Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Carly Simon, Heinz Ketchup, and Good Sparring
As I watch my students spar, I sometimes see them trying to anticipate their opponent’s next move. This is good. You should learn to anticipate an attacker’s actions based on their movements, behaviors and tendencies. Anticipation is good.
Anticipation is not an accident. I anticipate retiring in relative comfort. I am able to anticipate that because I am taking actions now to enable it. Comfortable retirement will be the result of understanding the dynamics of financial planning, investments, and the leverage of time.
Anticipation is good.
Guessing, however, is something entirely different. Anticipating and guessing are on opposite end of the effectiveness continuum. On one end is random chance and on the other end is predictable results. Guessing is foolish. Guessing can get you killed.
So the obvious question is, what is the difference, i.e. how can you tell if someone (you?) is anticipating or guessing?
If you think you are anticipating a move, a block, or a feint, and you turn out to be wrong - you were guessing. Think for a moment about throwing a ball to a running catcher / receiver. Both the thrower and the receiver have to anticipate. The runner anticipates where the ball will be “in a little while.” The thrower has to anticipate where the runner will be.
If a ball thrower throws a ball at a running receiver and throws it to the exact spot the running runner is at - at the time the ball leaves his finger tips, the ball will always end up behind the runner. The ball must be thrown to where the runner will be, not where she is. Interestingly enough, if the thrower and the runner have their timing synchronized, the catch of the ball is relatively easy.
Furthermore, and this is where anticipation comes in - once thrown, the ball will not and cannot suddenly diverge from its path; it cannot drop suddenly out of the air. Anticipating the ball’s destination is easy once you understand the physics of throwing.
Sparring is similarly easy - once you understand the physics of the human form. Successful sparring is not about guessing if the attacker will punch or kick, or bob and weave, for surely they will try all of those. The key is to understand what the human body has to do when it kicks, i.e. it must pick a foot off the ground, usually leaving the other one planted, i.e. the kicker is now immobile.
Furthermore a kick has to come in and either stick around for you to grab it (bad for them) or pull back - and if you block or avoid the kick and anticipate its return trajectory - you again have the advantage. Remember, the attacker is immobile. In this example (defending a kick) you have mere milliseconds of opportunity, but they are as predictable as a thrown ball. Inertia, gravity, and the human form dictate what can happen - you need to learn this and exploit it in your sparring.
Don’t guess. Anticipate.