Friday, November 30, 2007

Gaze angle in multiple attacker randori

A few weekends ago I taught a seminar at Starkville and we talked about and worked on the importance of metsuke (proper gaze control). We demonstrated and gave some exercises to work on how to slow down the speed of the conflict by keeping the gaze angle constant on a fixed place on uke. In order to be able to do this when uke is facing away from us and in order to be ale to get that “far mountain gaze,” I told tori to always look through the center of mass of uke’s head, as if burning a hole with laser-vision. (Bet you didn't know that turkeys were masters of metsuke, but anyway...)

Chops made the observation that this change in perceptual speed is likely part of why multiple opponent randori is so fatiguing. We’re forced to switch gaze angle from one attacker to the next to keep track of them. Good catch, Chops. Sure enough, we do tend to screw ourselves up and wear ourselves out by switching back and forth from one uke to the next. I’ve been thinking about how to minimize or at least reduce these gaze shifts.
Consider this article from a while back about tenkan ura forms (turning backward movement like in most of nijusan) giving us a wider view of what is going on around us before we commit to smearing uke. What if we can make use of this to reduce shifts in perspective. Let’s try this…
Everybody in class gets an uke and finds a place on the mat. Uke stands still while tori fixes his gaze on uke and then walks around uke outside ma-ai keeping eyes burning right through the center of uke’s head. Pay attention to what you can see in your peripheral vision without ever changing gaze angle. Now do some techniques from nijusan keeping your eyes focused on the center of his head but attending to what you can see in your peripheral vision. Now add a second uke at walking speed and see if you are able to keep track of the uke you are not dealing with by making these tenkan ura motions.
I think you will find that your peripheral vision is actually enhanced by this strategy. You see, peripheral vision only picks up motion – not shape. So a relatively motionless uke in your peripheral vision would be invisible to you. But by turning in a circle with eyes fixed on a point, we’re moving our field of vision without ever changing gaze angle, thus making everything in our peripheral vision move with respect to us. So we can see the second uke even better when we are turning backward.
Try that out, Chops (and everyone else), and let me know how your mileage varies.

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