First let me say that my background comes from traditional Okinawan Karate and some Tae Kwon Do. As an instructor, my classes typically start out with a warm-up and exercise session that’s going to both challenge and strengthen the entire body. In a class designed to last about 1 ½ hours we’re going to warm-up and exercise for at least 30 minutes and mostly at the beginning of the class. The warm will mostly consist of the following:
Stretching for flexibility
At the completion of the warm-up I typically like to give my students a short break for water, longer breaks if the weather is hotter. Once the break is over we typically start our training with a review of the basic skills need to build a strong foundation in the martial arts. We start with a review of stances, followed by basic punches, blocks and kicks. One of my goals with this approach is to make sure that my students develop a mastery of the foundation techniques, by repeating them over and over again. Our system has a total of 15 required stances and a few other that are only taught to advanced students.
Stance 1 Attention Stance
Stance 2 Bowing Stance
Stance 3 Natural or Relaxed Stance
Stance 4 Riding Stance
Stance 6 Forward Leaning Stance
Reviewing the first five or six basic stance is mostly for beginning students, but I’ve learned that advanced students sometimes get careless in their stances which sets the stage for poor instruction as they advance to instruct future students.
Once our review of the basic stances are complete, I will divide my class in two groups to make sure that my more advanced students are given the opportunity to review the more complicated stances. Typically, one of my black belt or brown belt senior students will lead this group through the rest of the stances. At higher levels, my students are given more of the practical martial history of why and how to use the stance in traditional form practice and if necessary in real life situations.
After we complete our review of stances we move on to drill practice. We begin with our five basic blocks, high block, middle block, low block, push away block and back hand block. Each block is taught on both sides of the body and taught with both movement and counters. I often will remind my students that the focus of blocking is mostly defense but hard blocks can do serious damage when targeted correctly. I must add that teaching blocks without teaching counters sets up the illusion that highly skilled individuals can block their way out of a fight. In reality, it’s the counters that must be drilled over and over again until they become second nature of delivered with the principal of action without thought. In other words the skill of countering becomes an automatic reflex that follows any and every block. Some of our basic combinations are low block punch, high block punch and of course middle block punch. At times I will teach these combinations from a relaxed stance position but often I will vary the stances and the counters to add variety.
Next week we will review punching and kicking.
Sensei Terry Young