There are lessons that can be taught by words and others that require experience to blend together, thought, feeling and sensation.
One such lesson is that of the meat hook or any hook once it sinks in our flesh or makes that needle like entrance in our skin.
I recall no fondly moving through the brush during my time in the army. The thorns and stones and mud and occasional hole made moving with our gear unpleasant at best. Having to hold my rifle in one hand, the radio antenna in the other and needing three more hands to climb, descend, push and pull was a very surprisingly consistent type of torture until a very clear moment when I stopped fighting the brush and started to blend in.
Nothing changed in the brush, it still stung, rip and tear at me. I let go of the part of myself trying to force my way to it and the dance began. I bled a bit less, move a lot more silently and a type of respect started to build.
Starting the journey with an actual meat hook is somewhat unsafe. Take a clothes hanger, an S shaped piece of metal without tips and start pulling and pushing on a partner while avoiding the eye holes and behind for a while. Start so slowly as you can talk while doing so and have a physical and verbal conversation as you go about it.
Let the hook guide the partner to the ground, let it turn them around, let it shift and control what the eyes present to the partner and also have as much fun with it as you can.
Let the hook come in contact with you and move another part of the body than the one in touch with the hook first. Keep breathing when the feeling of being dug into makes an appearance. Start working from the ground, move with the wall, do it inside a car you are responsible for and move with care for all parties involved.
Let the hook come at you and guide it back to the partner. Let the hook come at you and attach it to something in your surroundings. Let it come and draw your own tool from hammer to rope.
It was yesterday evening, during a blade class, that a student asked me a very deep question. I enjoy these very much as they free me from what I am doing into something new, weather in thought, movement or both.
The questions was, “Is this movement for attack or defense?” and here is my answer.
Attack and defense are mental distinctions. A movement, a pose and a word can be either or both or even none. The level of movement our bodies ad minds can achieve is restricted by our emotional awareness.
The blade moves forward in a seemingly obvious attack but then spirals into a dynamic shield and causes the opposing attack to dissipate. A stick is swung at your your head and you step forward to intercept the wielding arm in a combined attack and defense. An angry teenager spits at your direction in a dirty underground railway and start moving your way, you smile at them and tell them you too have some nasty infection and they scurry away.
Attack and defense and what lies in between are all emotional stamps we place on our actions and choices. Each movement can serve both and none and it is our privilege to go inside and remove those emotional and mental blocks from our head so we are free to maneuver and operate instead of react and plow onward.
Talk with a friend as you walk down the street and jab each other as you speak with paper clips or thin branches of wood and try to break them on the other persons body. A successful broken or bend paper clip or branch is a marker for a stab or slash and being able to engage both hemispheres and different regions of the brain will aid in making you more able to handle what is coming any which way.
Take a few coins or small notes of money and go outside. Take care in your movement and find people in need to slip them the money without them noticing. Take greater care not to be seen by others as you do this as they may think of you as a thief of worse. This is a great drill in learning stealth in two ways. The one is not showing your intent on the approach and the second is in not changing your rhythm as you hide your act of kindness. Be safe as you do this as being in need does not assure us the receiver will not take offense of be a bad person.
Circle your partner as you keep a practice knife hidden on your person. Have them escape the location if they sense the draw of the knife and do fifty pushups if they mistake the movement for a draw (it is a win win situation in the long run) switch places every three attempts or guesses.
Close your eyes and have a friend place one hand on you. Let them move you around gently and to move their hands on you freely. Note your breathing and equilibrium and they in turn will stab you or slash at you with a training knife when they feel you are turning rigid or dogmatic in motion. This will teach you to move within the lead of a contact or a crowd and save you from trying to have words with Ms Destiny. Go with it but do it your way.
Drills for elevations of spirit and body must not be dry…
Fist– Two people start at the push up position facing each other. Both lift opposite arms and they push each others fist back and forth.
Double fist– Two people lie on their backs with their heads facing each other. Place both fists against each other and push and pull in at the same time while relaxing the muscles of the torso as possible so as to use the least amount of tension.
