Wednesday, May 2, 2012


That's for Ippon Kumite waza ku, which, for a looooong time, was the bane of my existance.

Our ippons are simple one-step defenses from a straight punch. Number nine involves stepping back into a long stance with a high block before stepping in, "shearing" the carotid arteries and clasping the hands behind the uke's neck to squeeze said arteries. Next comes pulling the uke's head into your shoulder to both disorient and set up for a knee or two to the thighs or mid-section (whatever is available). Once your adversary is nice and woozie (remember, those carotids are still being squeezed), there is a release that is more like a slight push followed immediately by a double palm strike to the crook of the shoulders. It is quite beautiful in a violent sort of way when done correctly. When I did it, however, it looked like a sad, sad mess. Let's just say it more resembled the karate by the numbers that fellow blogger Michele discussed than it should have...

Part of the problem was that I learned it as an underbelt was totally different than the way I described above. It always seemed really awkward and ineffective in a "I would never do this technique in a million years" kind of way - because it was really awkward and ineffective. Always off balance when setting up for the knee strikes, I had to rely on physical strength, which meant it probably wouldn't have work for me on someone even slightly bigger/stronger. Because I hated it so, I worked it only in preparation for gradings when I'd need to show that I had a basic understanding of it, which I guess I faked very well. As soon as the grading was done, I stuffed it waaaay to the back of my toolbox and forgot it was there until the next grading was coming up. I know, I know...

But in the last few weeks, we've worked all the Ippons quite a bit in class as Sensei has helped us prep for our grading later this month by getting us to tweak and refine them so they are both sharp and effective. We all know they are just simple defenses/set-ups for other techniques from just one type of punch, but that set-up is where the good stuff begins. I see that now and it makes complete sense in a way it didn't use to before.

I always use to wonder why I needed to learn a lousey technique like number nine just for show. If I couldn't use it effectively, then what was the point? Trust me, I asked those questions when I was learning this technique at my old school way back when, but they were never really answered. Instead, it was communicated that the technique wasn't what was ineffective, but that the way I was doing it was. Back then, it WAS ineffective FOR ME. The adjustments that were made to make it a whole lot less of a strength-based technique helped me understand and actually learn to like it. Yep, the light bulb finally illuminated.

In these last few weeks, I think I've done this technique about 300 times. It is flowing much, much better, but I had to break it apart and slow it way down to make that happen - and I mean r-e-a-l-l-y slow. Last night in class, I had an "a-ha!" moment doing Ippon #9, which lead to doing it as close to smooth as I've ever done before - finally! - although that "OMG! I'm doing it!" feeling left as quickly as it came. One out of 300 is a pretty jacked-up average, I admit, but it is a start. That little glimmer of light gives me hope - and confidence to keep trying to work and eventually perfect it.

"Excellence isn't an accident, but a habit," educator Marva Collins said. "The thing you do most will be the thing you do best." Back to the shed to make number nine that habit I go.


  1. Good post. Journeyman wrote on just that subject, too.

    Back in my hapkido days there were quite a few of those "i will never use this" techniques. someday I'll have to go back and see if I can have an "ah-ha!" moment too.


    1. That was a cool post by Journeyman - like it a lot! Totally discarding "the bad" (or what doesn't work) is one way to have an art morph into something else entirely, I'm sure...

  2. Nice post Felicia!

    The dojo spent most of Wednesday night working on jumping techniques within kata/kobudo. I hate jumping...probably because I tore my ACL after landing a jump in bo/bo. My glimmer of hope...the next morning my knee didn't ache. Progress!

    1. Hooray for the non achy post jumping workout knee, Michele!