For Stage 1, the drill can be practiced using focus pads enabling the techniques to be applied with maximum power and aggression whilst still having a training partner as the opponent. The initial strike is executed against the pad, my opponent then simulates the ‘cover’ by firmly placing his other hand flat against the pad. I then ‘strip’ this hand away in a downward block as directed in the Kata, creating another path through to the target for the next primary level strike.
This exercise is repeated several times to fully appreciate the idea of the opponent covering the target. However, I do not treat this simply as a memory and coordination exercise, executing one punch, one cover, then one further strike in that monotone order. I always intend to repeatedly strike the pad, until I need to take alternative action. When the target is covered, I react and strip my opponent’s arm away, making way for another strike. My opponent may choose to only cover the target after I have struck it twice, thus varying the general rhythm of the techniques.
During this exercise, it may be that I hit the covering hand of my opponent, which is okay as long as I then take the alternative action and strip away his hand and not just continue hitting a null target.
To facilitate progression, my opponent starts to employ his own dynamic footwork and move around a bit. This forces me to engage my own footwork to ensure that my strike is executed from the optimal distance from my opponent.
It is here that I find the use of technique angles in Kata drills necessary. In the motion that strips my opponent’s arm, I take the opportunity to pivot around slightly in the direction of his blind side – away from his free hand. This body shifting has three main benefits. Firstly it creates a more optimal path to the target as, from my opponent’s perspective, the source of the follow-up strike has changed. Secondly, the body shifting forces me to lift my rear leg slightly, and thus my weight, and then, as the rear leg is grounded again, my body weight is dropped as I perform the stripping motion. I have a better chance of clearing a path to my opponent’s target area, especially as his arm is not likely to be held up in a weak defensive position. Another advantage is that in stripping my opponent’s arm down, I also cause them to lose his balance augmenting the advantage that I have created thus far. Furthermore, the sudden dropping of my weight facilitates a good base from which to launch the second primary level attack.