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The Strip
Notes on The Fighter’s Subconscious Eye
Four years ago we were doing most of our sparring and fighting on basketball courts, using painted circles as rings. We all had a tendency to orbit too much, and did not cut enough angles.
Charles picked up on this first and suggested we use the square box patterns on a children’s play court, and the fenced corners of a tennis court, as our combat areas. This improved our footwork by encouraging triangular movement, and we have since retained the use of open square rings on the Zebra mats we train on. Still though, we seem to be getting caught in corners and not using the middle of the ring as much.
This past Sunday Mister Frederick had a full black belt class while Cory, Charles and I were sparring. We had been using the small middle square. With the sticks, we try to avoid using the small back square because it gets us close to some suspended lighting and dry wall, which we do not want to damage.
I wanted to give the kenpo people some more space. I pointed to the blue strip of matting between the two small squares, which is essentially just used as a walk way most of the time, and—being the mat maintenance guy—said, “Hey guys let’s use this blue strip as the center of our ring and use the two blue centers of the rings as our outside lines. That way the mats will wear more evenly.”
We went at it in our new ring and boom—we might as well have been fighting on a sidewalk. It took a while to realize it, but what happened was we unconsciously delineated red as out and blue as in, and fought much more lineally. After noticing this it took as a full half hour to adjust our movement, but, any time we were not thinking about it, we would end up relapsing into lineal clashes—just murdering each other.
Eventually we began harnessing this subconscious visual boundary reference to commit to fighting in a narrow area, and also commit to using angles in that tougher context. I do not know what we experienced is called, or even if there is a term for it. But we are going to start harnessing this ‘strip sparring’ to enhance our survivability in self-defense situations and intensify our close mobility for competition.
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