Unscripted decision-making or free response is challenging. If it goes well you feel great about your training. If it doesn’t go well it can be extra frustrating. Frustrating because you didn’t like the result, and frustrating because with all the moving parts, all the dynamics involved in a fight, it can be hard to pin down just what went wrong. One of the first things I like to check is kamae. Kamae is our physical posture, but also our internal attitude. If either one is out of alignment, we’re working way harder than we need to be.
Start with the physical. Is the posture correct? Shoulders are over hips. Hips are over ankles. Back is straight. Knees are bent. That’s the core, though there a plenty of additional details depending on what element we are operating from and the overall situation. If you’ve started out of kamae or thrown yourself out of kamae while moving, you’ve lost time. Often you have to get back into some semblance of kamae before making the next movement. That extra time means it is harder to avoid the next attack, or an opening that was there is gone before you can take advantage of it.
Good physical kamae buys you time. It eliminates wasted movement that steals away what little time you have in a fight. And it allows you to effectively use your mass and gravity create speed and force, and not just rely on muscles.
The right attitude on the inside is important too. If you’re trying to use fire footwork, but inside feel hesitant, like you need more time and space, your body says fire but your heart says water. It’s hard to be efficient working like that.
So if you feel like you’re moving too slow, check your kamae. If you feel like you are moving too soon, check your kamae. If you feel you aren’t taking balance the way you should, check your kamae. And if everything feels just right … well, check your kamae anyway. Maybe it can be even better!