It is the utmost importance to drill the basics, or kihon. Without drilling, drilling, and drilling some more you will never strike oil, or expect them to be there in any significant way during an actual confrontation or even available when doing kata. There is no excuse not to drill the kihon. Absolutely none. If you aren’t drilling in class, you aren’t training. Drilling should be a part of every class. In this article, I will outline some aspects on how to approach drilling practice, as well as what you should be drilling in general.
First, body dynamics are the most important aspect. You need to get the body to move in proper manner. The body dynamics and body mechanics is a part of taijutsu. This includes, using your balance points to begin movements. Using tension and building natural torque in muscles, tendons, ligaments, also by effective use of structure and maneuvering your center of gravity/balance, (重力、磁力) are two aspects specifically a part of Gyokko Ryu.
You should spend most of your training and drilling to develop body mechanics and mastery over oneself. The technique part isn’t the important thing, the dynamics and how that technique is performed with the body is the most important thing. The majority of our taijutsu body mechanics are entailed in the Sanshin no Kata. These are not mere stand-alone techniques, each component of the sanshin is found in the kihon. Take a long look at your sanshin no kata and ask yourself; do you understand it yet? Does the body really understand it yet? When you do muto dori, does the sanshin no kata come into play? When you do muso dori, does the sanshin no kata come into play? When you are attempting to use the kyoketsu shoge, does the sanshin no kata come into play? If your answer is no for any of these, your understanding of the sanshin no kata is not quite where it needs to be. And, your taijutsu can greatly improve by further study of the sanshin no kata, and long practice sessions of it.
You must practice the sanshin repeatedly. You don’t need to do it just in the dojo. Do it at home or in your free time until you have literally done it a million times. To begin, spend 45 minutes a day on just chi no kata, without henka, just the basic. Do this for 20 days, then move on to Sui, Ka, Fu, and Ku doing each for 45 minutes for 20 days. You should begin understanding the sanshin no kata it after 100 days. You won’t necessarily master it, but you should be able to have some understanding and ability to do it.
I truly mean it, do that single technique for 45 minutes straight. And just that technique, push through the boredom and fatigue. But, do them correctly for 45 minutes. Most of the fat will be trimmed by merely doing it for 45 minutes daily for 20 days, but please get proper instruction on how to do them. And, have your teachers critique them. Both practice and receiving critiques of your practice is important. Your teacher should also be Uke for this critique or a senior student. Although, not overly necessary for the sanshin, but useful for other techniques. The sanshin also benefits from having a teacher be an uke for it. The same should be done for ichimonji, jumonji, and hicho; 45 minutes a day for 20 days. In addition to a few mere body dynamics associated with suburi and ashisabaki, taisabaki.
So, after a half of year you should have a good understanding of the general body mechanics and taijutsu associated with striking. This is before drilling even takes place. Practice, Practice, Practice.
Now we need to drill, drill, drill.
First, striking drills, find a post, tree, punching bag, and strike repeatedly using the sanshin, and koshi sanpo gata. Using proper timing and body dynamics to generate the strikes and targeting. Do the same with the Uke Nagashi, include Uke Nagashi, Jodan Uke Nagashi and Gedan Uke Nagashi. Do all three repeatedly against a target. Keep in mind, the Uke Nagashi is not a proper uke nagashi unless it can withstand pressure or being pressed down or to the side using structure alone, without the bicep, chest, or triceps muscles. Doing this will help develop both your structure and the stabilizing muscles we use in taijutsu.
Now, we can develop both speed and power in our strikes and blocks without using unnecessary muscle tension and learn to turn on and off muscles at will and learn how to chain muscles together in a timing chain. To do this think of moving the knee and elbows rather than the hands and feet. Lift instead of stepping, let gravity and the natural shifting of balance move your body. Doing this with all the sanshin and koshi sanpo, will lead to a more solid kamae and the ability to quickly maneuver in any direction while hiding movements.
On Drilling with partners, both sides need to attempt to hide their movements, hide their intentions, to catch the person off guard as well as minimize the ability to track the person. This requires timing. Now, there are three types of timing, but one type of timing is difficult to master. It requires getting over the fear of getting hit, or needless protection of ego by getting hit. It is important to get hit in order to learn proper timing. Here are a few specific drills to develop the timing and what to look for in the movement. Drilling timing is perception training, developing the sense of kukan, and use of vision. It isn’t pattern practice, its more like learning to read, or learning mathematics. It’s a language of the mind and body working in unison.
In the randori, article I mentioned some striking drills leading up to full randori. In this section, I plan on talking about drilling entering for throws and the use of capturing and breaking balance of your uke. So, first we are going to have the uke grab both your wrists. Without breaking their grip utilize the sanshin no kata, and any of the kihon happo, and simply do these techniques by maneuvering your and almost as if you are ignoring their grips. The uke goal is to maintain a strong grip and attempt to counter the movements. Build up progressively at first with just strong body structure then, actively attempt to stop their movements while maintaining your grip. This will help develop your sense of balance and the balance of your uke and teach you naturally where you would need to go to break their balance, tension, structure, and maneuvering around their strength. Next do the same with multiple differing grips being attached, like kumi uchi etc. Then begin adding pulsing tension, by creating and releasing tension in moving doing these techniques.
Next, we need to develop our perceptions further, primarily our eyes. The next drill uses rubber or leather shuriken. It begins, with the uke throwing shuriken at you. You must simply stand in shizen and move only when you need to. But before moving begin the practice with the idea of catching the shuriken. If you can catch a shuriken, you can move out of the way of it. So, catch it develop the eyes to see the shuriken coming in and catch them. Next, begin moving out of the way of the shuriken. But, follow the shuriken with your eyes as they pass you. If you get hit, get hit, don’t let getting hit knock your focus off. Remain focused and present, don’t dwell on getting hit, think of what comes next. You can also use a kyoketsu shoge as well. Uke should spin the ring and release it in unpredictable ways.
Progressively pick up speed and add more throwers and attackers. Develop your eyes and the ability to maneuver around multiple targets. Also, as an uke if the tori moves early attack at the movement he is maneuvering into. Your goal is to strike them with the shuriken or kyoketsu shoge. Don’t give an inch, hide your movements and pressure them to make a mistake.
Another drill involves the Uke using a padded hanbo or jo. The uke will use various thrusts or outer attacks to the body, head, and legs. The tori’s role is to block each one of these and maneuver effectively around them. First start with one attack at a time and reset, then add three attacks in combo. Vary the speeds and begin adding feints as well. As Uke your goal is to hit the tori and break their focus. If you get hit, take it, develop your sense of fudoshin. Endure failure until you can break through it. Remember being able to catch the attacks.
Drilling with Kata you must break down the kata into its fundamental parts and practice those individually, then going back to the kata. Rinse and repeat. The Uke should know their specific targets and goals, while the tori are attempting to precisely maneuver around those goals. Begin slow, then build up speed until full speed is possible. Drill the parts of the kata under tension and resistance. Without the interplay between speed and resistance, you won’t be able to understand the totality of the kata. Doing something slow and under resistance helps with developing and understanding of how the body works, but one needs to also understand what speed does to one’s ability to maintain balance and muscle control. You must understand both sides to get a clear picture of the kata and taijutsu in general.