Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Nothing is ever random

A few years ago I noticed something in my martial arts practice and I asked a group of higher-ranked players if what I was seeing was real or if it was just some random coincidence.  One of them replied, "Nothing is ever random."  That statement has stuck with me and made an impact on my martial arts.
One place we see this non-randomness is in the taiso, or warmup exercises that we do.  Following is a video of one of the footwork exercises (unsoku).

There's nothing (that I know of) that says you always have to start these things off on the left side.  You might just as well start left or right or do 25 left one class and 25 right another class or something.  But...
Tomiki always started off to the left first, and everyone I've ever seen do this exercise has always started on the left - as if it is a kata.  Why is it that way?  Who knows?  It's just random, except nothing is ever random.
Then along comes Merritt Stevens and condenses Tomiki's aikido primer down into ten or so movements that are especially useful in tactical situations like self-defense or police DT.  To make it fast and easy to teach, Stevens taught his system one-sided - always stepping to the left out and around  an attack.  This makes sense in this context because statistically the vast majority of "street" attacks are right-handed, So stepping to your own left would usually put you behind the attacker's right arm or shoulder.
So, it turns out that the first movement that Tomiki taught and always practiced first can be seen as primary because it is the most useful single piece of footwork in the system.  It just took someone like Stevens to make it obvious and explicit.
Nothing is ever random.

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Patrick Parker
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