One thing I notice more and more as I go through life these days is that people desire to learn things but do not want to have any discomfort in doing so. Whether it’s physical training, learning an instrument or whatever, folks just don’t want to go through any pain in the process. Many people express interest in this art and arrange a time to come visit me and the class. Ninety percent of the folks that come visit me seem shocked by the effort we put into practice and physical stamina it takes. It’s not that we do any extreme workout but they want ‘easy’. They want to learn some form and magic hands but don’t want the pain of actually transforming their body to do so. Practicing forms and punching the air will never teach you to actually defend yourself. You might get stronger and faster but you will never develop the brain that can react to an attack. Hitting a tennis ball against a wall will never prepare you to meet an opponent. Practicing drills on a football field will never prepare you for the actual force in a game. You have to engage in it at the core reality of the game. The point here is that if you don’t burn, you won’t learn. The body learns and grows under pressure. If you just do the same routine all the time the body adjusts and does not grow from it. If you play soccer with the same level of guys or play guitar with the same amateur musicians you will never develop your skill. If you only fight with people in your school you only learn how to fight them and not the nut on the street. Fighting is not logical, systematic or regimented; it is crazy and chaotic. Steel is tempered by fire and pressure, not by coddling.
I am often dismayed and amazed when someone tells me about their technique that stops a hook or an upper cut. It’s always in a controlled environment and the opponent never launches multiple attacks when blocked. They opponent is generally some guy in the school who thinks he knows how to box, he doesn’t. No real fighter just stands there and gets blocked; they immediately adjust to it and attack elsewhere. There are countless videos I see on youtube where the ‘master’ blocks an arm and then goes to town on the opponent while the attacker not only just stands there but never throws the other hand or slips the punch. Also, the straight in fighters, always pick on someone their own size and never anyone 8 inches taller. Why is that? Because the tall guy, if he has any real skill, can stand out of your striking range and pick you off. If you really want to learn how to defend yourself you must practice with those who are better than you. I once had a huge guy literally pick me up over his head and hold me 7 feet off the ground. I learned a lot that day!
If you really want to learn you must go through a certain amount of discomfort and pain whether it’s contorting your hands to play the guitar or punching a bag till your joints ache, it has to happen. Hitting a bag has its downsides but it also teaches you quite a bit. If you’ve never hit anything solid you have no idea how your joints are going to react. I’ve seen people break their wrists when hitting a bag improperly. Why do we think we can automatically hit someone effectively when we’ve only punched the air or hit a light mitt? Even hitting a heavy bag lightly offers a world of good feed back. It lets you know your stance wasn’t good or you had no torque or that your wrist collapsed. Many of the ancient arts hit sandbags and other things to condition the body. The other thing is that a bag moves, at least a little. No one is going to stand there and let you hit them. How do you hit a moving target effectively without giving up your balance? It something you have to practice. You can practice hitting a ball on a pitch machine all you want but wait till someone is throwing at 95 mph and they don’t want you to hit it. That’s how a fight goes and they are hitting you back!
As far as a workout goes most people when they work out start slow, work up to a burn and stop. Actually you should get to the burn as fast as you can and then work out in the burn as long as you can. This will make the body react to it and grow from it. It’s the stress on the body that makes it learn and grow. Find your comfort zone and then crash through it. Please use some intelligence with this; hurting yourself is not the goal but training the body is.
In just the last month I’ve had a few new people interested in learning stop by and meet me. In each case they wanted to learn ‘the hands’, the form, the technique but none wanted to actually work at it. They didn’t want someone bigger, stronger and faster actually punching at them; that’s not comfortable. Even though their training partner was a gentleman who could control himself was too much to ask for. None have come back. There is this illusion that if you practice it in school a lot in a ritualized way that somehow when some drug crazed brute attacks you that you will be able to handle him. Where else in the real world does this exist… in sports? ‘Hey I want to learn hockey but don’t check me, push me or knock me down. I’ll figure out how to do that when I am actually in a game, not when practicing”!
This always reminds me of the time many years ago when a fellow was watching my class. I asked him if he wanted to join and work out with us. He said, “No, because I know that if I am ever attacked I will go crazy enough to beat anyone”. I’ve heard so many ‘masters’ say this about the art: “when the time comes a true master will rise to the occasion, he does not need to spar before hand”. Right. We were hitting a heavy bag at the time and it was a pretty crappy one that wasn’t tethered right. As he watched us hitting it he was fidgeting and got real worked up and said, “I’ll show you!” and then ran at the bag and attacked it in all his fury. The bag wasn’t balanced real well and when he hit it, it dipped and swung back at him, caught him under the jaw and sent him flying across the room and he landed on his butt. The bag clocked him real good. He sat on the floor stunned. Sadly we did not have the decency and composure not to laugh hysterically.
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