I was recently left without the use of my eyes for a few days, and boy was it frustrating. I could not enjoy reading, watching television, or the multitude of activities that we use our eyes for. While I slowly moved around the home, trying to find the refrigerator for something to eat, or navigating from room to room, I found myself perceiving the whole experience as a training exercise – something to help me better understand my body mechanics when one of my senses are out of play. In short, it was a lesson in positioning myself to my surroundings.
While training in the dojo, where we are in relation to our partner tells us what techniques we have at our disposal and how effective we can execute our training techniques. For many practitioners, their eyes tell them where exactly they are to their partner. Now, if we take away eyesight, how will one know where we are positioned to our partner? By physical connection! It is important to reiterate and demonstrate how valuable the concept is when one cannot see.
How do we use physical connection to gauge and calculate our position relative to our partner? The trick is knowing how the average body is made up. Now, this may sound elementary, but if we follow the fingers along their path, we will get to the palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, and so on. With the eye, we can see that ever so clearly. If we lose the use of our eyes for whatever reason (temporary blindness, pitch-black room, poor lighting), then the use of physical connection comes in handy!
After establishing physical connection with a partner, we can close our eyes and slowly start to feel around the point of contact. Where does this point lead to? Does it lead to the upper torso, to the shoulders and head, or does it lead down to the knees and feet? Once that is figured out, we can start calculating the distancing and position of the partner to ourselves. When such calculations are concluded, we will know where we are positioned in relation to our partner.
Now that we know our position, we can go through the techniques that present themselves from the point of contact. To become more familiar with not being able to see, let’s keep our eyes closed as we perform our chosen techniques. In doing so, we become comfortable executing techniques in a compromised state or situation. Additionally, this drill will allow us to execute techniques by not having to look at our partner or the movements, feel our partner become off-balanced, and ultimately feel the movements and techniques being executed.
To come full circle, this exercise came in handy for me when I couldn’t see for several days. The physical connection to my surroundings became paramount as I maneuvered around my home. Once in contact with a piece of my surroundings, I could orient and position myself to take the next step, and ultimately reach my destination. There are many practitioners, past and present, who have made the connection between dojo training and activities in daily life and made them known. It is one thing about knowing of these connections, but it is another thing to experience them.