Tied Up Right Now

It’s time to go. Time to lift the sails.

The sail is heavy. The mast is high.

You’ll need a rope. And you’ll need a pulley. 

They will need to be in shape to do their jobs. 

Ropes are stored in coils, not piles.

If the rope gets tangled up in knots it won’t run through the pulley.

When a knot hits the block the rope stops.

It happens. You check the rope. You find the knot. You take care of it. Now you can lift the sail, or let it down. 

Some knots are bad. A good knot in the right place is good.

If the rope pulls back through the pulley and falls to the deck it is useless. 

To prevent that you tie a knot toward the end of the length of travel, so it stops in the right place.

You coil the rope around a cleat on the deck, and tie it off till you need it. 

When you untie a knot no one asks  “Hey, Where did that knot go?” 

The knot did not go anywhere. The knot is not a thing. The knot is a configuration of the rope. It is real. It functions. It is also temporary.  

When you tie a new knot no one asks  “Hey, Where did that knot come from?”  

It didn’t come from anywhere. You tied it.  It is the same rope, in a new shape. 

Our postures in karate are like this. 

We do a technique. Our body takes on a useful posture. Our conditions continually change – we land a punch, or we miss one, we have an effect, we take a hit or we are taken by surprise, our opponent moves and counters, we respond. We change our posture, continually, to meet the changing conditions.

Postures appear, linger, change and disappear. No one asks  

“Where did the old posture go?” 

“Where did the new posture come from?”  

No one asks this because the posture is not a thing. It is a configuration of the body. It changes. It can be appropriate or inappropriate, well-done or poorly, but it is always an arrangement of the body in time and space, which appears, changes and disappears. 

Sometimes karate people treat the postures as things.  

Rigid and static. In an ordered sequence, like pictures in a Ken Burns movie. This is useful. It is a way to learn to do the postures properly, and to unify the architecture of the body. But it is a step in learning. Perfect postures are not the finished product.

With experience we flow through postures one after the next, as needed, as we move to meet changing conditions. With experience we can move without thought, without conscious intention, initiating and responding naturally, even in unpredictable, dangerous conditions.

Like the course of a river, turning as it flows. Or a wave in the ocean. Or a rope as it moves through a pulley.  In this sense there are no postures. Just like there is no such thing as a knot.

Of course, postures are real. They work. Knots are real. They work too. But we can use them not as static objects, existing by themselves, but as systems of relationships, moving and adapting, changing as conditions change. 

Everything is like this.  


Post and copyright © 2023 Jeffrey Brooks, Mountain Karate, Saluda, NC 山林流Yamabayashi Shorin Ryu dojo

Photo by Bas Glaap via Unsplash

Mountain Karate’s YouTube channel: @mountainkarate

For fine detail and a big picture view of karate you have not seen before, read the essential new book True Karate Dō

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