KNOWING YOUR SPACE

We all practice the knowledge of space when walking, driving, dancing and fighting.

Getting to know your own space while in combat gives us the ability to welcome a contact, move away and time the alignment, tension and movement to maintain freedom in a fight or a contact.

From the first step each of us took, our eyes began to study space and timing. We continue the practice and learning with static work and then move to the dynamic.

  1. Stand up in front of a wall. Place a hand on a wall extended but not locked and repeat for the front, the sides and the back. Play with the starting distance so you start a foot away from the wall and move to place a hand or fist on the wall by knowing the distance. Move from different angles, heights and side. Move another foot away from the wall and again, play with movement to place your fists, hands, elbows, shoulders and more. Continue playing with starting location and use your breath to add speed without adding tension and let the breath lead each movement starting from the body.
  2. Once the eyes and body are aligned with static work, we continue to moving with a partner. Start with the partner walking around you in a circle. Breath continuously to remain relaxed and time placing hands, fist and feet on the partner as they walk without adding any pressure. Keep the contact light and move with the contact to avoid becoming fixed with your eyes.
  3. Have your partner walk toward you and move the least amount so they just miss you by a hair. Do this from different angles and add speed with breath awareness and also pay attention with your body angle. Play with the angles and keep your legs under your hips to avoid becoming a position while maneuvering.
  4. Add placing hands and feet on your partner or partners to the play as you go. Never sacrifice mobility for position.
  5. Close one eye at a time and repeat the play. Play with your head angle and position and continue to look as you move instead of tracking what is moving. Your eyes and mind are capable of encompassing much more than most allow. Let them see for you and take in the entire picture. This is one of the keys to remain free in a melee or with resistance.
  6. Sit down and repeat the play. Find freedom with your eyes and motion by focusing on different heights in the walking partners and alternating constantly. Move with your breath and as you are down, view the horizon but do not let it confine you. Let the head move with the movements of the body.

This is a first step. Once force is introduced to the work, be diligent to breath continuously and to be aware of the tension building in the body and pose. With each breath, rebuild yourself. Simple but not easy.

The lesson of the drum

I often tell my students to avoid acting like a drum. Reacting is also a choice and we can choose otherwise. The drum is passive, makes sound only once hit and makes sound due to the tension of its surface.

Like the drum, all of us at times are tense, reactive and it is visible both physically, emotionally and mentally.

Physically, we are able to go past this reactivity through many ways, each must choose what fits his needs at the moment.

Physical

  1. Begin with tensing the body where you would brace once pushed, pulled or twisted. Hold your breath and release the tension and start breathing as a partner or a device ( an object hanging on a rope and swung …) makes contact. Begin from a standing position and alternate as you grow accustomed to how the body works counter clockwise and how one always has a choice between the two ends of the spectrum and beyond.
  2. open your eyes wide and spread your view side to side and up and down and then in circles until the eyes are relaxed and see without excess fixation. Now have a partner or an apparatus strike you slowly at first, with you aiming to maintain your eyes relaxed, your breath even and your body alignment without flinch or brace. The goal is to recognize the affect of fear and not knowing as the body cowers and braces with awareness and choice. One cannot rush this, avoid replacing tension with tension. Use your eyes and body to see all that is there instead of just the threat. Create a path instead of drifting between options.
  3. Tie a limb to a tree with a thick rope or have a partner hold or grab you. Begin with tensing and relaxing as you are without trying to pull out or twist. Continue to move the non tethered parts of the body, one at a time and then in union. Differentiate between the perceptions of what is holding you back and what internal freedom is.

Mental

  1. When you are at rest, you know you have energy and resources to enact if need be. This is the time to build the faculties further so you are not overwhelmed when pressure rises. Find yourself at rest, perhaps before going to sleep and lie down comfortably. Feel your pulse either with your hand or by awareness in your chest and start breathing in rhythm with your pulse. Start counting one pulse to one breath phase (inhale/exhale) and climb up as far as you can with syncing matching length of inhale and exhale to a longer count of pulse.

