Because the rate of hospital admission due to COVID-19 is just as high in my county as it was in Fall of 2021, this immunocompromised karateka (IgG2 deficiency) is very grateful for online seminars. Now that we know monkey pox can be spread on surfaces and by skin-to-skin contact, I’m facing a double whammy. I don’t relish the possibilities of bacterial pneumonia on top of COVID-19 and/or MRSA on top of monkey pox. Accordingly, I very much appreciate online seminars. They’re not quite as good as in-person seminars, but it’s really nice to have this option, especially when your travel budget is limited and/or you just can’t be crammed in a small metal tube with 300 some-odd people for hours on end.
Twice now I’ve taken online seminars led by an acquaintance of mine, Ando Mierzwa. The first was a seminar on forms, and it was the last of a marathon of karate seminars benefitting Ukraine. A few days ago Ando offered another seminar. I guess I didn’t pay much attention to the advertisement beyond the words “Kung Fu.” For some reason I got it stuck in my head that this would be a beginner’s class. I was anticipating being a “white belt” (new beginner) for a little while, just like some of the other times I’ve cross trained.
After the seminar started it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I wasn’t going to feel like a white belt. Rather, I felt every inch of my black belt. Ando taught a Kung Fu drill that translated beautifully to karate. I learned only one new technique, and I’ll bet if I look hard enough I’ll find some karate kata (form) somewhere that has it – so I can’t really say it’s an exclusively Kung Fu technique. The main point though, was not to learn cool Kung Fu moves. Ando was getting us to think about our body dynamics. He also taught us how to teach the drill – building up from bits and pieces (and a couple of variations) and finishing with the full drill.
From time to time during the seminar I could hear the late Remy Presas, founder of Modern Arnis (a Filipino martial art) whispering, “It’s all de same…” As another acquaintance, Jackie Bradbury explains,
“The meaning of this is that what we do and learn in my style isn’t actually terribly unique in the martial arts world. Much of what we do can be seen in other seemingly unrelated styles like taekwondo, karate, and kung fu.”Jackie Bradbury, The Stick Chick Blog
I knew I was learning some new material that I could teach at my own dojo. A few days later, I did exactly that. The only thing I changed was horse stance ( kiba dachi to us karateka). I changed that to shiko dachi because it was easier for our lower-ranked student. The only difference is the position of the feet. I also didn’t add the “new” technique because we didn’t have time to explore the variations.
That day in the dojo there was only me, a fellow Shodan (senior to me by a couple of years), and a low-ranked gentleman. I had to slow down the drill and keep it slow because although the lower-ranked student caught on to the movements quickly, he needed to work on staying the same height throughout. Of course this forced me to think about what exactly my fellow Shodan and I were doing. Then I had to explain and demonstrate to the lower-ranked student. This was a prime example of the teacher learning something too. The next time I teach Ando’s “Kung Fu” drill I’m sure I’ll learn more.
What would have happened if I’d been the same rank as the student I taught? I believe I would have learned the drill with very little difficulty. After all, Ando did choose to teach something that translated well. The seminar was not really about the drill itself. The drill is simply a tool that points the way to a bigger concept. I’m sure I’d have grasped the overall concept when I was lower rank. But I do know I’d have felt a bit awkward, and not nearly as sure of myself. I’d have devoted more mental resources to “doing” and fewer resources to analyzing. I would have memorized the drill well enough to explain it and demonstrate it in class, but I would not have been able to teach someone else how to move properly.
What a difference a few years of training makes! So yeah, I not only learned a drill from another martial art and I taught that drill, but I also learned something about myself. I noticed I am getting more confident about tackling new material. A few days later I gained experience in teaching something that hasn’t been taught in my dojo before. Passing on knowledge is what it’s all about, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure Ando agrees.
P. S. because I spent most of an hour transitioning in and out of Horse Stance, my legs were a little bit sore the next morning. This meme came to mind…