Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lessons in Budo - An Open Mind

One of my hopes in authoring this blog was to have a written record of where my mind (and body) were during my journey.  A 'snapshot' in time, if you will.  

I had hoped that if I could maintain an open (or beginners) mind, that some of my opinions would change or alter over time.  After all, I've said from the start that as soon as you close your mind, you stop learning and you stop improving.

Well, here's something I didn't think would happen.  I've changed the way I look at the good old hip throw. After years of not really having any use for it, or seeing much value in it, I've recently become a fan.  

Why?  Well, I'd like to say it's because I did a deeper study in the biomechanics of it, that I delved into the history of this well worn technique or that I sought out an expert specializing in balance points and levers, but none of that's true.  

The answer is that all of a sudden (relatively speaking), I got good at it.  After years and years of struggling with it, not getting low enough, torquing my back, losing my balance and using too much strength, it just got easy.  It was as if a switch had been thrown, everything just 'clicked' and it all came together.  

I'm still not entirely sure what I'm doing differently.  That's the strange thing about it.  I'm not consciously doing anything different.  The only thing I can put a finger on is that I've made sure I keep moving throughout the entire throw.  Instead of breaking it down in my brain, I'm just trying to 'feel' it, to 'go with it'.  I've actually stopped thinking about where to plant my feet, how low to go, when to swivel etc.  And it's working.  In fact, I'm actively trying not to analyze what I'm doing, or what I'm doing differently.  

This was inspired, in part, by watching a guy climb a tall ladder to get on a roof.  I watched him near the top of the ladder and just continue to step, from rung to roof.  I realized that he just kept moving.  He didn't stop, examine his next footfall, place his foot carefully and push off.  He just kept moving.  Had he stopped to ponder each detail of his next move, he may have put himself in peril of a misstep.   I saw a parallel to my challenges with the hip throw.  It's sort of like increasing the chances of someone tripping by telling them not to trip.  The mere fact that they thought about tripping dramatically increases their chances of doing so.  

Budo is everywhere, after all, not just in the dojo...

I suspect there's more to this lesson than I've managed to uncover, but suffice to say, I now kind of like the hip throw.  Where for many years, I couldn't imagine a time where I'd ever use it, I now find opportunities for the hip throw popping up everywhere.  I find myself balanced and my opponent unbalanced.  I find that an advancing attacker can quite often easily be thrown.

I wonder if it's like learning a new word.  It seems every time you do, you hear it spoken or read it in print over and over again.  Something you didn't even know existed is all of a sudden everywhere.  Or is it that they, like opportunities for the hip throw, were always there, but it was you that couldn't recognize them?    

Food for thought.


  1. This post has given me hope! I'm still at the stage of well....I can do hip throws but I would never choose to do one. I even asked some judo guys for help with them - they threw me around beautifully but I didn't improve. Maybe I need to go find a man with a ladder!

  2. Nice article. I am still waiting for my "ah ha!" moment with many techniques that don't just flow with me. Maybe I'll try not thinking about it, too.


  3. Aikidoshoshin,

    Thanks for the comment. I was surprised by it. I've had a few techniques I didn't like initially become favorites, but never one that took so long. Maybe the man on the roof was a secret Zen master...

    Thanks for the comment.


    Those "ah ha!" moments are great but you can never guess when they're going to come. Maybe it's like those little 'eye dots' that you can only see if you're not trying to focus on them. Actively not looking, there's an interesting task.


  4. Your example shows that we shouldn't dismiss a technique as 'doesn't work' until we have practised it a lot. I have learnt to keep my mouth shut when learning something new that I don't immediately like, after a period of time some of these things have started to work for me. It becomes a case of 'trust your sensei' - I generally find that he only shows us techniques that work; if it's not working then the problem is usually with me, not the technique...

  5. Sue,

    I, too, have been learning to keep my mouth shut and just let new techniques 'marinate' for a while. It very much is a 'trust your Sensei' situation. It's always good to approach training with a critical eye but sometimes you just need to have faith. That's why finding a good teacher is so important, and having one is so special.