Thank you Dana - for the guts to bring up a topic like this.
Just about any female uechi-ka trained as you and I have been, instructed with the "one fist distance" rule has had to deal with this question - and some have a harder time than others.
Wow. Where to begin. A few points I've struggled out on my own through the years - not having any other female seniors in my dojo, or in the vicinity that I could train with. (I wish this forum was around a dozen or so years ago!)
So I don't ramble too much - I'll try and separate out parts that may be relevant.
First: Rules and body mechanics.
One on one instruction is great - but doesn't happen too often in a dojo environment, and if it is a healthy dojo, then class size is not too tiny either. So - methods must be devised to get a concept across to many students without the instructor showing or placing the student in the correct position one on one. This is, from what I understand, what brought forward many of these body position rules, such as the front foot in sanchin being turned in 45 degrees, (some say 30, some say a width of the foot) and other things such as the "one fist distance" for the circle blocks.
2) The "one fist rule" doesn't cut it with women across the board (no pun intended)
Yes - Dana - I'm with you on that one. Quite frankly - one fist can't be measured from the forward direction - and if it is - things are off. This is one thing I had to learn by what feels right instead of by "formula." However, the one fist rule remains - so how do we adapt it when we teach to women? Good question. What I've done is adopted more of a mirror approach to sanchin arm position. I have the student facing the mirror and I bisect their reflection - one down the middle, then each half once more until the torso is in quarters vertically. The middle division goes over the nose and the navel, the other two go over the nipples. Now - in a class full of guys, it's pretty easy to say "elbows in front on a parallel with the nipples." Gets weird in mixed company no?
But the bisecting the body thing works. This also teaches the student their "midline" which is where I teach the "cut" of the hand drawing back for the strike. So - this works from a frontal perspective. How about from the side and a return to the one fist rule? I've found it pretty much evens out. There are some problems that need more correction, some kids with chubby bellies and they tend to rest their elbows on the front of them, so I just take their wrists and pull them forward a bit, telling them to imagine they are holding a tray of tea. Not exact, but gets away from the bad position of resting elbows and almost vertical forearms. Women tend to figure out pretty quickly that shoulders are critical to a sanchin arm position, the wrong shoulder position "squishes" things as you put it (what other way is there to phrase that!
) or is just plain uncomfortable. I can and do check my male students when they are in sanchin by placing my fist on their ribs to show them if their elbows are too far forward. Can't do this on a woman - BUT - I do find that after using the mirror approach dividing the body into quarters and saying where the elbows should line up tends to eliminate what I see as the biggest problem with beginners - and that is the elbow too far on the side of the body.
I am interested in hearing anyone elses approach to this - I KNOW that we can't have been the only women to consider this Dana-san... and probably there is a male instructor or two out there who has thought of this as well and didn't quite know how to phrase it. Brought up by a female makes it PC to talk about - so thanks again!