Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Moment Before

What is tactically possible in any moment, is predisposed by what is happening in the moment before.
This probably seems obvious, but has a profound effect on what can and cannot succeed, and the variety of options viable at any one time.
For instance, you can only land a shot on your opponent after you evade, if you are loaded onto your legs to move back into range the moment before. You can only exit successfully if you are already prepared to do so as you enter.
It's a very short moment you see, which means you already have to have the idea about what's about to happen, and what you can do, 2 STEPS ahead AS you do the next thing ....... (and I might add that though this may be practiced consciously, in real time it's a 'feeling' that comes from 'seeing', and seems to bypass the thought process), so everything you do ends up being part of a chain of events, a Kadena if you like.
The opposite of this would be working purely 'IN the moment', reactively that is, meaning you are basically trusting your reflexes, and to some extent, luck, relying solely on your opponent to create the opportunity.
So using the previous post's video clip as an example -
The Japanese stylist is always spring loaded to take advantage of the opponent's lapses in concentration .... but is still relying on the opponent to lapse, taking advantage of a situation in the moment, seizing it very efficiently, but really has no part in creating it.
OK, he does change his kamai some and shift his feet which could have an effect, but basically, in my opinion, why there are so many double death cuts in the interaction, is that neither party is creating, they are just trying to take advantage, of situations AS they unfold.
Sometimes one party engages the other's weapon, creating a bridge, and I guess this could be construed as trying to create opportunity. Problem is that neither seems to have a game plan leading forward from that contact - the Western fencer never has good enough footing to kick, trip, or shunt his opponent off because he is not ready for this to happen. Neither does the Japanese stylist.

This ability to create, or writing, as Sonny called it, is a step above reading which is what is mostly happening in the video clip.
Now, often 'reading' is good enough, and a hard enough skill to learn in and of itself. And technically the Japanese stylist 'won' on the first interaction, because it's only the first one that really counts after all ....
But what if it isn't enough? Say because your opponent is skilled or a difficult read, what then? Surely it's better to have luck and reaction play a smaller role and learn how to 'write' the game for yourself?

So back to 'the moment before' ..... The key ingredient to what is about to happen next. A predictor, a 'tell' about your opponents next move, and the last, diminishing moment of influence YOU can have on a forthcoming event.

- How late can you change something to your benefit?

- How early can you influence a chain of events?

- How long can you play this sequence and lead the interaction?

Well, it's impossible to know unless you play IN TIME, and by 'in time' I don't mean on the beat, I mean in the 4th dimension. In a situation that models, as closely as possible, a real interaction between you and another.
Set sequences of prearranged techniques don't qualify as you know what comes next, so are learning nothing about how to influence events, set up opportunities, read intent, or gain on the timing.

That is why, in my opinion, flow training is so valuable (free sparring too, though often it's too fast to 'see' what's going on and change behavior very efficiently), and what separates it from static and purely technical learning. How are you ever going to learn to work with this 'moment before' if it never appears in your training?
And if you never get to work with this moment ......?
Perhaps the whole event will remain a mystery, and everything you do will be down to luck and fast reflexes .... Not such a great prospect in my book.


Hertao said...

I love this post Maija. In my experience it's rare to find a teacher (outside of grappling arts) that has practitioners train anything other than static techniques, reactive counters, and sparring-without-a-purpose.

I mentally divide practice into techniques, training methods, and strategy. Of course there is some overlap there. But I consider what you posted about to be primarily an issue of strategy, first. It requires awareness and understanding (seeing), which requires experience. So many people neglect "before contact" positioning for advantage and strategic entries. Your post does a great job explaining why that's so important.

If your opponent has an adaptable strategy based on feeling, and all you have are active and/or reactive techniques, you're probably going to fail.

Mac said...

A lot of success in martial 'arts' (not combat arts) comes from picking your 'moment' - a point in time when you release the arrow. The moment is a rational decision, based on training and experience, fueled by emotion and focused by the will. One must train, and then pick, a single cue that triggers the moment.

The moments are:

1) attack the intention
2) attack the decision
3) attack the hesitation
4) attack the detraction (a muscular pre-set that presages the actual movement toward the critical distance line)
5) attack the leading center
6) attack the distance (your attack reaches the opponent just as his or her weapon (be it empty hand or device) reaches the critical distance line
7) attack the attack (it's starting to get late in the game for this and iuchi is common)
8) attack the withdrawal
9) attack the reset

If you can find your student's best, initial, option and then teach him/her to use no more than three attacks, then confidence and skill will grow quickly. Then, from a successful focal point, broader awareness will develop and, eventually, the student will be able to pick any of the moments.