Thursday, September 3, 2009

Feeling a little dumb

Do you ever get a point in your training when you realize you've either completely forgotten something important, or have gotten lazy, or even realized you never truly understood something as well as you feel you probably should?

I've been having a few of those moments lately. One has to do with zanshin. Patrick Parker and Sensei Strange have been posting about it lately, and reading it has felt like pointing out that your fly is down. At first you're embarrassed; then you wonder, How long have I been walking around like that?

It's something that I've heard before, but had partly forgotten, or sort of got lazy about, but also didn't truly understand (or perhaps internalize may be a better word?) Perhaps lower ranks don't notice anything missing (the see my fly down and think, Hey, that's just the way you wear pants.)

I got to talking about oshi taoshi today with several students, and realized that we'd all been a little lazy about it. Or maybe lazy isn't a good word. Maybe they didn't quite understand how it worked, and that coupled with my (and perhaps other's) laziness gave them the wrong impression.

Basically, what I saw was this: tori does the balance break, uke recovers, turning, tori follows the arm as it bends, putting his hand on uke's elbow, and then... well, not much. After observing them, I noticed a few things. Again, stuff I should be doing, but I think I've let it slip.

1) The arm that's on uke's elbow is bent. Not just crumpled up, but sometimes the elbow curved a little outward. By straightening the arm (not completely locked, but almost) and pulling the elbow created a much stronger "unbendable arm".

2) The hand was sort of gently caressing uke's elbow more from the side. Again, a little too relaxed, and that hand position puts your palm pointed out in space somewhere and not at uke's center line. And since your energy/power goes where your palms are pointed, you can't do much.We engage the hand, palm forward, suddenly, in a matter of inches (centimeters!) there's power and life and energy. Not muscle, mind you, not brute strength. But principle-based power.

3) Tori followed uke's arm until it reached the end of it's range of motion and stopped. Essentially, we were accommodating uke. He remained "comfortable" within his range of motion and his center line was never truly disturbed. Now, I've been taught since probably green belt that the man's elbow goes in his ear, but I don't know, it's slipped my mind.

Instead, tori follows uke's bending arm, he reaches the limit and we keep him going maybe an inch further than he intended. Now his spine is crooked, he "ate" his energy plus a drop of ours. Big difference.

4) Tori also stopped moving his center all together at the end of uke's range of motion. Why? We know not to stop our butts, to keep moving, but there we were, standing there wondering, why does this feel awkward? Once we kept all the other stuff in mind, and kept moving, we were suddenly launching uke through the air like a cannon.

5) After all that, and you still hit a wall, then do the tenkan (back around) version. But if we didn't have the first part right, and we tried to do the tenkan version, we felt like we were dragging uke around with us. Not very aiki.

Done right, it never felt like we were muscling. Uke's arm floated on it's own natural path, unaware of tori even really having much of a grip, until the end. Then suddenly, you got hit by a train.

And eye opener. Stuff I need to work on, remember, and remind others. But it makes me wonder. What else am I missing?

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