Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Walking over the hill

Photo courtesy of JommeV
This month's dojo theme is evasion – getting out of the way. In a previous post I talked about how we typically teach to fall out of the way, letting gravity take over and power our movement instead of trying to lunge out of the way under our own feeble, inconsistent power. Well, it turns out that there is an exception to this idea of falling out of the way.
Take a slow walk across the room using a normal gait and watch what happens. You are always in one of four conditions:
  • standing on right foot, falling toward left foot
  • standing on left foot, falling toward right foot
  • your right foot just hit and is stuck, but your momentum is still carrying you toward your right
  • your left foot just hit and is stuck, but your momentum is still carrying you toward your left

The first two conditions occupy most of the time in your walking cycle, and these are the conditions under which it is appropriate to fall out of the way. For instance, if you are attacked when you are standing on your right foot falling toward your left foot, then you just extend that left footstep and fall out of the way.

But what about the second two conditions. If your right foot has just hit and is stuck but your momentum is still carrying you rightward, you can't easily unstick that right foot to move. (This is the condition that Dan Prager mentioned in his comment to the previous post.) To solve this problem, you have to do the evasion by stepping with your unweighted foot toward your weighted side. If you practice this several times, you'll get the feeling that you are stepping over a hill (your stuck foot being the hill).
This is the type of evasion used in the first 180 degree turn in the walking kata (Tegatana no kata) as well as the type of evasion taught in the first and second wrist releases (Hanasu).
It turns out that this walking over the hill step is actually faster and more efficient than the falling out of the way step - stay tuned for more on walking over the hill.
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