Thought For The Week

"The Correction Rut"

By Michael Mackey, Yon-Don - Midtown Karate Dojo

Many times you will come on the deck before class and find dedicated students "Just doing it" - working out hard, performing many repetitions of kata, building up endurance and strength.  Once class begins they are perfect disciples of the edict, "Keep training."  The only problem is that months and years later many of the same bad habits persist. Indeed, they have become ingrained, justified as expressions of personality.  While performing kata as a group no two students look the same.  When Kyoshi visits his corrections evoke deja vu -  "Fix the stance...  Fist in the pocket...   Balance after the kick" - simply because we're not doing it right. What's happening?  The spirit is phenomenal, the loyalty strong, the attendance high.  So why the same corrections over and over like a broken kabuki record? Perhaps we're satisfied to just "hear" the correction because it indicates the instructor is paying attention to us, or that we have something to work on.  Implementing the correction - permanently - falls by the wayside or is squashed by excuses:  "I'm working around an injury...  My body's not built that way...  That doesn't work for me...." The following are some tips for getting past the correction rut:

(1)  Pay attention.  If the correction is simply to motivate you ("Get lower!") that's fine.  But if it's about technique - placement, mechanics, principles ("You're elbow is sticking out like a chicken wing") watch it like a hawk.

(2)  Work on only one correction at a time.  The more advanced you think you are the longer it will take you to make even one simple change.

(3)  Silently critique your training partners and  instructors. See if they too are doing the move incorrectly.  Learning to detect improper technique in others is an invaluable fighting skill.

(4)  Shift the focus from practicing everything you're already good at.  You will make more progress if you concentrate on your flaws, especially those you consider trivial.

(5)  Train with a brand new white belt to experience beginner's mind.  Recognize their enormous capacity (something you once had) to incorporate changes.

(6)   Embrace the traditional taboo against receiving the same correction more than once.  In classical dojo (adult classes) repeated corrections are a mortal embarrassment to both teacher and student.

(7)  Research the validity of the correction.  Cross-examine different sources within the organization:  technique of the week bulletins, reference tapes, text books.  Explore every secret, high level, esoteric interpretation to justify your doing the move differently, then go back to the simple truth.  When a student asks, "What's the REAL purpose of a chest block?" you can say without equivocation, "To block an attack to the chest."  Hopefully you'll be able to demonstrate the technique as well.

Repetitive movement is critical for proficiency in the martial arts.  But repetitive corrections are precisely the opposite:  they become stale, resented and eventually ignored.  It is a problem that only gets worse with seniority, yet impacts on every beginner looking to us for guidance and example.

Arigato Gozaimasu, Kyoshi
Michael Mackay, Yon-Dan

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