1 inhale per pulse counts, 1 exhale per pulse counts

1 longer inhale per 2 pulse counts, 1 longer exhale per 2 pulse counts

1 even longer inhale per 3 pulse counts, 1 even longer exhale per 3 pulse counts

and so on.

Emotional

  1. Think of something horrible. Monitor your heart rate and breath as you do. Go over the motions of how you would feel and act under a tragedy and again, monitor yourself as you do. Repeat for something positive. Balance is important.
  2. Place yourself in a cowering position and tense up. Aim to think positively and shift between body positions becoming aware how alignment and the body pose affects us internally. Make the connection how both inside affects outside and vice versa.

Be safe but not too safe 🙂

The magic of wrestling with a sword

Many times, we attempt to recreate something that already exists. Many martial arts today have gun disarm drills they invented, knife defense and attack they invented and much more that was already in existence the first time a man took a rock in his hand and threw it at his brother.

Studying what worked for people who fought for their lives for millennia helps us deepen and further our own knowledge and temper our own experiences with that of our forefathers.

I suggest to you ten drills to rediscover ancient knowledge. Mo magic exceeds honest work.

Lie on the ground with your sword. Have your partner or partners come at you with their tools. Get moving with your breath, body and sword to avoid being cut down and cut them down as you go. Smile, it relaxes the face and frees the mind from worry of things that have yet to happen.

Close your eyes and stand on one leg. Hold your sword in your hand and with each breath, feel your balance shift and adjust. Have a partner push and pull on you with a stick or a rope loop. Breathe and move as one with the sword and maintain your balance through conscious movement. Let your footing start at your hips instead of at your legs.

Stand a sword stroke away from your partner and cross swords. Breathe and relax your hand, arm and shoulder tension so as to move the blade from the movement of the body. Let your partner move as they care to and sink inwards to cut or thrust with your blade. Here focus on moving from your own volition instead of being a drum making sound only when hit.

Hold your sword in your hands and have your partner grab the tip of your sword. Aim to stab and cut them as they move and work the contact to avoid being cut and thrusted upon. Focus on being the entire blade instead of having the point of contact pressed to your consciousness.

Hold your sword in your hands and have the blade of your partner placed on your body. Move from your breath to first avoid placing resistance on the blade and from there let the body movement decide the next step. Practice so you can answer several questions at the same time. Do not limit yourself to defense or offense.

Take a sword and have both you and your partner place hands on it as you both kneel on your knees. Breathe and both work to either be the only one with blade at hand or on drawing a dagger from your belt if you choose to. Never let the blade consume more of you than required.

Stand with your feet under you and start moving your blade. Have your partner aim to strike you and you in turn aim to avoid his blade, not only with your body but with your blade as well. Free your mind from conversation and exist without leaning on outside circumstance.

Place your blade on your partners blade. Keep them touching as your partner aims to break contact and slide and move on their blade as they make their intent known. Why do this ? To understand the mentality behind contact and no contact so when the desire to regroup hits you under pressure, you will not suffer a dissonance between your survival and your instinct.

Tense your body, from your skull muscles to the muscles gripping the ground at your feet. Let go and breathe continuously. Have your partner dart their blade at you using both thrusts and cuts as you avoid focusing on them or their tools with your eyes and movement. See the gaps in space and movement and find their timing without molding a response. Be active in touching with your blade or body while not letting their actions lead you. Freedom is always won, never without intent.

Be either in a blade on blade or with both sides touching the blade and practice the art of invisibility. Breathe as you would and let go of all intent and tension to free yourself from the current motion to become something new. An example for this can be to let go of struggling over the control of a firearm to grab a boiling kettle and emptying it on the front of your attacker or letting go of a knife to push an assailant into a moving truck. disappearing is choosing when and where to be and when and where not to be.

Co-ordination

Coordination and coordination under pressure are related sets of skills.

I was playing with my son Gideon and together we came up with a set of drills for coordination under pressure.

Here is the progression.

