Friday, August 29, 2014

The hammer and the nail

Sometimes (not as often as you think) you are the hammer, and sometimes (much more often) you are the nail.
I tell all my students that ukemi is the most important self-defense aspect of the arts that we do for several  reasons...

  • Unless you are paid to be the hammer (i.e. police, military...) then you will trip, slip, stumble, and/or fall many more times in your life than you will get into violent interpersonal situations.
  • Without constant ukemi, aikido tends to devolve into an ephemeral, cerebral game and judo tends to devolve into bad aikido.
  • Ukemi is the most physical, most exercising part of judo.  It is good for your body (within sane limits) to hit the ground and have to rise back to standing over and over again.
  • Ukemi is the aspect of the art with the most psychological leverage for personal change.  When you practice for a while you accumulate a huge number of instances in your memory when you made a mistake and then immediately hit the ground.  Feedback is dramatic and immediate.  Pretty soon you start to develop as an important core of your personality, "If I screw around I'm going to hit the ground and have to drag myself back up again."
  • When there is no contact and no ukemi, we tend to descend into our own fantasies, but when actual energy passes between partners - that is, enough actual energy to overwhelm someone and knock them to the ground - the art remains based in reality.

Anyway, I've said most of that before here and there in this blog and in my classes.  What I might not have said as often is ...
It is foolish to underestimate or dismiss another person who you KNOW has taken 50-100 falls a day, 100 days per year for some years and who is still doing it!  Sure you may not prefer to practice the way they do - maybe you're a judo guy and don't like the aikido stuff, or maybe you're a karate guy and think that you've honed yourself to the point that you could beat any judoka to the punch (as it were).  Maybe you have imbibed too much of your sensei's kool-aid about having the ultimate martial art.
But for goodness' sake, when you look at another guy, who you know has interacted violently with the planet for some time now, do not let yourself fall back into that old, ignorant reflex of talking smack about how wimpy he is...
That guy has been hit with a Class-M planet thousands of times and has gotten back up thousands of times, so he must have some potential.

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Patrick Parker
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