Scissors – Lie one your behind with body and legs in the air facing a partner in the same position. Aim to move the other to their back by using no tension and just movement and breath in the legs.
Three as one– Three people facing to the outside while crossing arms together. Sit and get up and site and roll together and get up again. Aim to spread the load and communicate with body movement where the group must go.
Up and down the shaft – place a sturdy shaft perpendicular to the ground and climb up and down on it using dynamic body tension and shifting your mass from side to side.
Open close– One lies on the back and presses the knees together as the partner pull them apart. Aim to use your breath to distribute the work and activate just the parts of the body that are needed to the task. Do the same in reverse and up and down.
light pressure awareness– We know the pressure of a finger is enough to cut flesh when focus to the tip of a blade. Press one or two fingers lightly as your partner breathes and relaxes to avoid contact becoming impact. Start standing as the relaxation will take you to the ground and back.
Bound – Place both hands behind your back and keep them there. Have a partner hold the top of your head and strike you with arms and legs as you move to have the incoming limbs slide over you instead of sinking in.
Inner pressure– Place a target about ten body lengths away and have one partner push the other to that target as the partner resists by moving and never by tension. Have them hold their breath for as long as they can and laugh as their face releases the mask it holds in everyday life.
Many fights and endeavors in life are determined before the actual visible contact begins.
Our awareness and focus
Our knowledge of self
Our ability to know what is important
These can put us in a place where we already won or in a place where we need to dig dip to simply survive.
Here are a few simple attention and focus drills. See how they relate to you and be safe about it. Chosen discomfort is a good teacher, injury is not.
Take two or three friends and stand as a triangle about three steps from each other. (Put on eye protection)
How to throw a knife – Hold the knife using the handle and have the pointing finger rest on the flat of the blade. Move the elbow and shoulder so the arm ends up pointing straight at the target and let the knife slip from your grasp and fly tip first toward the student of chance.
1. Take one practice knife and throw it from one to another in a set manner, tip first. Have your partner move out of the path of the blade and catch it at the handle.
2. Close one eye and repeat the drill.
3. Repeat the drill but now aim to pass the knife not in a set pattern but aim to surprise the receiver by not showing any tells to the throw. This teacher understanding of body language and eye focus.
4. Walk together in a circle and continue to pass the practice knife between you first in a set manner from A to B to C and then randomly and with the least amount of tells you manage. Avoid using speed as the key ingredient. The learning will diminish if you consider it a game. See all the facets of the diamond.
5. Repeat but with one setting the direction of the walking circle. All must pay attention to the randomly changing direction and the flying practice knife.
6. Take three practice knives and pass them in a set pattern first in one direction and then in the other. Mind to avoid throwing the practice knife while a partner is retrieving a knife that was not caught 🙂 It will happen.
7. Repeat the drill but throw the knives aiming to show the least amount of tells and remember to avoid throwing the knives while some are retrieved as now one can get two knives thrown at them at the same time.
Aim to focus on what matters. First avoid being in the path of the flying knife and let the body movement assist you in catching the knife in the handle. Avoid catching the blade unless you are acting out of necessity and remember to not be where you are attacked.
Simple things are usually overlooked. Here are ten simple suggestion for future learning and fun if you have the right mindset or want to have one.
Keep from punctures and cuts while in contact. That is more than half of that battle.
1.Teach only from the front – no work from the back or sideways
2.Work only from a standing position – do not work from sitting, lying down and so on
3.Work only one on one
4.Work only with one knife
5.Work only with both eyes open
6.Work only with choreography (fixed attacks and defense)
7.Work only with one model of knife
8.Work only in one environment (stairs, car, street…)
9.Work only in a calm way (yelling, cursing, throwing crap around)
10.Work only in comfortable clothers
Special tip: Avoid movement where you focus on being graceful and disarming the person. Focus on keeping from getting puncured and cut and let the disarm come to you. A play where you focus on not getting touched by a short stick is more beneficial to your longevity than focusing on disarms. Think of doing this with more than one person and the lesson will reveal itself.
