May 9 2010

Lesson with Ty Andrassy

Ty came to me for a private lesson today.  I really enjoyed it, and I discovered a few things.  While we were discussing his goals, I was able to articulate more clearly a few of mine.  Peppe asked me while I was in Sweden what kind of teacher I want to be.  I wasn’t sure what the answer was at first, but the picture is becoming clearer and clearer every time I approach the question.  Today I discovered that one of my goals as a teacher is to help my students be comfortable and look good not just when they’re standing still, but when they’re moving, too.  I find that  some people make great pictures, but have great difficulty translating that into physical action.  Their transition points are muddy.  In this case, the audience’s overall impression will be that the character is not quite as skilled as someone who moves well.  In addition, the “good mover”  will give a different impression from someone who moves well and with expression.  Before we can see a fully engaging fight scene (and not a martial arts demonstration), we need to get people moving well, comfortably executing the desired style with character driven expression.  It’s not hard, but it’s asking me to think differently about how I teach, and precisely what information needs to be conveyed.

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Mar 16 2010

Day Two, Group Two

Just a quick one tonight. Need to get to bed.

Great day today. Lots of revelations (although, that seems to be par for the course these days. Awesome), the biggest one being that I had fantastic use of energy. I was so efficient and present, I was jumping so high and felt like I could have danced a 3 hour ballet. During the class, I feel like I used structure over strength 95% of the time.

Over the last several days, I’ve been identifying what are difficulties for me when working pressa. The most troublesome has been base, but with some diligent observation and discovering a process, I’ve been able to make great strides in that area. Not solved, but learning is good! This was so successful, I have been making lists for looking at pressa in general. This way when I’m working this stuff at home (Christian, Scotty, Sarah, I’m looking at you!) I have a checklist to help us when things don’t seem to be working. I’m actually very excited about Brad’s “homework” — looking at many of the 600 images and working with them. I think it’s possible now. Before, I had my doubts whether I could make any sense of them.

Something rather fun for me this time around was finally discovering what it was like to do this stuff on someone my own size! So often I’m fighting people bigger than me, so there are certain leverage issues that don’t come in to play, AND my belly and ankles are rarely used as leverage points. Tall people usually go for my shoulders, knees, thighs and hips. Fighting people my own size or a little smaller, I was suddenly thrown these little curveballs. Not only do different leverage points come in to play against me, but pressa that usually work without effort on other people were really difficult. Pressa 4 is usually no problem, but I had to use slightly different mechanics on a smaller body. I realized that I wasn’t conscious of a certain leverage point that is so easy to get from a smaller person to a larger person. Just goes to show that a variety of fight partners can significantly increase your ability, as it shows you habitual patterns and subtleties that you were previously unaware of.

And Oula, I’m stealing some of your warm-up. That was awesome stuff today, mostly your use of spotting practice and partner work. Loved it!

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Mar 15 2010

Day One with Åsi, HIlde, Tarmo and Oula (Group Two)

It’s really fascinating to listen to Brad and Peppe talk about how they thought the first session went and what they think they should do to improve how the second session is taught. During class then, I took a good look at what was different in how the material was presented. Brad moved the order around, used a few different images, and adjusted how much time was spent on each aspect. Part of this is, of course, a response to the students. They have different questions, connect immediately to different things, and communicate differently from other collections of people. This is a unique opportunity for me to see how the instructor adjusts the same lesson to a new set of people, and to observe all the adjustments. It’s a good reminder that we’re all in a learning process, always seeking to improve our art, our methods, our processes.

Before going in to the class, Brad reminded me to go in without assumptions and to see with new eyes. It’s so easy to think, “oh we just did this. I know what’s happening. There’s no more for me to learn here.” But with fresh eyes, we can discover information on a new level, improve our own working habits (after all, every time you do a scene, it should be like it’s new, or every time you fence, you have to respond to what’s given to you), foster growth, and be present to support a better working environment. And on a simply practical level, just because we’ve done this material recently, that doesn’t mean it’ll work that way in a new situation. Most importantly, we can never be SURE that we know something. In fact, being SURE that we know something is more like an indication that we’re missing something. There may very well be many many layers that we can’t see until we release ourselves from our expectations, and allow ourselves to see further in to it.

Which leads me to working on releasing into intent rather than Trying. Physically, it was most obvious in my grip. The goal is to use intent rather than force so that you are sensitive with your grip, and can be responsive. However, I was Trying so hard to hang on that some muscles in my hand are really sore tonight. Well, it’ll be a good reminder tomorrow when we work on that some more!

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Mar 14 2010

Reflections on the Three Days with Group One

I cannot believe how tired I was at the end of the three days. I went to bed about 2 hours earlier than I usually do, and that’s after I was falling asleep at the dinner table, even though Maria and Peppe had an AWESOME dessert for us (meringue with cream, bananas and blueberries)!

Over the last three days, there’s been a great deal of personal growth which is then reflected in my work, and vice versa. We’ve spend a lot of time addressing habitual patterns. Looking at them, accepting them, and then introducing new patterns, new possibilities. This was really clear to me in the footwork drills. With my many years of dance, I don’t think about my footwork too much, my feet usually just take care of themselves. During this exercise, though, we were being asked to move in a different way, nothing big, but a subtle difference in the co-ordination and sequence of the use of the foot, hip, and head. It was so hard! I’m rather surprised by how difficult it was for me to use the new movement. I had to very clearly slow down and think about it. It was very interesting to come up against so much resistance, but rewarding because now I have some new options for movement and storytelling.

There was a lot of development in listening skills, but it felt like some of that just went down the drain when we started working some scenes on the last afternoon. Understandable, I suppose. There was a lot to think about: everything we have worked on in the last three days was reflected in those scenes! But back to listening: I’m discovering different layers of listening with the body. And listening (which can involve directing of intent) is not only for my own safety, but it can be used to cue your partner, and to show the audience what is important. Not that I didn’t think listening was important, but I think it’s just as important to recognize other aspects of it, to use as a fight director, teacher and a performer.

Speaking of various aspects, I’m seeing more depth in the Marozzo and Durer pressa. Part of it is that I’ve had some time with them, but I definitely attribute a portion of that to the way Brad has presented the information. He’s taken the enormous amount of information at his disposal, and through YEARS of work, has distilled it into systems which then layer into each other, and developed memory tools which make the vastness of this Martial Art accessible.

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