Basic Kobo Drills

These basic kobo drills are designed to on work on specific weapon deployment and defensive response. The drills on this page build on the abilities to implement unsoku and unshin in relation to your partner (these come from practicing the Drills for Unsoku and Unshin). You will refine these abilities as you integrate them into your kobo practice.

Basic Kobo Drills

These basic kobo drills are the foundation of sotai skills. You probably already practice something like this (well, occasionally…). The problem with kobo in its simplest form is that it only offers a narrow foundation for building skills. By injecting a little creativity, we can build a wider base for jissen.

Slow, Stationary Kobo

Partners face off. One executes a predetermined attack, and the other executes and predetermined defense. They repeat this many times, gradually getting faster and stronger. Later on, we add some footwork. In theory (not my theory, mind you), this effectively teaches the defending partner to become almost immune to the practiced attack. Yeah, right.

Most kobo practice begins and ends with this drill style. Pretty lame if you ask me. While it may be OK practice on some levels, it is going to condition habits that may not always be productive unless we exercise a little creativity in our approach. Let’s discuss how.

We learn from all practice, whether we want to, or not. We all know that those who do half-assed practice for hokei end up with half-assed performance of hokei, even when they try to move cleanly. The standard style of uninspired kobo practice makes us hyper-suggestible to the attacks practiced. The result is that good players know how to make their opponents jump by pretending to do manjigeri, while they are actually setting up a second attack. This is just the most basic example of the counterproductive conditioning that can occur with poorly conceived practice methods.

So, about that creative approach…

Slow, Stationary Kobo – Again

Remember that kobo are not answers. If there are “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” then there are at least 100 ways to respond to sengi (especially, if the person attacking does happen to be your lover). This time through, we need to come up with some of those other ways. Think of this as exploratory kobo, and you’ll be right on the money.

Let’s take the speed back down and drop the footwork for now. We’ll start over from the beginning, with the provision that the “defender” needs to be creative and come up with a personal favorite few methods of dealing with the “attacker’s” movement.

We already know that you can do hienzuki to defend against manjigeri. The problem is that everyone doing manjigeri knows this too, and they adapt their technique accordingly. Thus, people who have practiced defending against manji still get hit with manji. If we want to avoid getting hit with adapted techniques, we have to adapt our defenses. Keeping with the analogy of manjigeri, there are lots of ways to defend besides hienzuki – this drill requires that you find a few of them.

With your partner, brainstorm a bit. Look at the motion of the attack and think of where it is strong and where it is weak. Where does it come from, and where does it go? Try to think of ways to use ideas like ohen fubi and rendo rentai to come up with responses (hint: review your seigyo methods).

Repeat this process as many times as possible, working slowly and with an open mind – you will never exhaust your options, but any one you discover may save your ass someday in jissen. For each promising application, build speed gradually, as you would with your usual kobo practice.

Slow Again with Variable

Now that you have options, you can practice choosing the right one on the fly. This is difficult to simulate, but every attack, however similar is going to be a little unique. Try and base your defense choice on the specific instinct you have in the moment. Instead of deciding beforehand what you plan to do (since reality will always deviate from your plans), react in realtime with one of your options. At the very minimum, spend some time cycling through your various options in various orders and speeds. We want to be very careful of building set patterns, and this is where that happens, so be aware.

As before, build speed and power gradually. When you can avoid full-speed, full-power attacks by at least three or four different responses, you are ready to move on to the next drill.

Slow Again with Preset Unsoku

Now take the speed back down, and do the same movements after some pre-determined unsoku combination, for example ko-soku or hensoku-ka/gen. Build your speed up, and work through each of your variable responses individually. Change the unsoku pattern and do it all again.

You will find that, as attacks from various unsoku patterns are slightly different, certain defense variations will lend themselves better to some than others. Work with advancing and retreating footwork on both right and left sides. Get a feel for what works with each of these subtle variations and you will start to see the utility in the previous drill.

Unsoku and Variable

Slow down again, and do the same thing, this time using a free selection of unsoku movements and the variations you have practiced. Then, build your speed back up gradually.

When you are comfortable with all of your variations at full-speed, the attacker can begin to vary the speed at will, moving from fast to slow to fast. While the attack timing gets trickier here, the attack is still the same, so the defender can choose the appropriate response. This step is excellent practice for matching the speed of your defense to the attack as it happens.

Unsoku and Unshin with Variable

This is basically the same s the above drill, but both partners are now free to use both unsoku and unshin as they see fit.

Baby Steps

With all of the above drills, speed, intensity, and power, are the primary variables for incremental increase before adding complexity. Most other factors are going to be fairly constant (for example, which movements are being practiced). This allows low-stress graduation to higher levels. If you try to get cute and change too many things at one time, you are going to defeat the purpose of these drills. Sure, you may overcome and look as if you are getting better and better at various motions, but that’s all you’ll be learning – how to go through the motions.

You will actually be conditioning yourself to react in certain patterns as a panic response if you don’t progress slowly enough. Instead of flinching, you condition yourself to jump. This seems like an improvement, but the jump is actually just a different manner of flinching, and you are no better off in the long run. You may feel that you have gone from beginner to intermediate rather quickly, but you will find yourself having a hell of a time moving from intermediate to advanced.

Go slowly on these lower-level kobo drills. Really take the time and explore the possibilities they offer. It doesn’t matter how “advanced” a student you are; you can get a lot out of the above practices. Allowing your ego to seduce you into attempting practices that are above your level leads to injury in sports training. Kobo is no exception.

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