Drawing the blade can be a martial art like Japanese 居合 or a simple task we perform while preparing a meal for the family. Lets play with drawing in particular so we can better integrate it into the work.
Place the knife in front of you and close your eyes. Take it in one hand and place it in the sheath and then draw it back out. Repeat for each hand while facing the blade and with your sides and back to the blade. If you reach with your eyes, you engage a lot of yourself. When you reach with your awareness, you are less committed and more free.
Place the blade in its sheath and on your body (belt, underarm, vest or other carry method) and roll on the ground forward and backward and side to side. Notice how you shift your movement with the blade on you and notice others moving in a compensation patterns as well.
Lie on the ground with your blade on you and with your breath leading, draw and return the blade with each hand and then repeat the movement slower with a breath hold and with your eyes closed.
Repeat the previous drill while gently rolling on the ground. Note that your eyes can either go to the knife operation or work with your body movement. Choose wisely.
Tie a rope to a limb and walk around. Have a partner tug on the rope as you draw and resheath the blade. Note your breathing and tension in your body. Use your body to spread the pull and ride the wave of it.
Repeat the previous drill while rolling on the ground. Relax your eye horizon fixation. It may save your life one day.
Hold wrists with your partner and look straight ahead. Have them walk around you as you release your frame tension to stay untangled and at the ame time, draw and reshath your blade. Repeat with all variations and don’t forget to laugh.
Repeat the previous drill while sitting on your behind and your partner walking around you.
Stand a step away from the wall and draw and sheath your blade continously. Have a partner throw tennis balls at you and you avoid contact of the innitial throw or the rebound while doing the work.
Hold a partners hand as they try to move away from you and repeat the draw and sheathing movements both standing and on the ground.
Have a partner hold onto you in some way (eyelash hold, arm around neck, pants belt grab, bear hug) and drag you somewhere as you repeat the draw and sheathing movements both standing and on the ground.
Wear gloves you use throuout the year from snow gloves to nomex and repeat any drill in the progression.
Tape a few fingers together and repeat any drill in the progression.
Hold another object in one hand ( a rifle, a hammer, a medical kit) and repeat any drill in the progression.
Enjoy what you do. It smooths the rolling of the wheels.
Freedom is very tangible. You feel it, you see it, you know it. It is also one of the easiest qualities to loose by pursuing a moment of it which already lies in the past.
Here are three methods to preserve ourselves from pursuing freedom and thus attaining it.
The invisible touch – Touch hands or feet with a partner and have them push and pull and twist on you. Maintain the contact but allow no force to travel through it by moving your body, limbs and maintaining relaxed eyes. Continue up the limbs to the hips and shoulders with this work and then go body on body until you are free to move within any movement. To further work this understanding of self, tense your body in different ways and learn to move within your tension.
The invisible frame – Start three paces from each other and have one advance on the other. Work to maintain the appearance of your frame for the partner by moving your mass, your tension and parts of you to allow them to sink into your frame without any substance in it. Slowly close the distance from three paces to one and engage each other at the same time. Remember your eyes hold both your and your partners frames and alignment. Do not stick to a plan but let the situation blossom with your participation.
The invisible blade – lie down on your back and breath continuously. Let the feeling of this never-ending movement spread through your body and limbs. Close your eyes and have a partner press first the flat of a blade to your body. Feel the pressure and and press back with your entire body. Cover the entire body with this work and continue to the end of the handle repeating the work on a point surface. Continue to placing the blade on the body and breathing where the breath does not increase the tension against the blade. Continue to placing the tip of the blade on the body and breathing where the breath does not increase the tension against the blade. Continue to lightly pressing the blade to the body and moving with the contact and then with the tip of the blade. Continue to cover the work so far with your eyes closed, standing against a wall and then finally open your eyes and repeat the touch and frame work with the blade and finally with several partners and blades.
I do not believe in wasting space. Not with excess movement or words. Some things are always worth saying though. Those are of kindness and of honesty. Be honest and kind in your practice. Both may preserve you and your spirit onward.