Keeping a balanced stance is fundamental. Without your foundations secure, you cannot attack with any power nor defend with any confidence. This is especially true when we change our focus or direction.
One of the best ways to develop a rock-solid stance that is robust when changing directions is a set of exercises that I refer to as ‘Box Patterns.’ In our training, these are generally introduced just after the two-directional footwork exercises (Shuffle and Changeover, forward and backswards with the respective permutations) have been internalised by students. These exercises are very traditional in form, based around repeating specific techiques to the front, right, back and left sides of the room, generally in clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. From the most basic, here are some of the ones that we might use:
- Changeover, Turn.
- Shuffle, Changeover, Turn.
- Shuffle, Turn, Changeover back.
Note: in box patterns, “Turn” refers to pivoting on the balls of the feet 90 degrees.
This morning, for example, we practiced the Changeover-Turn Box Pattern, starting with just the footwork, then adding a punch with the changeover and a chudan uke with the turn. We extended this by moving to #2 and adding a jab with the shuffle.
In each case, increasing complexity is designed to stretch the mind so that the more simple body movements require less or no conscious attention to execute precisely, thereby making the techniques more robust and the technician more effective under stressed or when otherwise impaired (such as by alcohol, fatigue, stress, multiple opponents, extreme conditions… when you actually need to use the techniques!).
If I may add to the comments made in class last week:
- Legs like Earth, solid and strong.
- Body like Water, fluid and dynamic.
- Arms like Fire, fast and powerful.
- Mind like Air, omniscient and adaptable.
- Spirit like Void, aware and unattached.
On the topic of traditional techniques, we spoke a little on traditional blocks today. Traditional blocks are useful for two main reasons:
- Building focus and mental discipline
As you are drilling your traditional techniques, you can develop strength and robustness in your mental focus… the focus and discipline necessary when stresses reduce the effectiveness and value of your conscious mental state.
- Developing strength in a compound motion
Although largely impractical for street applications in the form that they are most commonly taught, traditional blocks are very effective when applied in different contexts. There are many applications of these blocks, though some appear below.
High block/ Jodan uke: Defence against single lapel grab by trapping the grabbing hand and striking the jaw with the lower forearm or hammerfist.
Mid-section block/ Chudan uke: Defence against wrist grab by rotating the arm around as you move blindside and dislodging the grip. This is most effective if you are moving your body also.