Tip #13: Self-Inquiry

Taido is a set of principles about being and doing. That’s all it really could be after all. Just like any other physical discipline (sport, dance, sex cult), Taido includes instruction on why and how to use the body in response to various types of stimulus. In this respect, Taido is not special or unique. It’s simply one of many educational models by which one could learn to be effective and efficient in life.

If you are going to practice Taido for any length of time, it would benefit you to spend some time introspecting about why.

Why Taido?

How does Taido uniquely meet your needs, serve your goals, make you happy, or whatever?

  • Are you sure that Taido accomplishes this outcome better than other things you could be doing with your time?
  • If you do Taido for physical health, could you not get faster results working with a personal trainer in a gym?
  • If you do Taido for self-defense, does your training realistically prepare you for the kinds of situations in which you imagine you will be attacked?

These are just example questions. Take some time to really look deeply into what got you into Taido and what keeps you in Taido. Think about the rewards you get from Taido practice in light of your motives and the effort you put in. Notice your feelings and really consider why you are here.

If you decide that you do Taido simply because you enjoy it, ask yourself if there might be other things you could enjoy just as much or even more.

Couldn’t you get just as much out of playing soccer?

The purpose of this assignment isn’t to discourage or convince you to quit. I don’t want you to ever quit Taido. But I do want you to understand why you don’t quit – because continuing to do things “just because” is pretty weak.

Set aside a few minutes to do this. I promise you’ll learn things about yourself that you hadn’t known before – or that you had forgotten. You’ll also find that reconnecting your practice with your deepest motives and purpose will improve your practice and bring more drive and feeling to your training. That’s always a good thing.

And if you decide that Taido isn’t the best way for you to spend your time right now, you can feel free to explore other things, because Taido will still be here when you’re ready to come back.

Enjoy your practice.

Tip #12: Have Fun

I take Taido seriously for the most part, and you’ve probably noticed in these tips that I can be very intense when it comes to certain details. So far, I’ve given you a lot of detailed information on developing certain skills and attributes that will improve your Taido.

But in this installment, I want you to take a step back and do two things:

  1. Look at a somewhat larger picture of Taido, and…
  2. Have some fun with your practice.

One of the cool features of the Asia Pacific meet in Australia was the inclusion of an original hokei competition. In this event, competitors create their own hokei and perform it on the court. It’s always a lot of fun to try new things and see others’ ideas.

I create new hokei all the time, sometimes spontaneously. Sometimes they’re really cool, and sometimes, they just don’t work at all. Who cares? It’s fun, and sometimes, that’s more important than the details.

So that’s what I’d like you to try: Make your own hokei.

It can be long, short, fast, slow… whatever.  You can share it with others or keep it to yourself. You can try new things or put old things together in a new way. Up to you.

I’ve assigned this exercise to my students before, and the results are always interesting.

Try it for yourself, and if you’re feeling especially brave, post a video on YouTube.  Here’s one I came up with for a local tournament a few years ago:

I’d really love to see what you come up with too.

Have some fun with this, because Taido doesn’t have to be serious all the time.

Tip #11: Geometry

For this installment, I want to talk about geometry. Yay! Since the last couple of lessons involved alignment, it seemed like a good time to discuss how Taido uses line.

It would be virtually impossible to train Taido for any length of time without hearing of the notion that Taido moves three-dimensionally. This is really the linchpin of Taido technique and strategy, and we find it not only in the individual techniques that change the axis of the body, but also in our unsoku and unshin movements. Taido is one of the very few martial arts in the world to have a systematic footwork method (others include Capoeira and Silat, and maybe some a few more).

Dimensional Control

In order to control our movement in three dimensions, we must first learn to move in lower dimensions. Moving effectively in a 3-d space requires the ability to move effectively on a plane (2-d), on a line (1-d), and on a point (0-d). This is the reason we usually practice techniques from stationary kamae before we practice it while moving – it’s just simpler that way.

After mastering the movement on a point, it’s important to spend plenty of time working on the line. Line training is sometimes neglected by students who want to begin using new movements in jissen right away. I definitely encourage trying new things out, but please don’t neglect line training. The reason is this:

 The shortest path between you and your opponent will always be a straight line. 

Line Training

There are about a thousand ways to practice using lines. I’m going to expand on using hokei for technique training in the next issue, so I won’t discuss it right now.

