Pencil freehand by artist
Elisha Bonilla. My sister!
raining is the single most
important factor in
your life. Whether you are a martial artist, a soldier, a concert
pianist, or an accountant, training is what is going to make your life
a success or a failure. So it is extremely important that you consider
and evaluate for yourself, how you are training. Your instructor is not
responsible for your success. You are. Therefore it is your
responsibility to make sure that you make the time to train, know what
you need to know, and practice what you know, so that you can
perform everything you know, on demand, at any time, anyplace, and
under any conditions.
I use a lot of military and martial arts analogies because it's a quick
way to get people to consider what they are doing, and how they are
training. It's a quick way to make them realize that this is for real.
It doesn't matter how good you look on the mat if you can't dish it out
on the street. I also make references in traditional terms, but I have
made it plain already that I consider any practice dealing with combat,
a martial art. It is equally important to understand, that although
these principles are here referenced to combat, they are applicable in
all aspects of life henceforth becoming "a way of life".
I know career "white belts". They are people who expect everything to
be handed to them. Nothing in life is free, and you shouldn't expect
your martial arts training to be any different. You have to sacrifice
and you have to sweat. You are not training for a dance demonstration ,
be prepared for discomfort. Everyone can agree that life is, at times,
uncomfortable. Discomfort is a part of life and therefore of training.
The following are key
elements that I believe are essential to
Effort: Be self
motivated. If you are not going to be self motivated, you are paying
for nothing. You are wasting your time and everybody else's. If self
defense does not interest you, don't do it. Go learn how to crochet or
something else. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to
become a martial artist. If it is important to you, put out the effort.
Show up for class, even if it is difficult or you are tired. Pay
attention, stop looking at the pretty girls, they don't like you
anyway. Stop thinking about what other people think, or how silly you
must look doing what you are doing. Do what you came to do and never
give up. Eventually you will succeed. I know a man in his mid fifties
that started taking our class. Nobody thought he would last through the
first class, let alone a week. He would take five minutes to get up
after falling to the ground, and he would breathe so heavily that you
thought he would pass out. But he would never quit. Today, that man is
a senior belt and he throws our 20 some year old students around with
the best of them. He wanted it bad enough, and he didn't quit. He put
out the effort.
Pain: It is the art
of war... not the art of "hey do I look good in this uniform". If you
have never experienced pain at your school it's time to take a serious
look at your training. The event that you are training for, will have
pain involved. It is an important part of the training to learn how to
tolerate as well as inflict pain. You must be able to function, and
carry on after you have been hit. And you must know how your opponent
is going to react to pain. It is extremely important. However, for you
sadistic people out there, I am NOT saying that you should train to the
extent that you injure yourself needlessly, and keep doing it to learn
how to "deal" with pain. You have one body, and you are not going to be
much of a martial artist (or anything else for that matter), after you
ruin your knees forever. There should be no severe or permanent
injuries from your training. Soreness or minor injuries are common for
martial artist, athletes, and military personnel, when they push their
bodies to the limit. But if its your third time dislocating your elbow
this month then you are an idiot.
Realism: If you are
prancing around for 40 minutes out of a 45 minute class doing acrobatic
jumps like a gazelle in heat, you better take a damn good look at what
the hell you are training for. If you are training to fight off amorous
gazelles, that is fine, but if you want to take down a man, you better
be practicing how an actual opponent is going to feel. And you better
be training on dealing with the most common attacks that men launch to
hurt you. Are you actually going to have time to go to your gazelle
stance, and launch a step spinning flying turning 720 degree flip kick?
Everything in martial arts has its own "time and place". Learn what to
use and when to use it. Keep your training as realistic as possible.
Train to defend against knives, guns, and sucker punches. The emphasis
of your training should be force on force exercises with real opponents
in as close to a real situation as you can get it. The meat and
potatoes of martial arts is in defeating a live, breathing, opponent.
