Sunday, July 03, 2005

Tying Shoelaces, Locking Joints

Tying shoelaces is a metaphor I use for joint locks, disarms and throws, because it’s a metaphor familiar to everybody.

If you tie your shoelaces too loosely, the knot will come undone. The lace has to be pulled snug to work properly. If you’re about to do something where it’s important to keep your shoe functioning, such as compete a sporting event, you’ll probably make sure to pull it tight and maybe even double knot it. A loose lace could cost you the competition, and it’s the same in performing martial arts techniques.

Too often novice students in martial arts are reluctant to get close. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, to respect another person’s space, but fighting isn’t about showing that kind of respect. You may respect the opponent for their skills or as a person, but you fight them the best you can to show that respect. It sounds so contradictory to normal mores, because we’re talking about violating personal space to control another person by inflicting pain, but it is necessary to recondition yourself to get comfortable using someone else’s body objectively.

Another metaphor I use is a doorknob. When you take hold of one, you grasp it and turn it either clockwise or counterclockwise. You would only rattle it back and forth if it did not do what you want, which is to open the door. Wristlocks are like this. To often I see people twist a wrist 90% of the way to a lock, then reverse unnecessarily. On a fundamental level, it doesn’t matter which way you go or which hand you use. Once you touch someone, whatever direction you choose has potential for control. The important thing is to take the time to explore the potential of each movement, learning to operate by sense of touch so that you can feel the slack in a lock and know how to take it up until it is snug.

Sometimes you have to reverse direction; sometimes reversal is part of the setup. Some techniques require two hands, or switching grips, but these are all options that come from knowing what you can do from your first touch so you can judge whether or not you can achieve control immediately or need to move on to a better position.

Small Circle Jujitsu is built on the premise of finding the fastest way to snug down a technique, instead of wasting time and motion circling wide until the technique locks. Angel understood this with Serrada too. Particularly when practicing with empty hands, the ability to move quickly into a dominating control increases the chance of success, so remember the basic rule: once you touch, find the control from that first contact, and only move into a longer chain of movement if you cannot secure your position.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Filipino Fighting Whip book

Tom Meadows' long-awaited book "The Filipino Fighting Whip" is finally out in print from Paladin Press. This is the most complete treatment of whips for combat written so far, drawing on Tom's lifelong experience and those of a number of top Filipino martial arts teachers, including Dan Inosanto (who wrote the forward), Momoy Canete, Amante Marinas, Snookie Sanchez and others. It covers history and types of whips, and presents a teaching progression based on body mechanics and angles derived from the FMA.

I've been watching Tom pull this together for a couple of years and I'm very excited to see it completed. As a small aside, yours truly contributed a short section on use of the whip from the perspective of a Serrada practitioner.

What's interesting is that Tom's insights into teaching the whip continue to evolve through his Latigo y Daga Association, so here's hoping for a sequel in the future.