Sunday, December 29, 2013

Osae (The Press) and Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings


In a previous post from Dec 2009, I discussed an excerpt from Miyamoto Musashi’s classic work The Book of Five Rings which emphasized the importance of fully closing distance between you and your opponent so you do not execute any techniques before you are in proper range. I then alluded to the related concept of osae (press) that we use in OSKA, and that it would require a post of its own to do it justice. And four years later, here we are.

In the simplest of terms, pressing is a constant press forward into an opponent with the full body and body weight. That means moving the entire body without leaning, hesitance, or any undue actions which would otherwise compromise your posture and position. In OSKA, we use the press as we close distance to get into proper execution range or to engage a new opponent after finishing off the previous one. Technically speaking, closing distance doesn’t require this press, but it greatly enhances control of the situation and promotes a strong frame of mind. For more on what we simply call “the walk-in” to close distance, see this post here.

As I will explain below, however, the press is also used after closing distance and/or execution of a technique to further crowd the same opponent.

Borrowing again from Musashi, the concept of pressing is illustrated in his sections entitled “The Body of Lacquer and Glue,” “Comparing Stature,” and “Applying Glue” which I will cite below: 

THE BODY OF LACQER AND GLUE
“... When you have come close to the body of your opponent, stick to it without separating. When you have closed in on your opponent’s body, stick to it with strength: head, body, and feet. Often people will close in with their head or feet but will leave out the rest of their body.”

COMPARING STATURE
“Comparing Stature refers to the avoidance of contracting your body in any way whenever you have closed in on an opponent. Close in with strength, extending your legs, waist, and neck, and align your face with that of your opponent...”

APPLYING GLUE
“When you and your opponent strike together and he has checked your blow, continue to apply your sword to his as if you were applying glue, and close in. The essence of this stickiness is to make it difficult for your swords to separate, but you must be mindful not to use too much strength... do so with great tranquility and you will feel no distress. The difference between being sticky and being entangled is that stickiness is strong and entanglement is weak.”

In other words, the press is also used to move an opponent’s body after he is incapacitated, to finish him off, or to aggressively maintain control of the situation before you execute your technique or even if your first technique was unsuccessful.  In all of this explanation there was never a mention of speed. When you maintain absolute control of yourself and your own rhythm as you enter into range, you will control your opponent’s rhythm and thus the entire situation. Withdrawing from an opponent is undesirable as it provides an opportunity to be overrun. Conversely, with the press, there is no need to fear advancing into a retreating opponent; even if he is feigning weakness, you are still in control.

As Musashi would say, “you should study this well.”

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