Those of you who are members of our group Martial Arts Forums, may have noticed Abisha Soans in our midst.
This bright young girl has taken huge interest in the group and is not shy to ask questions.
This week I received notification of her question about reflexes in my mailbox.
She soon had no shortage of answers.
Some of the advice Abisha got came from a very scientific approach. Some of it came from a more practical perspective.
With me, martial arts training is mostly about first hand experience.
Now- before I go into my long explanation of my answer to her- let's just distinguish between reflexes and responses. The former relates to involuntary movements of the body or part thereof in response to external stimuli. That includes blinking or that familiar kick of the leg in response to a doctor's hammer.
The latter refers to the trained responses we apply to situations. These movements are far from involuntary, but through conditioning and repetitive training they do become automated to a large extent.
Now- Bruce Lee, known for his extremely fast reactions and attacking speed said two things that seem unrelated, but which are in fact closely connected. The one was how great it would be if we were able to hit with our eyes as a lot of time gets lost between the eyes, brain and muscles.
The other was that Jeet Kune Do's objective was to destroy the ego.
Just like Wenhsiuquan- Jeet Kune Do was derived from older martial art systems and drew both on Zen as well as Taoist teachings.
The themes of absence of thought should therefore not be regarded as unique to these two systems.
Now- I do enjoy scientific analysis, but the one thing I enjoy about martial arts is the experience of doing it. All books that I have read on martial arts have gained meaning only after I have experienced martial arts training in all its aspects.
Now here's a quick story about me:
Ever since I was 9 I wanted really badly to study martial arts and at the age of 15- when I finally started- I realised that sparring was just happening too fast for me. As soon as my opponent was within reach I got hit. This was frustrating and I was on the verge of giving up. Still- this was what I wanted to do and I stuck with that dojo until my family eventually moved to where I am today.
At the age of 16 I got hold of a magazine article (from a publication called the Taekwondo Times- that article was in one of its 1994 issues.) and began spending mornings and evenings sitting cross-legged- emptying my mind. I also learnt about Zen philosophy and I must say- although I was not the coolest kid in school, I was really happy with myself at that time.
The best came when I took this empty mind of mine into my fighting stance. I realised that- not only did I see my opponent's attacks come, but I also countered them on time as well.
Someone once said that his car takes him where he wants to go, whether he is aware of how its engine works or not. In the same fashion I can say: You exist- whether you think about it or not.
We actually waste a lot of time on unnecessary thoughts which in turn can create negative emotions like fear. This in turn slows down our responses to an attack and in some cases cause us to throw out training to the wind.
Just as your technique only works when it is delivered from a firm stance- so your actions will be effective they are delivered with an undisturbed mind.
So- yeah! I am a big advocate of meditation...
Besides meditation (because we are men and women of action and not just of stillness) I enjoy sparring and parrying drills. For the times I train alone I bounce one of these rubber balls off a wall and catch it repeatedly. By now I can even catch it with my eyes closed. :D
I don't regard these exercises as exercises, really, but rather as tests of my mental conditioning. Believe me- if your mind is busy it will show in your performance during these tests.
This calm, alert mind that is cultivated through training does not only give us good "reflexes", but also makes us happier, braver and stronger persons.
Well- these are my views on reflex training in martial arts. I wish everyone a great week until we meet here again. Train well!
Btw- this photo below is part of this week's part of my book that gets posted here at the bottom every week.