Speed and partner drills in the dojo
Doesn’t need to be a dojo, call it what you wish. It’s just a catchall phrase for training done in a structured and safe building, expressly designed for the purpose of training for battle, without being a battle or war. It’s like learning surgery from medical texts and lectures, with some practice on medical dolls and models.
There are two types of speed as I’ve seen in the dojo. Quick extension of the pulley muscles and quick withdraw, with no power projection at the end (touch karate competitions). Quick extension and relaxed withdrawal, but with energy projection. The types beside this aren’t speed, but more like slowness or unpredictable melodies.
When doing partner drills, always be aware that the quality of what you are picking up is partially based on the attack level of your partner. If he doesn’t know how to use lightning quick attacks and they aren’t actually dangerous, you learn to defend against fake attacks or incompetent attacks. So if you try to use that stuff against an enemy, they aren’t going to “fake” it for you. So that is sometimes why skills learned in the dojo don’t translate out in the real world, because when you notice the other guy isn’t acting like your partner did, you start to freeze up and begin an internal debate of “why”. That debate should have been started and ended in the dojo. There’s no point having a practice place if you don’t get quality out of it. Might as well enter the battlefield immediately for experience then.
Also when doing drills such as fixed distance and fixed position sparring, where two people stand at the same distance without closing the gap, and using their techniques at either full power or speed, be careful of allowing an opponent to read your attack patterns and rhythms. A lot of people who are fast, have one timing or melody. People at a higher level, or just people with good reflexes, can adapt to this and start to block or react to your attacks even though they can’t see them or predict them. They notice your telegraphs or they just notice your rhythm. So break up your rhythm and produce telegraphs that are fake, to ensure they can’t figure out where what you are doing based upon their eyesight. Of course if your are incredibly fast and have solid muscle control, they shouldn’t see your moves to begin with and can only see your telegraphs. But if they can’t see your moves to react to them, they aren’t learning much. They learn how to get hit over and over without being able to respond, I guess. Don’t think that’s a good thing from a reflex stand point.
There are a lot of things you can do that will benefit your training partner and vice a versa. For one thing, don’t pose your hand strikes. People are used to this stuff in aikido or other arts like it, where you offer a hand and they take it and then do the technique. Punch towards them and use your hips to pulley back the strike. Don’t let them grab it. Tear out of the grip. If they are new, add a delay to your withdrawal. Increase or decrease the delay based upon how good you think they are and what speed they can safely do the techniques. You may notice that after some time, your partner “stops” just grabbing your hand for a few seconds, and then applying the technique. They apply the technique right as they grab your body, because to do otherwise means you slip out of it.
For people that can read your rhythm, but can’t see your hand strikes, set a 80% max limiter on your speed and keep it at that power and mobility. Here’s a sign that they cannot “see it”, the jab usually. When you stand in front of them at beyond arm’s length, for either side, and you ask them “are you ready to start the punch and defend exercise” and they say “Yes”. Then you do a jab in front of their nose, and they blink and back away like they were surprised, that is a sign they didn’t see your fist coming or moving. That it just “teleported”. Intellectually they know what’s going to happen, but physically they don’t expect it and they don’t see it. If you can maintain this pace without damaging your cold shoulder muscles (this is like air punches in kata, there is no resistance and thus you need to sink the energy somewhere where it doesn’t damage your joints), you can lead your partner into developing a defense rhythm in their reactions. But once you change your attacking rhythm and your speed is no longer exactly at 80%, they will start missing again. Their reactions will be either too fast or too slow. This is the result of the usage of their eyes. A sustained speed is good for training a person’s reflexes and physical coordination. An unpredictable tempo forces them to stick to their center line defense and avoid using their eyes.
