Twice a week I work out with my club at the office, and once a week I try to go to the hombu for a Brown/Black Belt Class. Brown/Black Belt Class is an advanced class typically taught by Hanshi, and sometimes by a senior black belt. We get to work things that challenge my thinking and my skills. In addition to learning kata or self-defense techniques, the instructor may go a bit deeper into alternate ways to do things or the bunkai behind the kata.
First Sensei had us work kick sets, which are my favorite! I love to kick, so these combinations are particularly fun for me. The object of the drill is to practice our distance, to be able to put a kick on target with full extension of the leg. For some reason we’re not supposed to kick through the uke and break their ribs with the extension, we’re just supposed to make contact. Actually, that’s a good thing, since half the time I’m the uke and I’d like to keep my ribs intact!
I’m not the best at spinning sidekicks, so that was something I concentrated on. I tend to forget to keep my knees bent, and I don’t always remember to turn my head before I spin, so I easily get off balance. Sometimes I look like a dizzy girl instead of a spinning top!
Sensei tweaked the placement of my front foot after the kicks. I was stepping too far into the uke, and leaving myself in a bad position. Now I know to go toe-to-toe with the attacker, where there is less chance of getting my feet swept from under me.
After kick sets, it was Hanshi’s turn to tweak our techniques, and we worked Set 7, Street Techniques. The entry to this is a parry block with one hand that’s followed by a shuto and a wrist grab with the other hand. I always have trouble with this set because, well, my wrist has bones in it. It doesn’t turn in all directions! It would be easier if I slid a bit to the side and rotated my hips, but I usually forget to do that and I’m left trying to grab my uke’s wrist in an awkward manner. These are particularly hard for me if I’m working with a big attacker.
Hanshi showed us a better way. Instead of grabbing the wrist at chest or shoulder height, he showed us to use the shuto to guide the attacker’s hand downward, where it is easier and more natural to grip their wrist. Well what do you know – I could make it work that way!
I learned something from both of the sets we worked and I’m looking forward to working them again. I think the Street Techniques will continue to challenge me, but I’ll keep practicing and eventually they’ll flow more smoothly!