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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Efficient minds, efficient plans, efficient movement

I was teaching self defense drills to a group of teenagers the other day, and found myself saying over and over: "Close the gap! Close the gap!" My focus for that day, was to have the students get familiar with getting into an effective position in relation to their opponents in a quick and efficient manner.

I found that the kids were running in to close the distance between themselves and their attacker to throw an elbow strike, instead of possibly using a longer weapon like a finger jab to the eyes or similar) to "fold into" the gap. I also found that many times they would strike once then walk a few steps around their opponent then strike again, instead of maybe striking or kneeing as they took a step. Another thing was that many of them would use primarily only one side of their body. One teen said "i can't think of stuff to throw. This is hard".

The thing that made them more aware of the use of all their weapons and fighting ranges, was to give them an imaginary situation:

"Let's pretend you're all Captains of a fierce army in old China. You've got Spear men, you've got swordsmen, you've got horsemen, you've got archers. Which of the groups would you prefer to have out in front when your army runs in to meet the enemy?"

One teen raised his hand. "Probably the spear guys, 'cuz they have long spears and can clear a way for the other guys."

"Good call. Who would follow the spear men?" I asked.

A gal raised her hand. "How about the sword guys? While the spear guys are keeping the enemy busy, the sword men can go through and cut the enemies who are confused and distracted".

"Okay, nice way to look at it" I said. "Then what?"

All the rest of the kids began to blurt out things like "The horses! then the horses!" or "No no! The horses should go first and run over people, then the spears then swords". "Hey what about the archers?" "Archers should shoot first, before the other guys come kill some first!" I heard many great "tactical plans" as I listened to the din of voices.

"Okay, Halt!" I thundered. "So, we have great plans...all of them different. But, we all agree that your army shouldn"t just run in all at once, right?"

There was a very brief silence. A boy held up his hand. "Sifu, you think we're just running into our partners in the drills, huh??"

Smart kid.

"Yes, use a distraction, a longer weapon such as feet or finger jab, even throwing something....then fold in using your other weapons. Keep in mind, you should always have archers trying to shoot when its safe to do so and so not to shoot their own troops! hahahaha!" The room erupted in laughter.

"Also, you must make sure all your swords are sharp and that the troops know exactly where to cut....they can't mess around like light saber fights on Star Wars!"

"Okay! I think I get it!" another gal said. "Can we try it again, Sifu?"

"Sure! Knock yourselves out!" More laughter.

Now I don't claim to know anything about battlefield tactics, so you military people can stop snickering at me...hahahaha! I just wanted my kids to take a look at their training from a different angle, rather than jsut correcting them and saying "no, do it this way"

As the kids practiced, they flowed much better, and their entries were cleaner and their techniques a little more precise. Their efficiency of movement began to improve, and I was But why was it that they fell short of flowing? Where was the efficiency of movement hiding?

Granted, it does take some training to learn how to move efficiently..."maximum effect, minimum effort". What many people have for a time, is not a lack of flwing moves, but a lack of flowing thought. Do you remember your first day at sparring or self defense drills? You felt kind of awkward, not knowing if what you were doing was correct, or what move to do next, didn't you? All the distractions of not knowing or worrying, froze your mind and stalled it a bit. You might aggravate it by thoughts like "I should know this by now", "Why am I making so many mistakes?" or "Why is the lower belt not having as hard of a time as me?"

These distractions prevent the mind from "simply thinking simply". Know your plan, but don't freak out if your plan doesn't unfold the way you planned it. Find a way around the obstacles and carry on. Shoot a few arrows first to see how it affects the situation before running in headlong. Push forward intently, knowing where you should cut, thrust, or ride. Disjointed thoughts can result in disjointed technique execution.....or worse yet...death on the battlefield.

Efficiency of movement goes hand in hand with efficiency of mind. However, realize that it does take time, training and practice to train the mind and body. My Taijiquan teachers say: "Where the mind moves, the body moves." That, is sooooo true!

Okay troops...get out there!


~cls said...

Nicely put! Great example for your students and i'll take something from it as well! Thanks for taking the time to post!! Aloha

Loretta Wollering said...

I enjoyed your post. I also do tai chi and run a tai chi convention in June. Tai chi is something I'll be doing forever - hope you will too!

-Loretta Wollering

Restita, Seattle Wushu Center said...

cls and Loretta, thank you for the kind comments. Yes, Taijiquan is something I'll be doing the rest of my life...long after my ability to do external arts wanes.