Hitting People with Sticks
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Oct
17

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The above is not me.  While I’m sure that my parents can tell tons of stories about me as a tiny adorable girly girl, I’ve pretty much moved past that.  I still wear makeup, dresses, and jewelry, but I’m no fragile flower.

The reason I bring this up here is linked to some experiences in class.  My instructors are fantastic – they treat me like any other student in class.  Some of the other students, though …

For example.  I was working with one of the senior students one on one last night, and I could not for the life of me get him to feed strikes as though he were serious.  His punches were slow and soft, his stick strikes were glacial.  I don’t mind working slowly, since that cements good technique, but the floppy punches that give me nothing to work with will not help me learn.  When I ribbed him about it, he grimaced and nodded and did the same thing over and over.

The really frustrating thing is that I know he doesn’t do this with any of the guys, even lower level students.  He tends to push people.  I felt like I was being treated like a little girl who can’t be expected to fight well.  I’d brush it off, but other students, even beginners, do the exact same thing.  Hit the boys hard, hit me like I’m made of crystal.  It gets tiresome.

This.  This is me.  And they’d do well to remember it when we get in the sparring ring.

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Sep
07

A large portion of the effectiveness and speed of eskrima is flow – that elusive concept that allows eskrimadors to hit repeatedly, quickly, and with brutal results.

I got a lot of practice on flow last night, in both siniwallis and directed sparring.  Siniwallis requires flow to work properly – you need to keep both sticks moving, keeping your eyes open for incoming hits and openings, speeding up or slowing down as required to get the intended effect.  I love working with Eric for this reason (and that’s saying a lot, considering I used to get hit by him all the time and was nervous about working with him), because his flow is really gorgeous, and it brings out a similar flow in me.  The more I work that, the more I’ll be able to get that same flow with others.

Directed sparring was both similar and different.  Similar in that flow is still of course required, and the deflection/counter exercise can easily be looked at as a mild uptick in tempo, to devastating effect.  Different in that the flow with one stick feels much more choppy.  I don’t think this necessarily means the technique is more choppy – I think this means I need to smooth out my own expression of that technique.  Good practice and good mental exercise.

Sep
05

Last night was a great class, as usual.  Nick and Maxwell are becoming really fantastic teachers.  We also had a student from a while ago show up, having just signed up for the Cove again – Rio.  I’m hoping we see more of him.

As usual, we split the class into two disciplines – siniwallis and largo.  The main thing I took away from the siniwallis section was a bit of a mental breakthrough in footwork.  Certain techniques really don’t work if you don’t have the right foot forward to begin with, and others require you to step forward with the block.  There was also a lot of focus on aggression and flow.  It’s getting easier day by day.  Beginner students worked on six count accuracy and speed.

For the largo portion of the class, we did swamp drill for a while (yes, my thighs hurt), then worked on a 3-for-3 drill.  The defender had a pattern to follow – first an evasion or largo counter, then a deflection, and finally a two-handed technique at quarto range.  That last bit takes some getting used to, since the way you use the stick is significantly different than the usual largo style.  Lots of fun was had pretending to eviscerate our partners.  Beginner students worked formal counters, and against and with counters.

I believe tomorrow is our last day with one of these disciplines.  Tuesday we’ll drop one and add KDM!

Aug
01

ImageLast night was a pretty full class – three basics students, three beginner students, one intermediate student, and two advanced students/assistant instructors.  We focused on dequerdas/serrada for the first part of class, then siniwallis for the rest of it.

These days, I’m focusing a lot on aspects of the art that have been a problem for me for quite a while, and keep me from progressing.  They appear to me to be intertwined.

First, I don’t own my space all that well.  My blocks are often just barely enough to keep my partner from hitting me, and I tend to lean back from the strikes.  I gave a lot of head space last night to recognizing this and doing the right thing instead – meeting strikes like I’m a wall (not a puddle of water or an angry bull) and knowing what to do once the block has worked.

Second, when I do try to be aggressive, rather than being a calm, strong aggressor, I lean my head in like I’m asking for the queen’s blessing.  This usually leads instead to a stick to the head.  So again, head space last night was dedicated to remaining upright and relaxed.  I find that they go together, so hopefully, focusing on the symptom will help relieve the tension its caused by.

Man, I love combat siniwallis.  I bet if I can get good at that and reduce my discomfort at the range required of KDM, I will kick serious ass in empty hands techniques.

Jul
27

Siniwallis is always challenging.  You’ve got two weapons of equal length, so you need to be as ambidextrous as possible.  You have to keep track of your partner’s two sticks, and keep your own from getting tangled.

The biggest issue, at least for me, is flow.  I have so many things to keep track of that I lose sight of the bigger picture and become a herky-jerky robot.  I think my best way through this is carenza (for those not familiar with the term, it’s a solo practice that ends up looking much like a dance).  If I can get those movements into my muscles and feel comfortable moving that way, I can set that part on autopilot and let my brain worry about the other stuff.  Looks like I know what I’m doing this weekend!

