Wednesday, November 23, 2011

BOMP - Ch 28 - Heaviness

This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP)
"Heaviness," check.  Got it.  Next.
Ha, get it?  That was a fat joke ;-)
No, seriously, Pearlman discusses in this chapter, an idea that he calls Heaviness.  This is basically the ability to properly manage your structure so that you can relax, freeing your body mass to drop and affect the opponent.
Consider - strength is highly correlated with sheer body mass.  That is, the heavier you are, the stronger you are (in general).  This is largely because muscle is heavy.  The more of it you have, the heavier you will be, and the stronger you will be.
We discussed, some months back the idea that we can only bring to bear some percent of our power at any given time.  We would like to optimize our strength by eliminating the things that interfere with our ability to apply that strength to the other guy.
But in the same way, we can only drop some fraction of our mass (largely muscle) onto the enemy. The remainder of our (muscle) mass is involved in keeping ourselves from falling, and fixing our posture, and some of it is wasted as tension, etc...
But, to the degree we are able to minimize the amount of our mass (muscle) that is serving some other purpose, the more mass we can drop, like a brick (or even better, like a sack of water) onto the enemy.  If we are using some of our muscle to keep the rest of our muscle from hitting the ground, then we have very little left to hammer the opponent with.

Patrick Parker

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

BOMP - Ch 27 - Structure

This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP)

Chapter 27 is a sort of a review chapter, but in it he does something remarkable!  On the face of things, it is a note that henceforth in the book he will use the word "structure" as a shorthand for five recently-discussed principles...

But, more profoundly, and more importantly, Pearlman  has managed to boil down much of the vague, pseudo-spiritual, mystical-sounding talk about 'structure'  and 'ground-path'  and 'root'  and different 'energies' and such into a handful of easily-teachable, easily understood (though admittedly, not trivial to ingrain) principles.

Pearlman has gone a long way towards giving us the language we need to discuss the more vague, woo-woo, spooky parts of our arts.


BOMP - Ch 26 - Minor axes

This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP)

So, last BOMP post was about controlling the angulation and movement of the major axis of the body - the long vertical axis through the center.

Chapter 26 is a short little note applying the same principle to the other, minor axes of the body, such as the long axis of the forearm, for instance.  Pearlman brings up two points regarding the minor axes of the body...

1. Seek the smallest axis possible for any rotation.
2. Rotate within the width of the rotating limb.

Pretty good points.  Don't really have anything to say about those.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Punctuated equilibrium

Ever look at the old masters doing kata and marvelled at how incredibly smooth their motion was?  Ever marvel at their amazing ability to stay right in perfect synch with uke the whole time?  Ever compare your own skill to theirs and think, "Boy, I suck!"?
Sometimes (maybe even often) it seems like when we get to trying to synch with uke, something interferes.  There is some sudden discontinuity and by the time you figure it our and switch tracks, uke's gone. 
If you've ever wished that you could get in synch with uke and stay there longer, I have bad news for you.  The world ain't like that.  About the best that I can do under pressure against a non-compliant partner is about two synchronized steps with uke, and I suspect that even the folks that are way better than me can't maintain a nice, constant synch much longer than that. (Of course, if someone were able to reliably maintain a synchronized state for three steps, that would make them 50% better than me, and in a fight 50% might as well be infinity.)
But my point is, I don't think that its realistic or healthy to beat oneself up about the disequilibria that pop up in the uke-tori relationship, because those disequilibria are just part of the nature of the thing.  It seems to me that synchronization (kimusubi) mostly happens in short snatches here and there amongst the motion between uke and tori.  A much healthier, achievable, and still functional skill level is being able to synch with uke for a step or two, then when it goes to chaos, follow along, keeping yourself safe until you recognize another step or two of synch.
Now, we do often try to train in large, drawn out arcs of equilibrium even though that isnt how the world works, but this is because we think that this is a pretty good way to train beginners to recognize little pieces of those arcs when they occur.
Even though its easier to learn to see these things in the long arcs, you should'nt beat yourself up about your inability to find one of those long arcs in randori.  It's definitely a good thing to step out of the long, beautiful kata arcs into the punctuated equilibrium of randori - and to practice that way frequently. 
Patrick Parker

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lazy is not the kind of slow that you want

I've seen an interesting flaw crop up in some aikidoka's practice.

