Circumstances may pull you down – in the ring, or out of it – but no one says you have to stay there…
Martial Arts are a way of Life, no matter their origins, their focus, their techniques. At their core, they are – heroically and with grace – brimming with precious words of wisdom. . .ones which transcend all temporal confines.
That everything begins, and ends, with respect is not relegated to the Arts, but to Life, our relationships, our interactions, and ourselves.
To maintain respect in the face of adversity and calm alike is at the heart of being a warrior. . .and a solid human being. Like integrity and honesty it is a key pillar of a fulfilled, happy, and healthy Life.
Training the way you want to fight isn’t always so easy. . .but in a way, isn’t that supposed to be the point? That we train in order to potentially defend ourselves?
The tough reality is that what your muscles remember under duress – which is going to be what you have painstakingly programmed them to do in class, lessons, practice – is what matters. If you train to hand the gun back to the perpetrator – even with mindfulness and the knowledge that you *shouldn’t* – it may happen in real life. Terrifying it may be, I’ve actually heard of cases in which just that has occurred… Scary.
The other day in class, our Sensei decided to do a drill combining old school (as in centuries-old Ninpo) traditional movements with a modern-day scenario and vibe. We had to disable our opponent with a distraction or strike, get away (using those traditional techniques), get to and behind cover, and then “draw” our weapon. The drill was one of the most fun I think I’ve ever done…but I was also so incredibly excited to have another opportunity to flesh out a possible, modern situation. No matter how old movements, or kata, or patterns may be, there are gems within them that can be adapted for, and applied to the times.
I don’t carry, for one thing…so I’m not likely to have a firearm at the ready. But the idea was what was most important here, and learning to do all of those things – without the stress – was hugely valuable. What makes it stick? Repetition! Memory needs to be formed so that when we ARE stressed, we can still perform those functions. Just one day of that particular drill isn’t necessarily going to help me out if something really goes down. But…the principles and techniques ARE ones we use every day…
We learn to strike, distract, disable…that’s number 1.
We learn how to efficiently get away, and to not injure our bodies (or injure as little as possible!) as we attempt to do so.
We learn to asses for cover and get behind it if that’s what the situation requires (versus getting away.)
In practicing those things, our muscles learn on such a level that we work on “autopilot” after a point. And that’s what you want!
The difficulty in this particular environment is that we don’t have real firearms, and we aren’t truly hurting our “attacker.” On a range, in a special type of training, an individual who DOES carry can certainly practice his or her ability to draw, aim, shoot, and make the weapon safe – frankly I think anyone in a job in which carrying a pistol is required SHOULD be doing that anyway!
For us at the dojo, we are working on handling whatever is coming at us as quickly and smartly as possible – but again, there are some strikes we simply cannot do. In Ninpo, strikes can be highly unorthodox and nasty – breaking fingers, ripping ears, gouging eyes…it goes on. It’s tough knowing we aren’t going 100% in this case, but we can’t exactly… So we have to keep in mind that in real life, were our safety on the line, we can’t play the but-he’s-a-nice-“uke” (opponent / attacker) game. It’s a challenge, honestly – how do we bridge the gap, then? I’m not sure you really CAN because none of us are out to break another classmate’s limb!
This is – for me – where the repetition comes in. Learning to master even basic movement can take a lifetime, forget years! But in the daily (or as many days as can be managed!) practice helps solidify as many of the effective ways in which to handle a particular threat. There are – keep in mind – an infinite number of movements available to us, and if we could study every Art and master it in a lifetime, we’d be golden. Not the reality, sad to say! Learning to even do a handful of “go-to”s is great – learn to do them properly, to do them well, and to do them with all shapes and sizes (some techniques are really tough with a HUGE partner!) If you want a real challenge, do them blindfolded.
It’s a very “wax on, wax off” concept – the drills help our bodies to do these things as involuntarily as possible so, should the need arise, we actually CAN do something about it. We don’t always have the luxury of training exactly how we fight – this isn’t the Colosseum, after all – but we *can* do everything in our power to focus, to drill, and to get our muscles so familiar with the movements that they will come to our aid when we need them most.