There are 8 lines a sword attack can come from and 1 point attack, in the center. The human eye should be looking within the circle, but not directly at any of the lines, instead using movement to detect what kind of attack it is and where it will come from. It is relatively easy to test whether your opponent is using their eyes. Just go at your full 100% speed, using a direct line of attack like a stab or a jab. They won’t be able to see it in time or react, and will be surprised. If they are using center line and motion detection, they will react as soon as movement is detected. They may not deflect your line attack, but they will react in time.
If your 100% speed is slow, meaning when you do a jab in mid air and you cannot pull your finger out using the force at the end, then you can’t produce the results necessary for your partner to be tested. Same is true vice a versa. Hence, in partner drills, the quality of your “partner” and their control or lack of control, directly affects your rate of growth and your quality.
You can develop the various types of timings in a simple two man drill between one fixed defender and one fixed attacking using a limited assortment of techniques or attack lines. If you attack them, they have to time their defense against the specific attack. Because if they move to defend against Attack A, while you’re still moving, you can merely change Attack A to Attack B and thus evade or avoid their defense at a time when you are too close for them to change their position. So a first strike or attack launched before your opponent realizes it, is when you are so fast that you attack without a telegraph and the defender can’t defend react and use a defense at all. Second timing might be called act second, arrive first. Meaning you wait for the defender to pick a defense, and then you change your attack line/direction so that even though you acted late, your response time was shorter than theirs and your attack arrived before their defense arrived. Often times the defender has to learn to time their defenses, not just their attacks, to be explosive. They have to wait until the last millisecond to dodge or move or use a defensive posture.
Very high level defenders can adapt their timing and their defenses to a millisecond level if their body coordination is good. The same is true of high level attackers. In a dojo without any high level defenders or attackers… you can’t really get much out of two partner drills. And certainly not if it is two partners sparring or doing a pattern in a kata. If you can’t even do it while standing still or in empty air, how are you going to do it when two people are moving around randomly? It gets too complicated and people waste time practicing at a level they aren’t ready for yet. They don’t have any partners with the sufficient skill or competence or ability, to use the training format to its fullest potential.
To give one solid example that Rory Miller used, a jodan strike from high above can be deflected at the last moment and countered with a 45 degree evasion and using the defending sword’s deflected momentum to counter attack using a jodan strike. But if the attacker notices that your sword is getting ready for that deflection, he’ll just pull the blow and stab you with a direct line attack as you move your sword to a jodan high counter. That’s because the only reason the defender has the time for the counter is because the 45 degree deflection for a jodan strike does not stop it, it just lets it slide off into the ground. And trying to recover your sword line after doing a powerful strike using gravity, takes awhile. But it doesn’t take very long if the attacker notices what you are doing and pulls his blow to his hara and doesn’t just slice down with his upper torso. Now the attacker is ready on his counter, or second attack, before your counter can hit.
Video for visual awareness. Starts at :47 seconds.
The Japanese split pants is very good at hiding the movements of the legs, so enemies can’t read your next movement by where your legs are going. But it’s horrible to teach students with, because they have no idea where your feet are, so they often have huge problems synchronizing upper body movements with lower body. A swordsman or hand to hand user that keeps stumbling over their legs, there’s no point to them learning hand techniques at the time. They need to fix upper with lower together first, at least so they can figure out what is correct synchronization for feet + arms in one technique. It doesn’t matter what technique we’re talking about, could be aikido, Taiji, kenjutsu, kendo, or boxing. One technique first. Start with that as the base. A lot of schools teach this form and then another form, and then 15 forms later, what has the students been spending their time on? Practicing the wrong thing, at the wrong time, looking at the wrong things on the instructor. The ancient karate lines always did try to reduce the amount of forms learned. One form, one year, after 1st dan (black belt). There was a reason for that, since a form or kata has several dozens of techniques in it and maybe even hundreds of variations and applications. There wasn’t any point teaching a person a technique, when their foundation was cracked. Even if you build a house on a cracked foundation, you’re just going to have to tear it down and fix the foundation eventually after the house starts tilting.
Well, that’s enough text for people who like martial arts that are also attention deficit labeled.