  1. Stand and hold a tennis ball in your hand. Throw it from rib height to eye height along with your breath tempo.
  2. Repeat the previous drill and close your eyes. Feel before you see.
  3. Repeat the previous drill and hold your breath and throw and catch the ball continuously until pressure rises and a bit further.
  4. Have your son or anyone else stand only slightly out of reach and as you throw the ball, have them throw a ball at you. Catch it with your other hand and throw it back minding to continue your initial rhythm and your breath continuous.
  5. Repeat the previous drill but move out of the way of the incoming ball and return to your position as you throw it back.
  6. Walk with the ball in one hand and throw it as in the first drill as you walk.
  7. Have your son or anyone else throw the ball at you. Catch it as you move out of the way and throw it back. Keep your breath continuous and your eyes relaxed from fixating on the incoming.
  8. Repeat the previous drill only with more than one ball flying your way. Choose which to catch and which to avoid. Color of balls can help here.

Enjoy, Grow through play and live free.

Balance between give and take

In confrontations there is no balance between the streams. There will only be a balance within the theater the confrontation takes place in.

In physical confrontations, we will gain balance once we are mindful to the internal streams of tension and movement within. Knowing the internal theater of war lets the one in conflict see with less distortion both inward and outward.

Our hips are a marvel of engineering. Crafted over eons for the perfect balance between stability mobility, efficiency and effectiveness.

I give you two drills to balance your hip nervous system activation patterns. They are simple on the outside but the multitude of possibilities make them a rich research ground.

Place yourself on both feet and hands. Make your body into an X with your feet and arms slightly parted. Use your breath to time each movement and lift each limb in turn minding to keep the body centered. There may be a slight shift before each lift that with attention will clean out as awareness grows.

Repeat the same standing up. Lift each leg in turn. Think of peeling the sole off the ground instead of lifting it like a robot. Move as if all limbs act in union and enjoy the new found balance and health this releases.

In a confrontation or when walking on a slippery surface, this will aid in maintaining and regaining your level and allow for less telegraphing motion when in maneuver.

Seeing with closed eyes

Are there secrets that hide behind our eyes ? Perhaps so.

We enjoy a waterfall of input from our eyes on a regular basis. This overabundance overrides other input streams causing us to devote less time to our hearing, smell, taste and body sensation. A monochrome painting gives less input but allows us to see other aspects that would be lost otherwise.

Closed eyes release a great deal of mental bandwidth to process other flavors as the next suggestions suggest:

  1. Start a constant sound (sometimes, owning a smart phone is good) place the sound in a static place and navigate the space according to the distance, angle and height of the sound.
  2. Start a constant sound and have it moving in a repetitive way. A friend or a toy truck can be or service here. Repeat the navigation drill and let your mind and senses feel the path of the sound in space.
  3. Find a quiet place. Not always an easy task and listen to your own breath and heart beat. Find your own sound reflected in the trees, walls or whatever is around you. Let your sound become a part of the surroundings and with breath, let it dissipate and grow more efficient.
  4. Lie on the ground and crawl around a safe location. Find your way with your body and limbs and feel the different textures of the ground and what is around you. Let the temperature of the different materials tell you where you are and where the sun warms the surface and how. Let the smell and residue on the ground tell you again where you are. The same will work with your eyes open as the capability spans and grows with deep practice.

Breathe, move, communicate with yourself and others.

Fear itself

A mother tells her child. “Don’t be afraid my son, be a man”

That is not what a man is. A man is he who is afraid yet steps forward despite and because he is. We are not without our faults but fear is not to be feared. It is energy coursing in our veins when danger looms close and the waves cover our heads. Fear is a drive to avoid harm or to seek and eradicate the evil of cruelty and hate.

Embrace fear and find yourself on the other side, not brave, but whole. The man who hides his fear, will less inspire others to step forward and change.

One last notion. Nature does not waste. Fear is not a mistake or error but a mechanism for survival and growth. It is perverted into hate and cowardice when it does not go to its natural path of self preservation and progress.

A man is nothing when confronted by a lion but lion is nothing when confronted by a human.

Stiff Mobility

One of the best ways to find your way around the mountain is to walk around it. This time, we will use the stick to release stiffness in the body and in the mind.

For these ten movements you will need a sturdy shaft that reaches from the ground to your chest at least. I have used a hoe shaft for years and it serves me and my students well.

video and further instruction is at my online classes and online free videos.

