Wednesday, October 29, 2014

You Have to Do to Know

In an online conversation recently, several of us who are weapons-oriented martial artist were trying to explain to an empty-hand player why he couldn't simply just grab a weapon and start doing his empty hand techniques with it.

Our explanation boiled down to, "Well, reasons."

Yes, really.  What part of "empty hand" is unclear to you?
Because our real explanations - differences in range, targeting, and how your movement and angles and such change (not only with empty hand to weapon but also weapon to weapon) - are hard to get across to someone who does not know what we're talking about.  It sounds sorta like bullshit to someone who is not a weapons-oriented martial artist.

You see, our reasons are inexplicable in words.  It's even hard to show in video or to demonstrate to someone else.  It's a thing you have to do, to know.

That is how we end up with so much nonsense and shenanigans in weapons, because the empty hand players don't believe us when we tell them this - they just pick up a sword and start doing karate.

They don't know, so they can't do.

Many concepts are like this in the martial arts. Let's take another one, one dear to my heart - the concept of flow.

While we Arnis players are certainly not the only ones with the idea, it's central to our way of thinking and it's the primary way we can tell if a person gets what we do, or doesn't.

But what is flow?

It's like a masterpiece work of sculpture or a painting or hard core pornography. It's hard to describe in any consistent way, but  I know it when I see it.

The player moves smoothly, where power is generated by proper technique, not by tightening the muscles.  Indeed, the player is relaxed and just...moves...

I know, it doesn't seem like anything when I write it, but when you see it, you just know.


This is flow.

If you can't see the video, click here.

This is smooth action, not jerking around, range is fluid, strikes and parries are not hard, just... flow.

And this is not flow.

If you can't see the video, click here.

In the second video, the range is strictly kept at the same distance, motion is hard and they move hard and in order.  It's karate.  With sticks.

Karate - old school karate like this - doesn't flow.  It isn't their way.  And that's fine, it doesn't have to be.  But in my art, in Arnis, to do it well,  you must flow.  This is why so many players from hard arts like karate and tae kwon do take a long time to adjust, to get very good at what we do, because they have to learn to flow, and that takes a lot of time to learn.

I can't explain to you all of the nuances of difference in the videos above.  All I can tell you is that the second video has no flow at all.  If you were training with me, and you were like these guys, I'd have to coach you into flow over time (number one - RELAX!), and you'd learn it over time, but I can't say, "Do this, that, and this, and that's flow."  There's no words, no way to copy it, because it's a concept bigger than words and images.

The funny thing with flow is that you don't know you're doing it until someone tells you that you are.  After that - you finally see it, and can do it, without even thinking about it.

You know, because you do.

What concepts in your martial art is like flow or training with weapons?  What has to be done, and can't be adequately explained with words?  I'd love to know!