Wednesday, January 13, 2010

When eyes are opened


I'm constantly amazed at what pops out of my mouth sometimes while I'm teaching and working with someone. Evidently, there are lessons learned rattling around in my noggin that I wasn't totally aware of.

Typically, they come to light when someone asks a question. Forced to answer it, you open your mouth, start jabbering, and voila, an answer (or two) spring forth. Inwardly, I'm as surprised as if a parrot has just flown out of my mouth. Outwardly, of course, I try to maintain my poker face and act as if I've known the answer for years; that's a crucial element in maintaining the aura of the wise martial arts master. I'm still working on catching flies with chopsticks, however.

I'm also surprised to think about where that knowledge actually came from. Sometimes, it's untraceable, but other times I can trace it back to the source, which vary widely. And it's not always my teachers, oddly enough. Sometimes, I watched someone else do it; sometimes I'm really recalling one principle (or application of a principle) and thinking, Hey, if it worked under those circumstances, maybe it will work here as well. Huh! Sure enough...

I've actually been absorbing quite a bit from YouTube, believe it or not. Bare in mind, though, that I'm not taking it all at face value, without careful scrutiny. I spend every bit as much time mulling over what I've watched as I do watching them. The principles I've learned from face to face interaction with some very fine, experienced teachers always serves as my measuring stick. Some things I don't agree with, sure, but many things actually look familiar. What I see rarely changes what I'm doing on the mat, but adds to it in subtle ways, or allows me to see something a new light.

For example, it's only been in the last year or two that I've come to realize that the way we've practiced the #1 release (as well as 2, 3 and 4) is not the ONLY way to do it. We've experimented and practiced a number of various methods of doing it, and it's shaken up my understanding of the release quite a bit. It's no longer defined by a long, specific set of rules (as in, it must look like THIS). It's just that we have to learn and internalize the main form (the kihon), the middle of the spectrum, and then we can start to see the wide, vast ends of that spectrum. For some, I've found, that learning this lesson is sometimes unsettling! "What? But I was always shown that you have to do it like this...."

It's an exciting time in my training, I have to say.

So now, when I watch someone who comes from a Ueshiba background (or even other Tomiki systems) do something that seems on the face of it to be alien, a light bulb goes off in my head, my eyes are suddenly "opened", and I see something like the #1 release, just applied in a way I hadn't thought of before. It's lovely, it's flowing, and in complete harmony. It doesn't conflict with what I've been taught at all!

It's like going to a foreign country, hearing someone speak and realizing that I understand their language. That realization that I comprehend what they're doing or saying is exciting and feels "like home". (I'm actually hoping to play with some of it in tomorrow's class >: )

And I have a sneaking suspicion that more such epiphanies are still in store over the years. Wonderful. Hopefully, now I can at least expect my world to be turned upside down, and embrace it when it does. I always learn something new, and my view of the universe is always expanded. And it is beautiful to behold!


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