Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thanks, Steve

For the excuse to tell a story. Steve just posted something here that got me reminiscing. Long ago, in my prime, when I was a martial athlete but thought I was a fighter (and thought the two were the same thing), I could do some pretty impressive tricks. At 5'8" I could jump kick a basketball net. I enjoyed sparring two people while handcuffed (loved kicking). If I was feeling froggy I would do ground fighting without using my hands (that's challenging, folks- but the expression on a black belt's face when you tap him is priceless).

I was much older and hanging out at Stan's dojo. Workout had been sporadic with over-time and on-call obligations and shift work so I was feeling old and slow. There was a new kid there. He had a black belt in something else and had come to Stan to fill some holes in his skills. I watched him warm up and I was frankly jealous. Very flexible, pretty fast (bragging again- in my twenties I had ever met one person who could approach my speed. Later, at James Demiles' kwoon I had the opportunity to play with some of the timing machinery he had developed and had tested a certain guy named Lee on... I was 14/1000 of a second slower than Bruce's record in a long punch in my mid/late 30's. Done bragging, for now.)

So the kid was fast and flexible and I was feeling like an old fart, not an athlete anymore, just a dinosaur, practically extinct and creaky... and the kid asked me to spar. Which I secretly wanted. I love playing, and for some reason I like it more when it looks bad.

So we bowed in and he moved... and I knocked him down. And he got up and he moved and I took his spine, and his dead zones and...

Basically, he was moving much faster than I was, but like Steve writes as you get older, you have to get better at some other stuff, and that stuff can be pretty good. Position, properly applied, can overcome some big disparities in size, strength and speed.

Ruthless timing mimics speed- if he is moving fast and I am moving at precisely the right time, the advantage is mine.

Efficiency is a source of speed and power, sort of: If you are twice as fast as me but I only have to move a third as far, I land first. This one sounds off- you and your opponent are at the same distance, so you have the same range, right? So his targets can't be farther away than your targets, right? But they can, depending on how you have been taught to see weapons and targets. An example using generic Mcdojo karate: Uke throws a left lunge punch at me and I parry it to the outside with my right hand. In this particular pattern, uke will then throw the reverse punch with his chambered left fist- I, however will let my parrying hand bounce off the first punch and palm heel him usually about in the orbital socket. Closest weapon, closest target. If he is really fast, it just increases the damage to him. Bonus. Other side of the equation- a tight ugly mix-up- a clinch but looser and dirtier. Almost every time I am in that position, one of the weak points in his knee is less than four inches from my own and they never (so far) see it coming- but there is a definite technique to it, especially if you don't want to cripple someone.

Hmmm. Where were we? Ruthlessness. Position. Efficiency...
Then there is telepathy. Sort of. Simple fact is that if you've played a lot, (with a wide variety of people) most things won't surprise you. People are pretty damned predictable. Don't count on it in real life- be prepared for things to go south- but most of the time you can see not only what is happening but what is about to happen. It's easiest to learn, IMO from blind-folded infighting, but you can get a taste with a staff. Generally, if you make an attack with a staff there are two comfortable directions to move afterwards and one is slightly more comfortable (natural, easy) than the other. Try it, if it isn't obvious- I think you'll see what I mean. There are more variables in a human body but not more than you can handle, most of the time. And people have fighting personalities that you can read in a few seconds and they very rarely deviate from those unless they have an excellent coach or a major epiphany.

NB- This has applications but I am NOT talking ambush survival here. Different animal.

So thanks for the memories, Steve.


Illogic said...

I'm always as surprised by how much sense it seems to make whenever you write about martial arts.
I've only trained Aikido for a year, but it feels like I understand what your trying to say. Yet, if I hadn't gotten it pointed out like this it's quite possible I'd never had realized it.
Maybe it has to do with the parkour I'm doing? I'd like to think so, since there's a lot of thought going into the way you move there.
Either way, an interesting read as always.

Wim Demeere said...

"Ruthless timing mimics speed- if he is moving fast and I am moving at precisely the right time, the advantage is mine."

I totally agree. I've had similar experiences like yours. The one that sticks out the most was sparring an international level muay Thai fighter when I was in my early thirties. Hadn't been in anything like the shape he was in for years. He moved like greased lightning and was strong. But my timing was better. And the mind fucking games I did also helped. :-)

It wasn't until I worked with Loren on our timing book that the importance of the things you mentioned became clear. You do pick up tricks along the way but focusing on those aspects sure makes you progress way beyond the purely physical limitations of strength and speed.

Good post!


Emma said...

I'd love to hear more about "fighting personalities"