The future is still up in the air but we are going to be staying on a farm with goats, chickens and bees for at least a few weeks. Wish me luck.
I've self identified as an improviser and a spontaneity artist for almost 30 years. It has profoundly framed my understanding of aesthetics, action and perception. So my thought for the day is a very simple one, one that, because of this basic framing of my own experience, is so obvious to me I could easily neglect to say it. That thought is that both fighting and teaching fighting are forms of pure improvisation.
My basic philosophy is that we have lists of social fighting expectations. Everyone has them, 'though they are not the same for everyone. The lists are made up of largely unconscious actions, responses, and ways of being. Here is an example of a partial list:
- communicate, "I'm your equal"
- bounce on your toes
- control the opponents arms
- face off, eye to eye
Here is another one:
- communicate, "I'm not a threat"
- position your head so that your eyes are looking up
- show your personal-space-boundary with your palms facing outward
My job is to point out how these lists work, how they function normally, what triggers them-- and then get the student to stop doing them. Sometimes my methods take the from of 'try this" or "what if you turned the other way here." Sometimes they involve exploring an intrinsic body or space awareness, like "spin around without letting your eyes catch on anything and then try that again," or "now try that on all fours and notice how your dantian naturally responds to gravity." Even when I'm teaching an exact sequence like Bagua single palm change, I'm constantly trying to get the student to "stop trying to control the future." The relationship between ones elbow and ones knee must remain spontaneous --spatially active and responsive-- even when the sequence is a known form.
Lately I've been instigating this game: "You are in a bad position, now improve it with out going directly against me and with out using momentum or retreating. Just change your position. Don't think. Don't think of me as human. Feel the spaces and act on them at the same time. No techniques."
At times I'm giving intense direct physical feed back, slapping, tapping, poking, spinning, scratching, swiping, tripping, creating targets and moving them around. At times I'm intensely verbal, "do this," "now this," "over here" "backwards," "now with him," "now with her," "now with an imaginary ape," "now on the ground." This kind of teaching unhooks people from their resistance to acting spontaneously. The more fun you have improvising, the less you will fear failure, and the more you will love fighting.
A student that has been studying with me for about three months, paid me an unexpected complement the other day. She said, "I've had a lot of movement training, and taken a lot of classes, but nothing quite like this before. What your are doing is Total Immersion."