People sometimes send me videos of what they think I do. Often described as: 'Check it out! Some nice flow here!'
Hmmm .... Flow, maybe. But not in the way I mean it. Not even close.
It's weird to me because I thought I had described 'my' flow pretty clearly by this point. Apparently not. People will hear what they want to hear over wondering whether something else might exist that they have not thought of.
The video clips I get sent generally fall into 2 categories: A choreographed pattern or series of techniques moving from one set piece to the next in continuous motion; Or a single entry attack which is intercepted and the attacker either gets 'hit' until they are on the ground, or ran around like a puppet on a string through a series of joint locks until the instructor is tired or bored or something.
Now flow is flow. I do not have proprietary rights over the word or it's meaning, and am quite happy to admit it can mean many things.
It's just not what I mean when I say it.
The smoothness of applying a series of joint locks to force an opponent to move where you want them to is certainly a flow. So are Tippy Tappy drills, with every stick and hand contact pointing towards the success of throwing one angle followed by another in a flowing manner with a partner.
So to reiterate - Flow, when I talk about it. Is none of these.
I am going to use the metaphor of conversation once again because I think it's a good one.
The puppeteer interaction would be akin to one person asking a prearranged question and the other pulling out a list from their back pocket and reading the answers/objections out loud (prepared earlier). The original questioner is not allowed to change the question beforehand or surprise the other with an unexpected question, or insert a rebuttal.
The Tippy Tappy would be akin to singing a well known song together alternating who sings the lines.
My version would be more like a real, actual, conversation.
It would have one person throw out an idea for discussion - "What do you think of XXX?"
The listener does not know what 'XXX' will be before it is said. It might be something familiar, or it might be something completely novel.
Their job is to listen, formulate a response and throw it back - "I don't know, tell me more" or "Really? You think that's a good idea?" or "Wow, never thought of that. Does YYY play into it?"
Neither party has a preconceived idea about where the conversation will go. Ideally it should be stimulating for both, with disagreement, debate, and perhaps even some elegant solutions as a result.
Both parties are independent thinkers and both have entered into the conversation because they are interested in what the other has to say. They are also engaged enough to notice any misunderstandings; they check if the other really gets what they are trying to convey, and try to converse at a level and in a language the other can understand.
Remember, flow is not fighting. There is no 'winning' in flow (as there should not be in truly good conversation). But there is space to experiment. Play, learn new things, and find out more about your fellow human beings through a common medium of communication.
Flow is not training to sing in a chorus or read the script of a play. It is training to solve that which puzzles us, to ask 'why'? and find out what we do not know.