Forms have a time and place, so do exotic weapons like swords, spears
and axes.... but I don't usually worry about being attacked by a spear
and ax wielding barbarian on main street. Do you? The meaty part of
your training should be spent on what really threatens you. It doesn't
have to look pretty. There are no right or wrong techniques, only
effective and ineffective. And it matters very little what they
look like. When it all goes down it will never be pretty. Yeah, you
look good in the dojo, all lined up marching up and down the floor
moving all at the same time, but if this is all you are doing then you
are in for a nasty surprise. If a military unit trains for war by
parading, and doing no tactical training at all how do you think they
will fare? Would you like to be in that unit when they meet the enemy?
Better think about that for a sec...
very simple. Some have it, and some do not. Unfortunately it is getting
harder and harder to find good ones. They just don't make them like
they used to. Today's schools are mixed in with Tae Bo and cardio Tai
Chi and God knows what else to the point that you don't know if the
person standing in front of you is there to teach you to defend
yourself, or bring out that hidden six pack in you. Unfortunately it is
hard for beginners to find good schools, let alone good instructors.
In many instances the instructor is more important than the martial art
that is being taught. Good instructors are worth their weight in gold.
You must never disrespect or argue with your instructor, even if you
disagree, or you have previously been shown a "better" way. They are
not your peers, and you are the one that is coming onto their property
and their class to receive their knowledge. Be like a sponge;
absorb everything that works for you. Not everything will work for you,
but make sure that you learn everything that does, and the "why" of
everything that doesn't.
Here are some common
pitfalls for Martial Artists:
Crouching turtle, leaping
Sadly, the martial arts are filled with armchair "experts", brimming
with knowledge that they are all but too happy to impart on the
unsuspecting, or uninformed individual. Everybody that has been in the
arts for a while has heard the stories: (NO I did not make them up :)
-ninjas that attack without warning
-detailed instruction on how to beat "any man regardless of their size
-arduous training conducted in secret "I could tell you but I would
have to kill you" locations
-black belt tests that require breathing underwater, walking on water,
gargling upside down, or some other foolishness...
-a warrior that shoots fireballs from his armpits (I must acquire this
-warrior spirits that chase you around in the middle of the night, and
you have to fight them off before bedtime...
I could go on and on and on... Please note that I am not dogging on the
old legends that are an important part of our heritage as martial
artists. I am dogging on those that would tell their own made up
stories as it happened to them.... sitting in their recliners, between
puffs of their crack pipes. They look at you in the eyes and tell
you something like "yeah, I used to train in martial arts when I was
younger... (puff puff) can't talk much about it though. I'm sworn to
secrecy"..... and then the launch into a three hour monologue on how
they were forced to catch flies at 100 mph with their eyelashes. And
were attacked by mutated half tarantula, half human ninja warriors (no
reference to sasha from the third grade). And this is only regarding
traditional martial arts. There's also hordes of other "warrior"
wannabes with expert degrees in military fields, and combat sports, who
also faced similar hardships in life (in addition to being dropped as
babies). To all those that are not familiar, please get the facts. And
to you losers who aren't enough with what you are, you'll never be
enough with anything else either.
versus Martial Art:
We've already covered, that everything that involves combat is a
martial art. So what about "combat sports" like boxing, fencing,
wrestling. Or sport minded martial arts like Taekwondo? Many martial
arts and sports are defined by who teaches them, however, there are
some very important differences that must be taken into consideration.
Like the absense of "rules" for instance. In sports there always are
rules, like where and when you can hit, and there are legal and illegal
techniques. In real war, there seldom is right or wrong. If you are
still standing you are right. There are no medals awarded for second
place. There is no second place at all. Even though you are still going
to have your own set of rules like your personal moral ethics, military
ROE (Rules of Engagement), or your department's policy (if in law
enforcement), it is important to train yourself to utilize any and all
options to your advantage. Athletes prepare themselves for a specific
event in controlled conditions. I suppose it would be silly for a boxer
to show up at the ring and run away, but in a real self defense
situation, that is often what you should do. However, I disagree with
some martial artists that consider themselves superior to said athletes
just because they compete. Competing might test an isolated skill, but
it develops that skill and tests it. I think that there is much to
learn from our athletic counterparts. Anybody that has ever punched a
boxer knows how much punishment they can take, and (a few seconds
later) how much punching power they can deliver... always be ready to
learn, especially from those that you think can teach you nothing.
