Bring Your Mind to a Knife Fight

Screw the football, Monday nights are going to ROCK.

So I had another case of nerves getting out the door.  I was worried I’d eat too much for dinner before hand since it had been an issue Saturday.  I went for a long walk to try and calm down and digest a bit, then headed over.

Monday night – and indeed most nights – class is taught by two senseis.  The first is Martin-sensei, who is I think the oldest member of the dojo.  He’s also the one that’s been the most interested in exploring the philosophical side of things that I’ve seen so far; most of his lessons discuss energy flow.   We practiced several different techniques, including two that involved what I’m calling spins, anyway.  You turn your body into your opponent while holding their arm as a way of getting them off balance before you push them over.  Complex stuff, and the “London Bridge” spin isn’t something I’ll remember any time soon.

Forty five minutes later – which I didn’t even NOTICE, by the way.  Time just… doesn’t seem to exist when I’m practicing.  The only time I glance at the clock or the door is when I’m tired and I need a chance to catch my breath.  Anyway, 45 minutes later Steve-sensei takes over.

Steve-sensei is a bit of a Bay Area stereotype.  He’s a big Japanese guy, ex cop, and just friendly and almost cuddly.  He teaches the self defense portion of the class, and he has this fantastic habit of explaining a technique to the point where you’ve turned the tables on your attacker and then just GRINNING for a long second before pushing his opponent over.  It’s such a happy smile you can’t help but mirror it.  He’s also very verbal in his descriptions as well as demonstrative, so it gives you a chance to learn on two levels simultaneously.

This week, we learned how to neutralize an attacker with a knife.  Both moves involve first raising your hands to shoulder level – a good rule of thumb when you’re held up.  This gives you plenty of space to move either up or down in response, but is still considered a submissive gesture by anyone with a weapon.

From there, you do two things simultaneously – turn your body so the knife, at worst, slips by your skin, and then control the wrist by pushing it away.  Not grabbing, not slapping – pushing.  Grabbing lets them shove you back, slapping causes rebound. Much harder than it sounds, but at the same time it’s a subtle and elegant motion.

Then from there, you get to do the FUN stuff.  Like smack them in the face.  Or pull their arm down and flip your elbow up into their chin.  Then you put your forearm against the back of their tricep, grab the other wrist, and roll them forward from the waist to slam into the nearest solid object.  And THEN, because they want to get away from you and are pushing up, you help them by grabbing their shoulder, still holding the wrist with the knife, and slamming them BACKwards into the nearest object.  From there they’re on the ground and probably stunned, so you flip them around on their chest, shove their shoulder into the ground braced against your leg, push the wrist into their arm and take the knife.

This is FUN.  This is VERY fun.  I worked with Jeff for both of the knife disarms and he was a fantastic sport about letting me rock him forwards and then backwards.

I had a neat moment with Steve-sensei as well.  He watched and helped correct me with both moves, and he made a comment about timing.  There are two windows where you want to move when you’re being attacked – when they move, or when they speak.  When they move I understood – aikido is at it’s core about getting out of the way.  But I didn’t understand why you’d want to move when they spoke.

So Steve-sensei showed me.  He handed me the tanto (one of the Chris’ had showed me how to hand it off properly earlier) and told me to hold it on him.  I did, he put his hands up at shoulder height like we’d been taught and started talking, “Okay you’ve got me, what do you want, don’t hurt me just tell me what you want.”  I thought and opened my mouth to speak, and then I was on the floor (good breakfall practice, by the way).

When you have to talk, you have to think.  When you have to think, your body hesitates.  When you hesitate, your opponent moves.  It was a fantastic, visceral demonstration.  I was thrilled he took the time to explain.

I’m still trying to learn names, and I got to work with different partners this time.  There was Jeff, a tall and lanky man with brown hair – I think he’s a blue belt.  I worked with two different Chris (the dojo has 4!) , both of which are brown belts I think.  One is extremely tall and thin and has a full smile with a crooked tooth, which is about on eye level for me.  The other is shorter than I am with dark hair in a very greaser-like haircut.  He’s the one who taught me how to hand off the tanto and one of the younger, more intense students.  Stephanie is the other woman in the class; there was no sign of Nguyen.  She’s a black belt, I think, or maybe brown, and is very good but not terribly comfortable either teaching someone or around me, I’m not sure which.

And then there’s Howard.  Howard is awesome, and it’s no surprise to me that he and Steve-sensei are good friends.  They’re both similar ages – I’d guess mid fifties.  Howard is expressive and open and makes lots of oofs when practicing, and after the lesson spent 15 minutes with me asking me how I was finding things and sharing tips about eating before hand and making sure you drink the right amount of water before hand.

After Saturday’s lesson I was left with a niggling lingering doubt that I was in the wrong place.

After Monday?  I couldn’t wait for Wednesday.

Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 11:02  Leave a Comment  

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