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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Follow the steps… don’t forget the music

Do you remember dance steps diagrams? Learning how to dance by following footprints on the floor? So easy…just follow the steps…. Right foot, left foot, slide. Step back. Makes sense, especially for the visual learners (like me!). But could you imagine learning this way without having any music to go along with it?  The music brings sense and meaning to the steps. Without a good beat you have no way of knowing how fast to go, where to pause, where to slow down, where to put emphasis. There is no rhythm. So while you have all the right steps, you completely miss the essence and the meaning of the dance. Dancing is all about rhythm. It’s about expressing the music in a physical way.

Those thoughts came to me after watching a sandan testing (3td black belt) in a martial arts that shall remained unnamed. You’d think at this level you would see some great martial arts performances. Well I did not. Frankly I found it pretty appalling. If those people would have been testing in our dojo, they would not have made it pass a yellow belt.

But I started looking closer at the participants and all the steps were there but the way the techniques were performed made no sense. The emphasis was put on the wrong part, the rhythm was missing, and the technique lost its meaning, its efficacy.  There is no way this would have worked against any sort of resistance. And against a real attack, they would have gotten killed. If their partner was not taking a fall for them, they would have never been thrown. They made it all look so very magical…. here I am holding your wrist so very delicately and you will go flying across the mats…. I can throw you with my mind…. I have news for you,,, you are NOT River (from Firefly). Frankly it would have taken magic to throw me this way… or a miracle.

Similarly to learning to dance without music, those students had learned the steps of the techniques without having learned good sound basic principles. Good fundamentals bring sense and function to techniques. With good biomechanics you can sneeze and put a guy through a wall. Without it, you sneeze on a guy and you just might get yourself put through a wall.

Truly I cannot entirely blame those students. It is the teacher’s fault to have failed to instill the true essence of the techniques, failed to teach principles. They are teaching techniques that have never been tested in the field. They really have no way of knowing if they work or not, and most importantly why the techniques will fail them at a crucial time.
Students your responsibility is to find a teacher that will not teach you to dance without music.

Be smart, stay safe.

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