Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Change Direction

I attend Tai Chi classes at a health club. The rooms/studios available on a Tuesday night change every few months. Last week we changed rooms again. It took a few minutes to get reoriented because the direction of the new room was different than the previous one.

There are benefits and disadvantages to training in a room with mirrors. As an instructor, it is a great tool to observe the students. As a student, I can use the mirror to observe and refine my movement. The biggest disadvantage I found was the reliance of the mirror as a visual cue in kata.

I can remember two instances where "the mirror as a visual cue" caused me trouble. The first instance was during a tournament. I was in a black belt kata division and I was demonstrating Chinto. This kata is known for its quick directional changes. I was practicing in the dojo for weeks. I stepped in the ring and began the kata. I completely lost orientation and did a kata that sort of looked like Chinto. The second example was during formal testing. Testing was held in a restaurant banquet hall. The hall was lavishly decorated with bold wallpaper. Ever wall looked exactly the same.

I learned a few lessons...

Kata needs to come from the inside. It is important to know your kata well enough to be able to demonstrate in any venue. It doesn't matter what the people are doing next to you or what noise is in the background.

Practice kata in different directions. We regularly practice kata away from the mirrors. After we know a kata pattern, we try to break the visual cues by facing multiple directions. We even practice kata blindfolded.

Tuesday Tip: Change Direction...practice your kata in many different directions.


5 comments:

SueC said...

You're so right Michele! It's surprising how disorientating it is to do a kata starting from a different direction. Sensei often gets us to do a quarter or half turn before starting the kata to test us out. It's amazing how many people finish their kata facing the direction they would have expected to be had they started it facing the front!

Felicia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Felicia said...

Deleted the above post because I had a few typos...

We do the "closed eyes" or blindfold thing as well - and it is a very, very helpful tool. Another blogger talked about doing kata BACKWARDS, which I tried once and failed miserably at, LOL. I can generally do a kata facing a different direction until I have to take the kata apart and work on/teach/explain bunkai of a single technique in the middle, then it all falls apart like a house of cards. Why that's the case, I have no idea!

Great post, Michele! Thanks for sharing...

Rick said...

When learning a form, it's useful to always be oriented the same way every time so you can check your directions against familiar landmarks.

When practicing, you should mix it up. You should know where YOU are, no matter which way your are oriented.

Michele said...

Thank you for the comments.

An interesting side note...we have seen some students actually perform their kata better when blindfolded. Perhaps less distractions and more focus....?