For those who may not know, “lady looks in a mirror” is an English translation of a Chinese martial arts term.
It was common in Chinese martial arts to give techniques unique or “secret” names to differentiate those who were “insiders” of a martial arts system and those who were “outsiders.”
Chinese martial arts manuals would often have songs or chants, which were codified patterns. This practice in turn would aid in the memorization of forms.
I will use these classical Chinese terms as an introductory frame to explain my experience training with Hanshi Patrick McCarthy during his North American Tour.
As said in my previous post, Lady Looks In a Mirror-Part 1, Riai Kumite translates into the harmonizing laws of grappling hands. Riai Kumite is a continuous flow of attacks and defenses between two people, which includes all the elements of fighting: groundwork, throws, percussive impact, etc.
This practice builds students practice from passive resistance to full on functional spontaneity, imitating real fighting in a safe and controlled format.
Although many pursue the martial arts for the ultimate goal of better health and self-defense, many practitioners lose sight of the intention behind techniques, destroying the gains that could be attained in practices like Riai Kumite.
Upon reflecting on the practice of this drill and how we engage with it with our partners, I see areas that sometimes inhibit Riai Kumite.
When I switch from one partner to the next, it is clear who understands intent—the intention of the technique, their intention towards me and the intention of the exercise—and who does not.
The first thing that gets lost for many people, especially beginner students, is the intention behind the technique. When I talk about this I am referring to the application formula: tool, location, direction, angle and intensity.
When people forget the intention of the technique (to emulate physical violence), they forget to:
- Use the correct part of the body to attack
- Strike/Block from the correct direction
- Strike/Block on the correct angle
- Use the best amount of force for their situation
One simple example of this is punching in a straight line to the chin.
Now, you would think that the intent of this would be simple to understand. The intent is to punch in a straight line to the face.
Yet, in many instances, when hearing these instructions many people will throw bad hook punches and hammer fists while at the same time striking towards the chest, shoulder or even nothing at all!
Sometimes, this is a result of inexperience.
Or, it is the result of going too quickly, usually because people think it looks more impressive. At best, it hides poor execution.
When people fail to grasp the intention of a technique, the execution of the technique will be incorrect and the defence, as a consequence, will also be incorrect.
Thus, the learning process deteriorates and what would be Riai Kumite turns into nothing more than rough patty-cake.
And nobody likes rough patty-cake!
Usually someone’s attitude towards training in general will dictate how they treat you as a their partner.
There are those who feel the need to “win” when working with a partner—either through believing they’re superior in the amount of things they actually know or just through their physicality.
Alternatively, this inclination is the result of anxiety that our partner will harm us because of their size or rank. From this, we unknowingly up the tempo out of shear fear.
I should add that both these attitudes can be an unconscious act.
When people feel this way the response of many is to go harder and faster. The point of the exercise is not to go hard or fast, but to flow and realize where openings lie.
If we go too hard, the movements become rigid. If we go to fast, we can overlook blatant opportunities.
When there is a greater focus on how am I doing in comparison to another, whether we deem ourselves superior or inferior to our partner, there will always be an inclination to go harder and faster than is necessary—in the end, destroying one’s ability to learn effectively through Riai Kumite.
In other words, the goal of the exercise is not to “win.” That would imply that the exercise should have some type of definitive end. Rather, Riai Kumite can be infinite with the type of combinations of defences that can be accomplished.
Riai Kumite, as I have experienced it, demands a certain type of continuity or flow. As mentioned before, Riai is the concept of harmony. When this flow ends, you are no longer practicing Riai Kumite.
Many people may know many techniques, but perform them mechanically, restricting the transfer of energy between partners that should be performed in this exercise. When the movements become rigid, we lose the opportunity to perform techniques that demand continuity in order to be executed properly, for example any type of throw.
I’ve also watched people who know only three movements, but can gracefully flow between them.
I believe Riai Kumite as an exercise is dependent on being mindful of the correct intentions and not on how many techniques you know.
One must be mindful of
1) All the elements to execute the technique properly
2) The ego and how it affects the practice
3) The goal of the exercise
When we are mindful of these three things, one can achieve the harmony of grappling hands.
Ultimately, through changing partners and practicing Riai Kumite, I’ve learned that how we treat others and engage with the material we wish to practice is a reflection of our own ego and how honest we are with ourselves about our abilities.
My question for you is, what do you see when you look in the mirror?
That concludes what this lady reflects.