Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A throw by an other name...

The Mask of Zorro (1998)

Don Diego de la Vega [indicating sword]: Do you know how to use that thing?

Alejandro Murrieta: Yes! The pointy end goes into the other man.

So simple.  So wrong. But Funny.

In recent classes we have touched on what it means to "throw" an attacker.  So what is the big question. Well, words mean things and they precondition the mind.  What does "to throw" mean to most people?  Well, let's start with the dictionary. (I think I just got points from Sam).

  1. propel (something) with force through the air by a movement of the arm and hand.
  2. push or force (someone or something) violently and suddenly into a particular physical position or state.

I'd venture to bet that the image that most people conjure when they picture "throwing" is a ball. That's definition 1.  But that's not at all what we do.  In our context, one might fall to definition 2.  But anyone who has been in the dojo for any amount of time has heard us talk in terms completely opposite to pushing and forcing violently.  Thinking in these terms, force, violence, movement of the arm, is contrary in every way to what we aspire to in Aikido.  However, the dictionary leaves us one more meaning of "throw" that brings hope to our discussion

 3. cause to enter suddenly a particular state or condition.

Here lies some level of redemption for this word.  A meaning devoid of conflict but still of intent and action.  We can work with this "throw".

Now that we have dispensed with our boring romp through some until now suppressed memory of a grade school English class, on to the show. 

I have always likened throwing in Aikido to the art of persuasion made physical.  We don't make (force) our attackers into falling down, we somehow convince them to through physical trickery.  Herein lies a trap for us as practitioners.  We, when playing the role of an attacker (uke), can't do so thinking or knowing that we are about to get thrown.  If we do, then we have resigned ourselves to the outcome and have robbed the nage (good guy) of the opportunity to make his case (throw).  As uke, it is not our job to fall.  Neither is it our job to go all Watergate and cheat the nage of his argument.  As uke, it is our job to attack, genuinely, even with some degree of ferocity (as appropriate for the level of nage).  Then and only then, can nage (the good guy) apply their tricks (read techniques) to cause uke to suddenly enter a state of falling on our heads.

What was the point of all this... just like sticking the pointy end in the other man is hardly a complete treatise on swordsmanship, we must be aware of how we describe what we do so that we don't unwittingly bring baggage from colloquial or cultural expectations into our learning process.  They can lead us to ideas that lead us astray from the principles of Aikido and significantly delay our journey up the mountain.

Spend a few moments and rethink how you describe what you do in Aikido.  It might just help your practice.

1 comment:

Judy Warner said...

Great write up, Brian. I hope everyone reads and then shows up for practice to explore the idea of throwing. We have some great classes coming up this week and testing in kids class on Saturday!