Rhythm of one.

Robert Barton 

            We were in fifth grade and on a field trip and we went to see a mine. It was an enormous open pit mine a deep multitiered hole in the ground so large that you could have easily pour a crumbled city into it and have room left over. They took us down to the bottom and they showed us how they drilled and planted dynamite in the holes. Then we loaded on the busses and slowly drove out of the hole and they took us so far away that we could barely see it. And we waited and we watched and then the ground rippled and jumped and the hole tore itself wider and deeper and belched dust hundreds of feet into the air. One moment the air and ground were completely still and the next there was an explosion that altered the world around us. It happened in a heartbeat.

            I watched him standing perfectly still and relaxed then it was over. The opponent was down. There was no bouncing or getting ready or preparation. The grandmaster stood there looking at his opponent and then the black belt flew through the plaster and was stuck in the wall. It wasn’t just that grandmaster either there were several of the older generation, men and women who did this. I watched one as she stood at the line waiting for the match to start, she still had on her glasses and she faced this big tough seventh dan that had never been beaten by a woman. The match started and ended in the same breath the seventh dan was trying to figure out what he should throw and then he was trying to figure out his name.

            It always struck me when I would see those masters move and fight that they attacked just like an explosion and in a single beat. I watched closely when the younger dan fell and they watched me when I fell. What was the trick? Why could I not tire out a sixty year old when I was twenty two and could stay on a dance floor for hours at a time? It was like watching ambush predators on wildlife shows. What did they know? First of all I noticed that they didn’t waste energy or time, in fact they seemed to be able to take time away and move like they had all of the time in the world and we had no time left, they took it all away from us and used the extra for themselves.

            I’m a music teacher and I understand rhythm and how to subdivide the beat. But these guys didn’t have a rhythm they just ripped you to shreds and it was done. No recurring rhythm just a constantly randomly occurring single beat. One………… ……..one…..one.one and never the same. It was a slow process even when they are dropping hints. But I started to get it, don’t bounce around don’t fall into a steady count just stand or move as needed and when it is time to hit something hit it, unleash a fury on it but not a steady rhythm. The sparring became boring.

            It was easy to use the rhythm of another against him. He is bouncing like a kick boxer 1 2 3 4 forward back forward back. And when two of them fight they mirror one another and fall into the same tempo like a see saw back and forth. If you are a musician here is a trick, let your opponent fall into that steady bounce 1 2 3 4 but start to count the half beats (eighth notes) 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & over and over hit him or her on the ands while he or she is shifting. If you know how to do swing eights like a jazz song you can demolish the person and he or she isn’t sure how.  It is funny at first but it looses charm soon.

            Wow that boy has a lot of energy, he must be twenty and he is running circles around me.  But hey he is twenty years younger than me and has lots to spare. Bouncing around figuring out what he is going to throw at the old guy, that’s not going to work, that one might if you didn’t telegraph. 1 2 3 4 moving in finally 1 2 3 4 he is getting closer 1 2 3 4 finally ready (good ‘cause I’m tired of just standing here) 1 & 2& 3 & 4 I punch just a half count before is attack. He gets up bows and as he walks toward the other black belts he says “how does he keep doing that”…. Age and treachery.

            Or I could sit down and describe the process and even show him how to do it and put him through exercises to develop it. And since I’m his teacher and that is my job I do it. Because it is really a simple thing, stand there and watch and then explode on the rhythm of one. Just a single move or combination with no signals, like a bomb going off. And if your opponent falls into a rhythm don’t get on the see saw with him just hit the see saw when it is in the air with no feet on the ground. Simple enough. Right?

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