Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Seeing New Sights on Well Traveled Roads

More Modern Arnis nerdity ahead, y'all.

I'm working with new students in class the other night.  We're working on a fundamental technique in Modern Arnis -  Brush, Grab Strike.

The motion of brush grab strike. Even 6 year olds can learn it.  Well, she's *my* 6 year old, but still.
There are little "cues" to the proper execution of this technique - especially for new students - that I've either been taught explicitly, or that I have stumbled on over time.  These include such concepts as the "alternating hand" principle and the foot that's forward is the hand that brushes and strikes.

Well, working with this new student gave me two more that I didn't know before.

The first one was based on a question she asked me:  "What is the purpose of the 'brush' in Brush, Grab, Strike?"

Well, brush grab strike fundamentally is a blending technique, so the brushing hand helps with that blending.  That's what I've been taught, and it has proven true to me.

BUT... it occurred to me in that moment, for the first time, that the brushing hand's real job is to "tell" the grabbing hand where the arm is that you're grabbing with that second hand.

This works based on the idea that your hand always "knows" where the other one is.  You don't have to think about clapping your hands together, you just do it.  You can do it in the dark, you can do it behind your back... it just happens.

So, by "brushing", my "grabbing" hand "knows" exactly where the target to grab is without my having to think about it at all.  Once I master the core technique, it just happens - the grab is easy.  If I blocked it hard out of the way, I'd have to work to get the "grab".

Before this student asked this question, I had no idea that this was... a thing. And it's been sitting in front of me all this time.

Yeah, I'm not always the sharpest knife in the gear bag.

But there's another cue I stumbled upon in the same session.

How do students know which "way" to brush grab strike?

To me, it's obvious and has been since day one. I simply copied what I saw everybody else doing it and now I do it that way too.

But everybody doesn't learn it that way.

The new "cue" is sort of based on an old one - that is, generally speaking and for beginners, we teach them that the foot that's forward is the hand that's doing the "work", typically, the hand that's striking.

Weapon Foot Forward.

There are PLENTY of times we "break" this rule in certain situations, but for newbies, it's a pretty solid and standard principle.  But how does the student know which "side" in a drill he or she is supposed to be oriented to when doing brush-grab-strike? 

Simple - the "brushing" hand is always moving across your body (versus brushing or blocking on the same side of the attack.   If it doesn't, you'll actually try to brush/grab to your side or even sort of behind you, which is a bad place to be and is very off-balance.  See the picture of me with a stick above - if I try to brush with my right and grab with my left.., I'd fall over - I am by nature clumsy as all get-out - but most people would be off balance and vulnerable, never mind the range issues of the grabbing hand.

Brush Grab Strike is a cross-body technique.

I'm sure lots of Modern Arnis players out there (and others who use similar techniques) know this already, but I didn't.  Or rather, I didn't know I knew it until this student needed me to explain it in this specific way, so she could orient herself correctly - and fix it when she was wrong (when she was trying to brush on the same side of the strike). 

I'd simply never thought of it in this specific way before.

You and me both, dude.

I may have stumbled across these ideas eventually, who knows?  But it's yet another time where working with a new student - moving along well traveled roads in the basics of my art - has taught me something new or interesting about something I thought I knew well.

This is why, no matter how experienced I get, I'll always want to work with newbies.  Because newbies teach you new things about the stuff you always thought you really knew, in ways you can't ever anticipate.

Tell me about a time where you learned new things about something you thought you understood very well.  Was it teaching a newbie?  Cross training?  Let us know in the comments!