Imagine sitting down at a restaurant and ordering your favorite dish. You take a sip of vino and stuff a napkin in your collar, but when the food comes, it’s not a meal at all, merely the ingredients to it, raw and uncooked. Had they been prepared together, it might have been something tasty, but as they stand they are simply store bought, separate parts of an uncompleted whole. Last Friday night I tried to avoid that when a visit from a couple of out-of-town guests, brought in by one of my students, turned out to be his younger sister and mother. They were passing through and wanted to see and experience training for themselves, but had zero experience between them. I took it as a challenge.
I like to think I can teach martial arts to almost anyone, but these were certainly not our typical student types. So, we started with an overview and I used instances from their own lives to show them how they already thought “tactically” in certain situations. For example, when given a scenario about being followed, they gave all the right answers about what they should and shouldn’t do. I explained training as the physical interpretation of that way of thinking, as we practice to out maneuver opponents, gaining leverage to prevent them from harming us or others. Then we sat on the floor and I showed them how to use their weight and posture to give way to gravity as the first method of experiencing Ukemi, injury prevention. I used images like ‘the body has no corners,’ and showed them how to spread out on the floor as they moved, like a water balloon, instead of like a ball. In about ten minutes they had a good feel for it.
They also seemed to get the rest of the night as well, learning to move their feet first, breaking balance with their movement, instead of looking for some technique to escape the various grabs and punches the gang were giving them. By the end of the night, they were even changing their movement, using Henka to escape. It was all pretty cool.
What I didn’t show them was how to perform anything “correctly” - no form, kata, techniques - I felt it would‘ve wasted their time, muddled their contextual understanding, and even bored them, turning them off to even the possibility of training in the future. It seemed to work, as Mom and sis had a great amount of fun and sis was intent on learning more.
Too often, it seems to me, we can get caught up ensuring the freshness, origin, or pureness of the ingredients, and forget our role is that of chef, not the freshness-origin-pureness patrol. Chefs fit ingredients together at the time they need to use them, noting how they apply to the whole. This creative preparation is a challenge to make certain every meal is edible, nutritional, and tasty.