Another foolish endeavor we as martial artist get into, is the "mine is
better than yours" mentality. It sounds something like this:
"Originally, there was Master Xin-pao-pin-gonzales-henderson from the
Linu dynasty." (And then here comes the supporting evidence) "He fought
Master Pee pee with the famous sword of repentance. And using the
secret art of wishy-washy and the sitting bull drunken girlfriend
technique he defeated him. (and the obvious conclusion:) therefore our
style is superior to other styles, as it has been proven in combat.
What? Just because your great grandfather beat up my grandfather, you
can beat me? This is a "my dad can beat up your dad" issue. And some
people need to grow up. In the end your priority remains to fight
and survive. You are not going to stop in the middle of combat, and
abstain from using something because it doesn't belong to your "style".
Pride assists your enemy to defeat you and harm you, your family,
friends, and whoever or whatever else you are defending.
My art can beat up your
Here is another one: "The asian art of who-who is the original martial
art. All other arts are derived from this one. That is why all other
martial arts' kicking styles are so similar..." Like anybody actually
cares. I guess that nobody fought anybody until your people
"discovered" combat. There are only so many ways you can kick. And as
far as I am concerned, martial art has been around on the planet as
long as life has. "Martial art" literally means "art (or method) of
war". It requires no holy cradle for origin. Through time, a particular
"style" will evolve, morph and adapt, defining itself and acquiring a
name... but it is still a
martial art . Ever since Cruk, the caveman, picked up a club and bashed
Ringo over the head over his girl, (those damn women) martial art has
been. And just because a martial art reaches Montana,
and becomes popular there, doesn't mean that the people of Montana
had no "martial art" prior to that. Personally I think we all just
share a huge martial art, kind of like musicians all share music. End
Before I rob you I must
ask you.... what is your rank again?
Rank is one of the necessary evils of martial arts. Most martial artist
are below the level of black belt, and they toil for the magical piece
of cloth that will make them invisible to enemy samurai, give them the
power to leap over buildings, and make them immune to any attack from
any number of opponents... to these people I say please... put the crack pipe down.
Smoking that stuff is not good for you anyway. If it was as simple as
that then there would really be no need for the martial arts period. I
was talking to a police officer a few months ago that proudly said to
me "I don't need to take any classes. I have a black belt in Karate
since I was a kid". I laughed in his face. I pity his master for
wasting his time on a pointless student that will never understand the
essence of martial arts. I guess that the criminals that he goes to
arrest will read the sign that says "warning black belt", and will know
better than to attack him... even if they are hardened, armed, violent
criminals that have done time in jail and are on pcp. Yes. They will
have the self control to actually give a f--- that he is "trained".
Take a soldier that has been out of the military for fifteen years...
no training... how well will he shoot? how fit will he be? You think
that bad guys don't train? Talk to a correctional officer. You'd be
surprised. Ex-cons are fitter and meaner than you. And they have
very important advantages over you; They have initiative (they
are attacking you), and they don't care about the consequences. People
on the street aren't going to ask you if you have a black belt before
they rob you. The only thing that matters is the skill of your
reaction. Readiness is a perishable skill, and my friend the officer is
betting his life on his ego. I hope he doesn't loose the bet. I don't
gamble. Being a black belt only means that you have a general
understanding of the martial art. How good is a general understanding
of something if you have to defend your life with it?
The fact remains that anybody can be defeated at any place, any time,
regardless of who you are and how "trained" you are. Be prepared.