think fast!

I need to figure out what I want for a karate icon.

My trial period is over; I’ve decided to join the dojo for real. To that end, I bought myself a pair of gloves, and sparred for the first time yesterday. (I kind of sort of sparred last week, but it was more like a set of sparring drills; when it came time for people to do scored bouts in front of the teachers, I was never called up.) They paired me against one of the black belts — all of whom, from what I’ve seen so far, are good people who understand that nobody benefits if they just wipe the floor with the little baby white belt. I “won” our bout, because she decided my lesson this week should be learning to attack: she launched the occasional strike at me, but mostly baited me forward, luring me into, y’know, doing something.

Which was both familiar and strange. I’ve sparred in fencing, but bare-handed combat is new to me. It’s a lot closer-range than I’m used to; the black belt kept beckoning me in, while I floated out at something more like blade length. On the other hand, since I don’t have to control a heavy piece of metal — and if you think rapiers aren’t heavy, you haven’t tried to wave one around for very long; they gain a pound with every passing minute, I swear — I was able to follow through much more cleanly when I saw an opening. Which my sparring partner even praised after class: the fencing experience means I do see openings. (I see them in fencing, too, but when I try to exploit them my point goes haring off god knows where, because my wrist strength crapped out three passes into the bout.)

Now, if I can get more than basic punches and some half-assed what-block-was-that stunts into my repertoire, I might get somewhere.

I also need to learn to kiai. Since apparently a point doesn’t count if you don’t yell when it lands. Just wait until I start doing this in fencing: the peril of pursuing two martial arts at once.

Wednesday . . . is gonna hurt. Because if I try to come down into the straddle splits from above, the way we do in class, it strains my hips without actually stretching me, so yesterday I did it the way I used to in dance: start on the floor, then roll forward into it. Their way, I’m a foot and a half off the floor; my way, maybe four inches. But it isn’t a method that lets you ease gradually into anything, so I fully expect my inner thighs to stage a violent protest come tomorrow.

When I will make them do it all over again.

0 Responses to “think fast!”

  1. icedrake

    A friend demonstrated the fencers’ engagement distance to my jujitsu classmates. Holy crap, is that far! Interestingly enough, taekwondo is almost as far out, which I’d never have expected without a weapon involved.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yup. The basic idea is that you want to be standing just close enough to lunge and get point arrival on your opponent. And if you’re facing off against a tall guy with a 45″ blade, he can be six, seven, eight feet away and still within measure.

      I’m not that far away in karate — I’m not that tall, and my brain has at least figured out there’s no long piece of steel in my hand — but I’m too far for the style. Taekwondo, I think, keeps longer measure because it involves so many kicks.

      • icedrake

        Yeah, TKD’s range is extreme. Both because of the focus on kicks (they barely teach arm use at all, as a matter of fact) and even more so the jumping kicks.

        Now imagine the distance for juujitsu, where your main goal is to grapple with the opponent, for however short a time that may be. Then you throw them, put them in a joint lock, whatever. But all that requires far more than a single point of contact, and none farther away than your arm. Generally far closer, since you have very little strength at full extension.

        And then there’re things like push hands, where you pretty much have to maintain constant contact, and rely on that to sense where the opponent is moving.

        But really, all that matters is who looks coolest 🙂

  2. kendokamel

    Way to go! 😀

    I love kiai, and am endlessly amused by the point of it: to send your ki out to attack your opponent’s ki and knock it down a few notches.

    In kendo, there’s this concept called ki-ken-tai-ichi, which basically means, “spirit, sword, body as one”. I was already accidentally doing this when I tried out “western” fencing, though I’m having some “code switching” issues when it comes to what I do with my feet.

  3. diatryma

    Recently in aikido, we did striking thingything– how to get out of the way of a punch. We don’t punch often. The idea seemed to be to punch such that it would connect lightly, and very lightly if at all if your partner stepped away right.
    I was working with several people about as experienced as I am. None of them came close to hitting me. One of them kept stopping a foot away and wondered why I stood there like a tree.

    • Marie Brennan

      I have a bad habit left over from the days when my friends and I “fenced” with wooden dowel rods: I lunge and stop an inch short of connecting.

      On the one hand, it means I’m damn good at judging my distance. On the other . . . .

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