Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Weapons exercise the brain

One of the benefits to martial arts training is it provides a unique form of stimulation to your brain, which your brain can then use to (mostly unconsciously) reorganize your habitual modes of posture and motion.  Moving in ways that you don't usually move g  ives the body-mind some new input that it can use to heal itself.
But then, after a while the motions of the martial arts become more integrated into the practitioner.  As you get better, these motions stop being unique stimuli.  They become more like the status quo. So, something I try to do every so often is add or swap out some part of my practice to get a bit of brain exercise.
The best thing I've found for this sort of thing is weapons practice. There are so many interesting, unique weapons associated with the various martial cultures that it is easy to find something that will stretch your brain and make you move in ways you're not used to.
My latest foray into the world of martial arts weapons is the Ieku - the Ryukyu oar - apparently traditionally used by Okinawan fishermen to beat up whoever they deemed needed a beating.  The Ieku bears interesting similarities to bo and jo use, but also to polearm weapons like naginata.
And the thing that I think is the Ieku's most interesting feature is it is assymetric in every way.  A plain-old jo or bo is symmetric and has its center of mass right in the middle.  But the Ieku has a blade-like paddle that occupies almost half of its length, so the handling of the ieku bears more similarity to Western quarterstave than to some of the Eastern pole weapons.  But the interesting factor of the Ieku does not end there.  The blade, or paddle of the ieku is also assymetric - there is a ridge running down the length of one side, while the other side of the paddle is rounded.  Each part of the ieku is different from the others, and each has a particular method of use - so youre dealing with a totally assymetric weapon - you have to constantly monitor and control the orientation of the weapon in your hands so that the proper part is brought to bear at the right time.
I can feel my brain stretching already!

Patrick Parker
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