This is just an easy list of guidelines that will help you get the most out of your kobo and jissen practice. I figured it would be good to tidy up my series on drilling methods with a concise listing of what I think are the most important points, in no particular order.
You’ll find that they aren’t all applicable to every practice, but they will all be useful at one time or another. Think of this a tip sheet, and refer back to these points periodically as you use kobo for practice.
Of the highest importance in practicing with a resistant opponent is the creation of a safe environment. This allows all partners the ability to explore within the bounds of the exercise. This is the yakusoku (promise) part of “yakusoku sotai.”
If you can’t trust your partner to do as promised, you are going to have a hard time relaxing enough to practice as needed. Cooperative resistance would be a good way to describe the proper attitude for kobo practice. Just don’t go too easy on each other. Your partner trusts you to offer realistic resistance so he can improve his skills.
Any practice you do with a partner is very dependent on that partner. In order to fully develop your skills, you must practice with a variety of partners in terms of physical type, sparring style, skill level, etc. Failing to do so is setting yourself up for failure.
Do Many Short Sets
Don’t do kobo all night. Use it as a tool to work on a specific skill and then move on to more dynamic practices, such as free(er) sparring. Too much kobo leads to hypersuggestibility, habitualization of predictable movement patterns, and unrealistic expectations, among other things. Any kobo practice should be balanced and checked against “live” resistance.
In a perfect world, kobo practice would generally be used as a diagnostic tool for discovering and correcting weaknesses. The instructor would make note of some hitch in each student’s performance and then design the kobo progressions to use for the next practice. If the kobo practice reveals some problem that wasn’t apparent earlier, a skilled coach can spot this and make adjustments to the drill. After a few repetitions each of two or three progressively more-challenging drills, the skills would then be practiced in actual jissen (or a limited jissen game). The coach could then critique the sparring to determine the next lesson’s drill progression.
Get Down to Get Up
Just like good dance music, you must bring it down before you turn it up. In order to manage the anxiety of learning new things and facing greater challenges, it’s important to step back first. Then baby-step back up to and beyond the current level, into the next. This is sometimes counterintuitive since we feel like we aren’t making progress unless we are moving forward. However, it’s easier to move forward once we have gained a little bit of momentum first. Starting off easier than necessary gives us the momentum to work harder.
Incremental progression is the means of backing up to move forward. Each drill builds off of the previous drill and leads logically to the next. Every drill has several variables, and it works best to increase them in subtle increments, one at a time.
Examples of drill variables for incremental increase are:
- Speed of motion
- Power of strikes
- Complexity of movements, number of steps
- Drill sophistication via rule manipulation
- Time allotment or stipulation of timing
- Number of partners
- Number of chickens on the court
Kobo is not real (and neither is jissen). In order to keep ourselves grounded in actuality, we need to occasionally do things that may seem to run counter to the notion of kobo – such as actually hitting our partners.
For one example, if you are the defensive partner, it is good practice to sometimes simply take the hit rather than avoiding. Why? Two reasons: you need to know what it’s like to get hit, and you need to make sure your partner is offering you honest resistance. If you avoid as expected each time, there is no way to be sure that your partner isn’t cheating you and no way to prepare for the eventuality that you screw up in a live environment. So, my recommendation is to simply take the hit at least two or three times for each drill.
How do you take so many hits without injuring yourself? You learn to absorb impact. If you’re going to be fighting (and even if you’re not), this is an important ability to have. Everyone will be faced with impact during their lives. Impact from bumping into things, tripping, getting punched in the face, etc. Learning to absorb the incoming force, rather than bracing against it, will help protect you from injury when you get hit in “the real world.” If you’ve built a trusting relationship with your partners, this is the best possible time to learn how to do this.
Don’t assume, or your ass is “ume.” Ume is a sour, pickled plum that Japanese people love to think foreigners hate (but they’re actually really tasty). Remember to reality check your kobo practice, or you’ll end up ingraining assumptions in with your skills.
Kobo is practice, so don’t treat it like something carved in stone. This is not the time to be concerned with form or worrying about doing it “right.” Workshop and experiment. Explore with your partners the various options that are and are not available to you. There is more than one way to eat a baby, and while I tend to prefer them in soup, I don’t just throw all my babies in the pot. Sometimes I BBQ them, and sometimes I’ll try putting one on a sandwich. I try to get together with friends often and exchange favorite baby recipes. I do the same with kobo.
Taido is all about creativity. Doing the same old kobo results in the same old jissen. My favorite Einstein quote is “insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” This is how most people practice kobo. Try something different. Build your own kobo routines. Adapt old routines. Be creative and get different results from what you’re used to.
Both Sides, Both Roles
You must make sure you practice on both sides and in both roles. This is self-evident, but I see people assuming that practicing one side means they can do the other by magic. I see it all the time, and I see these people losing in jissen. Granted, most people favor hidari kamae in jissen (and everything else), but that is no excuse for building weaknesses into your skills when you have the chance to practice both sides. Half-assed practice makes you a total ass in performance.
So there you are – my list of kobo tips. Nothing new, nothing Earth-shattering. I don’t expect the Nobel Prize in Taido for writing this, but it might be helpful. Happy birthday.