Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Value of Trading Places

About 18 months ago my lovely wife Sanae and I got an opportunity to start studying social dance, being lucky enough to get instruction from two of Japan's national amateur champions, Minato Kojima Sensei and Megumi Morita Sensei.  In addition to being world-class competitors and bright, wonderful people, they have a lifetime of knowledge and great skill in teaching.

Social dance has improved my martial arts tremendously, and both share a common skill on being aware of yourself and your partner's position in space without looking.  Both emphasize good footwork and balance, and both require grace and FLOW.

Today, Kojima-Sensei gave us a new drill.  I had to dance the ladies' part and Sanae had to dance my part.  In dance, the man typically leads, and the lady must adjust/adapt/respond to his communication through posture, head position, and the pressure of his right hand on her shoulder blade.  When reversed, we begin to understand the other's point of view, which in turn enhances our own understanding of how to move together to create the most efficient whole as a couple.

This was a great drill.  In dancing her part, I understood much better how important my lead is in giving my partner the direction she needs to stay in sync.  I felt how necessary it is to remain light or "floating" in my footwork in order to easily respond to my lead's guidance.  When I danced the lead again afterward I was greatly improved, more relaxed and more confident.

In martial arts as well, it is very important to train both sides (shite and uke) of every technique. We must master the motion by doing (shite), but deep understanding is gained by receiving (uke) as well.  When we become used to the feeling of techniques being put on us, even punches and kicks, we no longer feel any panic when we are under stress.  By feeling when our balance is going, we better learn how to take it away from an opponent.  By experiencing the locks we get insight into how to remove the slack and escape when we apply them to others.  Thus, even when sparring, it is just as important to work on defense as it is to work on offense.

Of course, in dance the goal is to keep your partner moving freely and unimpeded in lockstep with you, while in martial arts it is diametrically opposite.  My goal is to make each movement as difficult for my opponent as possible, taking away and keeping away their strength and balance completely from start to finish.  That being said, the same drills can yield the same benefits in both dance and martial arts.

Utmost gratitude to my teachers for their patience and training.

"It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all Ways and be more and more in accord with his own."  - Tsunetomo Yamamoto (Hagakure)

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