I wore my very non-traditional US-inspired first-dan red gi top last night. It prompted me to use more solo drills and partner drills for the Taekwondo session last night.
What was interesting was my observation of the student just entering the Won-hyo level. Otherwise just learning some sparring skills, he's had 13 months with us, and has done very well on basic movement and techniques (what the Japanese would call kihon). But last night, the difficulty when relaxing out of the traditional framework was in the distancing, angle of entry, and tracking of his opponent. Somehow he couldn't place the strike where the target was as his feet were 'programmed' to do something entirely different (read 'Oizuki' or front lunge punch).
So instead of talking to him about the steps and the basic movements (of which he had little problem understanding), I talked to him of 'pressure'. The blocking and striking drill was against a strike mitt. We stood in open stance, with me standing right side forward holding a strike mitt in my left hand at the side of my face. I would swing with my right at the left side of his head. He had to duck, step forward with his right, check my right hand, and cross punch with his left. The pressure he was applying was right on the money as my striking hand came back towards his head. But the strike was not striking the target properly - his body and solar plexus was facing toward the right side of my body, and at worse facing further away at times.
Discussion of the 'pressure' applied onto the blocking arm allowed him to hip twist, engage shoulder rotation in order that his left roundhouse punch was able to crest the shoulder or outstretched arm easily and then reach the target.
I would have posted this under sparring skills if not for the fact that I think it is one of the most important lessons in self defence that I rave on constantly about. The lesson is this - it is that at the beginning level, everything that we teach and ask from our students are taught at some prescribed distance and at some prescribed angle. Without recreating the exact environment and setting it up as has been prescribed, the student will be hard pressed to modify the technique or place the technique on the requisite target effectively. It won't work if you don't do it the exact way in which we taught!
Saying that, I then asked for a front kick into the ribs. I stood just outside the range of the 'prescribed' front kick. As expected, the technique was awful - the body arched back to cover the distance, the support leg was not entirely stable on the ground, the arms flailed and were then raised as shoulder and uppper body muscles were wrongly tensed. This was not the beautiful front kick that is typicaly for this person nor belt level. So I repeated the lesson asking whether this was the 'usual' distance for the kick. So I asked for the 'usual' distance to be set up.
The student obligingly came forward and performed a nice front kick, which was blocked with my elbow as I had slightly turned my body to the outside of his kick! :-) Elbow cracked onto instep. Ouch. So I asked again whether the target was presented the way in which we had set up. Again after receiving the right answer, I then asked for him to kick me with the front kick except now I started moving, slowly at first, and he would walk with me (amazing) instinctively tracking the target area (my ribs/obliques).
It is this mental tracking that students of his rank are required to do. This is when sparring should be relaxed, gradual, and not be a stress inducing exercise for techniques and combinations.
Look at Me, I'm doing Taekwondo and That's Why I Look as Stiff as a Board
Kihon Kata Koma Part 2
The Jon Alster Lunge Punch
Oyo-jutsu: Is kata an effective training method for self-defense?
A radical reviewing: the ineffectivity of the karate tsuki
Mir's Karate Goals for 2006
Karate Topics by Lester Ingber
Enjoy the links!