May 7, 2015

Taijutsu Truth: Heart and Sole

Another piece from a work in progress, "Taijutsu Truths."

The secret to effective Taijutsu is efficient, habitual, and intrinsic activation of its principles. The right place to begin training those principles is through maneuvering, specifically out-maneuvering one’s opponents.

Most commercial martial sports practiced today rely heavily upon the principles of athletic endeavor, namely, power, speed, and strength. These form the basis of physical might and are intuitive to the human condition. In fact, if one wishes to know whether one’s training has become reliant upon these principles, they have only to ask themselves a simple question: would I be better at my martial art if I were bigger, stronger, and faster? If the honest answer is “yes,” then one can be assured they are engaged in training as a martial sport, regardless of the art.

However, for the training of warrior arts, that is martial arts based upon survival and usually carried out with weapons, the athletic approach can well hamper, and even defy true mastery. Thus over the ages warrior arts embraced and refined an alternative set of counter-intuitive principles to functionally activate themselves and reach for levels of ability un-matchable through the intuitive mindset alone. These alternative aspects come to us as the Sanshin, "three hearts" of the Shingitai, the mind, technique, and the body, and formulate the principles of mindful initiative, technical leverage, and body positioning or maneuvering.

Physical positioning/maneuvering is known in Taijutsu as Taisabaki, or from a tactical standpoint, Kuraidori, a concept that hails from the Koto Ryu to move and position oneself to gain spatial and variable, such as environmental, advantage against opponents. In initial training, the student must learn to position, re-position, and out-position their partner consistently, instead of clashing with them over the same ground and forcing them to give way. This broader understanding begins with movement itself, specifically from the soles of the feet on up.

In order for this counter-intuitive truth to become intuitive, the body structure must first change. I see many potentially good practitioners doing the same things wrong over and again. One of the most common is distorting their frame and posture. In too many cases, beginners often find themselves moving head first, jerking their body along for the ride. This is a mistake and should be corrected. As a general rule, it is advisable to keep proper posture: head over spine, spine over hips, hips over heels. Good posture generates good structure and better movement is the result.

Good posture keeps the weight centered in the heels and allows one to move from the soles of the feet first to take up better positions and the easy transfer of balance and momentum while doing so. While moving we ought not let our knee go past the toes when stepping - weight would then transfer to the balls of the feet, making it more difficult to move and means we should have taken either a longer step or more steps as the case may be. In fact, a general rule in my dojo is that after any same-side punch, as in namba-aruki, we should be able to lift up our front foot. If the practitioner cannot, they have placed too much weight upon it and cornered themselves in a vulnerable spot.

Once students intuit this aspect successfully they will discover a positive by-product: their movement will not only emulate better structure and resiliency, they will also notice they are moving earlier. And being ahead is of such vast importance to understanding Taijutsu it cannot be overlooked.

No comments: