I'm just finishing up a two week training stint in Athens. The current training venue is an old concrete factory, with a marble floor, with decades of machine oil and almost microscopic metal tailings ground in. My students have cleaned and scraped the floor and the walls and the - - - - anyway, it's not enough. The place would need an industrial size steam cleaner and probably electromagnets!. So what they've done is bolt plastic tarps over the floor and everyone wears shoes to train in. So after one week Araki-ryu, where I battered the hell out of my knees, and now Toda-ha Buko-ryu. Last night, finished a good four hour practice and was calming walking down the street and my ankle simply gave out. A joint-capsule sprain, not severe, but painful and weird - I was on flat ground, just took a step and . . .
Which brings to mind the book Born to Run.
I have close to 45 years, barefoot, or when outside, with sandals - minimal soles. Not expecting this training situation, the only thing I had was wonderfully shaped and padded Oakley all-purpose athletic shoes. Best as I can tell, my sore knees didn't help, but here I was doing movements that were almost instinctual, but wearing footwear that totally changed my relationship with the ground. My brain was getting utterly deranged information, and then, when walking on flat ground, simply organized me in a way that momentarily, the ankle sheared.
SOLO TRAINING METHOD
So today, I'm gimping along and I laid a bo on the ground and started standing on it, and rolling my foot on it - hard enough to hurt. Made the ankle functional enough to practice. In short, I woke up all the proprioceptors in the ankle that receive information from the foot that tell the brain about irregularities in the ground.
And then I remembered something that Terry Dobson told me. He only told me two things about Osensei's training regimen. That anytime he traveled with him, Osensei was up half the night, praying. And that every morning, he spent about 10 minutes doing the same standing on a jo, moving so the full pressure hit every point on his feet, and rolling the jo back and forth with pressure, as if grinding out the muscles of the feet.
Aside from it helping my ankle a little, I can see a pretty powerful effect in increasing the sense of contact with the full foot, contouring itself to the irregularities of the ground.