Saturday, October 08, 2005

Agreement and Time

Almost an epiphany today. It was like an epiphany because it was an insight that affects almost everything else, but it wasn't a new insight. An old insight is applied to a new context and the world shifts slightly.

It's amazing how much of fighting is mental, how much is pure imagination and how much is an unspoken agreement. Hollywood knockouts, where you get hit in the head and go to sleep for awhile and wake up fine don't occur in nature. If an animal gets hit hard enough in the head for it to go down, there's some serious damage. Same with focused people and people on drugs. But sometimes you give a light tap to a healthy person who has no stomach for the fight and he'll drop, convinced he's been "knocked out". Or you'll take a well aimed hit with no loss of consciousness and be dizzy and puking for three days.

Jointlocks whether on martial artists, new students or threats are largely an agreement. If you put your best wristlock on me if I choose not to buy in to it it falls away. Healthy people can power out of many locks or slip locks, but they think that they can't. It's instinctive and part of an agreement: if I push you, you push back. If I pin you, you struggle against my weight. If I hammerlock you, you struggle against the places you feel pressure, the very places I have the most securely. It goes back, probably, to children and animals attempting to establish dominance.

To struggle against emptiness, finding the voids in locks and pins is easy and powerful and so counterintuitive that it often seems magical when someone does it.

Space is time. Time is space. The epiphany today was realizing, with the help of Devin, that we also hold subconscious agreements about time.

Any good fighter can tell you that he can control the tempo of an altercation. It's dangerous to do in real life, but I have slowed down and found the threat subconsciously slowing down to match me...and once with a PCP freak I found myself accelerating beyond what I thought was my maximum speed to catch up.

Timing is one of the classic elements of dueling and sparring. It's simpler in a real fight but still critical. We emphasize getting and maintaining the initiative, taking the fight to the threat. Fencing has some of the most sophisticated timing concepts of any martial art. Fencers talk about 'beats' where, if I attack on the half beat and you attack on the full, I will win.

The Japanese phrase for this constant assault tactic was "Leaving no space for death to enter". Loren Christiansen has phrased it as elegantly as possible, "There are so many beats in a fight. I want each of those beats filled up with my stuff."

An overwhelming attack is a very, very reliable way to take out a threat. You take up all the time, leaving none for him...

Today it became clear that this, too, is an agreement. Everyone in a battle has their own time and their time is all theirs. It can only be taken away if it is given up. You do not have to wait politely like a child trying to get a word in on a family argument.

Try this with your students (safely)- it's a well respected tactic- throw a flurry of chain punches or 'rolling thunder' at their faces and watch them cover and, subconsciously, wait for their turn to respond.

If the same rain of blows is coming at your face there is nothing but your own mind keeping you from hitting back at the same time... but it does, reliably enough that predatory criminals count on it. His time is not yours.

1 comment:

Mac said...

It's not the notes, the beats of music that make the song, but the space between the notes - the silences, the pauses, the emptiness. I think it's why you're so successful at what you do: 1) you don't need permission to care and, 2) you live, and perceive, in the spaces.