In the last article we looked at everyone's favourite practice, with a wide variety of responses. This time it was perhaps a more difficult question: do you have a least favourite practice? I was curious how people would respond and I wanted to challenge everyone to answer, framing the question with "even if you think every practice is awesome, what is the least awesome?". Would responses be along the lines of "I just hate doing X" or would those least favourite practices be people identifying their weak spots. Let's find out. . .
Jamie opted for grappling, partly because it can be an exhausting but also because he finds it less comfortable than maintaining a distance and being able to kick an opponent and use his size. On a similar note, Paul noted that being thrown can be very disconcerting, particularly as he is probably the biggest member of the club. Ross W. also identified this area, saying that takedowns are skill that he feels he struggles with. Ross understands the right techniques, the movement, the timing but bringing it all together is just a challenge.
For very similar reasons, I would say sparring is my least favourite practice. Practised in isolation, I understand the movement, the striking and the parrying and I can see improvement in all three but I really struggle to bring it all together. On a good day, I may be get two of the three skills working at the same time but this will often see me get hit or fail to get past an opponent's defences. It's frustrating!
Paul also finds sticky hands a challenge, and I agree with him on this. We both understand the principle behind but going back again to the notion conscious incompetence, we know what we want to do but struggle to actually make it happen. There have been some light bulb moments when I can feel it working but more often than not, it becomes a strength battle, which if I am against Paul is just not going to work.
Unlike Paul or Jamie, David is not a big guy so he struggles with locks particularly when applying these to a larger opponent. He also points out that as we get older, flexibility becomes an issue and therefore taking some these moves is more taxing on the joints. This is a very good point and emphasises the importance of training at level both you and any partner is comfortable with.
Kata is Ross G's least favourite, partly because he finds find it difficult to remember the sequences and sometimes wonders of the value. Fortunately the practical applications show that there is a purpose and the moves are useful. Kata is interesting one. On a basic level there's knowing the moves of each kata but beyond that there is the purpose of the moves, the body conditioning, understanding the movement. Perhaps it is the most complex practice that we do. That may be a topic worthy of a separate discussion.
So to answer the opening paragraph, pretty much everyone interpreted the question as their weakest skill. It was interesting that whilst the practices may be different, the common theme is that we struggle to bring the various components together in a complete package. Getting the movement, the timing, the position and the technique correct is real challenge. However, as Ross W. pointed out, it is working on those weaknesses that will eventually turn them into strengths.
There is undoubtedly a comfort zone element to practising the things we are good at but does that help us grow as much as working on the things we cannot do? Ross made a good point that while there have been many practices he has struggled with over the years, they have still contributed to improving his overall skill set. I believe that this continuing challenge and to see progress in oneself, is what keeps so many of us coming back week after week, year after year.
Are there any practices that people just do not like? The most frequent answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the breakfall kata. It is undoubtedly valuable practice, but it sure does make the room spin!
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.