Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Again, thank you for these last few posts. I found them to be very informative. There is much to consider and re-consider within. I can also say that the things you are both laying out do capture much of my own experience as well.
Not wishing to mention names or ranks here, because I feel forums are about an exchange of ideas and not an allegiance to authorization, I was once told something relative by a teacher who was asked a similar question concerning distractions with weapons - jo vs. jo to be specific. He was asked whether a particular move in the set we were doing was a distraction (or a feint, a fake, etc.) or a real strike. To this the teacher answered (paraphrasing): "No -- it's a real strike. Combat is difficult enough as it is in regards to staying focused and staying in the dominant position. To throw a strike that has no true intention of hitting is to open oneself up spiritually and physically to a counter. It is automatically a type of suki. You should not see your opponent has having a fettered mind such that he will not take advantage of this suki. Your opponent should be understood to have an unfettered mind -- so he will not fall nor ever for your distractions. Only your true will to strike him as target will get him to move."
Of course, we can play with semantics here regarding exactly what is a "true will to strike," and we can debate over how one should for all practical purposes be able to possess this will even if it is just up to an inch away from the target, but being there I can say that this is not what this teacher meant. Again, I have mentioned this past experience not to say, "There you have it, an authority has spoken..,," but rather to discuss this idea of whether or not we should assume an opponent to have a fettered mind or not, and how such an assumption may indeed a priori provides us with a suki in our own collections of tactics.
Of course, the more you think about what this teacher said, there more you will be able to find -- I suggest. I mean it really is quite profound and certainly goes way beyond the common notions that have plagued such discussions similar to the one we are now having. Nevertheless, I would like to focus in on just a couple of points.
George rightly points out a biological tendency made possible by the physiology of the eye. No doubt - if all of those factors were to occur I think the eye and the mind would in fact respond as described, and for those very physiological reasons. However, and on the contrary, I think Ron also marks out a very significant point. Ron, in talking about what a boxer would do, describes something that is very commonplace or should be very commonplace -- meaning we've seen this or have experienced this quite a lot: "Now, do that same atemi to a boxer, as opposed to an aikidoka, and you are correct...you are likely to get a different response due to 'reified ideal phases', and the fact that boxers get hit all the time...and just hit back. "
That is to say that some folks, and probably a lot more of these kind of folks exist than we would like to believe or come to believe through our training, just hit back when they are about to be struck and/or are being struck. Just because we may flinch within our own ideal phases does not mean that they will or that even we will again within a truly established jiyu waza training environment. Boxers, and others, are either used to being hit and thus not mentally prevented from taking action if or when something is in their face or on it, or they are not even aware that they are being hit or about to be hit -- in which case they would simply continue striking through our "distraction". I think this is one very good reason why or by which we do not and should not assume that our opponent has a fettered mind -- even if we aren't assuming that he/she is an unfettered warrior (or what have you). In short, physiology aside, both an awareness of (almost) being struck, and an absence of training or experience that would predispose one to merely striking back through such an awareness, are required for the distraction to work as intended. Wouldn't you agree? And if that is the case, how and when are you going to tell the difference concerning which type of person you are dealing with? I think this is what that earlier quote is trying to address: You can't tell the difference. So strike to hit because if you do you will be able to address both kinds of folks, or at least the training or lack thereof in both kinds of folks. Hmmm?
This brings us to two other related points: 1) Again, to be distracted by a strike in the physiological way suggested presumes that I will indeed be aware of the strike you are about to have me face. Now I can either be unaware of said strike because I'm so totally focused on my own offense (which a poorly trained fighter will do), as mentioned above, or I can be "less aware" of said strike because I do not, through my training, come to stare at the strikes that are flying at me (which a highly trained fighter will do) - nor thus am I fettered by such things. I think Ron's boxer example can include both of these responses as well but we should also open it up to anyone that has brought their training to a descent level of commitment and investment. Not staring at strikes coming at you is to be sure difficult but also a required skill. In short, I think we have to be cautious concerning how much "distraction effect" we can actually attribute to physiology versus how much we should actually be attributing to our own reified ideal phases and/or underdeveloped training.
And, 2) More related to the latter case (since a trained fighter will watch the body more than the strike of an opponent that is heading toward him/her), while an eye and perhaps a mind can react in the physiological manner suggested, the body, quite early (by which I mean less than 10 years of training) does indeed come to know which amounts of penetration are dangerous and which are not. Striking to distract would require that one's body be in a range that is capable of full penetration of target - as nothing short of this would at all preoccupy the intermediate to advanced practitioner.
I have to point out that whenever I have seen this type of atemi employed, it is rarely at a range that has a full potential to penetrate the target properly. Mudansha, yudansha, and shihan alike all throw this type of atemi from well outside a range of proper penetration. For a person trained to watch the body (e.g. its distance, timing, angle, velocity, etc.) and who does not so crudely become fixated on the individual strikes themselves, attempting to distract this kind of person with this kind of atemi will not find any aid by the physiology of the eye -- in my opinion.
Rather, as the teacher I quoted said, this does in fact leave a suki (either inside, under, on top, outside the extended limb, or the limb itself) or create a suki in one's ongoing tactical employment. On the other hand, throwing this type of atemi from within a range of full penetration only makes these suki bigger.
In the end, I still think we will have to demarcate a difference between atemi thrown in kihon waza, atemi thrown in a jiyu waza that is being plagued by reified ideal phases, and atemi in jiyu waza proper. Perhaps, if we can do this, through things like Ron suggested (e.g. cross training) but also through a whole lot of self-discipline aiming at self-honesty and self-reflection, we may come to understand atemi in all of these cases and thereby determine what it can be and cannot be, or even what it should be and should not be. Having no final answer, and of course no final solution, what began by hearing an answer to similar question a long time ago has led me to this discussion, among other things, and for that I am thankful.