Friday, June 27, 2008

Jiu-jitsu according to Wordle

Wordle is an online tool for creating beautiful word clouds. Here is how it renders a short introduction to jiu-jitsu:
Click on the image to see a larger version

This could be good for a poster or a T-shirt design!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cooperative combinations

In Jiu-jitsu and Judo, having learned to fall and the rudiments of some throwing techniques it is fun to attempt some free practice (randori): You and your partner take a grip and try to throw each other.

However, there is a tendency for this type of training to degenerate through excessive resistance and defensiveness. There are various means to getting over, through or around this obstacle.

One approach that I have found useful acts as something of a bridge between cooperative practice and free practice, by injecting a smidgen of uncertainty into a basically cooperative exercise...

Note: The usual disclaimers apply. Do not attempt this except under qualified supervision.

Let's say that you and a partner are practicing a combination technique cooperatively. A simple combination consists of an initial attack which is somehow foiled or evaded, and then followed up by a second attack. For example: The 1st leg throw (o soto gari) can be combined with the third leg throw (hiza guruma) as follows: The thrower (tori) attempts o soto gari on the receiver (uke) who evades, preferably through skillful stepping and body movement. Tori then fluidly moves into hiza guruma, and throws uke to the mat.

Two problems almost always crop when this kind of exercise is first practiced:
  1. Tori applies the first technique with insufficient vigour, and/or
  2. Uke evades too early.
Both defects arise because of the pre-arranged nature of the exercise. In the first case tori is over-concerned with the second-part of the combination, so the attack is reduced to a feint, and in the second case uke is able to take advantage of the unrealistic knowledge of what the first attack is going to be.

These can be overcome with practice and good focus, but I would like to offer a variation on the exercise which works well and is lots of fun besides.

Tori is to attempt the first technique with reasonable vigor. If uke evades, (s)he follows up with the second technique. With each repetition uke has the choice of allowing him or herself to be thrown, or to evade. Uke's job is firstly to decide whether to attempt an evasion or not, while the second, should (s)he elect to evade, is to do so as late as possible.

This is not a competitive exercise in the normal sense because -- whatever happens -- uke is the one who gets thrown, if not by the first technique, then by the second. But the element of uncertainty from the thrower's perspective helps to eliminate the original defects: If the first attack is half-hearted, uke can elect not to evade; and, once the attacks are coming fluidly, uke can leave the evasion later and later until (s)he is thrown despite trying to evade.

This exercise can be varied and extended in many ways. Examples include:
  1. Use a different pair of techniques
  2. Uke varies the type of evasion
  3. Allowing tori a choice of second-attacks
  4. Allowing uke the option evading the second attack, in which case tori now throws uke with a third technique
As these exercises are pursued the resulting practice starts to look less and less pre-arranged and more like free practice, hopefully of good standard. Adding a bit of uncertainty helps to develop spontaneity within a structured framework.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Cool stuff in the martial arts

Here is my list of impressive-looking things in the martial arts that are of limited interest (to me):
  1. Acrobatics
  2. Super flexibility
  3. Breaking stuff (boards, bricks, etc.)
And here's some non-basic stuff that hold more interest (for me):
  1. Using an assailant's strength against him
  2. Learning to use weapons as a natural extension of your body
  3. Pressure point techniques
  4. "Internal" aspects
  5. Healing methods
Of course the basic stuff is pretty good too:
  1. Self-defence
  2. Technique
  3. All-round fitness
  4. Personal development
  5. Social development
And much broader!