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We all act like lepers

From the time we're born - perhaps even before then - we are playing with motion.  We move around for the joy and experience of movement.  We walk, skip, run, hop, crawl, dance, climb and wiggle our way around exploring our environment and figuring out what muscles and joints and fascia feel like.  We map out our bodies as we map out our world.
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But then a funny thing happens as we get older.  Funny curious - not funny "ha ha."  About the time we hit puberty, we begin slowing down and trying to look cool and conserve energy and be efficient and not sweat and this insidious thing happens - we begin to forget what our muscles and joints feel like when they move - and then after a while, without even realizing it, we have forgotten that some kinds of motion are possible.  And after a while of thinking that a motor skill is impossible, we become correct.
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Therapist, Thomas Hanna calls this phenomenon Sensorimotor amnesia, and he attributes a lot of somatic dysfunction to it - see this interesting book about Hanna Somatics ...


We can find lots of examples of this sensorimotor amnesia in our physical practices.  For instance, learning a kata the instructor tells us, "take one sliding step forward and end up in a heel-toe stance with upright posture," and we do that and the instructor stops you and tells you to look at your poture and sure enough you are all over the place.  You thought you were stepping just so far and putting your feet just so, but your feet end up shorter or farther and turned in strange angles, posture distorted randomly.
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It takes some time to figure out how to step one step forward, end up in heel-toe stance with upright posture, because we either never knew we could do that or we've forgotten.  Sensorimotor amnesia strikes again.
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So, how do you beat that insidious forgetting process?  Here's a trick I call The Leprosy Check.
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I read somewhere that  healthcare folks that worked with lepers back in the day would advise them to make a self-check every few steps.  That is, every ten steps or so, they would stop and check to see if they'd knocked up against something and damaged themselves.
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When I read that I must have just been reading Hanna Somatics because I immediately thought, "Shoot, we all behave like lepers as we progressively become more and more insensitive to our own bodies."
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So I figured a Leprosy Check might help us in our physical practices too - For at least the first few (hundred) reps of a new technique or kata or etc... put a pause in between each step.  Pause long enough between each step to figure out if you are in the position you should be in, and to fix anything that is wrong - then do the next step followed by another Leprosy Check.


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 ____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Is your martial art a cult?

Checklists like this one have circulated on the internet for several years, and have cropped up every so often with regards to martial arts organizations.  In fact, this idea has cropped up in my reading or my email 2-3 times recently with regards to some groups close to me.
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I don't think this list is necessarily diagnostic or definitive, but something to think about.  You might take this list as a sort of Jeff Foxworthy-like list-  that is, if you check too many of these...you might be in a cult.
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  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.‪ 
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.‪ Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).‪ 
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).‪ 
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).‪ 
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.‪ 
  • The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).‪ 
  • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).‪ 
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.‪ 
  • Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.‪ 
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.‪ 
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.‪ 
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.‪ 
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.‪ 
  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.


Want to discuss this blog post?
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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

An interesting film of Hirano's kata

This is a right interesting film, the first part of it is Hirano's unusual rhythmic uchikomi and nagekomi exercises.  The second part beginning at about 2:20 (that caught my attention today) is Hirano's Nanatsu no kata.

This rendition of Nanatsu no kata is interesting to me because:

  • He does not do the crazy big wave arm swinging thing before each move.  This suggests to me that the arm swinging thing was either a sometimes thing - an option, or it was a teaching/demonstrating thing.
  • He appears to do different techniques than in his other demos.  One of the most notable instances is the first ura technique is usually demonstrated as osotogari countered by ukiotoshi, but here it is osotogari countered by sukashi.  This suggests to me that either 1) the kata was not finished when this film was made, or 2) the techniques might have been somewhat interchangeable.  I have suspected for a while that the techniques were somewhat interchangeable... Something to think on for a while...



Want to discuss this blog post?
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____________________
Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Other blogs (not as good as mine, but they try awfully hard!) :-)