Training with the late Guru Bill Aranda, Note #1

Guru Bill asked me to do written homework in 2013 after each training session with him. His homework question was simple: “What did you think I was teaching you?” This series (four posts total) covers some of my notes resulting from training with him in his last year of life. Part of me still mourns him for he taught me not only FMA but also life.

Training day: Sunday, January 13, 2013

What I remember the most from training:

  • I was taught an alternate set of 12 angles of attack. They were similar to other sets of angles I already know, except for three: #7, #9 and #10. The transition from #6 and #7 was unnatural for me but I have sorted it out after repeated practice.
  • I learned three ways of executing angles #10-#12. These ways are combinations of thrusting and slashing/cutting strikes. Completely new material for me.
  • I was also taught a framework for understanding the origin of strikes, namely a framework of two origins: “abierta” (strikes originate from outside the center line) and “cerrada” or “serrada” (strikes originate from the center line). Knowing this allows me to figure out how to generate other strikes. I had never known this before.
  • We also reviewed footwork, but this time, using the asterisk drawn on the ground as a cue. This reminded me of GM Manaois footwork.

What I think I actually learned

I had to really think about this, knowing that the answer cannot be the obvious. It turns out the only way for me to be content with my response was to not make the search for an answer strictly an intellectual pursuit, but also a personal one. Doing this allowed me to be content with an answer that is true for me, as opposed to an answer that may be true only in the abstract. What is true is contingent on your standpoint.

I think I learned three fundamental things: fluid movement, precision, and speed.

I think these are some of the fundamental lessons of being asked to do all 12 angles progressively faster, i.e., in a count of 6, then 4, then 3, then 2 and finally as a singular, flowing motion. Speed makes the strikes carry more power. Precision makes them serve their function. And fluid movement enables the person to integrate the strikes into the way his body would naturally move, including where to place one’s weight, how to manage one’s footwork, how to move one’s shoulders, when to dip closer to the ground, and how to turn one’s body. Without consciously focusing on fluid movement, I find myself moving less gracefully, less natural and more contrived. I find that this not only slows my motions down because I have to think, but also disproportionately makes me rely on memory when striking instead of just naturally striking. Reminds me of that one lesson about “fighting with no mind.”


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