For a bit of a change I taught a class built out of variations. Starting with our first leg throw (o soto gari) and the related ninth (o soto otoshi) I led the class through about 8 variations. We repeated the dose with around a dozen related hip throws and variations, all emerging from our nfirst hip throw (uki goshi).
Because we practice osoto gari and uki goshi so much, even for the beginners this was viable. The related principles form a bridge to the variations. It is not a case of learning something completely unrelated, but rather building on what you already have. At the same time, learning a new variation is not just accumulation; there are distinctive points and refinements to be learned and most everyone runs into a particular variation that poses problems that need to be worked through.
After this tour, we went back to some rapid-fire throw-for-throw practice on the first leg and hip throws with a variety of partners, which were -- gasp! -- now a bit better and more robust thanks to the exploration through the wider world of variations.
It's a bit like a chef experimenting with all sorts of flavors, but then going back to his speciality and making small adjustments, leading to significant improvements.
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