Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mandatory Failure

My Japanese sword teacher put it most succinctly (though I'm probably paraphrasing) -

"Techniques only happen because your primary attack failed"

 ..... After all, decapitate them, or run them through on the first cut .... and there is very little else left to do ... Perhaps extract yourself and avoid the blood. That's all.

Of course there is a whole game played before contact, which is much more important with edged weapons - sizing up your opponent, creating your moment etc ... but once it gets to the physical skills themselves, either your first move is decisive ..... or, you screwed up, and all the other stuff, the technical stuff, happens so you can prevail, AND extricate yourself from the contact.

Bagua organizes part of it's system (It's straight line forms) around this idea.

1) Engage - either as a committed attack ... but more often, as a test, to tie up the primary weapons - empty hand this would be the arms - legs would be taken care of by positioning achieved through the entry.

2) Put power into the system. This either finishes it .... or it does not work.

3) If it does not work - you change something - dependent on how your opponent reacted to the original engagement (grabbed you/stepped out/turned/countered/blocked/etc)

4) The reaction gives you the momentum to finish it, but now from closer range ... remembering our system is fond making people fall over. Bagua thinking works fine for weapons and striking, but is possibly happiest tripping, sweeping, and face planting people into the ground.

The whole sequence should be seamless, and the solo forms are there to assist in practicing this ability to able to flow from anyplace, to anyplace else, without thought. It matters not what your opponent does - every possible reaction has a finish that you control. They choose - And you use what ever they choose, to beat them.

They shift their weight back? Follow the weight and trip them on a weak angle. They block? You now control both hands. They resist? You follow the power in the same direction and add to it, or use them as an anchor to sling shot power around.

Your job, is to keep good, dynamic, alignment, be able to move each and every direction as needed, understand the weak angles in each position, and be sensitive to the opponent's choice to be able to use what they give you .... oh, and keep yourself safe in the process.

These are the skills that the system should give you.

So, from an engagement (One of the 8 big openings for instance), the opponent negates the initial attack, either by blocking the strike, stepping, or countering, and this then is the gateway to the actual finishing move -
They block your strike? Good! They flinch back? Excellent!! They resist from the first point of contact? Yippee!! ... this is where the stuff happens ... BECAUSE of the resistance .... not because there was none.

Everyone has seen countless techniques, taught as a 1,2,3,4 (sometimes 5,6,7) series of moves, whilst the other stands there like an automaton ..... Some of them are nice flows of ideas but lack one BIG element ... the natural reaction of the opponent to each part.

The ideas aren't all bad ... they have just lost their reason 'why'. Add the natural reactions that doing part 1) instill ... and often these are a path to parts 3) and 4).

If you want to understand what the designers of the system thought was important, put the reactive flow back into the techniques - Only 3 or 4 beats are needed - And troubleshoot possible exits (For ideas, look to the form work) ..... just make sure that part 3 exists because of an opponent induced failure of the initial attack ....

No failure .... no necessity for anything more.


Jake said...

I really like this idea, or the way you've phrased it.

I often tell my Muay Thai students that any fight that lasts past the first blow (or exchange) is, by definition, imperfect. After all, in a perfect world, you hit the guy, knock him out, and go home.

If it takes longer than that, things didn't go as planned.

Muay Thai lacks the forms to reference, but looking at the movements or combinations taught makes things clearer. Certainly, the idea that you are responding to what your opponent gives you is an important one, and one which gets lost on occasion.

Maija said...

Yeah .... I think if the context of a technique is misunderstood, many think that it should happen AS the initial entry, not as a consequence of it.
Many engage .. disengage ... engage .. disengage over and over again, with only the thought of a single entry .... If it does not work, they try again ... rather than seeing the 'not working' part as an opportunity to work the finish.

And though Chinese systems have worked out solo forms to 'store' this information .. it's still a tactile, interactive process with a resisting opponent that really ingrains the skills ......

Jake said...

This is interesting. The Chinese (among others) have worked out methods of codifying information, but sometimes the "decoder ring" (for lack of a better term) apparently gets lost. So you get people doing kata, but don't know why they're doing it, and can't apply it.

On the flip side, you get arts like Muay Thai or Boxing, which have great training methods for teaching people how to apply things, but there's no codified system for passing things along.

Hmh. Gotta think on this more.

Billy said...

Hi Maija and Jake, This reminds me of the action reaction concept. Action reaction in time through failure will turn into action response. The reason for this is because in the corse of learning, a reaction isnt very mindful.Through training and under duress as in boxing or weapon work the failures help you put the mental aspect to the failure and then you mindfully understand why you failed.Then you end up with action response. Therefor mindful and usually successful as well. Just a thought. Enjoyed reading your responses :)