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We’ve been working a lot on balance in class recently. Not so much our own balance, though of course that is important, but more on controlling another person’s balance. This can be achieved in quite obvious ways – you grab someone’s arm and pull it away from their base of support, for example. So that was out starting point, using the stick in order to make the movement and direction very clear.
From there we moved on to using our partner’s arm as the stick, in effect controlling their balance via the arm. This leads to a very quick understanding – that in order to affect the balance you have to have some kind of connection to the person. This is the area we next explored, how we interact with an opponent and what kind of connection we can establish.
Connection implies a flow of information, so the next level is keeping that flow as “one way” as possible. We want to feel our opponent’s movement but not give away too much of our own. When working with hands this is reasonable straightforward. It becomes more challenging when we are working with direct body contact. It calls for deeper levels of relaxation, which in turn calls for a good understanding of breath work. Having established this, we next move on to working pre-contact. At first this involves the concept of “support”. In other words you look as though you are going to give the partner’s movement a solid support, then you remove that support at the last minute. Just like taking the chair away as someone sits down. There still has to be that connection but this time it is largely visual.
That same visual connection can be used to elicit a flinch response in some way. This is the gateway to understanding non-contact work. At the first level, we simply make a very visible and positive movement towards the partner’s eyes as they move in. However, it is very interesting to work beyond this and start to understand how deeper connections can be made. We can “capture” a person’s movement with our own and direct it. We can intimidate or direct a person with a stare. We can cause tension (physical or emotional) to appear in a person then manipulate it.
None of this is magic, it is purely human connection and interaction. In the past I have seen “empty force” work , described by most of its proponents as using “emitted energy” to affect a person. To me it is/was psychological work, particularly some of the more parlour trick type demonstrations.
I had someone ask on-line how any of this unbalancing work was actually practical. To me, it’s hard to see how it isn’t. Need to move someone from A to B? First off, disrupt their balance. Everyone knows that a tilted wardrobe is easier to move, right? See how hard someone can punch when they are off balance –for most people it cuts the power considerably.
But beyond those uses, there is a very deep understanding to be gained from studying connections and how, as humans, we connect and interact, on many levels. Because with connection we can establish communication and once we have that we open up a whole new range of possibilities.
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