Wednesday, August 23, 2017

4 Lessons in the Martial Arts (I Keep Re-Learning)

By now, I'm not exactly a martial arts noobie.

I started in April 2008, and except for a period when I was pregnant with my younger daughter (I still did a bit of tai chi during that time, though) I've been training pretty continuously since that time.

So you'd think, by now, I'd have internalized certain core lessons that I've literally been being told by my teachers since 2008.

You'd think.

Here are 4 lessons I keep relearning in the martial arts:


I think most of us do this sometimes.  We are working on a kata or a drill, and we just cruise through it as fast as we can, thinking that doing it fast is doing it well.

But you and I both know that fast doesn't equal good, or powerful, or even correct.  It only demonstrates that you know the sequence of motions well enough to not have to think hard about them.

My new spirit animal.

I would argue that you're completely missing the point if you speed through what you're doing.  We're supposed to be thinking about what we're doing while we practice.  We're supposed to think about our stances, our transitions, our targeting, our hip rotation, our blocking, or whatever it is we're working on that's contained WITHIN the form or drill we're practicing.

If we aren't going slowly enough to think about it, I don't think we're getting all we can get from a drill or a form.


Related to the above, working to the point where things are not discrete motions in space, but a series of motions intended to be continuous and related to one another.

It's a scatter plot vs. a line graph.

Be like the right side, not the left.

The way to make the transition happen is to slow down and work on being smooth.  If you can do this, speed and power comes naturally.  Smooth motion and correct technique makes one powerful, not just being strong and using muscles in itself.

This is super important if you're a stubby little middle aged woman like yours truly.  I will never be able to defend against bigger and stronger people if I don't slow down and learn the proper technique that helps me overcome lack of pure strength.

This is a lesson I've been re-learning over and over and over again as I study kobudo weapons.


Long story short, tense and bunched up muscles are slow muscles.

But also, relaxation isn't just about the body.  It's about the mind.

Don't let all the worries that are going through your head - I'll never understand this thing, I don't like what I'm doing right now, ugh I'm so bad at this why do I bother, why won't my body move the way I want it to... and so on and so on...

Let it go.  Relax.

Maybe not THAT relaxed.

I've been struggling with learning sai.  But when I realized how tense I am - both physically and mentally - when I'm working with sai and decided to relax... I made a ton of progress.  I still suck with sai but far less than I did before I made that decision, and it's not just the practice I've been getting in.

I'm not letting my mind and body tense up when I'm practicing, and it's making a big difference.


I'm not a gifted athlete, not by any stretch of the imagination.  And I'll never be.  I'm not born that way.

But by putting in the time in practice, I can overcome that lack of talent to a certain degree.

This is important to realize when you're in a class and you see talented natural athletes around you picking up everything way faster than you do, and you feel discouraged seeing how good they are and how bad you are.

I'm going to improve, over time, by practicing.  My road is longer than a natural athlete's, but it still leads to the same place.

So what lessons are you re-learning over and over again in the martial arts?  Let us know in the comments!