Being Small in Martial Arts
An important early concept in martial arts is that it's easier to control your own actions than it is to control your opponent's. But if you've spent enough time in martial arts gyms, you know the beginner tendency is to try and lift someone up if they're lying on top of you. It's often futile, but attempting to control others is what occurs to us. It's what's been conditioned. And if we can't control others, we feel like we've failed. I'm failing at sparring; I'm failing at this new martial activity because I can't dictate what my opponent does. Then what is our initial concept of success? Controlling others, and if we can't, we're failures. How debilitating is that? How wrong is that?
But if you look at animals or small children, if restrained, they will squirm to free themselves. They will contort themselves to exploit any gaps. They understand the game is already rigged; we are not equals. We both can't play by the same rules.
If someone bigger than you is on top, you don't try to shove them off. Instead, you scrunch yourself until you are as small as possible, then slide out from underneath them. What is actionable is you, not them. The shrimp can't move a boulder, but it can move itself. Therefore this form of escape is often referred to as shrimping.
These things don't occur to us because we're conditioned to believe we have all the same rights, powers, privileges, and options as powerful white men. This is, unfortunately, the default even in martial arts—if a powerful white man can do a move, you all should be able to. It's geared for them rather than the weakest, smallest in the room. It's for the lion, not the shrimp. So the powerful can get their way. IF all things are equal, you have just as much say as they do. But power in this white supremacist capitalist society is asymmetrical. For the weak, our options are much less open-ended and limited. But knowing that gives us strength. Because rather than being stuck in the muck of inappropriate choices, we can isolate the decisions we CAN make. WHAT CAN I DO HERE AND NOW? We can't rule the jungle, but we can rule ourselves. We can't rule, but we can survive.
Learning how to use our weaknesses as our strengths is our greatest act of defiance. Isn't that the appeal of martial arts?
Rather than powerful, you have to be clever. To be clever, you have to know your constraints. If you don't think you have any, that we already live in an equal and equitable world, then why do you need to be clever?
Your power will come from redirecting your opponent's energy, using it against them, and striking when they're vulnerable. Liberatory martial arts is about converting our weaknesses into our strengths. Innovations come from limitations. Assess the situation and then focus not on what you can't do but on what you can. Then fight like hell.