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Pickett's Charge

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I think it's right as he starts coming in.

Thinking of Aleks and the other two or three of my readers, I closed my eyes during randori the other night, and the experience was exactly as Aleks described, laughably easy. I knew what my opponent was doing just about as soon as he did; in fact, I had to WAIT for him most of the time because I was only dodging and not countering him. The poor guy would come all the way in, winding himself into position and going to all the trouble of a proper set up, and I would just sort of slough myself off in the direction he'd originally pulled me - when he first gave himself away.

We also worked on Technique Three, an O Uchi Gari attack countered by a De Ashi Barai. Combined, the experiences have given me a preliminary hypothesis: that moment of vulnerability is right as uke is coming in - right as he's dashing across the void. It's not so much as he's winding in or trying to lock your bodies together. Rather, it's a split second after he's telegraphed his intentions and he's on his way.

It's like Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, a mad, desperate dash across open territory. The Union, knowing even days in advance that such a maneuver was inevitable, absolutely decimated them on their way. I've been to Gettysburg and seen the mark about 20 feet up the hill where the trees begin. That was the farthest the last few guys had gotten, the High Tide of the Confederacy, and the battle, and the war, were changed forever afterward.

You've got to take your opponent out before he can bring the fight to you. In the kata, uke attacks with O Uchi Gari. Tori resists with his center (hold that thought) takes a tai sabaki step back with his right foot, and pivots to his left.
As you might expect, that tai sabaki step is uke's kuzushi, taking him forward a few more inches than he was bargaining for. With the tight turn to his left, tori is taking his center of gravity out of uke's line of force.
Tori is balanced, uke is plunging into deeper trouble, all within a few inches, and with a sweep of his left leg, tori takes out both of uke's.

We managed to do it incorrectly (as tori) for a number of attempts. Uke would come in, tori would step and turn, but the mistake was in letting uke have the leg he was trying to reap. (We've all done this in botching O Uchi Gari elsewhere, reaping the leg to no effect as our partner merely tilts over the other way and says, "You don't have me.")
We were keeping our balance (as tori) and letting uke have that leg since we knew he couldn't do anything with it. The problem was, neither could we. We couldn't bring off a proper sweep for the De Ashi Barai.
The best we could do was prop him. Interestingly, though, with that prop, wrong as it was, and the tai sabaki step and turn, we could still drop uke very easily. In fact, we could throw him practically across the mat as he charged in.
It was a helpful mistake, at least, because it did illustrate how uke's point of vulnerability could be as he's coming in.

The solution to getting the sweep is in the phrase, 'Tori resists with his abdomen.' Kawaishi, like Mifune, will have these cryptic 'abdomen' comments here and there in his books when he's trying to emphasize the particular importance of bodily unity for a given technique. Here, staying in one piece means, Don't let uke have that leg.
Uke comes in, and you step and turn, but keep that left leg of yours where it belongs underneath you - and then you're in position for a full blown sweep. The result is a faster, more efficient exchange, as quick as a blink: uke makes the entry, but tori makes the throw. All the principles we've come to know take place in much smaller measures of time and space. Uke also drops straight down instead of being slung across the room.

Why does closing one's eyes work so well? (I know this, or blindfolding, is an old drill.)
We know it makes you focus on feeling your opponent, but why does the aged and wise sensei say, 'Your eyes lie to you?'
Perhaps it'd be better to ask, Why are the eyes such a liability? How are they interfering with your judo?
I have a guess, that in all of our drilling and training, we've made a psychological association between the image of an attacking motion and the subsequent throw and fall. It's not only a visual association; I think it could be an emotional one as well.
You see an opponent make his move. Is your reaction a form of panic, on a mild scale?

1 Comments On This Entry

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aleks 

20 July 2009 - 05:13 AM
‘Why does closing one's eyes work so well? (I know this, or blindfolding, is an old drill.)
We know it makes you focus on feeling your opponent, but why does the aged and wise sensei say, 'Your eyes lie to you?'

There is a vast amount of literature done on brain functioning. One book that I found quiet readable is ‘Brain Rules’ by Dr Medina. In it he discuses all human senses and states that eyesight overrides all of them. One example is of scientist taking professional wine testers and asking them to describe provided samples. What they didn’t tell them is that all of the samples are white wine colored with tasteless red coloring. All of the tasters started describing wine samples using red wine terminology??? What scientist concluded is that eyesight played major part in the activities that were crucial for survival of the human species (hunting, assessing danger, choosing partner,) therefore it is main sensory input for conscious decision making. Another interesting thing is that our conscious processing is done in a small part of the brain. The rest, which is unconscious thinking (if we can call it that way), uses the rest of the neurons. It receives the information from the environment through other senses and then provides most optimal response, sometimes in a matter of milliseconds. Simple, we do not think how to breath, walk, digest or balance. It is all done without the input of one single conscious thought.

Now what happens when we shut eyes? Suddenly that major information highway is empty. There is no visual input. So the brain shifts in to different mode and start enhancing other senses so that it can orientate itself and the body. The interesting thing about this is that the brain engages that other (larger) part and it starts processing input information on much quicker scale. And suddenly, as we noted in our shuteyes randori, we feel and react at some unnatural level of awareness. However as soon as we open the eyes it goes back to the ‘old’ way. Top professional sport men and women call this ‘zone’, Musashi calls it ‘void’ and the young samurai from the movie ‘The Las Samurai’ calls it ‘no mind’. All of these people learned to subdue their visual input processing (especially Tom Cruise :hap: ), directly quieting their conscious mind and allowing that larger part of the brain to take over. Musashi advise that during combat the eyes should be half open to reduce the point focus and to broaden the vision.

Can eyes lie? Yes they can. We are limited in what we can see. Next time you look at the night sky just remember that the light hitting your retina left most of those stars before humans walked on this planet. Einstein explained this neatly in his theory of relativity. Ugh, I am getting headache.

In Judo universe action can be very fast and we all got caught at one time or another with well executed combo. We have seen certain queues for the particular throw and suddenly something else is happening. And while we are flying through the air our conscious mind is telling that this is not what is spouse to happen. Hitting the floor our eyes are wide open and for an instant there is a question all over the face ‘HOW’ ‘ WHY’?

Cheers
Aleks
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