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.

A balance of strength

Strength gives way to capability. We aim for strength but we usually forget to aim for a balance of strength.

Our bodies are made for forward motion mostly, for climbing, running, swimming and working with tools for building and war.

Balance in strength allows our bodies to manifest our will in movement over time instead of attempting to maintain a balance with tension and posture adjustments.

Drills to manifest balance:

  1. Stand on one leg. Swing the other leg forward and back as you clap your hand in the opposite side to create a balance. Breathe and let your arms find the same reach in front of you and at the back.
  2. Place yourself on your fists and feet. move side to side, move forward and back, and turn in circles. Turn from facing down to facing up or vice versa and repeat the movement patterns. Enjoy moving and move with your breath and from the center outward.
  3. Stand a step away from a wall or a tree. Place your hands of fists on it and start walking it side to side. Turn away from the wall and repeat.
  4. Pick someone or something up in your arms. It can be your kid or mate or a log you aim to use for heating. Start walking and pay attention to the mass distribution in your feet. Walk forward and backwards side to side and turn right and left. Walk tall and in a partial squat. Let your feet relearn how to walk by shifting instead of pressing.
  5. Take a broomstick or any other rolling pin that can bear your mass. Stand on it with both feet using the center of each foot. Breathe and slowly look up and down side to side and turn your head. Breathe and release excess tension and slowly let the body align on the rolling pin to gain greater balance in each direction.

Enjoy and join our classes.

Art by Natalia Friedman

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.

Water training

Being in the water is a natural experience. We’ve all spend months in liquid and returning to it is second nature.

Standing neck deep in water is relaxing and can be challenging in the right mindset and conditions. If the temperature is low, then the body needs to contend with the elements and the blood flow and heat generation is getting a workout. If the temperature is mild, the body can receive the same by swimming and diving.

One of the great things in water is they resist all movement and give instant feedback. Clap your hands in front and clap them behind you and feel the water resistance to the movement. Try to do this faster and faster and the water will respond in kind.

Kick with your feet and strike with your arms. Roll and turn, switch positions and height. Shadow fight slow and then faster and faster and you will get a great lesson in movement efficiency and your entire body will learn to move more as one unit and forgo excessive tension and movement.

Breathing wise. When the temperature is low. Direct your breath into the places that warm your body. The locations are slightly different for each person so note where your body is warmer in cold environments and study yourself. This is a focus drill of course and through that, you learn to direct and use your nervous system and visualization to generate actual heat.

Also, Just enjoy the water and watch out for gators 🙂

A line in the sand

There is a saying that we are treated as worse as we allow.

I want to introduce a few physical examples of this concept but also urge you to consider where this concept comes to life in everyday life and the relationships we hold with family, friends and the powers that be beyond the people.

  1. Distance – Consider the distance we dynamically hold and mold between ourselves and the world. Aim to determine the distance between people and yourself as well as the position you are in, instead of letting others guide, bully, direct and request you at their will. In many ways, the ability to detect being bullied, guided and circled will aid in avoiding being mugged, attacked and so on. Distance is not just physical, it is a manifestation of our state of mind and the way we position ourselves in the social hierarchy.
  2. Breath control – Speaking cannot happen without breathing. Not much else can happen without it either. Notice and mind your breath as you speak and as you move withing distance and action. Avoid letting people taking your breath away by minding your own breath first and staying within the rhythm which suits you. We are either masters or slaves. There is only freedom or servitude unless you find the golden line of true cooperation or dare I say love.
  3. Conflict – Manipulation, subterfuge and plain use of force are evident everywhere in nature. The fight to feed the young, kill the competition and avoid being mud beneath the wheel of time is everlasting. Consider with each interaction, which role we play and to what extent we are in control of the dynamics. We are only human when we act human. It is easy to lose sight of our humanity when pressed and there again, recognizing the pressure, is the key to letting it pass within without passing it on to us.

Art by my beloved Natalia Friedman.

Running

Running a one of the movements humans excel in. Most people do not know we can outrun almost any animal on earth in long distance running and we can carry quite a bit of mass as well.

Getting there from a modern sedentary life is less of a straight line. Several factors require treatment and vigilance to fulfill the genetic gift our predecessors created in a life of hard work, hunting and war.

Let us begin from the bottom and move up.

