…But they are supposed to, that’s their job.
Lately I’ve been thinking (and reading) a lot about martial arts and the interactions and relations that are a part of that. Today during Aikido training it struck me as I was trying a technique. It went wrong – obviously – or at least, the situation didn’t unfold as I had intended it.
Here’s the situation. There is a guy right in front of you, “offering” his face so you can hit it. In the split-second before your body starts to move, it got the intention from your brain, based on the information it had at that moment.
The first monkey wrench. Your mind had a concept of the situation and planned ahead accordingly. If you’ve read my blogposts lately you know what’s going on with concepts.
So, your first starts flying, in your mind it’s all going perfectly according to concept. Any millisecond now you will register a feeling of pressure in your hand as it hits that face. It can’t go wrong..
..and then he moves, the face isn’t exactly where your concept said it was anymore. He messed up your perfect punch! How could he!
In Aikido, we learn to help the attacker. We stay in place, move along and facilitate the technique in any way we can. At least at the lower kyu’s, which is where I’m at. It’s helpful when the one attacking you actually plays along so you can learn the concepts of the technique.
But at the same time, even though they are facilitating you, they are still moving, still messing you up.
In free play (Cheng Hsin) it’s even clearer. You and your partner are each attempting to do techniques while at the same time listening to what the other is doing and yielding to anything they try in such a was as to mess it up for them.
It’s actually part of the job in that game to mess things up for the other player. Time and time again it shows you that your concept was wrong. What you thought was going on wasn’t going on. The key skill here is listening. As soon as you stop listening, you mess up.
The moment things go wrong
I’m sure you’ve experienced a moment when you knew things were going to go wrong any second now. The general advise is to take a good look at what went wrong. That’s to late!
Things go wrong way before that. Subtle things that you normally won’t notice (until it’s to late and things obviously go wrong). And because they are so subtle, you keep making those mistakes. It takes training to notice those subtle mistakes.
Outside the dojo
Practice makes perfect, but for proper practice you must see where things go wrong. We learn from our mistakes after all.
All to often you “practice” which is more like playing around, rehearsing the things you already know or at least think you do correctly. Playing the same songs on the guitar over and over, doing the same technique over and over, but without looking for the flaws.
Things go wrong, because we make mistakes and others make mistakes. If others make the right mistakes they just might adhere to your concept of reality and whatever you try will work out exactly as planned. This is rare however.
Usually though, you will make a mistake, fail to see it and spend time looking in all the wrong places for what went wrong. Look at the last moment things really went right, and start looking there. Chances are you missed a spot.b
With luck, things fall into place. With true practice, things fall into place more often.