Welcome to The Palace Guard, the tai chi chuan and martial arts blog for intelligent martial practitioners. As the blog develops, I hope to feature other writers with a fresh take on the martial arts and related subjects. For now, I hope you enjoy my posts: feel free to leave comments, or email me at the address available on the profile.

Thursday 25 October 2012

The spaces in-between

The space that the martial arts create is a unique one. Those that enter to train have agreed to let certain things happen in that space that aren't allowed elsewhere, so the dojo is a liminal, that's to say an in-between space where "normality" is suspended. This space can be dangerous, not least because some teachers will use it to express their own control, power , fear or self-aggrandisement. A gentleman came to train with us recently whose art it seemed was that of martial compliance, thats's to say someone had trained him to die very politely at the application of the slightest force. I felt sorry for him. A teacher of my acquaintance admitted once that he had "run out of things to do" with his considerable crowd of students. This one particularly amazes me: what a gift to have a room full of people all willing to work together, all willing to drop some of the niceties of society in order to learn from blows and attacks!

So last night's training had a quiet edge to it. We zombied for well over half an hour, working on efficiency, flow and herding tactics. There's such a fine balance between letting them come, and pro-actively deterring the zombies. If you go in every time, you find yourself at their tactical mercy, as you have to keep turning in order to maintain awareness, and this is pretty disorientating. Sometimes it's better to let them sail past, using just a small evasion and cover, and hitting them as they go. Fists are fine, but open hand keeps forearms in play for smothering, chokes, locks and elbow-through-shoulder barges and hits. Our training in moving-step pushing has improved the use of lower body techniques, and I found that where top and bottom worked in co-ordination, the zombies balance and footing disappeared quickly and without warning...

There's not so much "teaching" going on. We can all, regardless of ability or experience, point out patterns or holes in people's movement (though experience improves this ability). If you've got a mob of keen people, and don't know what to teach, then don't teach: play, mess around, and thrash it out between you all. There's enough there to occupy several lifetimes. The lure of "the system" or "the art" gets them through the door, but what goes on once inside is much freer and vital than any system will ever be.