Friday, January 3, 2014

Insight to become one with your opponent

Jan Bloem
Groningen, Holland
Peter Ralston,
Two small questions:
Q1: During the Cheng Hsin workshop we did an exercise in which we needed to put our hand on the body ofthe partner and move around without losing the contact. After that we did some pushing. At one moment I put my hand on a partner and I had the feeling that he was not very present. I felt the body all right, but that was it. Also with the pushing it was rather easy to "push him around." On a theoretical level, can you say that this is a case of a lack of body-being?

Q2: I have the feeling that I see more and more what you mean with "consciousness" and also the "martial value" of it. My question is (one of them) some people say that you are able to "read" the intentions of your partner. How I interpreted your remarks during san shou was that we should be very aware of every part of our body and the mechanical and physiological reactions which are evoked by external stimuli -- being a punch, kick or behavior in total. When people say "he can read the intentions of his opponent" the impression comes to mind that you need to learn to observe behavior of your opponent and you should start with your opponent. I have more the feeling that you do not read the intention of the opponent by looking at him, but by being aware of your own bodily reactions, because they are usually quicker there than any visual feedback. When you know out of experience that a certain physiological reaction is evoked by a certain behavior of your opponent, there is a great chance that this behavior will occur. In that sense you will be one step ahead. This will make it possible to "respond instead of react."
Am I on the right track?

About Q1:
What we were practicing is called "outreaching," which is making and feeling the connection with another. This enables us to pick up information about a partner or opponent beyond feeling his whole body, such as a sense of what he's up to, how aware he is, his reaction to being "touched," and so forth. We can't say that your partner lacked body-being since that would mean he didn't have a body or wasn't alive. We could say that he probably was not very conscious of his body, or not "in" his body much. When a person identifies most strongly with his mind, the relationship that mind has to body is abstracted, detached. He may "perceive" the body and even identify with it, but he doesn't occupy the position "of" the body "as" the body, which creates a serious weakness.

About Q2:
Certainly I recommend paying attention to the opponent and your own body. Although this sounds self evident, you'd be surprised how many martial artists need more work in this area. As far as your analysis, it certainly shows you're thinking about it, and it may well have validity. The particulars, however, aren't as important as the experience, and the experience usually comes as a feeling awareness, a cognition of theother person's intent and impulse, which for me comes largely as a feeling, sometimes just as a sort of knowing that is so close to my response as to be virtually undetectable as something separate from my action (but not completely). As a feeling it is as if their movement, and in some sense their intent or what they are up to mentally, emotionally, and strategically, "touches" my body. In this way, it may be similar to what you are considering. I wouldn't want you to restrict yourself to one way of thinking about it. In the end there may be many ways we pick up such information -- use them all.

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