The Order Garrison
Training my Peripheral Vision
So a couple months ago, I had the weird thought of trying to train my peripheral vision or that area of sight at the edges of my vision. Originally, I thought it would be pretty useful to improve my ability to notice things outside my focus. When I finally got around to trying it, I realized it was a terrible idea. I definitely shot myself in the foot when I tried to fight without focusing on my opponent, but I did realize a few things.
- Attempting to use only my peripheral vision worked best against Blockers. Against Runners was more difficult and against Chargers was signing my own death sentence.
- I had to rely almost entirely on feel as I crossed blades. A lot of the time, I couldn't actually see my opponent's sword so I had to try and make contact with my blade against their's before I could really do anything. It was an interesting sensation to just feel what my opponent might do through my blade.
- I noticed that my opponents calmed down and were less aggressive. I don't know if it was because I wasn't looking at them, they were weirded out that I wasn't looking at them, or because they weren't sure what I was trying to do. It made me think about what kind of affect eye contact has on a fight and a fighter's mentality.
What are your thoughts about trying to train my peripheral vision?
It was definitely a mental workout and I liked that part. Coupled with focus breathing, I really felt zoned in. Overall, I would probably put this technique in my Bag of Tricks instead of my Toolbox.
I bet your training will be useful indirectly. Sure, you probably shouldn't look away from who or what you're fighting, but now you may have a better sense of what's going on around you in a melee. As Shay said, I think looking away during a duel threw your opponent off and affected their mentality more than it really helped you (which I guess, in turn, would help you).
Kane, when I found out that you had been working on your peripheral vision, I made it a point to talk with you about it before the beginning of the next practice... I wanted to "see" if your experiment was something that I would want to "look" into a little deeper 🙂 And although I could be wrong about this, I think that it has more merit and applicability than "meets the eye" 🙂 And I will now put the puns aside. Mostly... 🙂
I was originally planning on trying out a variation of your peripheral vision experiment for myself before revisiting the topic with you or talking about it with others, but now that we have a forum and you posted about it, I decided that I would write about it for whoever wants to read the lengthy reply... By the way, I could be totally wrong about this 🙂 Also, I want to mention that some of us probably already do a type of reversal of what I am about to explain, and some of us might already be doing what I am about to explain, or at least sometimes and/or some parts. Also, if any of this doesn't make sense to any of you, please let me know and I will try to better explain...
So, to "begin" with - albeit two paragraphs after the beginning of my reply 🙂 - here are the underlying principles that I need to mention:
1) It is more important to know where an opponent's sword is going to be and how it will get there, rather than to know where it is at the moment.
2) While better than nothing, looking directly at - or focusing on - an opponent's sword isn't the best way to know where the sword is going to be.
3) Understanding the positioning and movement of an opponent's body is a far more effective way of knowing which way their sword will tend to go (or even be possible of going).
4) Even though the movement and positioning of an opponent's body is a bigger factor in knowing where their sword will go, you don't want their sword to be out of your sight!
Now that the principles have been mentioned, I will share one lesson that I learned back when I used to juggle knives, and then I will touch on the application of the principles I just listed. The lesson I learned consisted of two parts - the first part was that I could throw a knife into a spin that was so fast that I couldn't fixate on where the handle was if I wanted to catch it - it was just too fast and/or there wasn't enough time. The second part was that this left me with some choices, such as: I could throw the knife higher, or I could spin it slower - and, by the way, slower looks way less cool 🙂 - or I could learn to go by feel/practice rather than sight, or I could go by a glimpse of the handle rather than by focusing on the handle - or there was also the option of getting cut, of course 🙂
(Despite my mom not being too happy with the situation, the knives I juggled with were sharp, because at the time, juggling dull knives seemed to defeat the purpose of juggling knives in the first place.) Anyway, back to the lesson 🙂
While each of those choices has its merit - except for possibly the getting cut part 🙂 , the choice that I find most applicable and will tie in to the application of the underlying principles mentioned earlier is the glimpse technique.
Here is how it can be applied: rather than looking directly at or focusing on the opponent's sword, let your peripheral vision "glimpse" your opponent's sword while you focus on something else.
For example, you might focus your eyes/attention on your opponent's wrist or foot placement while "glimpsing" the opponent's sword with your peripheral vision, thereby enabling you to instinctively block the sword if necessary while also better enabling you to "sees" - oops, I mean "seize" - the chance of "focusing" on and possibly exploiting some other aspect of the fight.
Tsyng, I absolutely love your 4 underlying principles and I feel they merit investigation to develop them further. What I want to know is two fold.
- How do you intend on putting your 4 principles to the test?
- How can I help?
I've had similar thoughts that have stemmed from the development of my own style, particular in the Body Mechanics pillar, and even from lessons learned from ice hockey.
For a hockey example, we were taught not to watch the puck but to watch the other player's eyes. If you watched the puck, it would be gone before you realized what happened. But if you watched the eyes, you could get an idea of what their intentions were while still keeping the puck in the bottom of your peripheral vision. The wrinkle was after we learned to do that, we were taught how to trick the other players, especially the goalie, by looking somewhere else than where we intended to go or shoot.
As for fencing, I have noticed that I watch different areas depending on who I fight. With some people I watch the eyes. With others, I watch their hand, shoulder, feet, or their head. It's like their intentions are being manifested through their body in different ways and I just have to find which area speaks first.