Monday, October 14, 2013

Grab my hand (being the Uke)

Being asked to come up on the floor to demonstrate something or to be the uke for the instructor is an exciting thing for beginner belts and over time, one that they learn to fear as well.  It is one thing for the student to be told “OK show me your lead leg roundhouse kick”; because they get to show everyone their technique, they are in the lime light for that brief moment.  It is quite another when the student hears “OK grab my hand” or “Now I’m going to punch at Billy’s face and Billy is going to block”, or “Now when Billy punches I’m going to step inside and block and then reap his front leg taking him down to the ground and then stomp on him.  OK now punch”.   You can almost see all hope leave their eyes cause they are thinking “oh  crap I’m gonna die”.

Uke means receiver and they know they are going to receive some sort of punishment by grabbing the sensei’s hand or by punching at his face.  If they are lucky they will be staring at a fist just an inch or so in front of their eyes blocking their view, if they are unlucky they will be starring at the ceiling after having their foot swept out from underneath them.  You want to be chosen but yet, dang it hurts.

The other night we were covering joint locks in class and I needed a demo partner, so I called up Hunter and I could hear Kate snicker behind me “Heh heh heh” and although I couldn’t see her I could imagine her covering up her mouth trying to stifle the laugh and hide her grin that it wasn’t her this time.  I did catch Woohyung breathing an audible sigh of relief, as Hunter slowly got up and came forward.  Hunter hung his head as he heard the dreaded words “grab my hand”.

At the seminar with GM Jack Hogan and Bruce Chui I felt sorry for this one white belt who was an innocent bystander when one sensei needed a new uke in which to demonstrate pressure points to me on.  I had been introduced to the student before the seminar by one of his fellow classmates, Immanual, whom I had worked with the night before.  He was only in the martial arts for a month or so and seemed a bit unsure of what he had gotten himself into in attending the seminar, much less have a high ranking sensei pull him out of the crowd and start demonstrating pressure points on him.  He didn’t even get the joy of being chosen to be in front of people, instead this was just private instruction on the side for me; nobody else was watching.  Now the sensei didn’t knock him out or abuse him in anyway, other than just invading his personal space as he demonstrated techniques (which hurt) to me, but I really felt sorry for the guy.  As soon as the sensei took a break and let him go he high tailed out of there heading into the crowd to get away.

I write this because I was thinking about the different attitude that some of us have towards demoing.  At first it is about the person being in front of others; they think “I’m special”, “I was chosen over everybody else”, “look at me”, “I’m a star”.  Over time though you learn it’s not about you but others and you are the person the technique is being shown through and often times it involves pain.  This is when you hear the dreaded words “grab my hand”.

Later still though you learn that you get more out of it, by experiencing the pain
Dr. Gyi applying the Jaw Lock to an unknown person.
than those that watch it, I learned one of the most insightful and important lessons from GM Remy when I asked him “Professor I’m having trouble with this transition to this lock” and followed up with those dreaded words “can you show me”.  Later still I uttered those dreaded words to Dr. Gyi when I was having a problem with understanding the jaw lock, but I now understand the jaw lock better, much better than just watching him apply it to someone else.

Then we have the students who when they are shown a technique and it impacts them in such a way that they want to share it with others.  Often times it’s “this is so cool here let me show you” as they extend the hand for you to grab “here grab my hand”.   Then we have people like Kevin, who after working with another sensei on the side comes up to me with the instructor in tow, he introduces me to him and says “this is Lynn (the instructor) and he has the coolest application (or bunkai) of Nahanchi!”  Then Lynn proceeds to have Kevin reach out to grab him as he explains to me about how moves of the kata causes a person to react in a certain way exposing the pressure points to hit on Kevin.  He strikes Kevin several times with what appear to be short taps but you can see the effect in Kevin’s eyes.  Finally after a few minutes of taking the hits and getting his wrists locked, leg points hit etc. etc. Kevin needed a break which is where Lynn turned and got the white belt I mentioned earlier.

Like many things in the martial arts it all comes full circle even learning while being the uke or when asked to help demonstrate a technique.  At first it’s about you demonstrating before others, then it’s about people learning through watching you suffer, then it’s about learning through going through pain, then it’s about helping others learn through your pain.  The lessons learned are then passed on to others and the cycle starts all over again. 

I wrote this blog a while ago, but I have to mention Kevin once again for being a good sport while at the Celebrate Roanoke Festival.  One young man came up to our booth and was talking with us about classes and the martial arts.  He was taking MMA classes and he made a comment that I didn’t agree with.  So to back up my point that even though we train with sticks (in Modern Arnis) the principles behind the techniques let you do them with or with sticks and in fact you can use just about anything.  So I turn to Kevin who was relaxing and sitting down.  “Kevin come here”  Kevin goes “Oh I know what’s coming” and reaches into the ice chest to grab a big can of Ice Tea and hands it to me.  “Kevin grab my hand” and I proceed to do a wrist lock with the can of Ice Tee and the then with one of the demo knives just to drive the point home.  Now this is a good Uke; he even sets up props to make me look good.

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