I am offering a training Koan this morning. It is “feel rain, open umbrella”.
Of course, sometimes even if we feel the rain we won’t open our umbrella because :-
a) We don’t have an umbrella with us
b) The rain is too light for us to bother
“Feel rain, open umbrella” is the result of two experiences yesterday.
The first experience is of course being caught in the rain without an umbrella. This is not normal as I usually have an umbrella.
So with or without an umbrella I just had to react as best under the circumstances. In this case it was to pedal furiously to get to my destination faster though if it really poured heavily I could seek nearby shelter.
The second experience is discussing the use of the rowing exercise in Aikido with a student. You can see the rowing exercise in the video below.
The application we talked about is how the rowing exercise is used as a counter to an opponent grasping both your wrists. You can use the technique to pull the opponent forward off balance before pushing back using the back of your wrists. The video below illustrates this.
As you can see in the video the teacher was able to pull the student off balance before pushing him back. My point is as long as I am pushing without keeping proper balance then I can be easily pulled off balance too.
The question we explored is what happens if I keep my balance, just grasped my student’s wrists and just held on. He would then have a harder time pulling me off balance.
The answer is of course to somehow find a way to break my balance through movement. This is because most people tend to react when pulled or pushed and you can exploit their reaction against them.
It is not a big problem to deal with an untrained opponent. It is the trained person whom you have to worry about. In Tai Chi if I hold your wrists and you try to pull me I would let you pull me.
However, we still keep our balance and we let your pulling energy to tell us how to react. This is what I mean by “feel rain, open umbrella”.
Depending on the factors – how strong, which angle, which position, etc – given during the pulling or breaking of balance attempt is how we respond to it to nullify the attempt and counter the counter.
Of course, what if our wrists were grabbed? What could we do?
Using intent, we would apply a different method to induce the opponent to use strength without realizing it. Then exploiting his resistance we could then send him off balance.
At its root this is the same general principle as applied in Aikido!!! Except the process is different.
This is why though we find the same techniques in different styles such that we can say “same, same”. However, the way the process works can result in “same, but different”.
And that is the fun of learning and exploring different styles. Feel rain, open umbrella.