Working footwork from various Kata tonight with a focus especially on Shisochin, not necessarily on getting the stances right or making everything look correct, but focusing more on directions of movement, angles, Embusen of the Kata.
If the correct floor plan is followed then everything else seems to fall into place, but there is always far more to it than that as it is pretty easy just to go through the angles enough times that it becomes second nature.
I remember quite a long time ago I was sitting on a Testing Board at the Evergreen Learning Center and there was this guy testing for his second or third strip on his Green Belt, he was rather small, rather timid, a lot like I was at one time.
Dascenzo Sensei always had a way of taking people out of their comfort zones and this one time was no exception as he had me go out and check this guy's techniques, his posture during Kata, but more than that, it seemed Sensei wanted to test his Spirit, put it through some fire and draw it out.
"David," he said, "we are going to break with Tradition a little bit." Interesting, I thought, I wondered where this was going and who, exactly, was Sensei going to test? This guy? Me? Both? "Jyu Kumite." was all he said and I nodded in understanding as my entire mind seemed to drop and steady with eyes refocused on the guy in front of me... Bare knuckles and all-out... Poor guy, I thought, but I held back a little bit... Gave a loud Kiai to frighten him as I rushed in.
Eventually he did start to push back as I goaded him, which was fine, that is what Sensei wanted, to see him come out of his shell and, what is more, to see him stop focusing on the belt and start focusing on what was right in front of him... To bring his mind, body, and spirit to one razor sharp point.
With each blow he was going harder, faster, and stronger, but I had been practicing Saifa each day about fifteen to twenty times a day as a special focus for myself and it seemed to just take over, no thought, my body followed the footwork, got me out of the way and sent elbows into his back as his momentum carried him forward to the places in which I had been standing.
Afterwards I was approached by a Russian man from a group of people that had been watching the test saying, "I really like how you moved, how did you do that??" I honestly was not even thinking about it, just said thank you, and lots' of practice.
In the beginning I had simply trusted my training, and in that moment I had given over to my training and allowed it to come out, my mind was one pointed, weight dropped through my whole body with each strike, as it does in the Kata, so weight was kept underside.
It is so easy to get caught up in what something may or may not mean that we simply forget to trust our training and we lose sight of what we are actually doing.
It is great to drill things out of Kata so that they might sink in better, but one thing Sensei always told me, "You think too much!" and "The only Zen on the Mountain is the Zen you take with you," which basically means that I think too much.
So back to the footwork... Focusing less on 'stances' and more on the Embusen, that is one way we can word it, but to go even deeper and say that it is better to focus on the shifting back and forth, the feel of the whole thing in constant motion, from quick, to slow, to quick again.
There are no real stops, it is like the tide on a beach, it breaks the shore, moves back out, and breaks the shore again... Wilder Sensei says not to be a returning wave and to understand the strategy of 'Nori Nami' or the returning wave... It is right there in Kata if we just stop thinking too much for even a single minute and focus on what we are doing, that is, if what we are doing is correct.