Sunday, April 15, 2012


One of my students has been converting VHS tapes of Sonny training his students to digital format, and though he's not watching everything all the way through - the transfer occurs in real time - he has been catching 10 minutes here and there of all the tapes that have gone through the machine.
Yesterday he had questions about the tapes, and was looking to fill out the context for some of the exercises and drills he'd seen in a selection he'd been digitizing.
Funny thing was, that all the different questions he had, from various random tapes, had a common thread - in this case 'The Wavecutter' concept.

What 'Wavecutter' means is unimportant here, but it got me to wondering, if he had asked about a completely different set of drills or exercises, would they too have a commonality?

Was the Wavecutter concept just the piece that MY brain saw as a way to connect the separate drills?

Are our brains wired to find patterns and links, predisposing me to find commonality between ANY list of things? 

Of course there's also the possibility that Sonny was working on this concept over some months with different people, and the series of tapes watched just mirrored this fact.

But ..... if all the pieces of the puzzle are linked (and if by nothing else they are certainly linked by the concept 'sword') ... are there some concepts that form the hubs through which all, or at least a great number of the concepts, are linked?
I'd say yes, but I think the more important question is - At what level you see them?
I suspect the depth of your understanding of any system/method is directly linked to this.
The other important part, from the teaching end, is how these hubs formulate how you connect the pieces you teach. I don't think you can teach from the 'hubs' out, you have to let the student come back through them ... but can certainly use them as 'themes' or mind openers at the appropriate moment.

Sonny's material, his body of knowledge, and the method he used to disseminate it, feels to me like a tree.
Where as a beginner you start at the outermost leaf tips, jumping from twig to twig, leaf to leaf, with no real feeling of the connection between the things you practice.
As you improve you find yourself on larger and larger spurs and branches connecting all the smaller branches, and the picture of how the pieces come together starts to come into focus.
Eventually, hopefully, if the teacher has done their job right, you reach the simplicity of the trunk, the true hub.
You then look up at the sky through the leaves and wonder at the simple elegance of the stem, the core that initiates all the diverse complexity at the periphery .....

 ...... Which in the manner of things as they are, of course, sinks deep into the ground, spreading as far, or further than the leaf tips ever went.


Rory said...

And my quest, Maija-- can we start at the roots (principles) and build the trunk (strategy) and from there work to tactics and techniques? that's how trees do it. It feels like it would be stronger. Why are we so sure that we start with techniques, sometimes even before we talk or think about perception?

Maija said...

Hmmm - fabulous question.
I'm going to think on it more, but my first thought is that because of our human preoccupation with touching things in the outside world, and the tendency of the mind to be kinda ... magpie/monkey like ... that acquisition seems to work as an entry point that seems more .... relevant/accessible to most via previous experience ...?
It's almost like understanding has to work it's way back from the fingers and eyes to the mind before it can go out again ....
On some level I think that's what 'seeing' is .....
Can you create a method for starting at the other end?
How far 'back' is it practical to start?
Is it different for different people?
Where is 'context' in all this?
..... I'll have to get back to you on that .... lol

Anonymous said...

Knowledge, and connections, unfold naturally through the expansion of consciousness by internalizing awareness. But usefulness can only come from the external focus (desire and intention) of the awareness through the senses. The whole is contained in the seed, but the seed cannot grow to bear fruit withouto a 'gardener' to water, cultivate and trim. The three things yield the 10,000.

Hertao said...

Great discussion here...

I think it's a good thing to begin with the roots and trunk, conceptually, but I don't think a practitioner will KNOW these things experientially until they have the tools to experience them. That probably requires techniques. You can't play music without learning single notes first, write without knowing words and how to form letters, or fully express yourself through painting without having some basic skills. You can play music, scribble, or paint with no fundamentals, but it's probably not going to work out very well.

IMO, you need to go through the leaves to see the roots. Maybe the leaves are just the soft spots, the way in. Otherwise you get stuck in the dirt banging up against hard stuff.

Maija said...

I wasn't actually thinking of techniques as the 'leaves', more like working on:
- This is how an edged weapon works.
- How to be light/rooted on your feet.
- Don't get hit.

Stuff like that.

All the pieces fall within the context (in this case dueling), and all the pieces are related to each other ... why you do each one is because of all the others .... but to internalize WHY seems to come later along with their integration.
When you have internalized, then the way you use the sword, keep your balance, move and evade all becomes one, simple, thing.
Learning HOW, however seems to be possible because the context connects to the pieces over time, and the pieces start to interlink, in a very physical, experiential, way.
Gotta start with the experiences though ....
I guess that makes 'the context' the environment the 'tree' grows in ...

Jim said...

I think that the tree analogy led Rory into a trap.

The way I read Maija's post is this: Are there some principles that are so pervasive or intrinsic that they're invisible as you're learning them -- but become apparent if you look at it them from the outside. One example that comes to my mind is space as something to use, occupy, and control during a fight situation. I haven't found an effective way to teach it other than by drilling and experiencing this concept until that light bulb goes on...

Mike Panian said...

This is complex. There is what you are trying to teach, the method you use for teaching it or explaining it, and what the recipient is able to perceive. So I see something that looks like a fundamental understanding to me and I get excited because I can see the application of this idea everywhere. I then create a whole way of teaching that focuses on clever ways to bring this concept to the forefront because it seems really clear and efficient for me to base actions on that understanding. Then I try to share this with different kinds of students. Some students can see what I am getting at and others cannot. I have noticed over the years that people are more open when the explanations that they receive are relevant in a concrete way. Rarely is it my brilliant presentation. More often someone got tagged and I say "try this" at just the right moment and whatever they change as a result works better. So its concrete and it takes sometimes repeated experiences, and people seem to vary innately in their ability to take a principle and apply it. So practicing is different than just getting taught and involves errors and correction and changing understanding over time.


Maija said...

Thanks for all the comments. This was a very interesting discussion :-)

DG said...

I'm madly curious now to know what this "Wavecutter" concept actually is, now.

Maija said...

The prow of a boat 'cuts' through the waves. Wavecutter, at it's most basic indicates an angle 45 degrees forward from the body towards the center line, and either up of down.