Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Training Partners in Martial Arts

Today I'd like to bring your attention to two excellent posts. 

Below is an excerpt from an excellent post at Patrick Parkers Mokuren Dojo blog. It has to do with our responsibility for ourselves and our partners when training to avoid injuries and foster learning and development.

This one resonates with me because I am still bothered from time to time by an injury to one of my elbows that took place back in the late 70's. That's a long time ago.  The full post may be read here.

I have said it many times, and my instructors before me, and theirs before them all the way back to Kano - Judo is about Mutual Welfare and Benefit.  I know that's sort of a loose translation of the principle of Jita Kyoei, but it's a common translation and as good as any.
But Human Animal Males (HAMs) tend to fail to get the mutual benefit thing, or we get it in an incomplete sense.  It just does not make deep visceral sense to some of us that we are doing a deadly martial combat thing with a partner instead of an enemy - that our main goal is to improve both the self and the other.
Sometimes we start class out with some vague admission or nod to Jita Kyoei, or at least with some pseudo-Japanese etiquette, but then we inevitably end up with an uke that doesn't work quite like we want and we get into this vicious cycle of pushing harder, causing uke to resist harder or do ukemi more un-naturally, which causes tori to struggle more, which makes uke more miserable...
So, let me try to put it in different terms - one syllable each...
If your arm gets hurt it is both folks' fault.
If your elbow (or whatever else) gets bent, tori should not have pushed that hard,and uke should not have stood there and let tori push that hard.  It is almost always possible for uke to yield (and to yield productively) to force rather than to stand against it.  It is almost always possible for Tori to get the effect you're looking for with far less struggle.
On a slightly different facet we have an except from Peter Boylans The Budo Bum blog on the difference young guy and old guy training. The full post may be read here.

In the group I train Brazilian Jiujitsu with, I am old enough to be the father of most of the other students, if not their grandfather. For the most part when rolling, they tend to dial it back a few notches to where they are still giving me everything I could possibly handle, but every once in a while one of them will get caught up in the moment and it becomes time to batten down the hatches.


I wrote this about judo, but it applies just as well to every other budo I’ve seen.

I watched the young guns at judo going at it like they were hammering each other on an anvil. They were working hard fighting each other strong and fast, with all the strength and speed they have. Young guys really work at their judo. The referee called out “Hajime!” and they grabbed each other, started attacking, doing everything they could to throw each other. In no time they were panting from the effort. I was getting tired just from watching them. They were really working hard to throw each other.

It took a while, but eventually even the strength and stamina of youth wear out, and the guys on the mat needed break. Granted, they lasted at least twice as long as I would have trying to work that hard, but they still wore themselves out. After the young guys bowed off the mat and headed for a water break, the referee turned to Harold and I and invited us to take their places. Harold and I are a couple of middle-aged guys who’ve been doing judo for a while.

The referee yelled “Hajime!” Harold took a step forward, held out his hands in invitation, tilted his head and smiled at me. This was pure “old fellow judo.” Harold didn’t want to attack hard and give me any energy I could use against him. He also didn’t want to work like those young guys had been doing. Neither one of us has that kind of stamina anymore. Besides, one of the maxim’s of Judo is “Maximum efficiency, minimum effort” and Harold understands that.  I keep trying to get my ego to understand it too, so I stepped forward a little, held out my hands to make my sleeves easy to grab, and smiled back.

We stood there smiling at each other for a moment, then we gingerly reached out for each other without committing any energy that could be used against us. As we moved around the dojo it felt a lot more like a dance than a fight. As you become more skilled you become less eager to throw energy at your partner because he’s more than happy to accept it and do something with it.  We moved with a complete awareness of this, so instead of the fast, sudden movements of the young guys, we old fellows moved slowly and smoothly.

The young guys put a lot of effort into it out there, pushing and pulling on their partner, working to make a technique happen. Harold held my dogi lightly and we moved gently around the dojo looking for opportunities to work our partner’s movement.  I’ve learned from being thrown far too many times that if I push hard into someone, or pull on them, an experienced partner is just as likely to get out of the way of my push and toss me over onto the mats as not.

Harold and I were trying to feel what was happening and what the other was doing. Neither one of us was trying to make our partner do something. We were moving around the dojo. Our goal is to feel what our partner is doing and help them do more of it. We moved around the room, our feet sliding across the mats, never stepping.  A nice, big, John Wayne type step is an invitation to be thrown with everything from a simple and subtle foot sweep to a great big, literally over-the-top seioinage throw. Harold and I studied each other. He has a dropping seioinage that he likes, and I’m working on a interesting ouchigari. We’ll both take a nice footsweep though if it’s available.

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