We also did a lot of directed sparring, resulting in some impressive smacks to my anatomy, and a lot to think about with respect to translating these moves into actual sparring sessions.  Since a partner during sparring is unlikely to stand still for your counter hit, I’m trying to come up with ways of making that work, like taking advantage of the blind spot that all humans have in their vision.  We’ll see how that works next week.

Jun
22

Last night, lots of good things happened in class.

First off, we had four new people show up, which is always fun.  Though it does lead to people getting all clumped together during the warm-ups, like rush hour traffic.

While Instructor McWethy spent most of his time with the new folks, the rest of us worked on parry drills, trying to get them both faster and more complex.  I worked with Maxwell, and he really pushed me hard, getting me frustrated, then stopping to show me *why* I was getting frustrated, and then having me demonstrate the more efficient moves.  I felt a lot more comfortable by the end of class.

After the parry drills, we all put on helmets and gloves so we could work some of the same drills more realistically.  It was a bit jarring – we don’t normally take punches to the face at 80% power!  But it was again, really useful.  I managed to get Maxwell a couple of times with a brachial plexus  stun.  That guy is never going to live that reaction down – he’s really sensitive to that stun.  At least I managed to pull it both times and avoid knocking him to the mat!

Finally, sparring.  Yay for sparring!  I’ve been missing it.  Actually, we can all tell that it’s been a while – we have lots of blocks and tricks to re-learn.  Here’s to doing that more often.

And yes, in reference to the title of this post – I have bruises on my thighs (I *always* get hit on the thighs!) and a pretty one on my right knuckles.  At least I know my punches are hitting with the right part of the hand!

Jun
13

I got to work with one of the new folks last night, and it fascinates me how, as newbies, we all try so incredibly hard, slapping hands away, dodging and panicking, and of course holding our breath as though we’re underwater.

So much of eskrima is flow and efficiency.  A parry isn’t a big motion, it’s just a small guide to one side.  It’s good to have strong energy in your punches and blocks, but a lot of the moves are similar to aikido moves, where you work with the energy given to you and give it back in spades.

It’s an eye-opening experience every time I get to teach something.  I learn so much, and I get to see the light go on and the enthusiasm brighten in the new person.  I’m really grateful I get to do this.

Jun
08

A truth that seems to be universal  – once you pass a milestone, you wonder why you were working so damn hard before.

Working with Maxwell last night on largo techniques using a variation of the break-in break-out drill, I was busting my butt trying to close range and attack.  Maxwell pointed out that I was getting hung up, trying to rush him and bowl him over.  Since that sort of technique is unlikely to work for me in the real world (I’m no fragile flower, but I can’t knock over most men with a blind rush, that’s for sure), he recommended moving past him and cutting as I did so.

Suddenly, it was effortless.  No straining, no clinching, just a smooth pass that would have taken out my opponent.

Lesson learned – find the efficient path.  Don’t work so hard.  You may need the energy later.

Jun
06

We’re back to hammering on basics on Tuesdays, and I’m very happy about it.

As someone who doesn’t have a regular training partner outside of class, there are a lot of concepts that have made their way into my brain, but not my muscles.  I can understand the concepts of ballet (for example) better than anyone in the world, but I’d still be crap at performing.

So we repeated and repeated largo concepts and counters, and siniwallis concepts and strikes, as well as the more entertaining one-for-one drills.  We never made it to the threatened and dreaded swamp drill, but I’m sure it will come soon.

As many wiser than I have said, build a strong foundation.  The advanced material will build on that foundation and stay with you forever.

May
23

Last night’s class was a fantastic mash-up of largo mano and siniwallis concepts.  While my brain got a few new wrinkles while working on this, my knuckles got some major clonks in the process.  Mostly my own damn fault, as one would expect.

Maxwell worked with the lower level students on largo and siniwallis basics, and Nick and I fed lock&block using siniwallis vs largo.  This is where the brain wrinkling came in.  Obviously, the game is different when the person feeding has two sticks of equal length, and the receiver has one big honking stick.

The key appears to be awareness of range.  The feeder has basically one range that’s comfortable – medio.  Too close, and the sticks get tangled up.  Too far, and you can’t hit without getting hit yourself.  For the receiver, both corto and largo ranges work pretty well.  You do need to use range by staying out in largo until you’re ready to counter properly and then rush in, preferably tying up the feeder in corto or moving laterally to hit with the tip of the weapon.

My knuckles are unhappy with my technique, which will need some refining.  I’m not sure of the exact nature of the problem, but I’d guess it was something to do with the angles with which I was trying to block.  My muscle memory needs some retraining, which sucks.  But at least I know that now.

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