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Halfway through the beginner's class, my Sensei had me punch his face but i kept pulling my punches an inch from his nose so he kept not moving and telling me to really hit him. I have to say it really takes some nerve to try and really hit him because I figure once I pass that point, I really won't be able to stop and if he doesn't move (which of course I know intellectually but it's still to grasp that at gut level), I will end up hitting him in the face in front of the entire class. Now that would really be a faux pas.
I had to try several times before he was satisfied and it was interesting to me to see how far I had to go before he'd move ie that I was executing a fully committed attack. I realised he only moved at just that point when I had just about overextended very slightly and of course that was enough for him to just take me down lightly.
It's really such a huge difference in ability and I'm not sure I'll ever get to the point he's so clearly at where he can tell immediately if I'm really coming at him or can still pull the punch. Sometimes *I* can't tell if I can control it and I'm the one throwing the punch. It's what gives him that amazing ability to time his response so that he looks like he's moving at an incredible speed but while he's moving very fast, it's actually a lot more to do with timing and knowing where his uke's going. I on the other hand have great difficulty figuring out what my uke is going to do sometimes so it's more like I'm reacting and slowly at that.
It also made me think about the other martial arts where there is a lot more punching: taekwando comes to mind where the punches are generally done only from a very rooted position. Now I know why they generally teach a fast punch from a rooted position and an equally fast withdrawal. Not of course that I'm an expert on other martial arts.