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Kihon: general or specific?

The most fundamental pieces of your art/system that you practice all the time - should they be very general-purpose, generic, and abstract or very specific, detailed, and concrete?
The more generalized you make your kihon, the more things they can potentially be applied to later.  The more specialized you make your kihon, the fewer things you can apply them to later.
For example - the wrist releases that we do in aikido.  You can view these things as defenses against wrist grabs, in which you get behind them, countergrab, twist just so, and then put a cool technique on them.  Or you can view these releases as simply diffusing the immediate threat by getting out of their way and putting your hands between you and them.  This second, more general form can easily be modified on the fly, in the moment, to become countless cool techniques if you need to do that, but the first form, in order to become something else, has to first have the coolness and the twisting and the countergrab stripped off of it.
Another example - Taikyoku - the universal fundamentals kata in karate - generally the first kata karate guys do, is comprised completely of turns (either 90 or 180 degrees), sweeping down-blocks, and lunge punches.  You can think about these movements as down-blocks for attacks coming from the side and lunge punches, but then once you get that idea ingrained in your mind, it's harder to change it so that you can use the down block as a hair pull or the lunge punch as a push or reverse uppercut, etc...  On the other hand, you can think of this kata as turning and extending your arm in front of your body in a sweeping motion and weight shifting and extending the other arm in front in a pushing motion.  Now, all of a sudden you no longer have to un-think the downblock and lunge punch in order to make those body mechanics something else.
One more example - in judo we tend to begin every class with a few rounds of strolling across the mat with a partner, touching or picking up their foot with your foot on every step .  Usually we informally think of this as uchikomi for deashibarai, but if you start to think about it as only deashi your body starts to subtly and unconsciously soldiify in a structure that would allow you to throw deashi.  But it turns out that this motion is also useful as okuriashibarai, harai TK ashi, hizaguruma, etc... as well as illustrating the timing that you need to be able to step into every other throw that exists!  So, if you just put in the reps, making the motion, thinking about being in synch and touching his foot, almost as if your foot is just an antenna that you are using to verify the status of his balance and weight distribution - That can be used for anything!  But the harder you try to make it work as deashi, the harder it will be to get anything else out of it.
I suppose it's kinda obvious that I prefer generalized, almost abstract kihon over special-purpose kihon.
Patrick Parker

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