Not only one of my all-time favourite albums by the mighty Fear Factory (I strongly suggest you listen to it if you’re into Metal in any way), but also a word that’s been in my head lately when I think about my Tang Soo Do training.
For me, training seems to go in cycles, ones which have happened enough times now for me to recognise and acknowledge them. I’m at a point now where I’m looking at everything I do and pulling it to pieces, and this is due in no small part to the new teaching changes which see Sunday evenings focusing on the lower gup syllabus. We’ve been taking apart a lot of the stuff I first learned years ago, the building blocks of the art, and it’s really making me think about how I do them, and making me want to greatly improve these parts. I touched on it in my last post here, but introducing Shin Chook (tension and relaxation) into things I do automatically now such as the first few il soo sik dae ryun, makes them feel very different – but at the same time very familiar. A bit like the first time you put your favourite jeans on after washing them.
I do a lot of my best thinking and analysing of what I do in the kitchen these days. While I’m cooking meals I’m constantly working through moves, combinations, forms – anything and everything basically – and since tearing those basics apart and starting to rebuild them into a better, stronger version of what they were I’ve begun to look at everything and question my execution. Am I putting a full amount of hip into high blocks? Nope. Am I STILL not locking my back leg out in a front stance after years of practise? Yep. Are my shoulders and hips square when I perform a simple choong dan kong kyuk? Not on your life.
I’ve also started looking at the various moves and turns in the forms, and trying to decide on what the applications could be. We learn this sort of thing in our lessons, and every man and his (computer-literate) dog can look up ‘bunkai’ on youtube, but personally I feel there’s a lot of value in trying to work it out for myself. I don’t believe for a second that there’s a single intended application for every movement during the hyung, so putting an imaginary opponent(s) around you and deciding how you might use or adapt a sequence is mentally challenging and really interesting; to me at least. I realise just how pretentious this could all sound, but I don’t care .
I imagine this all sounds pretty familiar to a lot of practitioners of classical martial arts, especially those who have an active interest in it and don’t just go through the motions and switch off once they get home. At least I hope so, I’m not that odd am I? It’s one of the cycles I mentioned at the start. Every so often I think ‘Hey, you know what, I’m really beginning to get this now’, only to be made to look at what I’m doing and then think ‘Just how badly have I been doing that??’. I remember a few weeks after I started training in Tang Soo Do thinking ‘I wonder if it gets boring once you get to Dan grade and know how to do everything?’. Oh how wrong could I have been?? I know now that the learning and improving never ends, and in a way it’s a very reassuring thing. It’s nice to know that in 5, 10, or even 50(!) years time I’m still going to be looking at what I’m doing and trying to make it better in some way.
I’m doing it again now, thinking too much. I was just re-reading what I’ve written and started thinking about the forms and applications. A lot of what we do is derived from Chinese kung-fu styles, which got me wondering about what their applications for the forms involved. The use of huri (hip) in the movements is a very TSD thing, and when I think about some of the throws and re-directions in the forms (low blocks, high blocks etc), I wonder how practical they’d be without that efficient use of body weight transferral that the hip movement affords us. I can’t imagine it was designed with brute force in mind, so was there a completely different intention for those motions or does it work without the huri?….
*That paragraph above is pretty much a stream of consciousness as it came. That’s what it’s like in my brain most of the day when I’m not concentrating on something else, it’s no wonder it takes me so long to get to sleep*