Monday, January 23, 2012

Get away! Okay, come here! No, get away...

Come here, dammit! No! But I wanna throw you!

I couldn't help but notice an odd sort of paradox in my aikido and judo training. It seems to me that, in aikido, we spend our time trying to keep the guy off of us. He's trying to come at us, towards us, and we're looking to either maintain an arms-length distance, or get behind his arm so even though we're in close proximity, he's not facing me.

Then we get into judo and now I'm trying as hard as I can to get close to him, to connect our centers so I can throw him, and he's trying to keep me out (while trying to do the same to me).

In other words, it seems like my budo practice is either a game of  "get away get away get away" or "come here come here come here."

And I can't help but wonder, why am I trying so hard to do the opposite of what the situation is giving me?

If uke's trying to get to me, why am I trying so hard to keep him at a distance? 

And when uke's trying to keep his distance, why am I trying so hard to get closer?

. . .

Does aikido by nature afraid of getting in tight, closing and joining centers?

Is judo by nature only interested in something decisive—the throw, the great, spectacular IPPON! that wins the match?

. . .

If he insists on keeping distance, why don't I just work with it, and deal with his wrists and elbows?

If he insists on coming at me, why don't I just let him, and join my center and dump him right there?

. . .

Hmm. Just thinking out loud today...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thoughts on space

My thoughts lately are on the subject of space. I'm still working out the best wording to describe it, though.

I want to say "controlling the space," but for some reason, using the word "control" feels a tad unsettling. It sounds as if I'm trying to make something go, trying to force something that I want to happen, as opposed to remaining open to the flow of things.

But they are intentional, and they do serve a purpose. When do I do one thing over another? I suppose that's the flowing part.

At any rate, there are moments when I want to occupy some of uke's space. Uke is like a stream, flowing down his predetermined path. I am a large stone placed in that path. I'm not trying to stop the stream, like a dam, but interrupt it, send it veering off on a path it never intended to follow.

At other times, as uke flows like a stream and I dig a narrow trench in the dirt. Again, his path is diverted, this time drawn into my space.

Sometimes I rise up, like a hill. The stream cannot flow upward, and it cannot flow around, so it simply tumbles onto itself, creating a stagnant pool, trapped with no way out.

Or, I may simply drop off, like a cliff. The stream cannot stop itself, cannot change course and flows off the edge helplessly and crashes below.

The stone and the hill are one side of the coin, the trench and the cliff on the other—yin and yang. It is in versus out, up versus down. One of many natural dualities—e.g. dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot, water and fire, air and earth.

I've spent most of my time until now being more like the trench or the cliff, the negative as opposed to the positive. Not "negative" in the sense of "bad or unfortunate," but in the sense of a void, a vacuum; of receiving rather than giving; of inward rather than outward; of catching the ball rather than throwing it.

I think we all start like that when first learning an art. But just as the back of the hand cannot exist without the front, we must eventually explore the "positive" side, the stone and the hill. It's being a planet—rather than the void of space—around which even light must bend. It's giving rather than receiving, outward rather than inward.

On the surface, one might think of it as being more aggressive: having an attitude tending toward unprovoked offensives, attacks, invasions, etc; being militantly forward or menacing.

I prefer "proactive", which can be defined this way: "tending to initiate change rather than reacting to events." Or even this way: "serving to prepare for, intervene in, or control an expected occurrence or situation, especially a negative or difficult one; anticipatory."

Standing now, as I am, from the position of something of a teacher, looking at the students with only a couple of years under their belts, this seems to be the one thing I feel is lacking from their budo. It's not necessarily about individual techniques; it isn't so much about putting the foot in the right place, or positioning the hand the right way.

I suppose being the positive, the fire, the light, the high, the male requires a certain amount of confidence that can only come from starting in the negative, the water, the dark, the low, the female. Perhaps.

Such is the depthless beauty of budo!