We are closing out the year here in a few days, and I’ve been thinking a bit about the things I want to work on in the upcoming year. I think that it’s good to have goals and to work on different aspects of an art. While general comments like “I want to get faster/stronger/quicker” are always good, I think that specifying some of the finer points helps set the focus for growth regarding some of the specific things we can work on to better our skill level. When I worked towards my first kyu test a couple years ago, I worked on a consistent flow throughout the test, so that as I finished one technique, I’d go right into another. This was the first time I had worked on something beyond “faster/stronger/quicker.
So for me, I want to explore a few different things as I progress through 2012. Some are more general, helping me to come closer to achieving the ability to practice “Takemusu Aiki”, the spontaneous creation of technique, and some are more specific regarding some technical issues I need to brush up on. They are:
Expressing a fuller range of motion – I want to work on using both big and small movements in my waza. I want to work on changing the tempo and speed of my response to an attack, slowing down a fast attack or redirecting my partner in some unexpected ways.
Becoming more knowledgeable in my weapons practice – Our dojo does not emphasize a lot of weapons use but I enjoy training with both the bokken and jo. So doing more solo practice will help me understand the relationship to my empty hand technique as my empty hand technique will help me understand my weapons practice more fully.
Enter/don’t retreat – I still have tendencies to back up rather than move forward, more so on some techniques than others. One of our black belts worked with me a while ago and said, “everytime I feel you backing up i’m going to ‘beep’.” I heard him beeping quite a bit, so I will work on moving forward rather than backward on my irimi nage. (It translates into “entering throw” for christ’ sake!).
Shiho nage – I benefit from the fact that my training partners are usually taller than I am. Thus, it’s easier to perform shiho nage on most of my partners at the dojo. However, there’s one or two folks that are significantly shorter than I am, so I tend to have problems keeping my arms in front of me as I move throughout the throw. I will seek out those training opportunities more so that I can work with this.
Ukemi – I have a couple things I want to work on here. I’ve always felt that my ukemi was pretty good, but I sometimes feel that I am too soft on my partner. Sensei expresses the role of uke as “allowing our partner to grow in a balanced way.” If I am too compliant then it doesn’t help my partner. So I want to work on the balance of being too soft and too unyielding. It’s a delicate balance, because there are many things we can learn as uke regarding subtle movements in our partner and the energy they create when they move, but I think that that does in fact need to be balanced with a bit more resistance than I sometimes offer. Too much resistance and it’s no fun for anyone, but too little and we can create a false sense of achievement for our partner.
Ukemi part deux – Since I’ve been having problems with my knee I have to find different ways of moving and falling on the mat. I tend to favor one side more than the other now, so When I’m being thrown I still fall on the opposite side of how I should be falling. I won’t be stupid about this but I need to be better balanced about which side I fall on or roll from.
These are some of the things that I’m currently working on, but I think that it’s a good thing to call out some specifics and keep them in mind as I train in the upcoming year. What are some of the things you are working on? Do you have goals for 2012? I would like to hear them too. Finally, I wish you all a wondrous new year. I hope that this year is filled with happiness, joy and good training for all!