The Naked Warrior on Martial Arts. . .


I was thumbing through a book by Pavel, entitled The Naked Warrior, which is about bodyweight exercises.  In the section about proper breathing, he says:

“The martial arts world is not known for clarity of communication, which is why in many schools, students take years and decades to master the concepts they could have nailed in months or even weeks.”

I keep thinking about this.  What are we all doing at the dojo year after year?  Some people are just focusing on techniques and never truly learn concepts at all.  Some have beautiful punches and kicks, but have no idea about the physiological effects of stress and the reality of lethal encounters.  It’s like the whole analogy about not seeing the forest for the trees.  When my head instructor and I attended Brian Willis’ Excellence in Training seminar in March, he stressed teaching concepts instead of techniques, as people will understand and retain concepts better.  Technique obviously does matter because it makes us more effective at everything we do.  Nevertheless, should it take years for us to learn how to protect ourselves?  I would suggest that it doesn’t, given the right learning environment. 

For years, I trained under an instructor who explained very little.  I believe in that time that my body learned a lot about how to move; I worked to model/emulate him and the way he moved (I tend towards being mostly kinesthetic).  But, I really had no conceptual ideas about martial arts until I finally found a mentor who helped me take a broader perspective, and encouraged me to teach.  I had tons of technique, but no concepts.  How much easier it would have been to learn the other way around!  I still got value out of my early training.  It was vigorous and taxing, and it hardened me mentally and physically.  There is an upside to everything!

We really do have to open our perspective and take a hard look at our training, and if we teach, how we are presenting the material.  I do enjoy details, techniques involving fine motor manipulation, and what I call “sexy” maneuvers.  Nevertheless, will these things really cut it when the chips hit the fan?  Luckily, I am analytical and stubborn, and I kept plugging away until I finally started learning concepts.  I also trained with people like Guro Dan Inosanto, who never misses an opportunity to learn and improve himself even though the world considers him a martial arts “master”.  I certainly hope we focus enough on teaching our Gutterfighting students concepts and basics.

I look at Pavel’s statement again and I wonder.  I have been told over and over again that we don’t really learn until we teach.  As instructors, as much as our students are working to earn a specific rank or benchmark, many of us our trying so hard to learn HOW to communicate and explicate what we think we know.  Each student presents the challenge of learning in a unique way, as well.  No one “gets it” in the same manner or timeframe, and sometimes they have physical limitations that force us to re-evaluate techniques.  Now, it really does take a long time to refine techniques.  But, in order to give our students something they can take out onto the street tomorrow, we have to focus heavily on concepts and ideas.  For example, we teach the B.E.A.T. target model.  This acronym stands for Brains, Eyes, Abs and Testicles.  That’s a pretty darned easy thing to remember.  We also have to help students to bring their emotions to the training, simulating full emotional content of a confrontation, and help them make the firm decision that their lives are worth fighting for.  Almost everything else on top of those things is gravy!  And please don’t get me wrong—I am not diminishing any martial arts discipline, but I do think there is a distinction between what is practical, and what just looks pretty.  I enjoy training both, but I know now what will save my life.


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