Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Iron Triangle: The Son of...Seiza!

Welcome to Part II of the Iron Triangle: The Son of...
....and a belated welcome too. In the daze of caffeine that keeps me going after lunch, I noticed that I hadn't even filed this one. Here is the "missing link" (pun intended) for the KWF Iron Triangle. Enjoy (or be annoyed, it's up to you!)

One thing about Tuesday's session that struck us (not literally) was the idea of assume nothing and question everything. The proposition was: how good is your maegeri- really?

Maegeri; Double Snap and Thrust Forward
If it's said once, it's said a thousand times at KWF- height is not important in a kick, snap and thrust are important. This isn't really an issue for me for side kicks or mawashi-geri, because I can only kick, on a good day, chu-dan level anyway. Of course I can get the kick up higher, but that involves me leaning back, an issue that I am sure is shared by many of you who are less elastic or slightly older. Count me IN in both categories.

And that's the point: leaning back is seen by the KWF (and many, I assume, outside of the pop! a point sports Karate crowd) as fatal. The critical issue with maegeri is mae- going forward- smashing into your opponent. Your opponent does grab your leg- well you should have the forward momentum to follow through as the opponent goes backwards to follow up with a oi-zuki or gyaku-zuki- right? So when we march up and down the dojo, the emphasis is on length and thrusting forward with the hips.

Leading from the Hips
A critical part of the lesson was basic posture; when practicing linear techniques, particularly oizuki and maegeri, the question was- what are you really doing with this? The answer in the context of the lesson this time was maximizing velocity, length and kime, while procecting yourself to the greatest degree, keeping your back straight and ago (chin) back. This really was maegeri 101. How many times have I seen myself with the same old problem- back slightly bent, chin slightly forward, and lacking snap. In other words chin in and back straight is a vital component of hips forward and kicking from the hips.

The Three-Part Maegeri
We never grow tired of doing this, which to my mind shows just how hard it is to do a technically proficient maegeri: how many of us remember those very first exercises as white belts, standing there in heisoku-dachi, kicking our heels back into our buts. It feels so wrong, so hard (well if you are me anyway) keeping a straight back and not wobbling forward or backward and kicking my heels back time and time again into my butt.

But (or Butt?) again, go back to basics beyond belief basics, we took apart maegeri again and did some basic drills- first leg raise is with heel tucked back, then hip thrust forward, then snap extension then snap back. In other words, while it should be a blur of speed and power, the long-fast-powerful maegeri should always have these three stages- the snap and snap back generating speed and power through the hips, rather than just stopping the kick being "hello, this is my foot, grab it and watch me fall over."

Maegeri from Seiza
The next stage of this basics-beyond-belief lesson was examining seiza. Asai Sensei was a great fan of this. Any of us who have seen his 1990s JKA videos will fondly remember his kicking from seiza. Well, if your posture is correct, I don't guarantee it's easy (I am sure it is a hell of a lot easier for a lot of you than it is for me) but even for me it's made possible by correct posture. There is nothing better out there for checking your maegeri than doing it from seiza. Basically, if your seiza posture is wrong, then you will find it incredibly difficult to do a maegeri. If your seiza is correct, then all bets are off, even if you are me (aka dobbins).

The next part of this lesson was examining the importance of seiza in Budo by referencing it Iado and Kendo. We were reminded that in the Karate context, and you've all (I hope) seen the various Enbu at the Budokan from the 1970s onwards where people defend themselves from sitting positions with maegeri (from which in fact the YS isu-dori enbu is derived). We were told that fundamentally speed and power in terms of relationship with johanshin (upper body) are expressed through and derived from correct upper body posture, which is crucial to all efficient movement.
So after maegeri in seiza it was time for back to "normal" standing maegeri.

And STILL we haven't gotten to Koshi no Tameru and back to the KWF Iron Triangle. As I am running out of time, that's for the next installment.
Be seeing you ;-)

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