Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pieces and Wholes

And holes, now that I think about it.

This Saturday I've been asked to drop in at a weapons seminar.  KJ is going to teach some basics- ways to move, ways to make and keep contact, what to do when bad things happen too close.  I'm supposed to step into the middle and mess everything up.

The problem is that in any training for bad things each piece by itself is not only incomplete, but actually wrong.  Siniwalli is an arnis drill. As a stand alone it is purely a collection of bad habits- you target the weapon, you maintain the movement pattern instead of finishing, some of the pattern ignores a better, faster, more decisive move that would finish the encounter- but encounters need to be finished and drills need to be prolonged and repeated.

Don't start down-talking arnis, I can point out something like this from any training.  The training isn't wrong, unless you take it out of context.  Each piece is important, but the piece isn't the thing.

What KJ will do at this seminar is teach patterns, patterns that keep your weapon a constant threat to the enemy and keep the weapon in your strong zone and don't expose you to much.  I will be showing how the killing attack will be an escape from that pattern from one side, from the other side how to exploit those strengths and turn them into weaknesses.

What we have to be careful is that the students understand that this is not a contradiction.

It boils down to time.  Battles (especially with weapons) are won in fractions of seconds. Training is conducted about a half minute at a time.  So patterns are learned, but they are exploited by knowing, in a flash, exactly where your body and weapon and the threat's body and weapons are, where they are going (recognizing the pattern) and deciding to continue or break what you recognize is happening.

Sensitivity drills, like chi-sao can last a long time and they teach you a lot- how to read just by touch power and motion and balance and intent... but in application it is the ability to know and exploit those things in a single instant of contact.

It takes a lot of time and a lot of repetition to develop that skill.  It takes big chunks of time to learn tiny slices of time.  Where some martial artists get trapped is trying to take big time skills- drill skills- and apply them as they stand in a fight.

That's another special training: to apply your skills at superspeed, to get the information that normally takes a few seconds of feeling out your partner in a single touch... but if not, you get stuck in an imaginary world where you have plenty of time.

So training, from one perspective, is spending a lot of time ingraining tiny separate pieces (studying them like they were big pieces or maybe even the whole thing) with the hope that you will be able to put them all together, ruthlessly, without any time at all.

It sounds hard and maybe counter-intuitive, but it isn't.  Reps are good. Refinement and nuance are good.  The only thing that is sometimes (often) missing is the actual context of the application, a good understanding of what the skill looks like in its end-state.

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