December 7, 2008

There and Back Again and Again - London, November, 2008

We have just arrived home from another trip abroad – our fourth in two years. We simply love London and all our Buyu across the pond, they really are such wonderful people (honestly, there are folks still training with us since our first trip over there!). Much thanks to Shidoshi Steve Kovalcik for once again inviting Tomoko and I over to train and share what we have to offer. Steve is one of my very good friends and a terrifically genuine person.

The trip itself was low key and laid back – unless you count being sick while watching Bond’s new “Quantum of Solace,” I seem to remember there was a car chase, maybe some shooting. But as the week rolled by, training intensified. We covered a variety of aspects, but were still building toward the weekend. When it arrived, there was plenty to cover.

The weekend revolved around the idea of “connectivity” – discovering the position, leverage, and timing rather than following directions telling one where they should be. I have found that allowing people to discover their training is far better than simply telling them what to do or following the technique and doing it, “the way it’s supposed to be done.” I am of the belief that Budo is about breaking forms, not following them. Much of training involved the activation of instincts that I consider all people to possess, but have not fully learned to take advantage of. At one point I was happy to have my thoughts proved.

One the participants had brought his lovely wife, who had only trained once last year and had apparently not enjoyed it in the least, walking out at one point. But she and her husband had come to Tomoko’s Makko Ho class on Friday night, very much enjoyed herself, as well as meeting us as much as we had meeting her. So, she decided to come to Sunday’s training and followed along as best she could. At one point, we started using a Hanbo and I was trying to demonstrate to everyone this idea of connectivity with limited success – folks who have been training for sometime, learn to perceive training in certain ways, making new approaches sometimes difficult to understand. But with this gentleman’s wife, she had no formal training, she had not been taught to seek or even value the technique, and so was free to comprehend what I was explaining in as natural a way as she was capable. I simply told her to hang on to the Hanbo, lead her husband instead of wait for him, and knock him off balance whenever he tried to move against her. She proceeded to do so with much vigor and effectiveness, much to her husband’s surprise.

I asked the room to stop training, called the two of them onto the floor, and let her rip. She not only dumped him on his ass over and over again, but did so in the most creative ways – I’m sure I saw Oni Kudaki and Ganseki Nage in there. Jaws slackened around the room during her performance and when it was over, I looked at everyone and held up my fingers, “Two days training.”

This stuff works. When you allow people to realize their training, their movement, and take advantage of what they know they can do, techniques find them, and their understanding of how to apply techniques into the moment they are needed, increases exponentially. Later, refinements can be made with technical application, for more precise training. Experience becomes the greatest of teachers, and in time, we learn to teach ourselves.

Let’s do it all again next year!