For advanced cutters, such as those who have been shodan for a while in our class, I think a standing target is becoming too easy. Yes, there are certainly still many possible cuts that you and I can't do yet on a target that is in a fixed location. But there is a whole domain of cutting that requires a different set of skills that we don't practice as often.
If you've been to our cutting sessions, you may notice at the end of class, we sometimes toss the last small cutable pieces at the student to try to cut out of the air. This changes the dynamics of cutting quite a bit, since you need to keep much more in mind:
- the direction it is going forwards (right at you, to one side or the other)
- the speed at which it is moving
- the height it will be at when it is in cutting distance
- how your body is positioned to swing
- what kind of cut you will do
- sometimes even the orientation of the target (e.g. a cylindrical goza piece)
And all this within the second or two it takes for the target to fly at you.
The point isn't that you'll have targets flying at you, but that the target is moving in three dimensions and you need to adjust yourself to react to them. This reaction often shows how well a student can keep their form in such variable situations. Sometimes they overreach forward and become unbalance; other times they try to bend their arms to cut too close to their body when they should move out of position; and still others their swing and body positions move out of balance.
This becomes a test of knowing how to keep proper form, and body position. It's something each person can only learn from trial and error because by hand lobbing these targets, each targets path is not so predictable. Since you can't necessarily predetermine what path the target will take every time, what you can fix into place is what you are going to do and work from there.
The first option is to start at the top of the swing, rather than in kamae, ready to cut. So "top" is relative; for Kesa, it is above your head; for kiriage, it is below and to the side; for suihei, it is to one side horizontally. But essentially, your arms are spring loaded to cut if you can reach the target. Of the three I think kiriage it easiest, since you are moving you to the target and have more time to adjust. Kesa is harder because there is less time from the top-of-swing to adjust to the position of the target. Suihei is hardest because unlike the other two which can flow in line with the fall of the target, the swing is almost perpendicular to the target.
The second option is to start in, most likely, seigan kamae. Then move to a cutting position to get the target. You have to decide what is the best cut for that try as the target comes at you, so it may add a split second decision step.
The third option is that the targets are lobbed not at you but to somewhere near you. It can be anywhere 360 around you. This requires you to shift from your current spot to a proper position, adding even more delay to the cut.
The next cutting day, we can give these a try. Plus its fun too