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Brainstorming with Master Hall

by on March 1, 2012

I just got back from a great practice. It started out as just Chad and I in class tonight. The tae kwon do class that had practice before us had been using some ground-based heavy bags with the water-filled bases, and after a little experimentation as we warmed up, I decided to use one for some atemiwaza tsukuri drills. We focused on pulling with the feet, maintaining structure, and using idoryoku. There is enough weight in the base to really keep you honest about maintaining your structure!

Unfortunately we didn’t get any footage, but I’d like to think this is a decent approximation of what we were doing…

As Chad was practicing on the bag and I was offering feedback, Master Hall was standing off to the side, observing. After a while he inquired as to the intended purpose of the motion, and we soon got into a wide-ranging discussion. Master Hall was excited about the potential he saw in some of the movements, and wanted to explore how they could be used against a puncher.

As I’ve said before, this is a blind spot of the Tomiki curriculum. The tools are all there, but they are not well-developed in either the kata or in randori, so this was a great opportunity to experiment with someone who really knows strikes.

There were a few motions in particular that Master Hall liked – the quick block into gyakugamaeate that I think came from Manny Vargas, and gedanate. He wanted to see how the same quick block would work off of a punch to the head. We experimented with it a little, but the angles get thrown off and it’s hard to maintain structure. Uke’s arm is so high (especially with someone taller like Master Hall) that if you try to block it from above you separate your arm from your source of power.

My instinct against something coming in higher was to go low, and we played around with a gedan where the cross-hand blocked with a gyaku-type motion as you did the cross-step and then the blocking arm could hook uke’s arm as you took out his hips. I was quite pleased with the technique, and I think with enough reps you could really make it fast, but Master Hall was focused on finding the simplest, most direct technique that you could count on when things got sloppy. (And we were grateful for his focus and insight!) We kept coming back to the gyaku motion as a block, but the high arm really made the positioning difficult. We tried coming from below and up for gyaku, but that didn’t provide a block that satisfied Master Hall.

In the end the technique we settled on was gyakugamae shomenate, which  Sato sensei said is on the Koryu Goshin no Kata Dai Go.

Master Hall’s second favorite, if that failed, was the original classic: shomenate!

After Master Hall left, Chad and I messed around a bit more with ushiro and various counters. Chad’s instinct to counter ushiroate was to bring his inside leg behind uke and go for gedan, but I showed him how I would quickly switch to maeotoshi as soon as I felt him coming back.

Then I had a brainstorm: what if you used a Dave Nettles-style sneak step, moving your foot back without transferring any weight, and then pulled to your new base? Surprise surprise, it worked like a charm! We tried it in various randori situations, and I was amazed how well it stood up. Even in the version where uke has your foot locked through your opposite shoulder you can make it work if you begin to fall, freeing your leg, and then continue with the technique.

Lots of fun. I’ll be heading out of town for the next couple of weeks, but I’ll try to get some of this stuff on video when I get back.

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