At our Piedmont Bando class, we follow a number of principles established by Grandmaster Joe Manley. “Safety First” is something he always emphasizes, and so we aim to keep our students as safe as possible while practicing what’s an inherently risky set of skills. Another major principle informing the way we teach is to focus on the little things. That is, get the small pieces right so that techniques are well-honed and efficient.
Focusing on the small pieces of movement require that students take time to learn the fine points of a technique before trying to execute it under stress. What Jim Sheeran and I see too often is someone trying to do something fast (and missing parts of the technique) or trying to use muscle for strength instead of leveraging the small details of technique. I know that I’ve been guilty of both as well.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fastGrandmaster Joe Manley
Often, it’s difficult to self-evaluate whether proper technique is being used when executing a technique you are learning with power or with speed. If, on the other hand, you work a technique slowly, keeping in mind the “little things” that make the technique correct, you have time to build it into muscle memory. Once it’s there, the speed will come without conscious effort.
Take, for example, a simple punch. You can have an entire practice just with this one technique, working on one aspect of technique at a time, eg:
- Is my cover hand properly covering and protecting the face while the other hand punches?
- Is my weight and center of balance shifting so I am “off the line” while punching?
- Is the punching hand turning at the very last inch of the extension of the arm?
- Is the cover hand turning at the same time the punching hand turns?
- Is my exhale timed to the pace of the punch?
- What part of the fist is making contact with the target?
- Is the wrist in the right position (that is, is your wrist joint safe) for making contact?
- Am I visualizing the (imaginary) target or is my technique aimed to make perfect contact with a physical target?
- Is my entire body locking as the punch meets the intended target?
- Does the body, and especially the striking arm relax once contact (with the actual or imagined target) is made?
- Am I “telegraphing” the technique?
You may find that as you work on one aspect of a technique, another “small thing” goes missing. So it may take a while before all of the pieces can be incorporated smoothly. Once you get these pieces together, though, your technique will be explosive and efficient.