  1. Hold the stick in both ends in front of you. Sit down and pass both feet past the stick and roll over the shoulder to lie on your stomach and back to a standing position.
  2. Sit on your knees with the stick held in both ends. Roll forward while keeping the stick to your side.
  3. Sit on your knees with the stick held in both ends. Roll forward while keeping the stick ahead of you at the front.
  4. Sit on your knees and roll to each side at a time with the stick held in both ends and keep the stick from touching the ground.
  5. Hold the stick in one hand aimed at the skies. Transition from standing to laying down and switch hands during the transition as you switch from inhale to exhale.
  6. Hold the stick in the crooks of your bent elbows. Roll forward and backwards. Breathe and use the shoulders and hips alignment to move freely.
  7. Hold the stick in the crooks of your bend elbows. Lie on your back and transition from laying face up to face down, without letting the stick touch the ground.
  8. Hold the stick in the bend of your neck and chest. Transition between laying on your back and standing up and aim to keep the shoulder blades and shoulders as relaxed as possible.
  9. Hold the stick in the bend of your bent knees. Transition between laying face up and face down without lifting the torso off the ground. Find which angles work for you between the hips and spine.
  10. Hold the stick in one hand and against the top of the opposite foot. Transition between Standing and sitting down. without lifting both legs off the ground.

Smile and enjoy the work.

ransuru@yahoo.com

Solo and Partner home drills/games

There are times where training in a school is forbidden or not possible. There are always ways to hone the inner blade as many cultures have shown us before, from adopting agricultural tools into weapons to masking fighting moves in dance and song.

Here I focus on the family unit. Here are twenty drills or games to do by yourself or with the kids to better their attributes and emotional capacity to do good under pressure.

Solo drills/games

  1. Take a ball and throw it in the air and catch it again using the same hand. Transition from laying down to standing without stopping movement and breathing.
  2. Take a ball and throw it to the ceiling and catch it. Throw it again and catch it after turning a full turn in one way and then in the other. Continue to add turns as much as you can and remember to let your eyes time the motion.
  3. Stand two steps away from a wall and lean on it with one hand. Throw the ball up or bounce it off the floor and switch hands and catch it with the other hand. Continue and if possible, add distance from the wall.
  4. Place yourself in the push up position while holding a ball in one hand. Roll it toward the hand on the ground and place it to replace the support. Mind the breath to lead each shift in mass.
  5. Stand two steps away from the wall and throw the ball at the wall and catch it using your arms and body or legs but not the hands. Repeat and see of you can free your hands from the drill altogether.
  6. Place the ball on the wall and keep it there using the top of your head. Roll it down the body using just the body movements down and up. Think how sails can move a ship sideways from the direction of the wind.
  7. Throw the ball away from you and see exactly where it is. Close your eyes and retrieve the ball without touching anything other than the ground and the ball.

Partner drills/games

  1. Start with one laying down on the ground and one is standing up. Throw the ball between each other as you continuously switch from laying down to standing up. Remember to keep breathing and let the body angle play its course on its own.
  2. Take two balls and throw them to each other at the same time. Continue to throw them with the rhythm of your breathing and start walking together as you keep throwing the balls with the same tempo.
  3. Stand together facing the wall. Throw the ball to each other by bouncing it off the wall. Aim to catch it by moving from its path and pulling it to your body with an arm and keep going.
  4. Stand back to back and move the ball from one to the other around you, above you and and underneath you. Continue to do so and try to surprise each other with the delivery as the other side senses the direction from the body contact.
  5. Stand five steps from each other with your backs to each other. Any side can start turning and throwing the ball at the other and the other needs to avoid getting hit while hitting back with their ball. Listen to the shift in mass and the change in breath before the move. Listen to yourself first.
  6. Place the ball on the ground and pass it from one to the other using just one foot at a time. You cannot stop to kick the ball but must move continuously and time the steps so every kick is also a step.
  7. Stand one step from each other and hold the ball at shoulder level. One drops the ball as the other has to catch it and to step away before being touched by the one who dropped the ball. Here you are allowed to go to the ground, move in any direction as long as you avoid hurting each other. The more we pay attention, the more it pays forward.

