Our bodies function on patterns, and rhythm. Our heart beats at a certain rate, our blood flows at a certain speed, the steps we take form a rhythm that is controlled largely by the sub conscious. When that pattern is broken, our subconscious mind is franticly trying to re-align itself and regain that pattern that it so desperately needs.
I will give you an example, at some point in your life you most likely have been walking on a set of stairs, you reach the end, and you think there is one more step, but there isn’t. You take that step, and are met with either nothing, or an unexpected stop. Your subconscious mind has to halt what it is doing, and figure out what happened, and how to fix it, before it can let your body go on functioning normally. In that instance you can have a moment of panic, or you jolt upward to counter the feeling of falling.
Our brains are fantastic calculators, and constantly make adjustments, calculations, and judgements on distance, timing, and touch sensation. Sadly, our brains have one fatal flaw, they make assumptions. While in normal circumstances, these assumptions are great aids to us, it allows the subconscious to rely on a few rules of physics that are always constant, and they don’t have to calculate for these. It is when those rules get changed, or even completely removed that we have off balance, and reaction.
Try this; have something in front of you at about arms length, look at it. Now close your eyes and reach out and touch it. Odds are you knew exactly when contact was to be made. Because your brain already made the calculations before you closed your eyes. As I said, brains are incredible at this stuff.
These interruptions can be created, and ultimately taken advantage of.
In Aikido, we take advantage of this natural process, even if you didn’t know you were doing it.
This is why timing is so important for proper Kuzushi (off balance) it is when we change the dynamic of movement at a certain window of time, it creates off balance, as the opponent is trying to regain balance, their mind is trying to get back on track, and fix the problem. As their body is about to reach a point that it can regain balance, it will make a subconscious effort to re-align. This is generally the point at which technique is executed.
I first learned about pattern interruptions long ago from the world of hypnosis.
“The key ingredient to making this [handshake induction] a success is often touted to successfully interrupting the automatic motor program associated with handshaking. It is common for someone to automatically respond to an outstretched hand offering a handshake by sticking out their hand and completing the shake. It is an unconscious move on their part because it is something we are trained to do from childhood. When you interrupt this pattern, by seizing the wrist rather than actually shaking hands, conscious activity is temporarily suspended while they search for meaning in the interruption. They are looking for the next cue about how to proceed – wait too long, more than a second or two being too long, and they will find it themselves – but if you make use of this window by going straight into the [induction] you can keep them suspended there.” – Anthony Jacquin (Reality Is Plastic! The art of impromptu Hypnosis)
Many of these interruptions are built into our techniques already, but there is a strong point to be made for perfecting the pattern interrupt, as it can lead to fantastic kuzushi and effortless technique.
For example, in the first two techniques of the Koryu Dai Yon, one of the first things you do is change the moment Uke is going to grab your wrist by stepping in, or shifting your center in about an inch to two inches changing the dynamic of when he makes contact, shifting uke into body rise, allowing you to manipulate his center, and throw on the body drop, all happening without uke ever having a chance to lift his front foot, or really truly react to the interruption from his grip on the attack. It’s pretty intense when you are reaching for someone’s hand and then are on the ground.. And you don’t know how you got there, most likely your brain was still trying to get a grasp to the first thing that happened to it, it skipped all of the steps in between.
Something to play with on the mat, an exercise to get a feel for the interruption:
In pairs, have one person hold out their hand, the other is to look where the hand is positioned, close their eyes, and take a step to grab the partner’s hand. Simple enough, very similar to the object on the table you reached for earlier while reading this.
Do it again, But this time the outstretched hand doesn’t have to stay in the same place, once eyes are closed, remove the hand, or move it in closer, the person coming to grab will be reaching for something that is no longer there or has moved, and you will notice that they are caused to be off balance, when contact is not at the point their brain expected.
The next step is to walk towards each other and make contact at the natural point, after you have a feel for the natural contact time, one of you changes the time of contact randomly, take note of the off balance you create. If you can, execute a technique at this point.
It’s terrible fun and kind of eerie how much can be effected by just changing the timing of connection.
Play with this and let me know what you come up with!
This subject fascinates me, so you will more than likely be hearing more about it as i build up some more thoughts, or if you have thoughts on it, or a different take, or influence, please let me know, I would love to discuss it with you!