Preparing for my “A” Game – Wistric   1 comment

To start: I don’t think I know anybody who can talk about their “A” game without sounding pompous.  Hopefully this won’t sound overly pompous and will actually be useful.  What I sincerely hope is that people talk about how to defeat my kind of “A” game so that readers will learn more than just “stretch then kill ‘em”.

My goal state for a fight is physical and mental readiness for action, with absolutely no commitment to any particular action.  This is the “mushin” of Asian martial arts, the fifth ring of Musashi’s Book of Five Rings.  Prep therefore involves getting blood into all of the necessary muscles and joints, getting them ready for action, while clearing my mind of all thought.

I find sun salutations of progressively increasing speed and vigor work well for this. This is pretty close to what I do:

The actions provide the stretching and blood flow.  After the first pair, at the various postures there are places you can press a little extra to work on stiffer joints and muscles (in the lunge back, pushing the hips down and forward helps get them ready for opening up when in guard; in down dog the more you press your heels toward the ground the more you stretch out your hamstrings).  I also improvise on these: Adding a pushup when in plank, lifting a leg up behind me in down dog to stretch the hip and leg additionally.

Concentrating on breathing clears the mind.  To start off, just thinking “in” and “out” got the mind clear.  Now a days I just listen to the breath.

I then usually close out with a minute or so of pranayama breathing.  This is forceful exhalation and gentle inhalation to further oxygenate the blood and stimulate the adrenal glands (some Yogis get… weird with this, but keeping it simple has never seemed to hinder).  My yoga instructor called it “building heat” and that’s an accurate description of the physical sensation.

It takes a few minutes, but there’s more than enough time between the end of round robins and the start of the quarter finals, or while waiting for your champs fight to be called.

Then, it’s mask on and be ready.  I don’t talk much in mask because that requires thought.  Which isn’t to say there is no thought going on, but it’s not particularly committed.  Analysis of probabilities based on opponent’s action: “He’s moving this way, holding his sword that way, he’ll probably do this…”  But there is no “I’m going to do…”  The ability to identify those probabilities is what experience earns, more than anything, and I’ve never found a shortcut.

What that looks like:

For the first part, notice I’m not in guard.  I don’t commit to a guard until we’re just outside of measure.  Instead, I’m watching him and analyzing.  Note the head tilt to the side, that’s totally me thinking “Really?  You’re putting your sword way back there?  Okay.  And, yes, I do see you thinking you’re sneaking into measure.”

At :10 he gets close enough that I prep a counter.  He’s too far away to reach me in anything like a reasonable time, so I’m not forming a guard, again, not committing, but I want my legs under me to counter if he does try to rush me.

0:15 he’s close enough that I’ve taken a counter-guard (since he committed to his guard wayyyy back 15 seconds ago).  My sword is on top of his, he can’t attack.  I don’t want him settled, so the next ten seconds is me disrupting him with actions in tempo but too far away to risk my security, and seeing if he’ll revert to his original guard. Which he does.  So we return to me gaining his blade, and waiting for the opening.  I’ve said it before: I just want you to give me a tempo to attack in.

At 0:30 he gives it, shifting his blade enough to expose his lead arm and permit me to close out both his weapons on the inside line.

Steven Pearlman, in The Book of Martial Power, talks about how his cat commits 100% to all its actions.  I’ve got five cats and I slap fight with the feistiest of them to see what 100% commitment looks like and to work on handspeed.  At 0:30, I go from very little commitment (I am in a counter-guard) to 100% commitment to the follow through on that shot to his arm.

My fight with Llwyd at Ruby is another example of analysis without commitment, then triggering a pre-programmed decision tree with 100% commitment.  Thus the over-extended lunge.  Fucker had to die.

And that’s my goal mental state.  0% commitment or 100% commitment.


What does commitment look like?  Well…

Taking a guard that allows him to form a counter, shifting weight to commit to one attack or another, and, worst of all, mentally committing to the idea of having a good, pretty Italian Rapier fight with a limited concept of what that permitted.

And there’s the result: Loss.

Posted May 22, 2014 by Wistric in Musings

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