Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Joe Thambu's Restrain & Removal Seminar

I was at his seminar last Sunday and it was interesting to see in addition to Aikidokas, we had people from Silat and law enforcement agencies coming in as well. Sensei Thambu is his typical humble self, not much on ceremony and ever willing to share whilst Sensei Ramlan as earnest as ever. You won't want to mess with his family because it reminds me of the TV show No Ordinary Family... you know the guy who plays the Thing in Fantastic Four? Sensei Ramlan not only looks like the guy, but his wife, his daughter, this 2 sons (that I know of) were all on the mat that day as well.

Anyway, Joe Sensei started the day with a simple demonstration of the difference between Reacting and Acting. Uke stands in front of nage and positions his finger a couple of inches away from nage's nose. He will touch nage's nose if he sees any movement from nage's hands. Nage tries to grab the finger before uke can touch him. If you try it, and you're not Bella from Twillight before she got turned into 'one of em', you'd probably be able to grab his finger even though your hands started far off from your nose compared to his. The reason is very simple and that's because your uke is not reacting to you. He's waiting for something to trigger his response, whilst you are just acting. That's why Acting is faster than Reacting.

This really translates to the street situation. Most bad guys know their potential victims, most victims don't know who the bad guys are. The faster your ability to gauge or discern a threat, the better your chances are simply because instead of reacting you can then act. But typical of LEA (Law Enforcement Agency) standards,  we can't attack a bad guy just because of a potential threat not unless the threat has manifested itself. If however we go by that rule all square, we won't last in the business very long. Thus, the job of the good guy then is to turn the situation so that the bad guy has to react and this can done in an assortment of ways. Typically you can engage him by positioning yourself more dynamically instead of waiting, this can even start from a hand shake or a misdirection, but typically just interrupting the attack line and getting a superior positioning is the order of the game.

To start things off, we did the basic Yoshinkan H-tai sabaki set. This set is really great stuff. In most Aikikai schools we show the students all sort of tai sabaki movements and it takes ages for them to remember anything. But with the H, you're immediately trained to move 3 ways left and right in a matter of minutes.

After that we did several techniques throughout the day that were basically Goshin waza of the typical Aikido sets. We did 2 primary pins, one from that had us kneeling on a point on uke, and the other where we actually sat on him and controlled his arms with our legs. In both pins, a single arm free and mobility had to be present to deal with additional threats.

We also did a few come-alongs, one from a modified gokkyo, another from a reverse guillotine. Joe Sensei didn't advocate a normal choke and walking backwards unless you have a partner pulling your belt along to guide you.

After that we did some knife drills where both uke and nage are armed and doing deflect and strike drills. It wasn't as complicated as Arnis drills but was probably sufficient for those exposed to knife work for the first time. Joe Sensei really knows how to maximise the transmission of knowledge to the participants, anything more complex and it would have been a total mess. The drills we did weren't without some food for thought. In blocking we're not aiming to stop the hand, but more about diverting it from our centerline and we achieve this by creating our own path to uke with our hands, some cross attacks require redirecting into a trapping position. We're not moving much but when we do, we are to imagine a line between uke and nage's head and maintaining that distance. Joe Sensei emphasised awareness of the opponent's triangle and not his arms. For most of us that means eyeballing the shoulders. For me I prefer shoulders to feet, but Joe Sensei can look at his opponent's eyes and still get the same awareness going. That's good if you're doing enforcement a lot because minus eye contact and the other party is going to get jumpy.

We also did some chokes and pressure point compliance. Those were not too fun because some of the participants here think they need to break uke's neck. Most of those didn't know the difference between a choke and a break the other guy's windpipe. Especially with my scrawny neck, things were getting decidedly painful until I showed them the difference. This especially highlights the importance of maintaining your safety awareness in seminars. More than once I had uke's going for a real strike to the throat that would had been injurious if I hadn't reacted, it was a miracle no one had real serious injuries that day.

One thing I have to remember is using hara and chushin at all times even though its a departure from typical waza. That is probably a reminder that we've become too much a creature of habit. When it comes to kihon and nagare, sure we're using what we've learned... then when things fall out of pattern and become spontaneous, we lose control of our chushin and hara movements as well...

At the close, Joe Sensei helped check out my kamae. It was great, he didn't impose his way on me but he showed me how it could be done and what makes it work. There is a single plane from the back heel all the way to the top of our head. I told him how we were expected to move, i.e. center drops and the feet shift to compensate. He showed me his back feet pushing the body forward and in alignment. Obviously its easier to do and understand that way. Makes me wonder if that's a better proposition for our beginners.

Anyway, I love the session and have the deepest gratitude for Sensei Joe, and Sensei Ramlan for the invitation.  Back in the UK, the BAB doesn't make any distinctions when it comes to the sharing of knowledge, senseis from Aikikai, Yoshinkan and Ki Society are all invited into the same event to teach and learn from each other. Ultimately this benefits all of the students and Aikido itself, and isn't it a wonder... create more harmony? Here in Malaysia, we're still a bit petty when it comes to things like this, perhaps drawn out of fear from what Hombu would do if they found out and yeah we hear stories like that all the time... but at the end of the day, are we learning Aikido from Hombu's pat on our head or from the teachers and partners who are willing to teach us and train with us?

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