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I teach Aikido at a small dojo in Winnipeg, Canada. Been doing so for many years now. This blog is just a collection of ruminations on teaching, descriptions of the events of daily practice, and the occasional funny story.
I recently saw a video clip on YouTube of Royce Gracie challenging a Hapkido teacher to a match. Three times Royce took the teacher to the ground and made him tap out. Very instructive. Royce just moved directly into the Hapkido guy as quickly as he could to nullify his striking ability and then dropped him to the floor. The clip reminded me of the value of not retreating in a straight line (which is what the Hapkido teacher did), the problem with needing to get distance in order to strike, and the necessity of having stopping power in every single blow. It also reinforced in my thinking the absolute necessity of having as solid a root as possible.
With these thoughts in mind I began Tuesday night practice. I've had my students practice rooting and moving energy through their body on a fairly regular basis, but the pushing involved in this kind of practice wasn't explosive and repeated like it was last night. The goal was to hold one's place against repeated hard shoves (10 in a row) first against the upper torso and then at the waist. I allowed my students to slip the pushes with shoulder rolling and hip turning and/or directly receive the energy from the push and move it through their body into the floor. I even suggested to some of my students to try returning the energy to the one pushing, but this didn't go so well. Instead of actually receiving the energy, these students began to preemptively push back against their partner's energy. Anyway, it was good to experience a more aggressive, pulsing energy while maintaining root.
Moved on to striking after about ten minutes of shoving and rooting. Worked on heavy hitting on pads, which is focused on developing penetrating power in strikes. Visualization and intention are really important in this type of hitting, but I'm not sure how many of my students were understanding this. I know Jamie and Jeremy have some idea of how to hit heavy, but the rest, I think, are still preoccupied with movement mechanics.
The real trick is to be able to hit fast and deep. Often, when a strike is delivered fast, there is a certain amount of muscular tension especially in the arm and shoulder that interferes with strike penetration. The relaxation that fosters a heavy hit has to continue at high speed, which is not easily done. This is true in so many aspects of the martial arts, though, isn't it?
After knuckles were sufficiently skinned, I asked my students to practice rapid-fire deflecting and blocking and then deflecting and following in a strike with one hand to counter-strike (this has a sort of sticky hand quality to it). I ask my students to actually hit each other (you'll fight like you train), but slowly if they want to hit deeply and shallowly if they want to strike fast. Sometimes they get this backwards...
Well, that's another class come and gone. Practice, practice, practice...