February 23, 2010

Damn that blue carpet ...

Training Journal, Saturday, February 28, 1998
Today was my first day back training with Nagato Sensei and the boys. Although he had forgotten my name, he hadn’t forgotten my face. It was great seeing the guys – Tim, Rod & Larry were there. Scott is in Australia now. 

We covered so much last night I felt a little overwhelmed.

‘Maai’ – distance – Nagato talked a lot on this. Having good distance allows for ‘NO OPENINGS’ in your defenses. It’s so very important to keep this in mind when you’re training.

Timing – having good timing allows you to move when your opponent moves. It involves sensitivity, knowing what they are going to do and reacting. This is a very basic (fundamental) but complex concept, but when Nagato talks about it, he makes it seem like a very advanced thing, and increases the urgency with which one should understand it. “Don’t play games.” We’re not baking cookies here.

There were a lot of techniques, lots of henka, I’ll try to remember as much as I can …
So wrote me some 12 years ago while living in Japan. I had some great times on those Saturday nights getting beat up by my teacher and friends. I was always coming home with rug burns from that thin dusty blue carpet – I’m pretty sure it was just spraypainted sandpaper Nagato had them glue right to the concrete floor.

My understanding of training these days is more refined than it was back then, but the concepts are still pretty much the same; distance and timing come up and quite a lot, the urgency is still there, and as always, plenty of henka. But saying this, I realize how much training has evolved, even in the scant time I have spent in the art. The manner of our training has moved forward.

Last Saturday, we held another workshop, a time we can all come together from our respective dojos and commiserate as a group. It was great fun, but tough. I’ve been very strict lately about maintaining the right ‘feel.’

Training to apply, rather than perfect, is more difficult, but much more useful. Even those years back in Japan, most of my training wasn't measured by how close to doing the movement I was, but if I got through it at all. Back then, Nagato used to say, "Move like me. Imitate me." But nowadays, he doesn't stick to that. If you need a place to begin, he says, try moving like me, but otherwise, "move like you." What a huge difference.

We tried to accomplish exactly that last Saturday, by seeing the connectedness between unarmed and various weapons, instead of looking for their differences. There is plenty of time to study why the sword is not like the staff, or why the rope is not like a gun. But there is precious little time to see when, where, and how their principles, strategies, and tactics overlap.

We may have whistling cuts, confounding knots, and run-n-gun three-inch groups at 15 yards, but none of those skills and abilities matter if we cannot create the opportunity to bring our weapons and Taijutsu to bear when we need them. Only an understanding of the big picture allows us to see where it is we're going from where we currently are. Even if we do get a few rug burns along the way.

Damn that blue carpet ...