One of the my favorite, most telling quotes from the martial arts movies is a scene from Bruce Lee’s “Way of the Dragon” (also known as “Return of the Dragon”). He goes into the back of the restaurant where the staff is practicing martial arts, and they ask him for a demonstration. He politely declines, and when they press him, he genuinely warns them: You might get hurt…
I love that.
See, when the martial artist is properly trained, he cannot fully do his martial arts because of a sincerely concerned for his opponents. There is a joke in the arts, that when a martial artist is unskilled, he avoids sparring because he doesn’t want to maim or kill his opponent. Yet for some, this is a real concern. It’s sort of like when you spar with kids, how you play around and tone down what you are capable of doing 90% because you don’t want to hurt him. When the skilled martial artist is sparring even with other Black belts, he must hold back because of safety. It’s not in your mind; this is a reality that some martial artists must live with when he is of the highest caliber.
To illustrate, take a look at the following video (embedding is disabled. you’ll have to go to youtube to view it):
Had this been any other man being interviewed, the dynamic between interviewer and expert would be completely different. Size is irrelevant; I am speaking solely of the differences between their skill levels and ability. Even if the interviewer wanted a match with Iron Mike, he could never oblige or fight him as if he were an opponent.
Here is my point. I have seen some martial artists who fight with novices and people on the street, and defeat them easily. These men are not of the caliber I am speaking of. Although they may dominate their opponents, they are of the lowest level of “experts” because of the quality of opponents they choose to accept. Can you imagine Mike Tyson accepting a fist fight from a random drunk in a bar? How stupid is that? In fact, Tyson has more to lose by fighting such a man, as it will ruin more than his reputation–he could be sued or have to carry the guilt of killing a man over something insignificant. The martial artists of the highest order does not accept such fights because they are beneath him, and for him to beat an unqualified opponent is a waste of energy and time. This is why any Black Belter who comes into my school and asks for a match with my students is automatically treated as a beginner, because he is either mentally or physically inferior to me or the instructors under me. The Black Belt who sees beginners as possible opponents either has poor skills or he lacks the maturity to match his ability.
The martial arts expert of today, however, is often not cut of this cloth anyway. He is rarely skilled and knowledgeable enough to have the need to warn others of his skill. He often lacks the confidence a man of his level should possess. I blame this is on the impatience many teachers have in promoting new Black Belters and certifying “experts”. Most so-called instructors have spent less than 5 years studying their arts and have neither the strength nor the experience to dominate his peers. He boasts of multiple fields of expertise, and often is not much better skilled than most of his advanced students. He has never had the pleasure of being proven the top fighter in his community. So many others carry the same rank he has, that the title “expert” or Black Belt, in his case, is meaningless. In some styles, grown men have the same certificates from their masters as 12 year old boys–yet they want to be respected as equal to the real experts.
The first thing a martial artist must do is to train his skills to its limit. I have a suggestion on how to accomplish this:
- pick 10 techniques and 10 attack or counter combinations
- train those 10 items 100 repetitions per training session
- give yourself 100 training sessions to develop basic ability in those 20 items
- at the end of the 100th session, change to another 20 items
- do this with everything in your arsenal
I consider this to be necessary for one to be considered an intermediate in the art. When you’re ready, get with me and I’ll give you my ideas on the advanced and expert level.
But wait! Mustafa, didn’t you say “train to your ability’s limits”?
Yes, I did. But I am positive no one reading this blog has ever done this first step, and you damn sure can’t expect to start at the top, do you? LOL. Yes, you DO…. And that’s the problem, my martial arts brothers. You’re in too much of a rush to call yourselves Black Belts and experts, but you haven’t achieved the skill level of an expert yet. I know some of you personally, and I have seen you bypass learning the hard way and opting to take easy classes from seminar trained experts or just taking seminars yourself. What I want you to do, is give yourself 100 workouts to improving your skill level to a point that 99% of your peers will never arrive to. 100 workouts. Train every day, and you will be there in a little over three months. Do it 4 days a week and get there in about 7 months. You were in a huge rush to strap on the title “Instructor”, so how much of a rush will you be in to have the skill to accompany that title?
And I haven’t even touched on the fact that you purport to be an expert on fighting, but remind me again of how many fights you’ve actually had?
Yeah, exactly. So, when some guy asks you for a match or a demonstration of your martial arts ability–and you warn him that he might get hurt, you don’t really mean that, do you?
But you know how dangerous you really are, don’t you? Take 100 workouts, and call me when you’re done. Thanks for visiting my blog.