Sunday, March 13, 2011

Take Up More Space

The black belt group in the dojo meets on Wednesday night. The group has been working on kata, 2 person weapon forms, tegumi drills and kobudo. At the end of the session, each person demonstrated Chinto kata for the group. We analyzed our individual kata, observed the kata of others and made general comments. My overall comment to the group was "Take up more space".

I looked over at the newest black belt in the group. His hand went to his chin and he had the look of wanting to ask a question. His question:

What did I mean by "Take up more space"? I am glad he asked the question because it forced me to break down what I was seeing. It could be one or more of the following.

1. Stance. When moving through a kata, it is important to maintain stance. There are times when stances become shorter as a practitioner moves through kata.

2. Incomplete techniques. This happens more often with beginners. Students who are trying to keep up may shortcut a technique and rush to the next one. A full punch may only make it half way to the finish point before the next technique is started. It shortens up the movement and makes the technique smaller.

3. Arm movements close to body. Arm movements that collapse and move close to the body. I see this in Nai Hanchi punches. The arm practically rests on the mid section rather than being in the punch position. It is important to maintain your frame and keep arm positions in a functional position.

4. Presence. This is the hardest one. Have you ever seen someone demonstrate kata and seem larger than life regardless of their physical size? They take up space with their presence.

In regards to this particular night and the specific kata Chinto, I was referring to stance... moving on a diagonal, shifting from kosa to seisan and back again, 360 degree turns, scooting and shifting.


Anonymous said...

Nice to come across your post, as I was discussing this same idea in a recent class. I often use words like "Bigger!" "Fill up your space," or "own your territory;" or on less articulate days, "don't scrunch in like that!" Students who are being "too small" are almost always being too tense, hunching shoulders, collapsing chest, biceps so tight their blocks and strikes can't get away from their bodies. (That's assuming of course they aren't just rushing or being careless or incorrect, as in some of your examples.)
You're right- 'Presence' is the hardest to describe, and at the same time it's the key; it's what we're all striving for. The physical foundation for 'presence,' I believe, is simply good posture: standing straight and tall, shoulders down, relaxed, and in a proper stance (which may vary). Once the body is in a strong, relaxed posture, the mind can begin to project a matching level of confidence; movement becomes easier & more natural -- and there's more energy available for it (which again increases confidence); and the performer can begin to fill up and "own" the space.

Felicia said...

Hi, Michele :-)
I agree about presence being a tough one. I know of a few folks that can fill up the space and make their kata seem like it is being done by a giant. It is amazing to witness and quite mesmerizing...

Great post...

Michele said...

Serpentstaff: Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog! I was at a loss for words when describing presence. Your description is excellent...being strong, relaxed and projecting internal confidence outward. Thanks again for sharing.

Thanks Felicia!

SenseiMattKlein said...

Top article Michele! I think the way a person moves through their kata is a very true representation of their skill as a martial artist. Also believe practicing it as if it were an actual fight is a great exercise to build that presence.

Michele said...

Thanks Sensei Klein!

Good point about practicing kata as if it were an actual fight.

Sue C said...

Michele, a great post with some really useful advice for people like me. My instructor is always telling us to stretch out our punches fully and finish techniques properly. He's never expressed it as 'take up more space' but I think it is what he's trying to tell us. It's always helpful to get a new perspective on something and you've just provided that so thank you!

Michele said...

Thanks Sue! I am glad you liked the post. :)

Tom said...

I thought from the standpoint of performing kata it really hit alot of points that we teachers need to express to our students.

Two Comments

1. I have found sometimes video taping my students and having them watch it allows the to see the things we see. Sometimes we can tell a student to fix something and they don't feel things like - not fully extending a technique.

2. Once you get their kata to take up space use 4 6' Bo staffs or just tape and make a box. Tell them they have to do the same kata in the box but still need the same length of stance etc.. Chinto is a perfect kata for this because when I perform with this I use the entire ring, end to end. Being forced to do it in a little area teaches you better balance, footwork and how to adapt. The kata may teach you to kick step in and punch but instead you kick and replace your feet and punch. In "real life you sometimes have to adapt to the surroundings and don't always have "enough" space. If you didn't know how to adapt and still keep a full stance then in the street if you had to use it and could't adjust you will end up too short' too narrow and you will get knocked down. You have to maintain solid basics depite changing environments.

Tom (Michele's husband) 6th Dan and co-owner