I like categorizing things in threes. Don't know why, just have for as long as I can remember. Others do too, so I'm not alone. Reading about something that I toy with writing about (The Triune Theory of Power) it got me thinking- about fighting, about Meditations, about where I am on this journey.
From a post last May:
I'm no expert. I'm a nearly crippled up middle aged man with some skill, some experience and some mean. But I'm consistently successful against people who are bigger, stronger, faster and/or more proficient than me.
That's the three-part issue. There are three things that make a good fighter: Physical ability or conditioning; technical skill; and the whole mental/spiritual component- the attitude.
When I started in MA, I was a farmboy. I was small and didn't think I was very strong, but I was used to chopping wood and milking cows and bucking bales of hay. The thing about ranch work is that you don't stop when you get your reps in or you feel tired, you stop when the work is done. Milking one stupid, stubborn cow I would go to total muscle failure in my hands and forearms again and again and again until she was out of milk. If rain was possible, you loaded hay until it was all in, no matter how many tons or how hot it was- At less than 110 pounds I was loading and stacking about 3 tons of hay an hour (110x55 pound bales an hour) throwing them up into the truck, jumping on the truck as it moved, stacking them, jumping down and throwing more up.
I was what my dad called "wiry". When I started in judo it was a help, but it wasn't enough. My instructors felt that weight classes had severely degraded the skills of judo, so I almost never randori'd with anyone my size, and there wasn't anybody smaller. I needed and developed technical skill to overcome physical disadvantage. You're bigger and stronger than me? Fine, then I'll be better than you! Hah!
So I've always been physical (I consider my own body my favorite toy and best tool, so I play constantly) but I became a technician. I had superbly skilled instructors and they drilled me on skill. They also taught me tactics and strategy, and those are a subset of technical skill for this discussion. Reading an opponent, finding a weakness and exploiting it or reading the flow of an engagement and guiding it so that it stays in your strong areas are skills. Dave Sumner was awesome at it, and it is one of the strengths of true jujutsu- striking, locking, gouging, throwing, grappling or weapons you could hold your own in any and use the one (or more) that your opponent wasn't skilled in. Or apply a technique in a range that most people didn't think was possible or... If you learned to see the problem broadly you could almost always hit it from a perspective that was alien to your opponent. The more you practiced seeing broadly, the harder it was to freeze you with novelty.
So two of three: physicality and skill.
But there is a third. Call it attitude or spirit or heart or whatever. It is powerful (read Sanford Strong's "Strong on Defense" where he describes situations where attitude, specifically a righteous rage, has allowed victims who were completely outmatched- bigger, stronger, armed predators with surprise- and not only survived but prevailed) and it is also vague (look for the posts on heart and where I try to list all the things that can make one freeze). You see its presence in everything from a mother protecting her young to the radar ping of two professionals. And you see it in the absence, when a skilled, athletic fighter is taken down by an untrained addict who was just meaner, more determined, less civilized.
In some people it is just a reaction to fear, to respond with focused violence. In others it is a disregard of fear and a professional need to get the job done. Sometimes it is anger, a beast inside. In other situations it is civilization or a lack of it, the presence or absence of a leash.
This third leg of the triangle is what has fascinated me lately. I've dealt with it, used it and seen it used, had its absence nearly paralyze me and dug for my own to force me to act. As I've worked on it specifically, it has become largely a tool or technique like any other. Making people feel safe and loved to prevent violence or making them feel afraid and uncertain to prevent violence. Attacking (or just affecting, really) spirits rather than bodies.
In the end, though, I don't think it is more important than the other two legs- it is just less trained, less understood. Because the level of conscious skill in it is so low, any gains can have powerful effects on the whole package. Because those effects are rarely understood or even consciously sensed by the opponent, the effect can seem mystical, bigger than it really was.
Then the fourth skill: the grand strategy of channeling conflict into a physical, technical or spiritual arena. Can you dig it?
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