Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cordon y Cordas

In this morning’s workout I thought of Sonny Umpad’s “cordon y cordas” or “give and take,” a very Taoist-like yin/yang approach to things. For instance, a strike has energy when it moves out and also when it moves back; find and use both. I began looking anew at how this could be integrated in the context of the “box pattern.”

This is a counter-for-counter sparring drill that teaches directness of motion. For instance, a vertical angle #1 (right downward forehand) becomes, in a continuous motion, a downward punch-block deflection against your opponent’s horizontal angle #4 (right backhand, mid-body). Meanwhile, his inside block (tip up, high centerline) against your initial #1 strike whips down and across into that #4 (like a Tai Chi single whip, including check hand) you now must block.

Often in Serrada we use a forward stance, aggressively holding our ground. In a drill like this, though we are supposed to strike to the target it often becomes a battle for that middle space in between, because to attack oblivious to the defense is to get hit. As Angel would say, “you have to account for the weapon.”

“Cordon y cordas” means attack gives, defenses take back in, natural rhythms of expansion and contraction, paired to optimize the flow of movement. Applying that to the box pattern evolves a very different feeling, more fluid back and forth. Bending or turning the waist is certainly not new to Serrada. This is just a way to work that aspect in a bit deeper, adding to our repertoire.

I saw a lot of this lastico (elastic) movement with Sonny’s students last Saturday, stalking the opponent by moving in and out various ways to establish range. A couple of advantages to drilling this are that it enhances balance and shifting center of mass, uses torque to strengthen abdominals, controls the pace of the drill and encourages completion of attacks.

I look at every technique for three basic things: weapon, secret weapon (empty hand) and body angle (feet, hips, shoulders). Lastico particularly expands that last category, increasing our potential range of movement within techniques.

Hard, soft; direct, evasive; long, short; etc. are but ways to express what should best be alive in the moment. There may be preset patterns of movement, but what happens NOW is the only thing that you can really change through the mediums of timing and space. Anticipation and action are interrelated, the former pre-energizing the latter, useful so long as it is not overwhelming. Somewhere I’ve heard it said that “knowing what to do is the easy part, but knowing when to do it, that is the trick.”

Anything can be elevated to art when one can play freely with common elements, allowing intuitive expression within the form. It is transcending form that is formlessness, but first there is always consciousness, where function is the vessel that creates the form expressing the need. Form changes, always, expressing response to those needs. To be formless is not to lack form, but to have choices so that form becomes transparent, merely a means to an end rather than a goal of itself.

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