The final three hour session was a bit of a potpourri. Review, elbow strikes, escapes, combinations of techniques, and a little ground work (which also was a bit of a review for me). As with the previous two sessions I was there to learn their techniques, not show off mine. Nonetheless, my muscle memory and my trained mindset decided to take over three times. The instructors were the only ones who knew about my martial arts training, and I’m surprised none of my fellow participants asked after those three little stunts.
The one time I could hide my proficiency was when we were practicing elbow strikes. I absolutely knew my petite teen partner was not used to holding kick bags for someone who is executing a technique with full speed and power. Also, the angle we were to hold the kick bags for the elbow strike to the face was a bit awkward for anyone. I didn’t put much power into it. Some day I’d love to practice elbow strikes with someone who is experienced in holding the kick bag.
Later on, a bit of kata (forms) came out of me. The scenario was a big guy has grabbed both your forearms and is holding them above your head. You bring your arms down and twist your forearms against the attacker’s thumbs to break free. The instructor watched me, then said, “OK, now pretend that technique didn’t work on your first attempt. So what you do is you bring your arms back up and try again.” So I brought my arms back up and… Without even thinking, I performed the double age uke from Bassai Dai kata. My partner was quite surprised to find her grip broken and her arms flung wide. I was annoyed because my muscle memory took over when I was supposed to be learning something different. Some day I would love to try the double age uke on someone who can grip hard.
Later on we were practicing escaping a two-handed grab to the neck (opponent facing you). To finish, we were supposed to turn towards the exit and then run. I turned the full 360 towards my “opponent.” I get it – I’m supposed to run away, and yes, running is entirely appropriate when my life is in danger. But here’s the thing – if this is what automatically comes out of me in a high-pressure situation I have to think about what’s next. In many kata (forms) a turn can mean you’re executing a block and following up with an attack (I’m giving an example of omote bunkai, or literal interpretation of kata). Because I didn’t see any techniques coming at me I paused, holding kamae dachi (the instructors called their variation “defensive stance”). In that pause, I remembered I was supposed to run towards the door. Oops.
Later, we practiced kicking from the ground. This was somewhat familiar territory for me and I distinctly remember the first time I did this. Each participant took turns practicing with one of the instructors. He was pretty good at dancing out of the way, and I found myself caught up in the game of trying to come close without hurting him. This was no problem whenever I targeted his gut, but his knees were a different story. I had to execute quite a lot of control. I was so busy concentrating on not inflicting damage and having so much fun that I didn’t realize I was supposed to end it when he stepped off the mats. The instructor had to remind me to get up and run the other way. Awww, I wanted to keep playing!
At least during the next part of ground work, I didn’t have muscle memory working against me. It was working for me. As I’d learned a couple of years ago, body dynamics are key. Twisting my hips to put more power into what I’m doing is becoming familiar for executing techniques while I’m upright in one of several Karate stances. It felt natural for ground work this time around. I’m starting to think that if I have a chance to do a little cross-training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I’ll do it! So many martial arts, so little time…
Takeaways for my karate:
1) Elbow strikes. I need to up my game in Empi and Pinan Sandan.
2) I found it really difficult to execute a mae mae gheri (their “snap kick”) when my hips were hanme in kamae dachi (their “defensive stance”). Since this last class I’ve seen this demonstrated by a sensei in class. I guess I’m just going to have to develop it.
My main objective in taking these seminars was to learn how a long-format self defense seminar works. I kept my mouth shut and listened to the other students, noting how they learn. Staying silent meant I maximized my time by listening to questions they had. I wish I could write about that aspect more, but that feels like a breach of privacy. Yes, I’ve written about it before, but… I just can’t bring myself to do it this time around. Some day I will look over my private notes and remember what each woman needed to hear from our instructors. This will help my future students.
If anyone is interested in the organization I trained with, here’s the link to the R. A. D. organization.