Monday, November 28, 2011

Steal from the Best

One more post about getting out of yourself, being someone else for a change, and understanding other peoples' movement and psychology. Because as you know, if 'All war is deception', then it's not all going to be about you.

Here is a new video clip of Steve Morris talking about self reliance and mindfulness, unfortunately the sound quality is rather bad, but you can make out what he's saying if you turn it up. I thought it was interesting in many respects, but in the context of this post I wanted to connect his idea about 'stealing from the best' with what Sonny called 'Mirroring' i.e. discovering useful material by copying others.

Steve Morris talks about 'watching the fight' and extracting material from it that you can play with and see how it integrates in what you do. I particularly love the part where Steve talks about 'being' Mike Tyson for a month, moving like him, immersing himself in his rhythm and fighting attitude.
Sonny had a similar, but different, way of doing this. He called it 'Mirroring' (though also used the same term for more specific mirroring - like in cut angle, or which side of the center line the hand moves).

Mirroring the whole person is about moving like your opponent, being their real, live, reflection in a mirror - Stepping with them. weight shifting with them, moving the blade and hands like them etc, the only difference is adding the pendulum concept in the forward back direction to avoid clashing (if they move towards you, you do not close on them you step back, they step back, you move forward).
It's not something you can do 100% of the time as the flow tends to stop. There is a skill to keeping it going by noticing the natural breaks in the opponent's rhythm and breaking off also, perhaps instigating an entry, then back to mirroring to understand the reaction.
It's also not an intellectual exercise, it's a 'feeling' practice, which is why you have to flow to practice it, at least at first.
Everyone that trained with Sonny got to flow a great deal with the man himself, and thus got a chance to mirror him, his movement, and his many, many, different rhythms. It was hugely valuable and obviously helped us 'steal from the best'. However, I would say that it was also immensely valuable to try mirroring everyone I flowed with to try to understand how they moved, just the fact they were not me gave me new ideas and ways to move I'd never thought of before regardless of their skill level.

Mirroring within flow also makes it easier to watch movement on video and 'feel' it, and be able to steal from there too, as Morris does, but you definitely need a context to put it in or it is rather meaningless.
For instance, I can watch soccer or snowboarding, and though I can possibly find stuff in their movement patterns to help my dueling, there is no connection in my body to what they are doing in their context, so the visual information is only pertinent to what I actually, physically, practice, and can integrate in my personal 'real wold' experience.
Also, though Steve Morris, with his wealth of actual fighting experience, can insert new ideas pretty easily into his repertoire with probably little or no separation between seeing something and internalizing it, when he coaches his guys, they try out new ideas shadow boxing or on the bag, in partner drills and sparring. These ideas then get tested in the ring, to see what works for each individual and what does not.

In our system, we practice mirroring in flow and test in sparring/dueling with a variety of opponents. Having a variety of ways to move depending on your opponent is the goal, finding what works for you and against whom.

As an aside, not everyone's moves are keepers in a bigger sense of expanding one's tool box- but using a personal rhythm against itself - i.e mirroring the opponent as a tactic, is certainly useful. It's hard to explain in print, but watch soccer or basketball defensive play to see what I'm talking about. Couple mirroring with breaking the mirror, and leading off the opponent's rhythm, and you have much of what you need to understand them, steal from them if you wish, and hopefully beat them too.

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