Saturday, 31 October 2015

Don't be too smart

"Martial arts are for smart people" I have heard some laypersons say.

When you actually start sparring at a dojo you start realising that your intellect is not of much use, though. 

Sure- knowledge plays a huge part in your success as a martial artist, but we do not just seek to accumulate knowledge, but also to develop our minds. This is done by subjecting ourselves to training that does not only challenge us emotionally as well as mentally.

I have realised at a very early time in my training that a lot of my performance has suffered not because I have not given it enough, thought, but actually because of thinking too much. We as humans are capable of thought and it is wonderful, but it also interferes with our intuitive responses.

While you are thinking you are not actually seeing what is right in front of you. A lot of details that can be sensed intuitively get drowned out by the noise in your mind that you have created yourself.

Regarding acting on what you perceive I shall only say that thinking and talking about the appropriate response is all good and well during training, but in the actual moment you will need to switch that all off so that you can act.

That said about thinking...

Now- about overriding your learning ability-

Your smart self will tell you that you cannot fight a person who is much bigger than yourself. It will quickly give you previews of having your face bashed in, your bones broken and all manner of painful images and sensations.

Chances are that some of the above may come from actual experience. Those experiences have most likely taught you to avoid fighting- pretty much how falling off a horse teaches you not to get on a horse again.

Well- from a lazy point of view avoiding these situations may be correct, but we gain a lot more if we take the current situation, look at it, and see what opportunities it presents. Shut that nagging voice up inside you so that you can see when that huge fist is coming for your face. Ignore those premonitions of doom so that you can actually topple him when he is off balance. And when you are on the horse- pay attention to your being on the horse instead of inviting another fall with your unpleasant memories!

When you have accomplished this mastery over your own mind and emotions you will not really become stupid, but rather become balanced. :)

  Have a great week ahead, everyone!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Weighted vest training.

I am a big fan of training with weights. It is just a pity that we don't get these ankle and wrist weights much heavier than what they are.

There is something left to design for someone. :D

I wanted to show you how I perform Bassai Dai with this equipment. You can see what came of the first attempt at filming it here:

My second attempt looks like this:

The heaviest part of this whole thing is the vest. I am not really fast while wearing it. I guess I could use simpler attacks to be faster, but then again- I believe in training hard and fighting easy. :D

If there is one thing for which I never stop being grateful it is the opportunity to train. Right now- at the age of 37 my training has survived moving to two new homes, 6 jobs and restrictions on which part of the yard it is okay to practice in. For a while I even managed to keep dojo days open.

Don't stop training, people!

Have a great week ahead!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Why I don't rely on pain and fear- at least not too heavily...

This video came up on Facebook:

Those of you who have managed to train yourselves to ignore pain will know how these guys manage to take so many blows to the groin.

This actually reminds me of a lesson I have learnt as early as in high school.

Some of you might remember my post in memory of Wolfgang Goldner. It was in 1996 and I had a PR baton (over here we call it a tonfa as well, but I saw that people in the US use the term "PR". Can somebody be kind enough to spare me the googling and comment the meaning of this abbreviation? :D)

At that time I was very happy to show off this really cool arm-lock that I got from an issue of Terry O'Neill's Fighting Arts magazine. In it this guy called Massad Ayoob demonstrated self defence techniques for policemen (and there was also an article about how proper martial arts technique could have made the Rodney King incident less of the fiasco it was back then). 

But I am digressing now...

So- I show Wolfgang this move and asked him to grab me by the front of my shirt. Ever fearless (and ever ready to show that attacks don't work on him...) he grabs hold. I hooked the PR's side handle over his forearm and made the lever with my forearm as the magazine showed and pressed down...

Nothing happened. Wolf was just standing there with a blank expression. That's when I realised that the technique had no actual leverage over a person's body, but just caused a lot of pain that drove a lot of people downward. From that day on I have spent my time working of attacks that either caused actual damage or that could actually manipulate the opponent by sheer leverage and not just pain.

Sure- fear and pain are excellent deterrents and help to keep the peace by discouraging the majority of human beings from attacking us, but the minority that do feel up to the challenge are likely not deterred by pain and do not fear us to begin with.

On the reverse side I can also tell you that there are going to be a large number of attacks to which you become immune once you have mastered your own fear and pain receptors.

Train well, everyone!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Finished the book on training.

I have finally finished the fourth book. :)

From next year this blog shall have some of the content of these books every day.

One thing I like and encourage in martial arts is that all of it can be tested and experienced. This also applies to the books on martial arts that I have read.

In the time to come I will also not just invite you to try the things I show in the instructional posts, but encourage you to do so. I would also like to see and hear more from you men and women who also practice martial arts.

Have a great week ahead! 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

My Mind's Eye is Missing from my Body

I love this song from the Crash Test Dummies.

Some of you who don't know who they are are probably far too young to remember them.

In their song "Here I Stand Before Me" the singer sings that his mind's eye is missing from his body.

Well, I can probably say I am missing an entire network of chakra points and meridians!

Fact is we have been taught that our bodies look like this inside...

... and it would most likely be what we find if we were to dissect our bodies.

Studying martial arts the way some of us have, however, we know that- in the heat of battle- we don't experience our bodies like this.

What good does it do us?

Well... the way we think of our bodies actually play a large part in how they perform. A body-builder will probably tell you that thinking about the muscle you are working during your workout actually makes that muscle work harder. So doing the muscle actually develops faster.

In martial arts, however, we do not want to feel our muscles working when we fight.

Sure- during kata practice and qigong we want to focus on the flow of qi and how that feels, but in a fight, you do not want to be preoccupied with your body, how it feels and how you actually move. A lot of us work on computers and will agree that these things process a huge amount of information in ashort space of time. The funny thing is, though- the computer does not even know that it is doing that.

Being self-aware we have the ability to take note of what our bodies are doing and what it feels like. We even get feedback on how we look when we perform techniques from others. The aim, however, is to be able to act without even paying attention to the how, but to just do what needs to be done and then forget it.

This also means that we should not prefer what we see over that what our other senses tell us. Our senses work well enough without us thinking about them. By becoming detached from them we allow ourselves to be aware of all the information that reaches us- not just that which that gets delivered to us via our eyes.

You may be practicing kihon at the moment being mindful of what your body does and how your posture is and so forth. That serves a purpose, but don't get stuck there. You will have to move on to imagining an actual sttionary person getting hit or imagining an actual attack being blocked. After that you will have to run a mental simulation of an actual fight as you perform your techniques. Sure- your techniques will end up looking different from what you are taught, but as people and their methods differ your fights will never look exactly the way they do in your kata either.

Then- in the actual fight- your body will aid you whether you are aware of it or not.