Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Piece of Fake

I'd like to talk about reality. 

What a croc of wossname! Honestly the phrase 'reality' is overused, over sold and completely abstract. All martial arts/self defense/mma/competition fighting is utterly contextual and bound by rules. So for one to say; "My contrived practise and rule based paradigm is superior to yours because its more like reality" is three fold wrong. 

1. It is unnecessarily rude
2. It presumes more knowledge of the other persons art than they have. There-fore it is arrogant
3. It is a moot point. Unless you are going to fight each-other (to the death) the discussion is pointless. 

That is not to say that martial arts training does not prepare you to defend yourself. But the whole martial arts versus other martial arts argument is usually based  on 'reality' arguments. The problem is when you look at someone else's martial art you should do so with humility. Look at it with a desire to learn what it has to show. Then if you find that what it has is not for you, cast it aside. If not then take it in. This is not a speedy process. I reckon at full pelt and full time training you would need two years to make a fair assessment of Aikido. So I would say probably four to eight years for an average student. For the sake of argument, we should apply a similar period to any style to have a genuine intermediate level of understanding.

I once tried to talk about history with my girlfriend. History has always been an interest of mine, but she found it incredibly frustrating because my lack of formal training meant I could make sweeping (and probably ignorant) statements without feeling the need to even remember where I read it, let alone whether it was primary or secondary source or confirmed elsewhere. I didn't back up what I said with evidence or the opinions of scholars. I merely voiced my ignorant opinion freely and without the restriction or responsibility of proof.

For a formally trained person to respond in a satisfactory manner takes research, objectivity and a lack of opinion. So the ignorant person feels they have won that round. How bat-shit crazy and counter-productive is that?! 

The same happens in 'fightin'' talk. Especially inter-martial arts trash talk. Look at the reams of youtube comments from people who for the most part have never even stepped on a mat and I imagine couldn't punch their way out of a wet paper bag.

As a bouncer, I was mocked all the time for being a "proper martial artist". Most others were MMA practitioners, Krav, just muscle men or Muai Thai. The only thing that stopped the piss taking was when it kicked off. Not against each-other, but next to each-other. 

All the conversation in the world cannot say what can be said by finding a rapport with people from vastly differing backgrounds toward a common goal. You could graph the proportional relationship between the level of the threat (from lone nob head to football riot) and the amount of innately communicated information about the people you are with (on both sides of the ruck).

The ultimate intellectual conversation about the 'reality' of martial arts, then, is a fight to the death! 

So I urge you, all of you old and young, fresh black belts, krav maga, MMA, Karate, Kung fu, jaques doublard, meat-head, skin head, yoga combat, take my doe and american academy black belt super karate double dark black 15th Dan practitioners alike; don't be a dick about it!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Flipping Hell!

There are a lot of people having trouble with flip falls in the dojo at the moment. I'd like to try and help.

First of all some general tips:

Ukemi (break falling), like any good structure, is built on good foundations. For the techniques we have Kamae and Kihon Dosa. These exist in a sense for falling too. Kamae is just as important for rolling and flipping as it is for techniques. But here's the thing; if you want to be good at flipping, get phenomenal at backdrops (koho kaiten ukemi).

Practise sequentially through backdrops, rear side falls (backdrop shoulder pivots), basic rolling, advanced rolling and landing position, standing from rolling, multiple rolls on a line and THEN move on to flipping. Especially if you are nervous this sequence should be followed to prepare your body and mind for the practise of flip falls.

If you are outside of normal training have a partner to 'spot' you. There are lots of exercises that are done with a partner that take a large amount of the danger out of the action of flipping.

Now for something a bit more specific:

Keep that back leg straight and in line with the shoulder on the same side. That is the lever that turns you over. The most common mistake in this area is to curl up the upper body and flap your legs around. Like throwing a ball with a piece of string attached and a top spin applied to it.

On this subject, remember the fu├čbal analogy. The player cannot change his shape, and to avoid his head hitting the floor he doesn't rely on speed as he rolls. The point of turn is higher up so when he is upside down his legs are higher than the original position of his head. 

So don't throw yourself down. Following on from rolling, think forwards. Even though the flip should be on the spot this is a much more accurate feeling than to throw your arse over your head which you're in turn throwing at your testicles. 

Don't flip sideways or backwards. Learn to turn into the flip; not too far but just so you are not quite flipping absolutely square. The phrase 'element of side' is used here to good effect. Your hips should be open just enough that your shape makes the landing position when inverted. That means that on a right handed flip, your left shoulder should remain facing the front with a continuous line of site to said (relative) front.

Don't over do the breaking hand. So often people get hyper theatrical with the hand that breaks the fall. This is not only counter-productive, it is downright dangerous and a waste of energy. Your body is providing almost the exact amount of energy required to break the fall simply by being of the exact mass and velocity of... well of itself. So only a tiny amount of extra energy need be put into the arm to effectively break the fall. So think of it as 'placing' the arm not 'hitting' the mat.

Hope that's useful. Have a video:

Reposted from facebook: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

When you walk into the dojo you get a sense of history and of tradition. When you step on the mat there is tension between you, the place, the other students and the teacher. Not a negative tension, or a bad atmosphere. It is the impulse to improve yourself. It is the memory of a memory of traditions that were born in dangerous times and remembered in times of peace to better ourselves. 

That is our strength. That is how a dojo should feel. It should sharpen your instincts as you make the first rei and not let up until it is done. That is what makes you feel good. That is what helps you in life. It's also what hones your self defence skill without you realising it.

It is a journey towards sensitivity you would not expect of other people. I think ultimately if you can translate that sensitivity to all of your relationships, all of your actions and all of your perceptions, you are winning at life. That is an enormous task fraught with misconception, with youth, with mistakes and with ego along the way.

Where does this tension that seeds such a huge boon to ones life stem from?

It stems from you. If you feel it slip, look to yourself. Stand taller, run faster, train in earnest, give more and observe etiquette. There in lies the bits that are hard to unravel with our minds so fixed on ourselves. So then; fix our minds on the needs of others.

Without you our budo is lost and it is a precious thing that the world will need. It teaches love and, contrary to appearance, demands no allegiance or servitude. It asks what you will give freely.

So fellow budoka, let me take this opportunity to thank you as we head into a new year together; stronger than ever.