Every so often, I like to take the students to an outdoor location for a workout. In addition to having a change of scenery, we get the benefit of experiencing things that we would not be able to in the dojo.
One of my favorite exercises is having the group practice moving basics and kata (pre-arranged forms) on a hillside. Movements that are quite simple on the smooth, even surface of the dojo floor are quite another matter when on the sloped, uneven and grassy ground. Starting and stopping require different muscles. Turns and transition movements become more of a challenge when your footfall is higher one moment and lower the next. We learn that balance is not something to take for granted.
A second benefit of hillside practice is that the advantages and disadvantages of position, stance and techniqure becomes much more apparent.
Add in the odd stone, stick or gopher trail and all new experiences and insights can be gained.
We also get to practice using our environment as an ally in practicing self-defense. Being grabbed by a person on the other side of a railing or tree eliminate the possibility of using some techniques but enhance the effectiveness of others. As with the hillside, there are advantages and disadvantages to positioning, etc.
An effective self defense system requires us to get out of our comfort zones. Just as we don’t always have the luxury of practicing technique on a perfectly flat, clean, dry surface, it is almost a certainty that an adversary would execute their attack when we would be defending in optimum conditions. Quite the contrary, attackers take advantage of their targets’ distractions or possible weakened states. Being able to adapt to various conditions and situations can mean the difference between being an intended victim or a true victim.