Monday, June 18, 2007

Moving Well Versus Moving Right

Can't remember who said it, some Tai Chi guy in the intro to a book, but the words were something like, "Most Martial Artists train for years to try to develop the kind of power that they have naturally when they bang their shin into a coffee table in the dark."

Most reasonably athletic people move well. If you've ever "bucked bales" on a farm, thrown bales of hay into a truck and stacked them or ever spent some time digging ditches using a shovel and a pick, you're probably pretty good at coordinating arms, legs and hips into a powerful unit. Athletes in general move well. So do dancers. Basketball players learn to move- dribble, shoot, pass, screen, block- and try to do the motion well the way it needs to be done in the moment.

Martial artists too often are obsessed with moving right. With 'proper form'. Through training, they get this picture in their heads of what a punch or block should look like. Then they try to plug that picture into reality and make it fit.

A bunch of images here:

1) What is moving right? It's a memory of how someone else moved well. You disect your clearest memory of how Chogun Miyagi threw his best punch ever and you practice that one moment in time over and over, completely forgetting all the moments in time where Miyagi punched differently or didn't punch at all.

2) People start emulating proper form completely without regard to whether it works or not. That's fundamentally screwed up. This is where you get a young martial artist saying, "Sensei this doesn't work, he just blows through this block." And sensei replies, "Practice harder." Only in martial arts is practicing something that is not working considered a good idea. In other endeavors it is called 'reinforcing failure'.

3) The end image is that people who move right have a square peg and spend their time looking for a square hole for the peg to go into. People who move well can change the shape of their peg to fit the available hole.

3.1) One of the biggest dangers in martial arts is someone who has a square peg and has been trained (or brainwashed) so that they don't believe in, or can't see round holes. If that's too abstract, these are the people who say, "My knife defense didn't work because you attacked me wrong."

This is in my head because I've been working with a local JJ group on their groundfighting (note: groundfighting is not grappling). They know techniques and tricks- submissions, strangles, stuff like that- but they are very wooden and can't improvise. They know the right way to do X and they wait for the opportunity to arise. If it's a few degrees off, they don't recognize it.

There is no way to move, no way to stand, no position you can be in that doesn't have a vulnerability. By taking the mindset of doing things right, you limit yourself to opportunities that you have memorized and miss all the others right in front of you. You see the world through these lenses of 'right'.

Move well. Do well. Think well. See well. Don't lock your brain down into a rigid view of right. It doesn't hold up under stress.

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