When learning a new sport or martial art, your previous experience may help; at other times that experience may hinder you as you have to forget that muscle memory which you spent days, months, or years perfecting. Our class yesterday reinforced how difficult it was to learn a simple movement when another is imprinted on your brain: the little movement of sweeping the side of your foot against the floor in order to execute de ashi harai (advanced foot sweep) is harder than it looks.
De Ashi Harai was developed to take out the lead foot when someone walked forward. On its own it doesn’t look like much: tori doesn’t have to lift uke; tori is in little danger (unless uke knows the counter) as his back isn’t exposed and he is far enough way from uke that there is limited physical contact; uke’s breakfall is not spectacular. Put all the elements together, though, correctly and forcefully, and the throw is a shock to both parties because it happens so smoothly and quickly.
Last night we had four big guys working on this throw. After I explained the individual elements of the throw and then demonstrated the throw on Dave several times, the guys paired up and practiced. The most difficult part of this throw is the sweep. This is not just taking your foot and wiping out uke’s leg; this is coordinating your entire body such that your foot makes contact with his foot and you take him down. This involves sweeping along the floor with the side of your foot, and having a straight leg and a strong hip movement. In addition, with one hand on his lapel and the other on his sleeve, your arms make a turning motion as though you’re driving a bus, in order to torque him over. All of this must happen at once.
The sweeping motion can be difficult to do if your natural reaction is to lift the foot because you played a lot of soccer or hook his foot or calf with your foot or heel because your experience has taught you to take someone to the ground. If you normally would bend your knee doing these movements, having your leg straight and moving your hips in conjunction with that foot and leg would be difficult. These are some of the issues we encountered.
In order to practice the motion of sweeping the side of the foot against the floor and having the hips and straight leg involved in the movement, Dave suggested the guys take small punching pads and kick them across the mats to one another. If the movement is correct the pad whips across the floor smoothly. If done incorrectly, the pad bounces along the mat. In order to move smoothly along the mat, the foot must sweep along the mat, the leg must be straight and the hip coordinated with the leg. After doing this for a few minutes, their sweeps were far better. It’s the little things.
April 18, 2009