Enjoy.

Embracing fear

There are many questions martial arts aim to answer. One of the deeper ones is, how we face fear. Only someone who passed through the masks of technique and strategy can face the real questions that in turn, unmask the fog of the battlefield.

Fear is a terrible master and a powerful servant. It is how we face it that sets its place in our own theatre. I will present a few methods to connect with the fear so it may be one of the horses in our chariot instead of the driver.

  1. First comes the breath. The breath is the main bridge between the autonomic and automatic nervous systems. One can hold breath but not forever.  We can use breath holds to mimic danger and to note to ourselves and with partners how the fear or realization of mortality ebbs and rises inside us and how both the body and the mind seek to rationalize the process and stir us away from finding the connection between the systems of the body. Once we cross that bridge once and meet our fear, it is easier and easier to feel the first embers of that flame when it rises and through continuous breath, let that fear turn into focus and assertiveness to solve an issue without letting it take us out of our center. Another method of breathing is to exhale more than we inhale. The exhale is a release and when the breath delta allows us to naturally release any building excess, we avoid the rise of it from the base level of operation. The last breath method to mention here is to let the breath come to you. Over breathing and mouth breathing is a very wide gate for fear to drive through and keeping the mouth closed and relaxed and letting the breath happen on its own from the body instead of pulling it in is a great step toward calm under pressure. Once this is achieved than also the body will manifest a waterfall. Always moving but never changing. The torso will not be burdened by excess breathing and will not alter shape and pressure beyond what is necessary for the moment.
  2. Second comes the tension. We leave fear in the body in the form of tension and acid in the muscles. This displays in our posture and body tension and how our eyes perceive the world in front of us or under us. To face our tension, we connect it with the breath. We inhale and tense a part of the body, exhale and release. Never aim to relax the body from the natural state because that will just add activation to the area and treat the current tension level as normal and it is never so. Always use a wave to tense and relax and also move the tension from one part of the body to the other with the different phases of the breath (inhale and tense the left side of the body, exhale and move the tension to the rights side) and so we learn with our bodies and our conscious mind together that freezing does not actually exist but the speed with which we deal with rising tension does. Animals in nature do not waste. Nature does not waste. The freeze comes as a way for pray to avoid detection and for predator to attune to the sign of the pray. Connecting ourselves with our breath, daily and understanding how tension forms and serves us, lets us ride the wave instead of being succumbed by it.

This is an response to a wonderful question asked by Sensai Jordan Augusto I learn a lot from my friends questions and I am thankful for them. One might say questions evolves us better than answers.

I wish to include a song by Robert W. Service that depicts the attrition of war better than anything else I read.

A Song of Winter Weather

It isn’t the foe that we fear;
It isn’t the bullets that whine;
It isn’t the business career
Of a shell, or the bust of a mine;
It isn’t the snipers who seek
To nip our young hopes in the bud:
No, it isn’t the guns,
And it isn’t the Huns —
It’s the MUD,
      MUD,
        MUD.

It isn’t the melee we mind.
That often is rather good fun.
It isn’t the shrapnel we find
Obtrusive when rained by the ton;
It isn’t the bounce of the bombs
That gives us a positive pain:
It’s the strafing we get
When the weather is wet —
It’s the RAIN,
      RAIN,
        RAIN.

It isn’t because we lack grit
We shrink from the horrors of war.
We don’t mind the battle a bit;
In fact that is what we are for;
It isn’t the rum-jars and things
Make us wish we were back in the fold:
It’s the fingers that freeze
In the boreal breeze —
It’s the COLD,
      COLD,
        COLD.

Oh, the rain, the mud, and the cold,
The cold, the mud, and the rain;
With weather at zero it’s hard for a hero
From language that’s rude to refrain.
With porridgy muck to the knees,
With sky that’s a-pouring a flood,
Sure the worst of our foes
Are the pains and the woes
Of the RAIN,
      the COLD,
        and the MUD.

Thank you

Sharon Friedman