by Sensei Neil Prime
March, 1998

There are endless drills to increase the number of combinations you may use or to add to your speed and to improve your footwork etc... but the only way you're going to make any of this work for you is to practice. I don't just mean go over the same drills time and time again, I mean actually concentrate on one technique at a time and really work it.

How you practice is going to make the difference of having a technique that you can really rely on or having a technique that may or may not work in a crunch.

When introduced to a technique you have to first become familiar with its' basic function. This can be done by performing the technique at a slow to moderate speed so that you begin to feel how your body reacts to the technique. (eg.) If we want to practice gyako suki (reverse punch) we don't just want to throw the punch into mid air without having a focus point. You must imagine an opponent or pick a spot on the wall and make sure your finished technique is on the mark. While being aware of this you must be aware of what the rest of your body is doing.

Ask yourself a couple of questions...

Are you open to counter attack?

Are you off balance or is your stance stable?

Is this technique going stop an attacker?

Is this practical way I am doing it?

Now I ask you...

If you have any doubts about the technique then what are you going to do about it?

As an instructor I like to make my students think. It would be nice if we were told something once and we could all retain this information and perform the technique as expected but that's not the way it works. Each individual has different strengths and weaknesses and we have to adapt certain techniques to our own unique fighting style.

Once you become familiar with your gyako suki and you have worked out some of the bugs, it is time to take it a step further and utilize a partner. This is called kihon kumite, or two step sparring.

Your job is to practice your punch. You may have your partner either move on a count or block the technique, after all they are not a punching bag. You might say if the person knows what's coming that it's going to be easy to block. Sure it is... if you make it easy. Now is the time to practice your distancing, balance, take-off and all the other ingredients that are going to make this technique score.

Bruce Lee quotes something like this: "the ultimate degree of expertise is to make a very simple technique work on a very advanced opponent".

So, if you relate this philosophy to your partner who knows what's coming then try to score. If you can't at first, try again. Try and try until you do. When you do score there will be a good sense of satisfaction and soon you'll be ready for the next step - freestyle sparring.

If you really want to focus on a specific technique you have to drop the ego and concentrate on making your technique work. Approach your sparring partner from different angles and with different speeds. Try firing from inside, try firing from outside. Try as many different ways you can think of and don't worry if your partner scores on you.

This can not be stressed enough.

The dojo is the place to learn and if your partner scores 50 times and you score only once then you have accomplished something. You now know that it is possible to score with your punch. But don't let it stop there! Now your goal is to make it work for you 50 times and only get scored on once.

I know what your thinking...

What!?! Do you know how long that will take?

No I don't, but I do know that if you don't try you'll never find out.

Try not to put a time limit on learning. You will be learning and bettering yourself forever but while you are learning, give an honest effort and you be surprised at what you can accomplish along the way.

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