Friday, September 24, 2010

Caught in the undercurrent

I've thought about the concept of a wave in relation to aikido or judo before, but in the past I only ever considered the crest of it. The crest of a wave is the top part, the part that comes crashing down on you (or in this case, uke).

But that "crashing down" is only the end of the whole cycle. I'd been missing the other aspects of what makes a wave happen. Now, I'm no physicist, so my science is going to be pretty sketchy here. Spend a minute watching this nifty animated GIF I swiped from Wikipedia. Watch the red dots and watch their path.

Notice how, after riding one wave, they actually start drifting backwards for a bit. If you've ever spent any time on a beach, you might notice that the water retreats back into the ocean before the next wave comes crashing down on the beach. You've probably also felt how surprisingly strong that undertow can be.

It's the undertow that I think I've been neglecting. Just walking up to uke and trying to "crash down" on him isn't nearly as successful or potent as creating the whole cycle, starting with the undertow that "pulls" or "lures" uke forward and toward you a little, even down somewhat. Then we get a rise, and then the wave crashes over him.

It feels more natural and more pronounced in aikido, where uke is presumably trying to come and get us the entire time. But still, there's the temptation to jump to the technique or the throw, rather than wait, and create a flow of movement for uke that will topple him all on his own: draw in, rise up, and crash down.

In fact, in sounds an awful lot like kuzushi, sukuri and gake. But here's the thing: the people who have thrown me the best, the absolute smoothest, even with judo, didn't come to me. They suckered me in to them.

Real freedom - Seishiro Endo Shihan

Seishiro Endo, 8th dan Aikikai

"There is no such thing as a freedom just like that. It is an aim to become free. Freedom is often referred to as being free of something. But that kind of freedom, to be free, for example, of a duty or a person, is not real freedom.

"So what is? That is an important question. It certainly is nothing you get just like that. There is no easy-going freedom. I think in order to become free you must restrict yourself at first to a very unfree form. By practicing within that form you will learn to be free, step by step. You practice within a restriction.

"But in the course of the repetitions, within that restriction, it may happen that the restriction rids you off itself. And then the whole practice suddenly becomes egoless, light—and free. Practicing a form thoroughly will, at some point, rid you of the form. To reach that state in a practice means to have acquired freedom."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back in the saddle again

Holy smokes, it's been a while since I've posted anything! My latest excuse has to do with the lack of a car. We sold one, and until we bought another I had to bum rides to work, which meant that I couldn't get to morning classes for a while. And if I don't make it to class, I guess I don't have much to think about regarding budo.

Now, we have another car finally, and I've been back to class for a couple of days. But even from those couple of days, a couple of things have popped in my head.

1) Everyone  has something to teach you.
I've probably said it before, and you've probably heard it before, but never, ever, ever let your rank, whatever it is, make you think for one split second that you don't have something to learn from every person you meet.

On Wednesday, my first day back in a while, I worked with a brown belt (the only other person to show up) who had once trained under a very, very accomplished judoka. I let him do most of the talking, and picked up a lot of new, interesting info. He has a different background, and had a lot of experience working with really big, heavy weight tournament players, and he clued me in to some nice nice tips and tricks for handling that sort of thing. (Since I'm 6'2" and about 240, usually I'm the "big guy" but sometimes, I work with really heavy dudes, or I need to teach people how to deal with guys like me.)

2) It's amazing what you learn when you teach.
I've also said this before, but you learn so much by teaching others. But just today, stuff came out of my mouth that I didn't even know I knew. Of course, I just act as casual as possible, like I knew that all along. But still, I don't know if I would learn half as much as I do if I didn't try answering questions that lower ranks pose to me.

3) Never be too certain.
I've decided that I probably shouldn't say anything like, "You should do it like this." More often than not, I'm wrong. Or only partially right. Or I wasn't taking into consideration the whole picture. Stems from being the teacher, the attitude that I know what's best, now do what I tell you. Dumb.

I think from now on, I'll say something like, "Try it like this," and then just listen. It's almost like being a doctor: the more I talk, the less likely I am to be able to help a patient, but the more I let the patient talk, the more likely I'm able to help them.

Anyway, looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. Hope your training is going well!