My Martial Arts Truths

Since the aikido dojo I attend has been closed since my state’s lockdown began, I’ve been limited to weapons practice, movement, and thinking about practice. Thought I’d throw out my reflections on some of the “core truths” I’ve learned in the last 12 years of training.

1. If it looks easy, it’s not.

2. If it looks hard, it is.

3. What you think is happening in technique is not what’s happening in technique.

4. You will not master anything in a week. You may never feel like you’ve mastered anything, even after 30 years.

5. Everything deepens. Wrist technique is not about the wrist. It’s about the elbow. But, it’s not really about the elbow, it’s about the shoulder. But it’s not truly about the shoulder, it’s about the opposite hip.

6. Ignore the point of contact. The opponent expects to fight there.

7. Change the line. Even a few degrees, moreso 45 or 90 degrees, weakens the opponent’s power.

8. There’s always going to be someone bigger and stronger. Technique, changing the line, ignoring the point of contact will overcome strength.

9. The best technique is no technique. But, you must learn and try to master technique in order to grasp the principles that make “no technique” effective.

10. Adapt. Do not get locked into making a particular attack or technique “work”. Be willing and able to let it go and move to something else.

11. Find what else can move. Your grabbed wrist is immobile, but your elbow, shoulder, hips, and legs are not trapped. Move them.

Quarantine Activities

Keeping active during quarantine has, obviously, been a major thing for many people.  I imagine there are tens of thousands of videos online about such things.  As a mostly introvert, and reader/writer, it really hasn’t been a huge thing on my mind, personally.  But, keeping some skill sets in practice has been a concern.

Like most people, we’ve been doing walks, usually around the neighborhood.  Fortunately, we have a small city park that’s roughly 1.5 miles (~2.4 km) round trip from home, including a turn through the park.  Alternately, we’ve done trips to the local metroparks, which are extensive and varied in our area.  My spouse and kid have done more of those, often while I’ve been working or in a weekly Zoom meeting with the aikido school I attend.

Speaking of.

The second most common activity I’ve been doing is aikido weapons work.  From suburi (sword cuts) to eight direction cuts to kumi tachi (sword kata), or jo basics and kumi jo (short staff kata), that’s been a way to at least get a little practice and keep some basic movements in practice.  Fortunately, a lot of open hand technique mirrors weapons work, so hopefully those principles are being retained as well.  This has been mostly a good weather, moderate temperature activity.  A few weeks ago, I began working an alternate method for indoor practice suggested by Wendy Whited sensei: substituting the shoto (short sword) for the bokken (long sword) for indoor practice.  Basically holding the shoto the same way as the bokken (two hands) and going through the movements.  The weight and reach is different, obviously, which takes a little adjusting, but the motions remain the same.  (She also recommended wrapping paper tubes, or related non-wooden objects.)

Most recently, for the last week, there’s been yard work.  Last fall, I cut down and chopped up (for firewood) a whole bunch of invasive honeysuckle that had been taking over the back corner of our yard.  For the last week, (coincidentally as exercise) I’ve been digging up the stumps so they won’t come back.  And so we can plant grass and shade/bee friendly wildflowers back there.  That’s been all kinds of fun, because honeysuckle roots intertwine with their neighbors, or multiple plants sprout from the same roots, or tap roots can go straight down or sideways, or . . . the tenacious buggers are all kinds of fun to deal with.