Posture before technique: three simple words but incredibly important to get them in the right order. Last night was an excellent session; it was the first lesson since passing my blue belt grading and I was really excited to get on the mat. Yet as it turned out I was not allowed even one week to bask in my blue belt glory! There was a sensei from another Dentokan dojo visiting whom I had trained with before on a couple of seminars. Almost from the outset of the lesson as we warmed up and I was knee walking as is customary at the start of every session he pointed out that I wasn’t using my hara (roughly translated ‘core’) adequately enough. Then we began the session proper with practicing standing Uchi Komi Dori (overhead strike defence). He invited me to demonstrate the technique on him to which I obliged followed immediately by a critique. Then he intimated that it was my turn to uke as he became tori. I raised my arm to simulate the strike and he executed the technique. It was very apparent that his technique was superior to my own in every way; his carried with it power and control that mine lacked. Thankfully he is a very good teacher and took me step by step through the parts of the technique and where I was going wrong. Similar to the nuances I needed to make to my knee walking, this time I needed to apply more body weight propelling myself forward as I blocked his strike while keeping myself straight and centred. I mimicked his movement trying to get my body position right before attempting the technique again. After his tuition I performed the technique again feeling much more power this time and feeling far more confident I was in control.
Then his attention turned to critiquing the next part of the technique – the Shodan wrist lock. Once more he demonstrated on me allowing me to experience what it should feel like – his grip was powerful and firm but not to the point where he was crushing my hand and then he lifted my arm above my shoulder, driving his body weight through my shoulder and pinning me to the ground. My balance and strength had been completely broken and negated. In comparison my technique was weak and ineffective. His very simple advice to me was posture before technique: take the posture and then and only then execute the technique. Whereas before I had been trying to apply the technique without sufficiently taking my uke’s balance now I was able to see that this is bad practice.
The rest of the night we trained in a few more techniques again following the same pattern of demonstration, deconstruction, critique and then reconstruction resulting in a much better technique.
It felt like a steep learning curve, especially the emphasis on the importance of hara in executing a technique; but it felt fantastic to be given so much attention. For a moment the thought passed through my mind “can’t I just enjoy being a blue belt for one week?!” and then an even more profound and deeper truth dawned on me: at the end of the day, the reason his expectations were so high of me was because I was now a blue belt; that was the wonderfully empowering and reassuring truth behind all of his criticisms - I had reached the level in which the little mistakes can no longer be overlooked or tolerated because I am no longer still a beginner. Now more is expected of me, more is asked of me, more is demanded of me and that feels good. Once I had realised this I didn’t want the lesson to end; I just wanted to continue learning. I want to be a good martial artist; a good Jujutsuka. The only way I am going to be able to achieve my ambition to become a Dan grade is to listen to my instructors, absorb their wisdom and to learn from my mistakes. Tonight I felt like a white belt – a complete novice compared to this visiting sensei and that is exactly the attitude I need to practice with week in week out.
Posture before technique.