to do a side snap kick from kibadachi. I also
need to remember constantly to keep the elbows tucked in to the body when
doing kicks. The tendency is to make space for the kick by letting them
float out to the size. I need to think about anchoring them to my sides.
- 6/11/07 - was having a lot of trouble keeping low and keeping backside
tucked in when turning 270 degrees. Part of this seems related to thigh
strength. Rick had a nice exercize of doing two downblock gyakuzukis then
270 turn pivoting on the front leg. Do four times and it makes a nice
square. Stopping when feet are together forces examination of the pelvis.