by Doug Ebeltoft
After comparing how to control one's movements with driving a car, Patrick Augé sensei asked if there were any questions. Without thinking, I blurted out, "What if you have a slow car pitted against three fast cars"? There was laughter, but the question was a serious one. My family station wagon was grouped in with three high-powered formula 1's, and they had run me into the ground.
Sensei, patiently elaborated more on the car analogy, saying that timing is important, not speed. Although I did not understand, I sensed that the fast car, slow car analogy, was a good start in answering the question. And it did. Over a year later, I suddenly realized that the problem had nothing to do with the car. The station wagon had ample power and speed to compete with any formula 1 or formula 1's. The problem was that the driver had the ignition turned off, the emergency brake yanked tight and the car jammed in park. Instead of maneuvering to intercept the formula 1's as they rounded the bend, the driver hunched over and braced himself for the oncoming impact.
When doing techniques in drill format, one against one, there is no problem. In jiyu randori, however, with any defense, any attack, any direction and any attacker, the brain goes into overload. The defensive mechanism takes over, and the body wraps itself into a protective shell. When this occurs, there is no tai sabaki and no blending of attacks with defenses. Those three formula 1's clearly showed me the necessity of blending the oncoming attacks by initiating irimi or irimi senkai immediately before the moment of contact.
Speed is not an issue because the defender needs only move a foot or more to meet the attacker. The key to blending is not to move fast but to accelerate and exert a force a force at the moment of contact. A rate of change of velocity is required, not speed. This rate of change can be either a rate of change of the velocity's magnitude or the rate of change of its direction or both. To get the maximum blending force, it is necessary to start slowly and finish with a maximum speed and constant acceleration.
Perhaps the most important result produced by my fast car, slow car question was a change in attitude. What I though was a slow, old family wagon, is actually a high performance vehicle. I no longer need to be envious or compare another person's car with mine. Mine is wonderfully suited for my needs; it has more than enough power, speed and maneuverability to handle any situation. What is lacking, however, is much more thought and practice in driving the car under stressful jiyu randori type situations.
D. Ebeltoft, May 1, 2002