I have noticed that many martial artists who get into demonstrating the art have delved too far into the technical aspects of the art. When I say “too far”, I mean it. TOO far.
Here’s the thing. Fighting must be spontaneous and instantaneous. Thinking during the fight should be one of those things that happens so fast that a blink of an eye would be too slow to keep up with the kind of speed I’m talking about. The advanced fighter must be able to demonstrate in fighting better than he can explain it. For all of the skills we could develop in the martial arts, we must have a set of skills so refined and second nature that “thinking about” what to do next requires no thinking at all. When I say that a martial artist has gone too far into the technical side of the martial arts, I mean that they have taken too many “what-ifs” and become experts at explaining what they could do if you do this. The kind of guy who can show you 20 ways to counter a jab, but he can’t actually stop one in a real fight. Dan Inosanto and the Concepts folks are guilty of this, as are the Kenpo people, and most Kung Fu people I know. And in the FMA field, I would find it safe to say that almost 90% of the FMA people I have seen are far better at demonstrating against a willing “opponent”/partner, than they are at putting that demonstration to the test.
The solution to this is to streamline what you are practicing and focus on the most efficient way to get the job done. This is why I am always preaching that FMA people should focus on the destructive skills in the arts, rather than the “technical” skills–the “if-you-do-this-then-I-can-do-that” stuff. See, combat doesn’t care too much about how many variations you can find, or how you are able to improvise and “flow”. Instead it is a matter of who inflicts the most damage and who is the last man standing. In many of the cases of FMA people and training in the art, not enough time is spent developing the ability to destroy the opponent–even with those oversized toothpicks you call “sticks”.
We should rearrange our priorities and instead learn to create training programs to develop fighters, not thinkers. Here is my laundry list:
- develop a list of weapons that you can use to hurt or injure the opponent
- learn to move so that you cannot be caught, and
- so that you cannot be outmaneuvered
- learn power mechanics… for every technique in your arsenal, and train with them regularly
- learn and develop the best tactics for attacking the opponent and countering his counters, and finally,
- become a student of fight strategy
The final item on the list, studying strategy, is perhaps one of the most advanced things a fighter can do. Strategy is one of those things few people can say that they truly know. Most people just “know” tactics and techniques. Few actually learn how to plan a strategy; what most people do is learn “counter a punch to the head with a high block then punch at the opening below”. This is not strategy. Strategy is establishing the pace of a fight, the methods your opponent will use, forcing him to fight a certain way, creating openings, forcing an opponent to change his own strategy, and choosing the correct strategy to employ and when. Strategy is one of those things that transcends physical skill. It will help the slower man defeat the quicker, or the weaker man defeat the stronger one. Basically, while some people try to have a little of each weapon in their tool chest, superior strategy will help you employ the weapons you do have against every situation. As my favorite saying goes–you can win gunfights with a knife.
So, in changing our focus from skill collecting to skill refinement, and learning the best ways to use them, we must then reduce the number of skills to perfect. When you have too may skills in your skill-set, none get the kind of attention required to be used like a razor-sharp blade. And this is where I arrive to the main idea of this article:
We keep a simple set of skills, in order to develop them to be performed at an advanced level.
Does this make sense? You reach an advanced level by simplifying the martial arts that you train in. When the style is too cluttered with too many techniques, too many “what ifs” too many drills, too many untested/unrealistic/impractical things, you will never reach the level where you can put into practice what you preach. You will never become more than a martial arts showman–a man who can demonstrate the hell out of an art, but can’t whip anyone’s ass with it. (Excuse the French…)
We will reach an advanced level of skill when we can execute our art at and advanced level of performance. Now, how much time do you have to make it happen, and how much training will you need to reach that level of proficiency?
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