Saturday, November 29, 2008

Changing Views

When you look at a rock, you see a rock. Except not really. You are seeing light in the visible spectrum bouncing off the rock and triggering some cells in your eye which translate...
Philosophers can argue about whether what you see is really the rock or not, or whether the rock exists and they can eventually drown in the bullshit that they generate. That's not where I'm going here. The visible spectrum gives you some information. Touch gives you some information and the information may well be different than sight. Same with taste. Same with different lights. Same with touching moving weight versus static texture.

How you look at things are models.  The model, the map, is never the territory. Maps (it is getting harder to use words sometimes- the map, the vision, the expectation, the construct, whatever you call the thing in your head that you deal with) are useful, they are not real.

A good friend, someone I admire very much, said he would love to train with me.  It tickles me, because I'd love to train with him, and also because he is the 'perfect student'-  he's done the years to get technique and movement down and would be ready to play with the things that are intriguing me- that's one of my weaknesses as a teacher. I'm selfish and want to learn: classes wind up being something more like exploratory playgroups than anything else. I'm okay with that.

My mind started racing right away, and this is the part I want to share.  Once you strip down techniques to what they are as opposed to how they seem, there's maybe two full days of techniques.  Everything there is to know about jointlocks takes about an hour. Maybe two for take-downs. Timing, targeting and weapon conformation for striking is pretty simple. Power generation can be done in a couple of hours depending on how well they get the feel of some of the bone/structure or internal types, but the big high-gain systems are easy. Another hour, maybe, for contact/response ambush survival. And on and on, moving bodies on the ground and standing...

It seems like a lot, but it also seems like short shrift. To someone who has spent years studying a locking art and still gets surprised by new things it can get taken as an insult that 'everything' can be covered in an hour. It can, though. It's just a different way to draw the map.  The advantage of working with a really experienced martial artist is that he has already done the thousands of reps and knows this stuff.  It then becomes a way to get a simpler and more stream-lined concept into his or her head.

That's background. This is what I would like to play with- starting from just a mixing it up sparring/rolling session:
  • Just go for it and break it down- techniques and tactics. Did you have a strategy? Look at how critical reflexes and conditioned specific responses are here.
  • The exact same thing, but think of it now as energy coming in, not fists. Instead of manipulating a body, manipulate the energy. See what this makes easier, how you have to think and not think differently.
  • Oh, by the way- talking about manipulating bodies? You've been moving your fists and feet. Now move his. Own him, make everything he does part of your plan.  When you get this for the first time, it makes you giggle.
  • Find and exploit the dead space.  There are active and inactive parts of his body- can you get all or part of you in the inactive spaces, find the areas where the active parts aren't?
  • Point of action. Almost everyone is naturally drawn to what is going on. Sometimes your best opportunities are nowhere near the struggle. Move your attention away from where it is drawn.
  • Start to bring in the third factor- environment. Start playing with walls and tables and clutter and found weapons. Frisk fighting, where you maintain the full sparring/rolling mode but are also going through his pockets looking for weapons you can use. (Somewhere there is a picture of a guy named Steve- we'd been doing judo newaza and I suddenly sprung away and he tried to follow but he couldn't since I'd used his obi to tie his elbow to his knee. It was pretty funny).
  • Some of this is easier blindfolded.
That's just playing from sparring.  There's more: Violence dynamics, how and why fights happen. The patterns, what to look for. Longitudinal violence- where did this really start and where will it end, if ever? Changing the question- is this a fight because I decided it was going to be? Because the threat did and I'm blindly following? Can I change that decision?  Changing the context- similar, but much broader- if the fight is about X can I change the value of X to something not worth fighting over?

This last is the big part because fighting is not about physical skills so much as it is about people.  This man has a lot to teach me about people and I would love to see the synergy of the two of us playing with this stuff- and playing is the key.  It's the best way, IMO to learn deeply.


  1. Sound suspiciously like you are saying not only is the map not the territory, the territory is not the territory, either ...

  2. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Anon-in-Oz: Would you please expand on what you mean when you say - Find and exploit the dead space.

    I'm a bit dense and don't quite get it :-)

  3. Ozanon (what would the twelves steps for that be?) The dead spots are the places around the body where the threat can't do anything. Directly behind the center of the back is one. Once you get to the outside of the elbow (that close, that tight) the threat is pretty much neutralized. If he throws a left jab, it creates a dead space below that arm from the center line to his back (if he is really good he can reclaim part of that with an elbow point drop, but not when the fist is flying). Make sense?

  4. Anonymous6:14 PM

    Anon-in-Oz: Doh! That makes perfect sense. That's very exciting, I'm going to play with it. Thanks for taking the time to explain. Appreciate it.