Thursday, September 30, 2010

avoiding burn-out

Monday night was an intense class of kata, stance work, and knife defenses. Last night was white belt basics, due to a new member in attendance.
And I loved both.
The change of tempo suited me well last evening, especially as I've had kata coming out the gi lately, and a chance to step back and reacquaint myself with the fundamentals of jui-jitsu was perfect. I worry when the simple aspects get lost in too much advanced technique and I am always happy to return to the basics to make sure these foundations are still intact. Or at least close to it.
As I've alluded to before, rust can form quickly, and bad habits may easily return.
I also feel intensity is a great aspect of training--going hard after what you want can be amazing--but burn-out is never far behind without a pendulum shift. I think last week, this burn-out was getting close.
But today I feel ready for more.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thoughts Along the Way

"Fill a cup to its brim and it is easily spilled...."

This is phrase from the Tao, and of course it can be applied to many things. In martial arts, I see this as learning too much at once (and retaining little). Or, memorizing many techniques but not understanding the basics. Three strong basic movements can be much more valuable to a student than 100 misunderstood ones.

"Temper a sword to its hardest and it is easily broken..."

This line goes with the previous one. To me, in budo, this would include over-training to the point of exhaustion/injury. It could also mirror the previous statement in that so many finely detailed techniques could be easily toppled by a strong foundation.

"Gravity is the source of lightness, Calm, the master of haste..."

Again, a stable base allows for flow and fluidity. This can reflect physical balance, too, in stance-work and execution. And of course, when the mind is settled, one's movements, thoughtlessly, will arrive faster and more effectively.

"To reduce someone's influence, first expand it..."

This concept may be thought of as a tool in the defensive arts such as allowing an attacker to build confidence--throw an attack--and allowing them to leave him/herself vulnerable to a counter move. Giving the opponent room in order to take it back on your own terms.

"The river carves out the valley by flowing beneath it. Thereby the river is the master of the valley..."

This one reminds me of two things. One, is when I've watched my Sensei spar against taller opponents--he bends himself even lower until the opponent is unknowingly bending as well--then Sensei quickly stands upright, now equal in height to the taller opponent, and then nails them. The other thought, of course, is the intrinsic value of letting go of ego in budo.

This last one needs no comments:

"Compassion is the finest weapon and best defence. If you would establish harmony, Compassion must surround you like a fortress. Therefore, a good soldier does not inspire fear; A good fighter does not display aggression; A good conqueror does not engage in battle; A good leader does not exercise authority. This is the value of unimportance; This is how to win the cooperation of others; This to how to build the same harmony that is in nature."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

depth perception...

A conversation was sparked maybe a week or so ago by Journeyman at Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. The subject was training while blindfolded and it brought to mind an article I read a few months ago in a martial arts magazine (which one, I don't know). Anyway, the instructor was suggesting doing technique and even light sparring with one eye closed/covered, as it really throws off one's depth perception. The idea is to simulate an injury to an eye, or more likely, a cut near it that is impairing the vision. He suggests it becomes a much different game, using one eye, and could be a useful drill to hone balance and perhaps save your butt if the situation ever arose (he's likely referring more to ring and cage fighters, although I would think it could also have defensive implications).
If you try just to close one eye and do stuff around the house you'll see what I mean. You will adapt, but it takes getting used to (and adapting fast is good defense).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hello, kata my old friend....

The summer hiatus is over.
My brief time contemplating what aspects of training I hope to focus on next in my studies was redirected this week--almost instantly--to the contemplation of sore muscles from hard training.
And I'm glad.
But it's funny, really, as I have recently thought so much about what I feel I should be working on next, that I stepped back into the dojo and was quickly reminded of the fact that it is largely Sensei who determines what I should be doing (I can surely think for myself, don't get me wrong, and I can ask questions and suggest things, but he has his opinion, too. And I value it.).

So, however reluctantly, I spent two hours of intense kata when I had in mind many other ideas of what my first class back might be like (Kata is a double-edged sword to me... I feel it's benefits but also resist it on all occasions...).
But what I decided long ago is that I am handing my trust over to my teacher. I trust him to hone what skills he thinks i need to, and also keep in mind that I am sharing his wisdom with other students that may need different areas of focus than myself. However, the message I recieved from such an intense kata class was that Sensei decided we needed a good humbling and to cast off the rust that so quicly accumulates from time off.

And believe me, in all my soreness, message recieved....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Still Point

Meditation is an art that can be taught to a certain point, but then must be honed and personalized by the practitioner just as any hard style martial arts. While the goal for many is to find the Still Point--the realm where external senses recede and the Mind can simply be--the interpretation of the methods to attain this state remain subjective. For example, I use some basic breathing patterns and visualization techniques each time I meditate. They are old concepts likely passed down for countless generations. Yet, how I perceive these methods, especially how I personally visualize them, has become very much my own. Like budo, we adapt techniques for our own needs, yet we must remain true to the overall process involved.

An example might be a simple straight punch. One student may picture a bullet spiraling out of a rifle, generating power and momentum as it travels. Another may imagine his/her hand like Bruce Lee's idea of an iron ball attached to a flexible chain. However, while both analogies may help the student develop form and energy, the point remains that the fist, rotating, travels from point A to point B in the straightest manner possible.

The variance is imagery.

After all, the practitioner of meditation, whether following the tenants of Indian Kundalini or Chinese Tai Chi, are both attempting to reach the same pinnacle of clarity and/or illumination. Just as the Hapkido student and that of Karate are both training in a differing manner but for a similar purpose.

And within these schools, too, each individual finds his/her own way.

Monday, September 6, 2010

stealing the technique: response

I was recently teaching my son how to use a swing in our backyard and it related, in my mind, to Journeyman's post, Stealing the Technique.

In this post, which you should read, he discusses the teacher's willingness to show his/her students all the nuances of a technique, or whether to show most of it, thereby forcing the student to eventually understand the full details by close observation.

Back to the swing.

I was trying to verbally explain to my son how to build momentum by straightening his legs, and pulling back with his hands on the chains to gain speed. After a bit, it began to work, but still needs a lot of work. He's still pretty little.

What I realized by this process--the same as teaching him to ride his trike or anything similar--is that part of his understanding is going to happen by feel. His muscles will have to experience the proper form, and he will make adjustments as he learns to go higher and higher on the swing. For example, you can explain to someone how to ice skate all day long, but until the person tries to balance him/herself on the blades, it will remain an intellectual exercise. You learn balance by falling.

This is why I always want to feel a martial arts technique as an uke, first. If I can feel the result of the application, I can better copy it as tori.

A Sensei, as any teacher, can only take you so far before letting you learn from trial and error.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

nothing's new...

I was browsing through a book on ancient Greek wrestling and noticed how so little has changed in basic combat techniques. i saw many wrestling moves, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kick boxing. I guess while weapons may change, the human body is still proportionately the same today as it was over 2,000 years ago.