As I have previously stated believing in a technique and having that technique actually work are two different things. There is a line of thought in the so called ‘soft arts’ that one day the techniques will just blossom, like those cactus flowers that bloom every 30 years, and all will be revealed to you. I’ve met folks who have practiced an art for decades yet still cannot really use it. They tell me about their master who can and one day it will present itself to them. Can you imagine studying any other discipline and not being able to use it after 10 years? Whether you’re a carpenter, a plumber, a musician or a doctor wouldn’t you expect to be pretty good after years of training? I would yet there are many folks who are waiting for that magic moment when it will happen.
Their practice is not about empirical observation and application; it is about believing that one day it will work. This is such pie in the sky thinking and I see it everywhere in “Eastern” arts as taught in the US. I have not seen people in the East so much think this way but do in the West. It is really a dangerous way to think and truly counter productive.
A fellow once came to my class to observe. I asked him if he wanted to practice with us and he declined and explained to me that he knew that if he ever really needed to defend himself or his girlfriend that the ability would arise. He said that his faith in himself and God was so great that he knew beyond shadow of any doubt he could do this. I told him that I hoped he was right. He watched us practice for a while and was getting a bit worked up. I had a large 120 lb bag in the center of the room that was not well tethered. At one point he just shouted, “I‘ll show you“and attacked the bag with flailing limbs. Somehow he managed to hit it in such a way that it tilted down and came back up and caught him under the jaw lifting him off the ground and flinging him across the room on his back. It was a very funny moment but also a very embarrassing moment for him. We managed not to laugh but I wanted to say, “So how did your faith work out against the bag”. I was not cruel enough to do that. He left rather defeated.
He believed he could fight but in reality he could not.
I have traveled the world over the last few years and spent that time with many world class Muay Thai fighters and MMA fighters. I’ve spent decades around professional boxers and their trainers and with all of these folks I’ve never seen a hint of the faith based ideas of many martial artists. They all know that it is training and practice in real time that develops skill; nothing more, nothing less.
More importantly the way you train dictates the way the brain handles it. If you do not drill it to your core it remains a cognitive function, there is no reflex. When attacked the cognitive part of the brain freezes and the fight or flight mechanism takes over. If you have not trained so that your brain is tuned to its core you are lost. Many times I’ve met people that have trained for years and feel they’ve got it inside them. At times I will spontaneously step into them and shout. The vast majority of the time they will cower and back up and not display any martial skills. A few will react strongly and appropriately but most will not. They were not taught effectively.
It is extremely important in practice to pull it into your core. The Chinese have called this ‘thinking with your spine’. There has been recent scientific proof that this, in fact, is what happens. They took a pro hockey goalie and wired him up to see what happens when he reacts to pucks coming to him at high rates of speed. To their astonishment his brain did not register the activity; it went to his spine and back to his limbs but not his brain. He was blocking them with his core being and not his cognitive being. Faith exists in the cognitive. Without thought there is no faith.
To truly master and art you must lose the art, become the art.
There is a famous story about a student of Samurai that had practiced and practiced. He had great skill with sword, staff and shield. His teacher would not pass him as a master Samurai and failed him over and over again. He had mastered every technique with these weapons but to no avail. He could not see why his Sensei would not pass him. His teacher demoted him to be a cook and the poor student reluctantly went about his kitchen duties. After a long time at this one night the teacher burst into his kitchen and attacked him with his sword as he bent over the cauldron. The student reacted paring the sword with the cauldron lid and smacked the teacher with the ladle knocking him down. The teacher arose with a huge smile on his face and said, “Now you are a Samurai!” The student had become the true Samurai beyond the attachment to sword and shield. It had reached his core being beyond techniques and cognition. Tai toku!
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