Dancing in the Mists

Dancing in the Mists

SEPTEMBER 23, 2007

Today I had a training day for my tribe Dancing Dragon. It was the first such in more than a few months, and no one showed up. That turned out to be good, though, and I was able to crystallize some ideas that had been bouncing around my head.

As I warmed up, a family with some kids wandered nearby. I hate kids, though I'm sure many of them would be tasty with mustard. Their high pitched squealing drowned out all of my half-formed thoughts, so I started doing the most simple thing of which I could think: throw strikes with both swords while moving. Though I've done this exercise many, many times, something about my footwork has always bothered me. Today, I realized what it was; I can never keep up this simple exercise for more than five or six steps without losing my rhythm and being unable to continue smoothly. The first thing I noticed was that I didn't always bring the striking sword around to a striking position; this post-strike whipping motion helped greatly. But I was still losing the foot rhythm.

So I kept at it, trying to see what happened when the continuity broke. I realized that as long as my steps and strikes came from the same side of my body, I could move smoothly. Once I lost that synchronization, my body would stop moving cleanly along with my swords, and I would jerk to a stop. Further analysis revealed the reason why this happened; after striking with the back sword, and moving the back foot forwards, it is now necessary to strike with the same sword to maintain momentum. While it is easy to strike again with the forward sword, it is *not* easy to move the front leg again. So the body naturally tends to move the now back leg forward, at which point synchronization has been lost.

The solution is to move the front leg to the side, as per standard Dancing Dragon footwork. When done in practice, this move becomes the standard Capoeira step, which adds the desired broken rhythm to the footwork. So the swords will move with a *different* rhythm than the feet, which will further confuse the opponent.

Since I had solved one of my longstanding footwork problems, I decided to tackle another: the spin. My Taekwondo training has left me with a deep love of spin moves, since they are both beautiful and deadly. But they have deadly weaknesses as well; you must turn your back on your opponent, and the spin always takes longer than any other move. While sparring, I have found most good opponents will simply back off during the spin, and wait to hit you during one of the turns.

In tournament TKD, there is a move which is designed to counter this. Before going into the actual spinning whip kick, you do this kind of half-hopping back turn while launches into a spinning roundhouse, which sets the opponent up for the whip kick. I never really mastered this move; somehow the timing always seemed wrong to me, even when people said I was doing it correctly (or at least better than the times it felt right to me).

So applying the principle of "same foot same hand", I examined my spin footwork. I would typically step with my leading foot while striking, then my back foot would come forward as that hand struck. At this point I turn my head (and as much of the body as necessary) until I can see the target again, then I move the now back foot forwards again, etc.

This all works quite prettily, but after the first step there is very little forward momentum, since the front and back feet are mostly just stepping across each other. The solution is to make every step into a leap, but especially the step which happens after the head turns. As the head is turning, there is a brief opportunity to shift the front->back foot such that you can leap strongly onto the now front foot. This maintains strong forward momentum. Even more momentum can be achieved if the other forward step also becomes a leap, though this leads to a less stable platform for the strong second strike.

Now that I had solved all of my outstanding footwork problems, I turned to my other goal for today; make a basic form so I will have something to teach which will let people have something to work on when they have no sparring partners. I need to make a series of them, or perhaps several series; the first will teach how to do the proper footwork to link strikes together with both hands. Each form will focus on different strikes. The second series will integrate strikes and blocks, since I want to emphasize that it is always better to strike than to block. The third series will showcase double moves, where the swords are used at the same time rather than sequentially.

Having envisioned this, I went ahead and created the first striking form. It follows the standard I-beam shape of most beginner martial arts forms, and uses only the side strike (fore- and back- handed). For the bow, I stand with feet apart and swords down by my sides, then raise the swords, then spin them in a circle as I drop my right foot back and fall into a fighting stance. From there I move the left foot diagonally back and strike with the left hand, then bring the right foot forwards as I strike with the right hand. Now facing W, I look over my right shoulder, then bring my right foot around 135 degrees clockwise while striking with the right hand. I then bring the left foot forwards and strike left.

From here, look N, and bring L foot N and strike L, R foot R sword. At this point, we have to move the front foot somewhere; I chose to move L, completing the triangle in the DD style. Then continue for a total of 3 double strikes, after which follow the spin for half a turn, then step back into the starting stance.

At this point we are half way done, and the rest of the form consists of doing the same thing from the other side, eventually ending up at the starting position.

The next forms will be similar, but involve the other strikes in a variety of combinations.

I also played briefly with the third tier moves, finding that I could do a variety of double strikes by cocking the swords back at the same time from perpendicular directions. At this point I started getting tired, and decided to come home and write all this down before I forgot it.


Sun, September 23, 2007 - 5:18 PM