Feet – Most stomp their feet flatly on the ground due to lack of nature time and footwear. Aim to walk barefoot when possible and to allow the foot to hug the ground. Mobilize the toes and especially the big toe to be a part of the step and to make contact with the ground without force.

The first contact is one of three keys to effortless running. A person has to move all limbs from the center and avoid pushing against the contact as much as possible. This is very simple but not easy. Moving the limbs and legs in particular from the hips and body and only moving the mass to the leg on the ground after the contact has been established and confirmed as safe.

A side note is that once of the earliest signs of a culture is a healed leg bone. Before culture, once you broke your leg, you were dead. a sure step is more vital to our survival than we know.

Stand and slowly peel one foot off the ground by moving your body and hips. Place the foot back on the ground using the same frame of mind and movement and only then, place your mass on it.

Legs and hips – The best way to learn to move your feet on the ground is off the ground. water walking as water polo players practice or hanging on a tree branch we can swing our legs and move our hips easily and without unyielding contact. Practice air or water walking as often as you can and it will translate to a full body movement that goes past pushing and pulling.

Body and head – leaning forward and twisting creates tension and disrupts the movement of the entire body as one when they don’t happen out of purpose. keep the body upright and the sight forward and open to avoid excess tension and to allow the body what it is good at.

Breath – Letting the breath lead action takes both listening and letting go. Allow the breath to be the first movement of each step, the exhale to be the channel where the ground contact ends toward the skies (nothing supernatural here, just continuous movement) and keep the breath incoming and outgoing through the nose.

If you run for fun, run. If you run because you must, look behind you from time to time and see where it brings you.

The size of your heart

We can only do what we attempt and believe we can do.

How do we free space in our heads and hearts for new thoughts and beliefs?

Begin by walking calmly and paying attention to your thoughts and emotions. Start Inhaling on one step and exhaling on the next. As you are relaxed in this state and need not invest attention to maintaining it, add a step to both phases (inhale, exhale) and repeat until you reach your current limit of X steps per inhale and the same for exhale. Once there, Go down one step and then up again and then, add two steps at the same time and press the number of steps upwards until all you can do is breath and walk.

This will clear your head from outside thoughts and allow the heart to reset and release emotion that was held inside and not moving anywhere.

The simplicity of this work is deceiving and this is just the first stage.

Much more is hidden in plain sight.

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

The bridge defense

The human body is an amazing mechanism when treated with care.

Balance is overlooked these days. We try to become strong but mirror strong or strong toward just a few tasks and not for life.

Here is an imbalanced plan to help balance the spine activation and power arches. To stand tall, we must build two arches. One to pull forward and one to pull backwards. In the middle we find our balance.

  1. Lie on your stomach and on the inhale, raise your head upward and to one side. Exhale and relax downward. Repeat this right and left ten times.
  2. Lie on your stomach and on the inhale raise one arm straight up till the body rests on the opposing shoulder. Relax down on the exhale.
  3. Lie on your stomach and raise one arm and opposite side leg to form a straight line on the inhale and slowly relax downward on the exhale.
  4. Lie on your stomach and raise all limbs together in the air to form an X on the inhale and slowly relax downward on the exhale.
  5. lie on your back with all limbs in the air. Breathe and move to balance on one side (balancing on the side of the body) with all limbs in the air and then the other with no bounce or sway.
  6. lie on your stomach with all limbs in the air. Breathe and turn to balance on one side and then the other with no sway or bounce.
  7. Lie on your back with your knees together and your heels touching your behind. Inhale and arch up to a shoulder stand and release on the exhale.
  8. Lie on your back with your knees touching the ground and your heels touching your behind. Raise your hips upwards on the inhale and release on the exhale.
  9. Lie on your back with your legs straight together upwards and parallel and touching a wall or a tree. Inhale and arch your hips up and backwards to form an arch with the heels on the wall and one shoulder blade on the ground. Exhale and release.
  10. Stand a step and a half facing away from the wall or tree. Arch back and do push ups with both hands touching on the support. Move from almost touching the wall with your behind to fully extended away.
  11. Stand two steps away from a wall or tree and walk your hands down into a hand bridge and back. Focus on starting each step with a breath and shift the weight from one leg to another. Walking is a full body motion.
  12. Stand a step away from the wall and place both hands on it. Step aside and turn to face the in the other direction in a slight arch and repeat this movement until fully comfortable. Repeat with increasing distance from the wall and no small children passing underneath 🙂

Movement is the new constant.