how not to think of kobo
First, I want to write a few words about what kobo are not. Kobo are not answers to various techniques. The way I see most people practicing kobo is based on this idea that they are algorithms for defeating various high-percentage techniques. Thinking of kobo in this way will make your jissen mechanical, and skilled opponents will always be able to fake you out. Taido techniques are made to adapt, so if your reactions to those techniques are predictable, you will be easy to hit.
If kobo aren’t answers, let’s discuss what they actually are. Simply: they are examples designed to build good habits.
A Working Definition
To help put you in the proper frame of mind for using kobo drills as a framework for building jissen skill, I want to provide a working definition of kobo. In Japan, this kind of practice is sometimes called “yakusoku sotai,” which could mean “combative-engagement under agreement.” Yakusoku literally means a promise, and the promise is that both partners are working together to help each other improve. When you practice kobo (which translates as “offense/defense”), you must make a new promise at each working of a particular drill to keep your partner’s best interests in mind. If your partner is injured, or even if he just doesn’t improve, you are both responsible.
This promise is real, and it’s one of the things that allows us to keep the emotional stress levels very low. Knowing that our partners are working with us and keeping our interests in mind allows us to relax into the process of developing our skills. Make sure that your partner knows that the promise is real to you. Keeping the mood of kobo practice supportive and friendly will allow you both to get the most out of each practice, even though this is not easily quantifiable.
Discomfort Forces Adaptation
Another important point in kobo practice is the level of speed, power, complexity, etc. that you challenge your partner with. Keep in mind that you are practicing for his benefit, and then let him worry about your improvement – mutuality makes for much more effective practice. This requires a very subtle mind-shift for most people. Don’t try to win – try to teach and learn.
And please, if your partner does not move, hit him. You do no favors to your partner if you only allow him to practice defending against half-assed attacks. I’m not saying “don’t be careful.” I’m saying “don’t be a pushover.” You have to challenge your partner in order for him to progress. You want to make sure that you press toward your partner’s limits, but not beyond.
Your partner will not learn unless he is uncomfortable. Comfort precludes adaptation; discomfort necessitates adjustment. You must make your partner a little uncomfortable in the drill, but at ease in the training environment. The key is to work to your partner’s level of discomfort. Push your partner to the point of slight discomfort, as measured by their feedback to you. Communication is vital to safe and effective kobo practice.