This week we worked on 2nd Flow, which basically means that part of a duel after contact with the opponent's weapon.
We worked on Palakau, our version of close range practice using the cut, check, cut, check rhythm. It's kinda like what other systems call Hubad, but not really. In Sonny's system Hubad Lubag means 'tying and untying' and is a random locking flow done empty hand (and foot).
Palakau is done with weapons, and this time we worked the 'Hiwa' version or slicing, which entail the use of swords at a close range, cutting with the belly of the sword and making sure that the tip always crosses the center line on each cut.
At that range, the live hand must also come into play so is also part of the flow. The last important part is that it is done with a random set of strikes, limited to #s 1,2,3,4, but in no particular order.
'Tippy Tappy' drills have a great deal of bad press because often the reason for them is lost, perhaps in the attachment to set patterns or maybe just the joy of 'banging sticks'.
Tactically of course you do not want to spend anything but the shortest amount of time at this range, both parties are able to cut to the body from here and this makes it a very dangerous place to hang around.
It is a transitional phase only, but IMHO material has to be trained here as so many variables exist at this point - tactile sensitivity and the use of pressure and 'drop offs', when and how to use the live hand, how to manipulate a sword at close range, flush blocking, use of body angle to change strike angle, importance of the space between the cuts, rhythm and breaking it, not forgetting the added bonus of getting the eyes used to blades moving fast and close.
As with all things though, there needs to be a progression to the drills that may start with inaccurate targeting and inappropriate insertion of the live hand, but through the drill point out these errors, seek solutions, and promote more realistic behavior.
When I watch my old training videos with Sonny, after we would work on some particular skills within the Palakau and switched to an 'all targets are fair game' duel - the flow basically turned into enter, close, turn, cut, protect yourself as much as possible and exit ... much more realistic. As it should be.
One of Sonny's add ups was the 'Samurai on the Bridge' exercise (he watched alot of Samurai movies, Zatoichi was his favorite) where you and your partner start from opposite corners of the room and walk past each other as if on a narrow bridge. The goal of the exercise is to get to the other side in one piece .... Note the emphasis on 'one piece' as opposed to 'both dead'.
Have fun - it's not so easy as it sounds ..... :-)