Training Diary: Weeks 10 and 11

Crushed in week 10 in more ways than one. Some aches and pains from rolling. It can be quite painful for me to have both my shoulders pushed down flat to the mat. Apparently this doesn’t happen for other people so I’ll let you know if it becomes an issue. Getting to the point in rolling where beginner’s luck is wearing off a bit because I now have more than 3-4 techniques and the element of doubt and lack of repetitions is starting to come in as a potential stumbling block. Oh well, that’s progress I guess.

Some exercises about maintaining and returning to guard too, which is useful but some more complicated techniques made me consider that the way I am learning grappling is pretty different to the way I (as someone who has practised taekwon-do for over ten years) would teach a new student. In the grappling class, we have rarely covered over the same technique twice, nor spent time to establish basic transitions or basic positions. Half the time  I have no idea where to put my hands and I am basically self teaching myself how to protect my neck from being grabbed into a choke and self teaching myself how to get out of those chokes. The chokes seem to be used frequently by my opponents which suggests they are a high percentage technique compared to arm or leg locks.

Where this differs from how Taekwon-do students are usually taught is that in Taekwon-do the student starts with basic stances, basic ways of moving between those stances and moving back and forward, to posture in such a way as to discourage attacks (high guard) and a handful of techniques. The beginner Taekwon-do student is lucky to learn turning kick, most of the time they stick to their basic punches and front kick only until they are proficient enough to move on. The contrast to the grappling lesson is marked as the number of techniques I am being shown is sometimes boggling and I find it hard to break some of them down into easy to remember bytes. Then, when I use a technique in that session, I am unlikely to practise it again and may only roll live once per week so am slow to add new non-instinctual moves into my innate arsenal. It could have something to do with the different complexity of the arts (I doubt a grappler could get far knowing only three techniques) but also something to do with the small size of the group I chose to join. I like having a small group for a number of reasons but I do wonder what grappling would be like if with other beginners, I drilled some basic transitions or techniques over and over on rote until we built up a basic syllabus of confidence. No matter. I have no specific goals in learning grappling so I can’t be worrying too much about method or progress. Every honest method shows its advantages eventually.

Some more trial sessions of Taekwon-do and an icebreaker social. Some ups and downs but demonstrated a pattern for the entire class to explain what patterns are which went well (Eui-Am) as well as took a warm-down after one session. Did some sparring as well, which was broadly positive but mixed. My instincts were still not back but I managed to consciously knit things together a bit better than last time. Still some issues with response times, being a bit one-handed in punching and not having the combinations ready to go but timing with the hands was ok and I managed to use my feet to keep distance more than anything which is good as I am not always perfect at that. After going on about front kick in the last paragraph, I must admit it might be my seasonal fad at the moment for creating distance. I tend to spring as quick as I can into a long pushing-type kick which many people seemed to only be able to defend by full on backing off from. If this kick can set up the head kicks I am having a flirtation with, then things could go well. Even so, putting the basics back together would be great as the days when I had so many hand techniques ready to go straight off my front leg side kick are a bit hazy right now.

The instructor talked to me about grading with the school. I would very much like to do that as the grading examiner is a very famous and important master (someone I have been a fan of long before I met him) and it would be very prestigious. However, their gradings would require a number of breaks I have never practised, not to mention a flying overhead break which is very difficult for me. If I graded with them I would really have to focus on 1st degree black belt rather than anything close to my current rank. Would I accept a lower rank off a famous instructor? It’s an interesting proposition. Why not? The point is the challenge. Even so, if they don’t focus on breaking in the lessons (no time spent on it last year), then I’ll have zero chance taking part. Inviting someone to a grading is nice but unless you are going to train them for the test they face, it’s really a waste of time. The reality is that the syllabus I came up through is just not the same – here the breaking really is the belt test and nothing else matters nearly as much. I doubt it will come to anything and the instructor seemed to think it was a shame but we have to be realistic and I am at a stage where the responsibility to decide these things is on me, not him. I am flattered to even talk about it though. It’s nice to think that he might think I’m better than I think I am and even nicer to be included with the indigenous students. They have been good to me here in many ways.

In the second week at grappling some techniques from half guard and some repetition of how to break posture and work space between you and the opponent and get to your side. If I can even do that next time I am in half, I will be happy. Seems much more grounded than the previous week’s training so I am right not to let my thought run away with me.

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