When polishing the mirror, one is refining technique. You have the big dots connected. You know the basic look and shape of the kata. Now it is time to dig deeper, study further.
Recently our new sensei (Chris) came back with another member of the club from a two week intensive training session with Toby Threadgill. What he brought back were subtle tips and pointers to further our understanding of each of the kata in the Shoden Mokuroku (first level of the curriculum). Each time we get together for training, sensei is going over some of these tips.
I am finding these training sessions very enlightening and exciting. We remarked with one another how we had been over-thinking some of the techniques. Now they seemed simpler but more effective. However, these tips would be meaningless to someone new to the martial art. There is assumed knowledge in these new pointers. It is refinement of our current technique. Someone completely new would take the advice in the wrong way or simply not know what it meant.
Bits of the puzzle are starting to fit together for me now. Certain principles keep appearing throughout the different sets of kata. Some movements are similar. Others that appeared similar are now obviously different and teaching a different lesson within the same set. This seems logical. Why have two kata teaching the same thing in the same set?
As a group we are entering an interesting crossroads where we have the step by step instructions for beginning students but we are moving forward with our own training and Toby is refining what we do. Sometimes Chris would ask Toby which the right way for doing a technique was? This or that? Toby would say both. One is how it is done for beginners, the other a more advanced version.
Chris was able to go through the entire Shoden syllabus while away, refining, questioning and adapting. So far we have looked at the first kumitachi set, the sword disarms and defence against sword disarms. I had to miss one other session due to family commitments.
I look forward to the next training session as he goes over more of his notes from Hombu.