There is a saying in Japan that in the summer you train your body and in the winter you train your mind. We will enact this expression as we enter into these winter months. We spent November looking at some foundational material. There were some classes in which we never even got to the point of putting some “basics” together to complete a technique. I hope that students recognized the profound depth that is contained with the “basics.” Our techniques are truly useless unless we have a real understanding of the basics and can employ them under highly stressful conditions.
We will begin an in-depth exploration of waza. It is highly likely that we will not move beyond the practice of a single technique per class. We will seek to understand what are the foundations contained within one technique (in response to a particular attack). We will push each other to demonstrate an ability to execute a technique that represents some degree of competency of some “basics.” We will work towards an awareness of the mental aspects, energy aspects, appendage aspects (movement of arms and legs), core movement aspects, and connectivity aspects contained within each technique. We will work towards identifying strengths and weaknesses in these areas and in our ability to integrate these areas into the completion of waza.
Mental aspects include an awareness of our mental state throughout the continuum of the execution of a technique. Where and what is our intention? Am I focused on myself, the other person, us…? Does my awareness change during the execution of a technique. Energy aspects include an awareness of what type of energy am I and the uke putting forth? What is the nature and intensity of that energy like. What happens to the energy level during the course of a technique? Appendage aspects delve into our footwork and how we use our arms. The footwork is separate from the arm-work, yet it all needs to be integrated in order for a technique to work. Core movement aspects involve how we utilize our core structure so that we can move while maintaining balance and power without allowing the attackers force to negatively impact our balance and power. Connectivity aspects involve when and how we connect with the attacker. We need to look at when we establish a connection. We need to gain some understanding as to the mental, energy and bodywork aspects of that connection. We need to look at how we maintain and manage that connection from the approach of an attack, to the attack, through the the successful execution of a technique.
Mindful waza should be a mentally taxing experience as we try and gain some awareness of these many areas when we practice our techniques. The challenge for us will be to not become bored and/or lackadaisical in our roles as uke and nage. We need to be continuously mindful and thankful for each and every opportunity to experience something to learn from, even though the outward appearance might be the repetition of an attack and technique for sustained periods of time. If we are lucky, we will have “wormhole” like experiences where we are no longer focused on the outward execution of a technique. We will be drawn into some aspects of the waza that informs and educates us about some of the foundational material. This will help us to progress in our development in this wonderful art. We will all need to work hard together to push ourselves and our partners as we spend these winter months engaged in mindful waza.
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here