Thursday, June 16, 2011

Moving toward the ideal

In most martial arts that I know of, there is this ideal of the right kind of movement.  It can be sort of hard to describe, but martial artists are generally looking for that sort of movement.  It is generally characterized by strength and balance combined with fluid pliability.  I've heard this elusive ideal described as "stillness in motion."
Different arts approach stillness in motion from different directions, making different assumptions.  In my experience...
  • Karate guys sort of assume that everyone knows how to walk around, and they build powerful stances from the ground up, feet, then legs, then hips and abs... working on the stillness part of stillness in motion... Like statues.
  • Aikido guys tend to move like gyroscopes, turning their mass in an arc around a pivot, then placing another pivot and swinging around that.  When they need to apply power, they flow into a power structure as if they are pouring their center into a stance - building the stance from the center downward.
  • Judo guys tend to move like pogo sticks, keeping feet under center, and when their center is displaced, they move their feet to replace them under their center.  When they apply power, they typically don't do it from a stance, but just the opposite - by throwing themselves to the ground, adding their mass and momentum to that of the opponent's.
Sure, those are sort of simplistic metaphors, but they sort of get at what I've seen. 
Is one method of approaching stillness in motion better?  Nope.  I reckon one is as good as the next.  One style of motion might be better for whatever particular purposes the martial artist wants to put it to. 
I tend to prefer to approach this sort of hard-to-grasp ideal from both sides.  For instance, you can sort of define a spectrum with karate stances on one end and aikido/judo flow at the other extreme.  Then practice both extremes until you can find the point in the middle that is ideal for your purposes.
Patrick Parker
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