'Advanced techniques are the basics done better'. I've quoted these words before and I'll likely quote them again.
This knowledge was driven home again not long ago. We had some prospective students try out a class at our dojo. They could best be described and huge. I'm a fairly big guy myself and I felt small around this pair. They had no martial arts training to speak of but they were both very strong. Their wrists and hands made mine look dainty.
Our Sensei had us run through a bunch of basics, which served to showcase some of the concepts behind our style. The new pair were very nice but like many new people, tensed up when we were applying technique. They resisted the application of technique. This is a natural reaction but it really drove home the point about how important the basics are for me. A few things stuck out.
1. I really had to concentrate on perfection of my technique. I couldn't cheat a bit and power through the technique if I wasn't applying it properly. This is a good thing, of course, because it doesn't let me get lazy with my technique.
2. I had to be careful. The natural response to their resistance was for me to really sink in the technique when I applied it. The danger of this is that it can very easily cause injury. When the technique overcame the resistance, it was often near a breaking point or a point which would damage something. This combined with fact that they haven't gotten used to 'tapping' out made it necessary for us all to keep a close eye on events.
Interestingly, at first their resistance made me briefly question the effectiveness of my technique. Why weren't they working right away like with other students? Over the course of the class, however, this process made me realize just how dangerous our techniques can be. The harder they resisted, the more the chance of serious injury. The new pair initially tried to 'tough it out' with the pain, but by the end of the class, their hands were in the hovering, ready to tap position nearly from the start of the technique. They were also shocked with how little effort is needed with our Jiu Jitsu. If you're using muscle, you're not doing it right.
3. They also reminded me just how important the loosening up technique is. I've mentioned softening or distraction techniques before. We use them to disrupt our opponents thought process. It makes them concentrate on another area of their body allowing our technique to be applied. As much as I know how important they are, it's easy to get lazy and just go through the motion of the distraction technique, be it a kick, stomp, slap, yell etc. When the new students resisted, it reminded me that practicing the distraction technique is just as important as the follow up technique.
This is a valuable lesson that I must not forget.
It was a great experience to have brand new students in the class. It was almost touching to watch them as they saw the first glimpses of what the martial arts can do. You'd see their eyes light up as they discovered the 'magic' of how easily they could control another person. It reminded me of what I thought and felt so many years ago when I began my own journey.
4. You can learn from everyone. The new students learned a whole bunch of new things in class. You could argue, however, that I learned just as much. I was reminded of the importance not to let any of the basics slip. I was also reminded to remain flexible in my approach. New people don't always move in the same way as experienced ones do. They don't anticipate and go with a technique as easily. This is a great thing as it makes me adjust and adapt as needed, a valuable skill.
I came away having even more respect for my chosen art. It works. Of that I have no doubt. If something doesn't work, chances are I've gotten lazy. Basics serve as the foundation for all that follows. When Sensei effortlessly hurls me across the room, it's because he's mastered the basics. The rest is easy.
Never lose sight of what got you to where you are.