Whenever I have a new student I start the first class with teaching them the ‘secret of martial arts’. I do this because most people think there is some secret knowledge/technique that only a few know and they hide it from others only to divulge it to their best and inner most students. Many masters promote this idea, that if you knew what they knew you’d be invincible. They have cult like followings due to this strain of thought but I think it’s a little insane, so I will divulge one of the secrets to real fighting here and explain why it is so important. Here it is:
The body always follows the mind.
I first really got an insight into this many years ago when I used to work with Geoff Bodine and Dr Jerry Punch on racing shows; generally Goody’s 500 at that time. Geoff is a legendary racecar driver and I asked him if he sped on local streets when he drives. He emphatically said, ‘No”. I asked him why and he said, “If there’s a problem I cannot trust the common driver to react in a safe away, I can’t assume anything they do so I would not put myself in that situation.” I asked, “So what is different between what they do and what a pro does when there’s a problem?” He said, “An everyday driver, when he encounters an accident or whatever, will look at the problem and not the way out. In other words they see a crash and look at it while trying to avoid it; this is the completely wrong way to do it. The pro sees the crash and looks to where he wants to go and not the crash itself. This way the car will follow what he is looking towards. When you look at the crash you will head into the crash”. He went on to tell me that if your car is sliding on ice or whatever to look where you want to go and not the impending crash. If you do this you might escape the situation unscathed.
I thought about this long and hard and how it applies to everyday life, especially martial arts. One of the things I teach initially to prove Geoff’s point is this, and every guy knows this: You are driving down the street, might be going only 15 miles an hour, and you see a pretty girl walking down the street. You want to look at her so you decide to lock your hands on the wheel so you don’t drift and look over and keep going straight. Invariably the car drifts towards where you are looking. Somehow the body subconsciously follows the object of the mind. It’s very difficult to do otherwise. So how does this apply to martial arts? Well, it is germane to winning a fight and here’s why. When you are engaged in a conflict if your mind is in retreat mode, it is backing away from the fight; you have no power in your strikes. Your mind is in defense and not offense. If you are scared or intimidated your mind is in protection mode, it wants to flee and so there is little forward energy in your punches because you don’t want to go into the danger. This is particularly apparent when backing up in a fight. Pros always talk about how difficult it is to punch when backing up. You must back up while projecting your energy/mind forward to have any power otherwise you will be very weak. You are moving back with the intention of luring the opponent in to strike him or to maintain a safe striking distance. This is vastly different from moving back just to protect yourself. If you are moving forward and do not have forward intent, that is to say, you are not intending to hurt the opponent, you will not be effective.
There is this idea taught by many that you want to develop defensive moves, that you want to protect your ‘castle’. There are arts based on this notion; I need only to defend myself. I find this to be a terrible way to think. It should be ‘how dare you attack me!’ and attack the attack, not defend the castle/self. This puts you on top of the fight and not behind and reactive to it because then you are just responding to an attack. When you do this you are letting the opponent control the fight. You are reacting to what he does and not initiating an attack on him. There is no such thing as self defense, it’s self offense! Damn, I just gave away the second secret of martial arts….and I only have a few of them. A defensive mode puts you outside and reactive to the attack. If attacked you attack back and twice as hard. Your mind cannot be defending. When I teach beginners and they ward off some strikes I can see that what they are thinking is, “Whew! Stopped those ones, great! Hope I can stop more”. As opposed to, “I want to crush you for punching at me”. In the first example the mind has escaped an attack and gained no advantage but in the second the mind wants to squash the attacker, put control in his hands, thus ending the source of the attack. You cannot develop a ‘wait and see’ attitude in a fight. Teddy Atlas calls this,” posing for a picture”, you want to see if you caused enough damage and stop for a view. You can’t do this in a martial art. I am not talking sport here but life and death though in sports you can’t do it either.
When attacked you must engage completely and thoroughly until the threat is neutralized, period. This can mean disabled or no longer a threat because they left. You must develop your mind so that even when backing up to avoid getting hit your total intention is to hit forward, to deliver into the opponent while staying safe. The body will always follow the mind in these situations please be aware of this. If your mind is scared your body is weak. You fight with one intention only: to win. The other person has trespassed on you, they want to harm you, now you take control and stop it.
Ideas, articles, lessons, and retrospective moments.