Friday, April 8, 2011

Rhythm, Harmony and Discord Part 1

Sonny videoed all his classes. He kept one copy, and he had 2 recorders hooked up so at least 2 people could get copies of each session to take home. I'm pretty sure some never spent much time watching their tapes, but most did, and I certainly spent a few hours every week reviewing the workouts.
Video is a hugely useful tool for gaining insight into your gaps and tendencies, teachers can point out personal glitches that you yourself can't feel, but seeing them in glorious technicolor gives you a whole new level of certainty that you cannot deny.
Watching yourself 'in action' can be somewhat cringe worthy at first, but getting used to watching your own movement, objectively, is great training for separating ego from skill, and as a start point for troubleshooting what needs fixing.
One of my great insights occurred when I started to notice how I had a personal rhythm, a way of moving when I flowed. The more I watched the more I could see the pattern of my movement, it predicted when I entered and dictated my (weak) attempts at faking. No wonder I was easy to read! It pervaded all I did and once I'd noticed it it became almost embarrassing to watch.
Once I got over that ... ahem ...... I noticed that everybody 'suffered' from the same issue - a personal, and unconscious way of moving that was predictable. So I started to pay attention more to peoples' innate rhythms, and tried to notice what separated the higher skilled players from the beginners.
Sonny was a chameleon, so was a great person to learn from by watching, and what I noticed was this - We all move like ourselves - Sonny Umpad's movement is totally recognizable as his, so is Floyd Mayweather's, Bruce Lee's etc ..... but, all these guys, though each has a distinctive way of fighting, also has many rhythms and tempos within them, as well as a whole spectrum of break beats at their disposal.
That is what separated them from the beginners that generally have only one game to play.

Finding new or different rhythms and ways of moving is actually fairly tricky because by their nature they feel ... unnatural.
Until you can make them yours they will be stilted and self conscious, like the physical equivalent of bad acting. They will also take a great deal of concentration to do, which means you are a much easier target during training, and in essence become a beginner again. Your ego may have a problem with this - not only the losing part, but the part that links who you are with how you move ......
But, it is a worthwhile endeavor and will up your game considerably if you practice. You'll still be you, but just more so.

Part 2 will look at the relationship between what you do and who you play with.


Anonymous said...

Personally, after many years in the traditional martial arts with set patterns and set ways of expressing those patterns, it was (and still is) very hard to change up my personal style.

In fact, even just saying, "personal style" is a misnomer. There really isn't anything personal about imitation, is there?

Great post. It has me thinking!

Maija said...

@ctk -
Everyone's personality comes out in any partner practice - everyone feels different to cross hands with, no? But movement and rhythm obviously manifests more fully in free sparring/dueling/flowing.

We all learn by imitation, I posted a link a while back to a piece about mirror neurons, and how copying someone excites the same neurons in your brain as in the person you are watching .... so yes, it's imitation, but on some level YOUR imitation of somebody will look like you and my imitation of the same will look like me.

What I find really interesting however is how our identity is somehow wound up in how we move, and the resistance to finding new ways. I think it's somehow linked to Rory's ideas about Monkey/social conflict and the importance of your opponent knowing it's YOU that won - the necessity to communicate dominance from one individual to another means that you need to be recognizable as YOU. I think on some level changing yourself is internalized as 'cheating', it screws with the ego or loses the point or something ..... so we are resistant. (This is not a fully formulated thought at this point, but certainly a question in my mind ...)
Out of interest, Sonny never seemed to fight/flow/play from ego. He was so focused on how the other player ticked and how to 'play' them that he pretty much disappeared. That's what I mean by him being a chameleon. There was no 'there' there that you could fight, he was constantly morphing, toying with you like a cat with a mouse. Luckily for us students he was doing it in the interests of teaching us, not torturing us LOL