Sunday, November 06, 2005

Learning 3-step sparring

I felt like I had a furrowed brow the entire time we practiced 3-step sparring on Saturday. I just have not figured out how to make those moves feel right.

For those of you who are not in martial arts, 3-step sparring sequences are like a combination of forms and sparring. Like forms, they are carefully choreographed, with prescribed movements that one has to memorize. Like sparring, you do them with a partner--or maybe more accurately, against a partner--who is punching at you. You block the punches and then counterattack.

There are lots of these sequences and they're one more thing one has to memorize--now we'll be doing them at tests. They're kind of like prepared speeches, not like regular sparring, which you need to practice, but is basically extemporaneous, to use a word from classical rhetoric (which I'm teaching now). I think I like extemporaneous sparring better. It allows me to use my strenghts: intuition and fast reflexes and allows me to avoid my weakness: memorization.

We worked on them Saturday with Ms. Pryor. We did not just the simplest group ("white belt 3-step sparring") but some others: yellow belt, orange, and green. I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of moves to memorize.

Part of my difficulty with them, I think, is that problem I have with "self-defense." Step sparring sequences are basically self-defense moves against an attacker who's punching at you. I'm not sure I'm ever going to be in a situation where I'm going to need to defend myself against someone who's directly in front of me and punching! There MIGHT be a time, possibly, when I may have to defend myself, but my guess is that person won't be punching at me.

Ms. Pryor worked on doing the moves a bit faster than usual, and she seemed to relish the counterattacks. "Grab the back of his neck, pull down, and smash your knee into his face!"
That's #2, white belt. Yikes. This mentality does not really work for me. It makes me feel like I'm in the wrong place . . .

I worked with Brian A. on Saturday. He really knows the step sparring sequences, and helped me when I felt clumsy. He's a good partner, too, because step sparring seems easier when your partner/attacker is a similar size--he's taller but not too much taller than I am. I told the other Brian that I would never even DO the #2 step sparring on someone of his height (much taller than me) because I'd have no leverage!

I think what I need to do is think of step sparring as choreography, which is how I think of forms. That's what I need to do: find the rhythm, follow the moves, work with my partner. Maybe that will get me through them.

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