Monday, November 18, 2013

Keith Johnstone - Impro

Friend Scott Phillips studied with this guy, and brought up his work quite a while back as having many parallels with great martial arts training. It's taken me this long to post a few thoughts.

I have not read his book - 'Impro', though intend to. Here is part of an interview talking about his work and the book:

In the first 30 seconds of this interview you pretty much get the core of the method by which Sonny taught Eskrima -
Keith Johnstone says "Get rid of the fear"..... Sonny would say "Get rid of the freezing points"
"Make the right answers obvious" - This is what 'seeing' is.

"You have to fail" ..... There really is no learning without failing. Rote learning is not the same. You have to find the 'edges' of what you know to truly own it.

Don't be angry when you make a mistake, be happy .... Not Ha!Ha! happy, understand that mistakes may be gifts, so learn to surf them and use them to your advantage. Do not deny them.

"Learning to accept ideas is not good enough" .... Learn what your partner wants and give it to them. If it seems a little bit of a stretch to give your dueling opponent what they want .... think of giving them 'enough rope' instead ... But the key here is communication, not just playing by yourself.

Take risks ... "It's the goals you don't get that make it worthwhile ..." This is what training is for - it's a place to experiment, try, fail .... and gain skills.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


All the small things matter, for though they may be inconsequential when taken individually, together they can create big effects.

The most obvious one is power generation - If I can get all the elements that create power - gravity, turning and twisting and whipping to work as one, then I can generate more power than if I just control one of them.

Other less obvious chains include the same power generators, but this time used to accelerate evasive movements, or changing the start angle of the blade edge to change the arc of the cut (basically connecting the blade to the twisting capability of the arm .. and torso ... and leg ... and step).

The so called Internal Arts talk about the 'chain of pearls' and 'if one part moves all parts move' to describe this concept, and the big thing to note is that it's the connections between the increments that create the chain, not just the pieces themselves ... and a chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

Connecting pieces efficiently involves relaxing, because it's the previous increment that pulls or pushes the next piece into action, and timing the connections so they all work in concert is what makes the chain possible.

The timing is related to physiology and distance ... all colliding at the point of impact, or out of the line of fire in direct relationship to the arc of the target to hit, or the incoming threat to evade.

Add a fake or a bait to the chain of motion and there will be at least 2 possible chains that need to be accessible - the direct line, or with a bounce/cusp, a curve or a slingshot used as the change in direction.

Again. Relaxation is the key to preserving or amplifying the power/torque, and timing is the key to achieving precision at the point of (no) contact.

For practice, it's worth remembering that it's much easier to make big and long into small and short than the other way around.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Been slacking on the blog recently. My creative allotment has been twirling trying to get this book that's still partly lodged in my head, down onto paper.
Showing how deception works is hard enough .... talking about it is easier, but probably not to the point of actually conveying all that is necessary ... and writing - no body language, no gestures, no questions to answer ... Sheesh!
The sounds of my own voice reading different versions of the same thing is making me crazy. How do I know which version is best? They all makes sense to me :-)
Some days it seems simple, clear, short ... barely anything worth talking about ... On others there is SO much to explain it's hard to know where to start, which parts are most important and what goes before what .....
This would be much easier as a conversation.