Sensei speaks a lot about controlling these days (see previous entry in this blog). But during his last class, he detailed it a little more.
Controlling the space in Mutō Dori should be the theme of the study for next year, he said, this is why I will try here to share with you what I understood.
The control he is speaking about is the control of space with Mutō Dori. Technically, it is the theme of this year with a deeper understanding. Managing the space is mainly done with the legs. As always, footwork is important.
Proper footwork will give you the perfect distance needed to control the space. Not too far, and not too close.
This control is done at the physical level as well as the mental level. Sensei spoke about Tōate a lot during the class, in both taijutsu and weapons. Tōate is the ability to influence uke’s perception by throwing your determined mental attitude onto him (1). Tōate impacts uke’s perception of distance and gives Tori more space to move during the exchange.
This way of controlling affects the space at the physical level but also the attacker’s brain. Uke’s senses are unable to deal with the movements he perceives.
Sensei insisted that to control uke, you have first to control yourself. To control yourself you must be “zero and one” at the same time. You emit nothing, and you have no preconceived idea of what to do. You are “one”, body and mind, and you move freely, surfing on the movements of the opponent in this controlled space you have generated. The outcome of the encounter doesn’t matter. It is irrelevant. Sensei said that at this level “there are no techniques” (2). It is the flow of your movements that make things turn out positively for you. Controlling the space in battle, you also control the time within this space. You react swiftly but without any precipitation.
You occupy the space with your body, walking around uke to create the perfect distance. You shouldn’t be focused on ending the technique, simply the first step matters.
When space is controlled, then your Taijutsu and your techniques with weapons are the same. This is the superior level of Mutō Dori.
In a sword against sword attack, Sensei said you block by avoiding only, with body movement (footwork). “Don’t do sword techniques” the waza will pop up and apart into the controlled space by itself.
Later, against a Dō kiri knife attack, the Kaeshi was simply to hit happa Ken on the driving hand. Timing and distance were paramount.
This ability to control the space of Mutō Dori was hard to get. I hope that in the next classes, I will be able to get a better feeling about it.
1. 投/tō/throw/ (Kun-Yomi = nage) +
宛/ate/aim; object; purpose; end|expectations; prospects; hopes|something that can be relied upon
2. When sensei says there are no techniques, it didn’t mean you don’t have to learn them. This is a common mistake amongst young teachers. Forgetting the techniques means that you spent time learning them. The only way to forget something is to have learned it in the first place.
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