Friday, July 1, 2011

Face Off

New guy (Hi D!), just started training with us, and told me that one of the reasons he wanted to look more in to our Eskrima was that our training looks very similar whether we are drilling or free fighting.
He said he would watch clips on youtube of different martial arts, and see drills and exercises, techniques and partner practices, and then compare them to how the practitioners of the systems actually free fight/spar/duel. More often than not, the fighting does not resemble the training at all.
One of the most common things that gets thrown out of the window is the body angling and the footwork which seem to disappear when the fight is on.

We started talking about why that is, and amongst other things we started discussing 'exits'. All systems teach entries or techniques, but I'm not sure how many, if any, consider the exit as a very important piece of the puzzle.
Exit, meaning getting out of range, and your opponent no longer able/wishing to continue, or getting into such a position that your opponent cannot do harm to you and gives up.

I learned a while back that it is a huge, perhaps KEY piece of the puzzle in dueling, as I do not consider a glorious double death as a desirable goal .....

So, what are the pieces you need when you take the exit into account?
In dueling with swords - Footwork, body angle, timing, defensive structure, a good offense, and the ability to tell lies.
How do you train it?
Avoid training facing square to your opponent.
Do nothing tactical standing still, do very little on a straight line, and do as much as possible moving around.
Fights/dueling are dynamic, they can move in any direction, and staying in front is rarely a good idea. Training for the exit, or to be in safety, has to be worked from the get go or there is little chance of it manifesting when things get a bit exciting .... or if you've never thought of it as something to do .....

Rory Miller had an interesting observation that might play in here about why people have this tendency to stay in front of each other - He noticed that when teaching his one step drill at seminars, which is basically a one for one partner practice, most people end up standing in front of each other. The one step is not sparring, but the tendency to turn it into something similar seems to be common. There's apparently something innate about standing in front of the opponent, especially if you are winning, probably because it gives a very strong dominance message - It is not good enough to just win ... your opponent must see that it is YOU that beat them - classic 'monkey brain' behavior, but tactically not a good idea if the stakes are high, especially with edged weapons.

A constant lesson Sonny instilled in us that might be worth adding is that you don't wait standing still - you, as the target must be moving BEFORE things kick off, or at least already spring loaded to move, instantly. (If you doubt why this is a good idea please read Mac's latest post about exploiting hesitation in his opponents on Quantum Donuts.)
I suspect that if you are already moving it's easier to keep moving (as long as you don't freeze), whereas if you start standing, you are already on the center line and perhaps also behind the timing. Bear in mind that it is extremely difficult to gain a beat when you are already a beat behind, especially if you get hypnotized by the monkey dance, and it starts playing you. Dueling may be a classic Monkey Dance in style ... but with swords it is 'lethal', which puts it far from any empty handed dominance games. And this is a tactical problem that many may not consider when learning only their entries and techniques.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the 'face-off' is because humans focus and effect projection is within a 135 degree forward zone. It's genetic. (I wonder how side-of-the-face animals, like horses, perceive and project -). 99.9% of martial technique focuses on delivering effect within this zone. Even spinning techniques end up focusing here. Antonymally, (yaay! new word for Funk & Wagnalls!) MMA guys give up when someone 'gets their back.' Rory is trying to turn this around by devoting a significant percentage of time to dealing with attacks outside of this zone.

Maija said...

Sonny spent alot of time practicing cutting on the exit rather than the the entry. The wonderful thing about swords is you can cut without striking - just holding the weapon steady and walking past your opponent will do. This means that you get used to the attack making contact when you are already getting around your opponent, not in front of them. Long weapons can also 'turn corners' which means again that you can insert from 'odd' angles ..... all this means movement though, good footwork is essential.
Practicing this concept with swords can be transferred to empty hand if you can 'see' how to transpose the angles.
Perhaps learning how to project your intent all the way to the tip of the sword might aid in expanding the genetic 135 ...?

Anonymous said...

Punto reversa, for instance; not just a physical technique, but a mental one. I think, though, that, at least physically and willfully, humans will always turn to 'face the threat.' 'Spiritually' though, perhaps we can learn to at least perceive equally throughout a 360 degree "dynamic sphere" (O Sensei).

Maija said...

I guess there's a time for everything. I prefer to face my opponent some of the time, just not all the time. It's very hard to get behind/around someone if you are face to face, and very hard to end/exit.
Of course the movement is all relative, so getting around can happen with either my movement, or my opponent's, and there is a difference between pivoting and angling with stepping that changes the relative positioning for entries ... and set ups.
As to the 360 dynamic sphere - yeah, the cut angle geometry stays the same regardless of which way you are oriented ... so understanding this frees you up to move around more I think.
I played with a Capoeira Angola player a while back - without swords - He had great Malicia, and was very unpredictable getting in and out of range. I realized that what I could do standing on my feet, he could do upright or upside down .... but when I started to not worry where his head was and just look at the angles I started to understand what he was doing better.