1 May 2007
Killer Intent ... or the lack of it
The previous session, I had our yellow belts work off each other in preparation for their grading this month. They were doing a drill blocking two oncoming strikes: one for the head and the other mid section. The drill was to use the fold of a down block or Hardan Marki to deflect the first, and then to come down hard on the second. I stepped in to make sure they were performing it right - and kept on pushing one of the yellow belts to make sure the strikes were coming on target. The strikes were coming along nicely and I thought to stop the drill - straightened up a little - looked to the other yellow belt - and got a punch right in the side of the left temple!
Contrast that with another school I visited. I faced off with a fairly senior belt and was in the midst of the drill when I notice that I had to compensate because the guy's punch was missing my face and flying past my ear. To make matters worse, the fist was overturned and limp. This is not the way.
We practice a martial art. Your partner - the opponent, needs to launch an attack which emulates a real life attack - sometimes laser focused, sometimes wild and flailing. There is absolutely no gain to be made if the person does a half-arsed attempt to send 'a hand' somewhere toward your face. (see 'Attacking in Aikido' - a totally hilarious post on the subject).
You must make an attempt to use killer intent in a controlled environment. Killer intent means that your strike would strike and would injure if you were not going to control the amount of impact you use.
This is less apparent in stances. I see a lot of beginners side-step the opponent when defending or practicing atemi. Your lunge attack, even if you miss, can be used as a striking tool to do real damage to either his foot or his knee. Your stepping in in a back balance, if not to do anything should allow you to sweep his support legs from under him. It won't happen if you think to 'walk around' the opponent. Hard style is about displacing his centre of gravity - or destroying whatever part of his body gets in your way.
In Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi, the Miyamoto Musashi is arranging a duel for himself when asked whether he is using a real blade or a wooden sword. To that he replies that there is no difference - meaning it doesn't matter what weapon he's going to use, he's going to kill the opponent with or without a live blade. This is the kind of mindset martial artists - doesn't matter if it is Taekwondo or Karate or Aikido - and you must that killer intent it when practicing atemi or strikes.