Here are just a few ideas for improving your sense and control of line in your movements and techniques:

  1. Practice executing the technique on a line on the floor. Pay attention to where your feet fall on the line. Also be sure to back up to kamae in a straight line.
  2. Begin from a kamae that is at an angle to your line. Execute the technique on the line. Try different angles.
  3. Moving on a line: Take one step forward in kamae before executing the technique. Then another step and technique. Continue moving forward across the court.
  4. Do the same thing as a retreat by stepping backwards on the line before the technique.
  5. Use free unsoku to maneuver to a pre-determined line and execute the technique.
  6. Try any of the above drills while a partner holds a target over the line.

These are some simple ideas for using line practice to improve your techniques. Remember that being aware of lines is the most efficient way to connect your punches and kicks with your opponent. If you can master your line in training, you will have much greater skill in applying techniques to three dimensions in jissen.

Enjoy your practice.

Tip #10: Watch The Foot

OK, so last time I asked you to be mindful of your foot and knee alignment and glossed over some of the reasons that this is important from a biomechanical perspective. Good stuff, and if you actually practiced it, you should be noticing better control of most of your techniques by now.

Today, I want to explore a tactical reason for being in control of your lower-body joint alignment. Actually, I’ll leave the exploring to you, as this point is so obvious (when you’re looking for it) that it won’t require much explanation at all.

Here it is:

When you are practicing jissen, pay attention to the direction of your opponent’s front foot.

 

Simple, right?

Why this is a good thing to pay attention to should be pretty easy to guess since some techniques are easier or more difficult with varying degrees of foot/knee alignment. All techniques make use of the foot/knee joint system in various ways, but the front foot will always control the targeting and momentum generation for the initial body movement.

Imagine standing in kamae with the left leg forward. If your foot is pointed to the right, it will be easier to perform senjogeri than it would to do shajogeri. Turn your foot the other way, and the opposite is true. Now you have a way to guess which techniques your opponent is likely to attack with.

Most players in jissen will tend to turn their foot slightly in the direction they want to move at they step in before initiating the attack. In extreme cases, you’ll even see some people putting their bodies in position for a certain technique well before they are close enough to attack, but even higher-level Taidoka will turn the foot, even when they are trying to mask their body mechanics.

Many people feint with their heads and hands, but their feet will give away their intended movements

Watch for this. It’s easier to begin being on the lookout while you’re not in the match yourself. Just notice it in other students’ matches. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself knowing what attack is coming more often. Responding appropriately is another matter all together, but knowing what’s coming is a big help in it’s own right.

Tip #9: Lower Body Alignment

The last tip dealt with posture, which I basically used to refer to spinal alignment. If you have improved your posture over the past couple of weeks, you know that using your body correctly can have a big impact on your Taido.

This time, we’re going to work on another aspect of body structure.

Hinges

A hinge is a kind of bending joint that only works in one direction. You have hinges on your door. There is no option to open the door in a different direction. We sometimes speak of an outcome as “hinging on” some particular factor being present – in other words, it can only work if that factor exists. Again, this will only work one way. Hinges don’t give options.

Another hinge can be found in our knees, elbows, and other joints. We’re going to focus on the knees for now.

Knee Alignment

Like other hinges, the knees don’t give options. However, their relationship to the hips and ankles afford a great deal of mobility. So much mobility makes it easy to forget that the knees should always point in the same directions as the feet. This may sound obvious, but if you pay attention, I guarantee you will find numerous examples of ways you break this simple principle at every practice. I know I do.

Why This Is Important

Just as with spinal alignment (posture), proper alignment of the knees can improve your balance, ease of movement, and power.

Actually, correct alignment is built into Taido technique. Looking at any of Taido’s three kamae, we can see that the knees point in line with the feet – at least when our kamae is correct. Oftentimes, without realizing it, we allow our feet to come out of alignment by pointing too far in either direction. Doing this not only puts sheering pressure on the knee joint, but weakens power transfer through this important link between center-mass and the floor (which means that we can more as quickly or powerfully as we could with correct alignment).

Try it: Stand in any kamae and check your foot alignment. Then do any technique you like. Notice how the technique feels when you are correctly aligned.  Now turn your foot slightly to either side and try the technique again. Turn your foot the other way and try. How does that feel?

For some techniques, the differences will be more significant than others, but  you’ll probably notice them for most movements in Taido.

Just as you’ve been working on being more aware of your spinal alignment, You should also work on noting the alignment of joints in your lower body. Since Taido is based on being able to perform unsoku, the way we use our feet and legs is obviously a big factor in our ability to move freely and effectively.

Spend some time playing with foot/knee alignment, especially while moving in unsoku. The next installment will discuss how this applies to seigyo.