Thursday, July 4, 2013

Packrat Brain Is Weird.

Roughly 25 years ago, a friend of mine -- pretty sure it was Steve Stanley -- had a flirtation with Ninjutsu, back in Brisneyland. I recall one particular day when the chap in question wandered into the university eatery where I and my cohort of villainous comrades were prone to avoiding lectures, and showed off a couple oddball moves he'd learned.

They were interesting, in what seemed a crackbrained kind of way, but not really very practical. One in particular I remember: the proto-ninja walks up to the victim, jumps up, wraps his legs around the victim's waist, and delivers a couple of quick hits to the victim's head. While the victim recoils, the proto-ninja keeps his legs locked around that waist, but drops his upper body backwards so his shoulders hit the ground. Proto-ninja then unlocks one leg and slides it down behind the victim. The other leg smashes the victim in the sternum, causing them to fall backwards over the leg which is still behind them. As the victim hits the ground, the proto-ninja can then deliver a heel strike to the groin, or simply grab a leg and apply a lock, or a break.

Sound complicated? Yes. It is. At the time, I figured that if I wanted to put someone on the ground I could do it with a lot less fuss, and without having to go to the ground myself. Oddly enough, though, I never managed to forget the incident.

So. Twenty-five years later, and I'm on the mats here in Tas. I've been doing a ground-fighting session with the senior students, and since we've got a couple of noobs, I've run them through the Brazilian Guard. If you don't know what that is... go and look it up. Essentially, it's a way of controlling a fight on the ground from a position on the bottom. You're on your back, and you lock your legs around the waist of the opponent. You bring their head down close to you to prevent them punching at you, and control their neck and shoulder. It's a defensive move that provides a fair degree of safety, and allows a bit of breathing space. Ideally, it's also a platform from which to go on with something much nastier.

Anyhow. One of the noobs is a Very Strong Young Man. I mean seriously powerful through the arms. Lot of time as a shearer. And I mentioned to him that some of the more powerful MMA fighters try to overcome the Guard by simply getting their feet under themselves, and standing up with their opponent's legs still locked around their waist -- and then body-slamming the opponent into the mat repeatedly.

It was right about then that I made the connection. Hello! That situation -- picked up into the air with legs locked around somebody's waist... shit! It was just made for that crackbrained ninja takedown!

I described it to Amy Baggins, on the grounds that I was pretty sure I could actually pick her up from the mat... and that she would also take me at my word, and do her damnedest to carry out the throw. Sure enough: she put me into the Guard. I shifted my feet under me, and stood up, preparatory to body-slamming her. She dropped back onto her shoulders, let one calf slide behind me, and heel-kicked me through the sternum with the other foot.

I went down like a sack of shit, giggling like a loon the whole way.

See, the thing is that there's nothing new in martial arts. The Brazilian Guard is kind of a Gracie ju-jitsu trademark... but they won't be the first to have used it. It's too efficient. It's a dead certainty that it's been used many, many times before, and by others.

So I'm guessing that sometime around five hundred years or so ago, somebody else used the Brazilian guard, and their very strong opponent picked them up, ready to body-slam them. And perhaps in that moment, or maybe later, in recovery, our pre-Brazilian chap sat up and thought: Hello! What I need to do is toss this fucker over backwards... But of course, down the centuries the throw got taught in different ways, and eventually it morphed into that leap-up-and-smack piece of silliness, and the original use was forgotten.

That's not too odd. Not really. There are little hidden, semi-lost bits of technique all over the place in martial arts. What struck me as odd -- or actually, hilarious -- was that I'd had that stupid piece of work in my head for twenty-five goddam years before I finally found something like a way to make it work.

 I have to say: putting the puzzle together after a quarter century actually felt pretty damned good.