Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Open Your Umbrella Under the Shelter of the Eaves

Probably misquoted, but the gist is there. The title is taken from one of the chapters written by Dave Lowry, a favourite budo author of mine, in his book Moving in Stillness. Alas, I've lost his books amongst the other favourite books that I have when moving out of my parents house. But since I've read his book numerous times, occasionally events in my life trigger a recall of certain anecdotes and wisdom hidden in his gem of a book.

Today's training was good again. Miles is serious about improving our ukemi. Up to the point of doing jumping ukemi over a partner doing a standing bow. Its been years since I've done those athletic showy ukemis, that doing it today must have pulled my adductor muscles in the inner thigh somewhat. So coming back home from our late night practice, I was suddenly overcome with a muscle cramp down there whilst staring at this notebook. Its quite an uncomfortable experience, but I relaxed the muscles as best as I could and proceeded to hang from a chin up bar. Subsequently, I thought hmmm... lets put some muscle balm there and speed the healing a bit.

Let me tell you this. Protection is critical at anytime you ever want to use a muscle balm near certain areas of your body. As I was burning up and trying to wash it off (making it worse because the water actually spreads it around more), I thought to myself what a funny thing to happen to me. Here I am, talking about zanshin all the time, and the best I could do now is to practice kokyu to take my mind away from the pain. Then I thought about the protection bit, and that's when the phrase from Dave Lowry overtook me.

The meaning here is simple. In a heavy rain, taking the time to open your umbrella, you will be drenched out in the open. The wisdom is to take immediate shelter first, and then open your umbrella to move in the rain. Just like soldiers, if suddenly come upon under enemy fire, the worst thing to do is locate the enemy and fire from your current position. Statistically speaking, in the event of gunfire, your highest chance for survival is to move. A moving target is harder to hit. Take cover and fire from cover. Actually you can derive many meanings from this phrase. It applies to almost anything in life, even business. If we focus on trying to fight head on and oncoming assault, we will take huge losses. Sometimes its good to take a step sideways and duck under shelter, even if its a temporary shelter and one that is leaking before putting forward our plan for revival.

Yesterday's extra class, we did a moving drill. Too much is spent on waza from a prepared position, where nage waits upon uke's attack and executes a waza. Even in kinonagare, most times nage stands there and does his waza. Yesterday we tried first to just move naturally and escape naturally. In our mind we are to mimic a child's innocent single mindedness. When you see a child grab something, he grabs with his whole heart. Similarly when he does anything, all his focus and body move harmoniously towards that single thing. Its not in his nature to struggle as yet. A baby's grip is surprisingly strong because of that (plus he is very relaxed).

Using this thought, we move and release our selves from uke's grabs like its the most natural thing to do. Brushing away mud from your clothes so to speak.

From there we started to do Ushiro ryotedori sankyo. Instead of staying on the spot to struggle, or pulling, we now project the feeling of moving forward, but we only take half a step. Using the projection we move our hands forward and bring it into position for sankyo. Done right, uke is almost propelled forward without him realising it. There would be no pulling sensation for him to fight with.

I brought it up today after class. Saying that we learn a principle in class and practice it, and by the next class we forget to apply it. How can it be that we go to class, do something for 2 hours and the next class we just wait to practice something else? But that's the reality even for me. This reminds me how most of us study for tests in this country. Mostly its about memorising the correct answers. We do past year test questions in the hope that a similar question will pop up and we'll know how to answer it 'properly'. At the end of this years test, everything is forgotten in the following. We don't learn to learn, we learn to answer tests.

Getting fixated on an attack and staying there to address it is a habit that we can get rid of. Doing this intentionally will lead us to a more relaxed approach in facing oncoming attacks. We then acquire the skill to really move naturally in ki no nagare and have now taken the first step towards takemusu aiki.

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