Thursday, April 3, 2014

Don't Blink.

    To me, it is a crime that, until recently, Doctor Who has been a relatively unknown property in the United States.  I remember watching random serials from the fourth and fifth doctors showing up on PBS when I was a kid, mostly leaving only vague memories of Tom Baker's scarf, the oddity of what appeared to be a cave girl (Leela) crawling around in a spaceship, the brilliant absurdity that is a Dalek, or the wonders of a tin dog (K-9). Truthfully, I had even less memories of Peter Davison, and merely recalled his clothing and the fact that he was the same guy as Tom Baker in a new body, or something like that.  It is only with the relaunch of the series with the Ninth Doctor, the availability of BBC America, and the development of internet connections that make streaming video truly viable that The Doctor has finally made a lasting impact on this side of the pond, and that is good thing for scifi fans in the States.  I have made it a personal quest to watch every serial, and while I have seen the entire run from Eighth through Eleventh, I have only thus far made it from the First Doctor to mid-way through the Fourth Doctor in the original series, and am looking forward to more.
     One of the staples of Doctor Who has always been its imaginative, strange, visually striking, and sometimes downright creepy villains and monsters.  The greatest Doctor Who villain will always be the Dalek, despite what any polls might say, but I'll admit that due to being a more modern fan, David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor, will probably always be my favorite doctor (although I do put Baker and Troughton and numbers 2 and 3 on my list) and as such, his run has left me with some of my favorite villains as well.  At the top of the list of "modern" Doctor Who villains has to be the Weeping Angels

For those not in the know, the Weeping Angels are out to get you, and can be any statue that you see. Their only weakness is that they can't move if anyone is watching them.  All you have to do to be safe is simple: don't blink. Any child who ever engaged in a staring contest can tell you exactly how easy that isn't. This concept has made for some really great episodes in the tenures of both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, but "Blink" is still definitely among the best.
     Okay, those of you who aren't Whovians (shame on you) bear with me, I am going somewhere with this. I have been struggling to convey to my students the best way to develop "snap", "pop", and precision in their technique for quite some time now.  I have also struggled with students who can't seem to sit or stand still, and consistently fidget, and have stressed the importance of stillness over the last several months.  It seems as if "be still" is an alien concept to some of them, but it is slowly sinking in.  We have even worked through some of the less complex equations of elementary physics and learned that accelerating our mass more quickly while decreasing the total distance traveled between our technique and our target has the result of generating more force, more work, and more power.  Somehow the concept of getting from one place to another efficiently was still being lost, though.  I stumbled upon a teaching technique just today that I will be using more often in the future.  I have dubbed it "The Hyung of the Weeping Angel."
     The concept is actually a rather simple one, much as the concept of the Weeping Angel itself is simple.  I expect the students to perform each move with blinding speed, as accurately and as efficiently as possible, but then to stop all movement to the point of becoming a statue.  While this only works after a student has been taught the correct transitions between movements as well as the starting and ending positions, it does work.  Students' focus, timing, snap, and even attitude all got better.  As I continued, I began to tell the students that they had to complete the movement in the space of time it took me to blink.  At first I would kihap to initiate the movement, and blink slowly, expecting them to have transitioned from one movement to another while my eyes were closed, and expecting all movement to stop when my eyes opened.  Later on, the blinks became faster.  Anyone caught moving while my eyes were open was told, and eventually the blinks were too fast for the students to keep up, but it still became a valuable and fun exercise.  When working with smaller groups, I would even forgo the kihaps altogether, and would instead have students focus on me.  They would have to move as soon as they saw my eyes close, and be completely still when they opened.  While this did shift their focus away from themselves, it still conveyed the message of quick movements with snap and power being necessary, and increased the energy and dynamism of their hyung.
     It occurs to me now that I have seen this type of movement expressed before. I clearly remember a speech being given by Grandmaster Shin during one of the many Regional Black Belt Camps I attended over the years.  Actually, that isn't true.  I'm not sure I can remember the content at all, but I can remember what happened during that speech.  Grandmaster Shin went from a casual speaking posture to executing a textbook Tang Soo Do side kick and back to his casual position again with what I could only describe as the speed of thought.  I don't even think I did blink, and to this day I can tell you that my eyes were unable to register the motion between his foot being on the ground and being fully extended, as well as not seeing any motion as the kicking leg returned to the ground. Having seen that one side kick still inspires me today, and remains one of the most memorable experiences in my martial arts career.
     Some of you may not believe that this type of motion is possible without seeing it with your own eyes. Or perhaps I should say not seeing it.  To those people I present one Rika Usami.  She has her critics, as all sport oriented martial artists do, but I maintain that she must be a hybrid of human and Weeping Angel.   Go ahead and watch her, but don't blink.  Don't even blink. Blink, and you're dead. She is fast, faster than you can believe.  Don't turn your back. Don't look away, and don't blink.

Kick. Punch. Easy Stuff.

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