One Step at at Time

Everything about the blue belt is different. No longer do I pull my fists back to the trigger point after each punch—instead, I keep them up at my chest/face level for protection. In basic movements, we’re not always in a classical horse stance or a classical front stance, rather, something in between that looks more like a reasonable fighting stance. This is like moving from print block letters to cursive, learning to flow, losing the rigidity of the original forms for the sake of more realistic fighting. In short, I learned the basic rules and now I’m being asked to break them.

Here’s the catch: Perfectionists don’t break rules. Capricorns don’t “manage” surprises well. Obsessively efficient people don’t learn one way, then practice another. And yet…as Hanshi paced back and forth in front of his line of karateka on Thursday night, I felt my resistance slip away like old skin. There were just two black belts and one green in class, so I felt the move may have been more geared towards them. After all, I’ve never moved across the dojo with a repeated series of front, round, then side kicks let alone done this at lightning speed with a kiai (“Hai!”) at the end. By the end of the night, Hanshi’s message was clear: move faster and move smarter and move like you mean it.

My biggest challenge right now is speed, and if I don’t have speed then I don’t have power (form + speed = power). While I no longer believe that practice makes perfect, I’ve replaced that mantra with another one: practice makes you more aware, and awareness in the dojo is like enzano-o-metsuke, perceiving the whole mountain. Hanshi’s demands in Thursday’s class made the mountain quite clear. I can see what I have to do. Now I just need to put one foot in front of the other and build enough physical strength to get there.

  • Mike

    A wonderfully written account.

    My Grand Master often said, “Practice does not make perfect. perfect practice makes perfect.”

    I always tell my students, “What you achieve is what you strive for, so, aim high and have fun.”

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