We are forever preaching efficiency - we spend a lot of time and
effort on trying to get each motion just right, to clean up the
connection and coordination between our minds and bodies such that
when the mind tells the body, "step there," the body executes the most
efficient step and nothing else.

When you look at the highest-ranked practitioners - people who have
been striving at this for years, often their motion is so efficient
that it is deceptive. It almost looks lazy, or careless. This is not
the case.

But when we start preaching "move more efficient..." at
students, and they look at the masters who look like they are
lackadaisical in their movements, often the student begins to affect
that lackadaisical motion in an attempt to comply with the "slow but
efficient" instruction.

Slow by means of inefficiency or laziness is not the kind of slow that you want.

What you want is motion that is so efficient that it has nothing
extraneous or incidental or arbitrary in it. This sort of efficiency
gives you so much slack that you can relax and slow down a little. In
turn, the relaxation and slowness will allow you to conserve your
energy and be a bit smarter in your tactics and techniques.

Efficiency begets slack which begets slowness which begets relaxation
which begets aiki.

Getting this out of order by going for "slow" first, you can lose the
prerequisite to slowness (efficiency) as well as getting the wrong
kind of slowness, which prevents you from attaining any of the
subsequent benefits (relaxation and aiki).

Patrick Parker

Friday, November 11, 2011

Different bullets for different beasts

Some of my buddies posed a judo question onour FB group last night about koshinage.  Basically, they wanted some specific hints about applying hip throws - particularly ukigoshi and particularly against larger and heavier opponents.  I thought, having taken the time to put my thoughts together on this, I'd post them here for everyone to laugh at (ahem) I mean, benefit from...
First, different beasts need different bullets.  You wouldn't want to go hunting a bear with a .177 spring-air rifle, and you wouldn't want to shoot a squirell with an elephant gun.  In the same way, not every judo throw is meant for every opponent.  I know, it's tempting to want to develop such exquisite mastery that you are able to throw anyone at any time with any throw of your choice - to be able to just have your way with anyone you come across.  But not only is that not the way the real world works, it is also an unhealthy ideal.
Just as you will eventually have a handful of throws that you feel super-confident that you can throw nearly anyone with (tokuiwaza), you will also probably always have a handful of throws that are of no use to you at all - throws that youve never been able to throw anyone with. Most throws will likely fall inbetween these two extremes, meaning that different throws are more useful against different people at different times.
There may be people that you will never be able to throw with ukigoshi.
But you'll never know which throws are your tokuiwaza and which are useless to you until you try them out in randori, so with all that said, you asked for some specifics about variation and direction and grip, so here's what I usually try...
  • I find it easiest to teach beginners to turn into shoulder and hip throws when uke is stepping backward and tori chases him down, stepping across and through, throwing about 90 degrees to the side of uke's path of travel.  Not only is this the form of hipthrow that I prefer to teach beginners, but it works nicely against larger folk, because youre throwing them off their heel, which often makes it easier to get larger opponents down.
  • As for grips, for an ukigoshi I will often hook his left shoulder with my right elbow (sort of like a hip toss in rasslin), or hook his head with my elbow for a ukigoshi-flavored kubinage.  I usually want my left hand as far up his right arm as possible- definitely above the elbow, and maybe as deep as his lapel.
  • Somebody in the thread mentioned understanding teaching ukigoshi as a concept, but had problems doing it in randori. I think that's okay - to sort of categorize ukigoshi in your head as a theoretical sort of thing that you have to learn before you get to the cool stuff, because a lot of the later cool throws are just variations of ukigoshi that are created when you can't quite get ukigoshi, or when uke resists certain ways - throws like haraigoshi and hanegoshi.
So, keep working on ukigoshi but don't obsess about it.  Try it every so often in randori, and sort of keep it in the back of your mind as an ideal or theoretical version of the later one-legged hip throws like haraigoshi and hanegoshi.
Patrick Parker
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