Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hanasu vs. shichihon

Lately, we’ve been working on Hanasu– the wrist releases – in greater detail, trying to really get that ‘releasing’ feeling. We’ve all been doing great, and I’ve been tweaking little details, “This time do it this way… Good, but think about this… What if we try it like this…” and then I realized that I was bringing elements into Hanasu that we usually practice in the other fundamental release kata, Shichihon no kuzushi (the 7 fundamentals of offbalance). So, what is the difference between Hanasu and Shichihon?
Superficially, Hanasu includes eight techniques and Shichihon contains seven. Looking a little deeper, Hanasu includes four releases and four backup ideas in case those first four go in an unexpected direction. Shichihon repeats those first four releases from Hanasu, with a different emphasis, and adds three new releases.
What is the different emphasis? Hanasu is mostly about evasion, blending, and synchronization, while Shichihon is more about timing and direction and extension of specific offbalances. It is possible to do either kata emphasizing any of the ideals from either exercise, but in normal practice, each has its own set of things that it teaches. Each of these two exercises contains a different piece of the puzzle. The pieces of the puzzle begin being put together in the chains, where we evade, blend, synch, and watch for proper times and directions to extend uke into weakness.
So why the different emphasis in Shichihon? Because of the first two new releases being inside you don’t have the safety margin like you do on the outside releases so you have to do something (kuzushi) to slow uke down and sap some of his potential while you are releasing. The rest of the kata is a timing progression. That is, the first 2 techniques are timed off of the first footfall, the next two are timed off of the second footfall, the next two are timed off of the third footfall, and the 7th technique is just plain too late.
We used to spend the first 1-2 years of our practice working almost exclusively with the releases in Hanasu, then we would practice the releases in Shichihon but in less detail. Since about Y2K, practicing the chains has brought some of these higher-level ideas back into the kyu ranks, but I want to start doing a little more work on the Shichihon ideas.
We are going to be alternating the release kata that we use for warmup – one class we’ll warmup with Hanasu (emphasizing evasion and blending and synch) and the next class Shichihon (emphasizing timing and direction and extension). We should be able to see pretty soon if this will help us to move toward that vague, elusive ideal ‘release’ feeling in more of our motions and techniques.

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