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Wastelander
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:05 pm    Post subject: Concepts and Techniques Reply with quote

When I started training in the martial arts, I often heard black belts talking about how "concepts are more important than techniques." Unfortunately, none of them ever really explained what they meant, so it took me a while to work it out on my own. Of course, early in your martial arts training, it's much easier to understand a technique than it is to understand the underlying concepts. As you develop as a martial artist, however, the concepts will benefit you much more than a collection of techniques.

Some people, in their quest to advance, begin collecting techniques. This is partially influenced by the fact that most schools have a list of techniques that must be learned before someone can test for their next rank. This, in a way, incentivizes technique collecting, especially if the fundamental concepts of those techniques aren't explained. This results in martial artists who "know" many techniques, but they tend to have difficulty applying them or modifying them. They think of techniques as "right" and "wrong," rather than fluid methods that can change based on innumerable variables, without changing the concepts that make the technique work.

So, what exactly is a "concept," and how is it different from a technique, when we are talking about martial arts? That can be a bit difficult to answer, but to put it simply, a martial arts concept is the basic physical or psychological actions and principles that make a technique work. If you learn a technique, you know a technique, but if you learn a concept, then you know many techniques. It's like the difference between memorizing that 10*2=20, and understanding that any number multiplied by 10 will simply have a 0 added to the end.

To use an over-simplified example of a physical concept, we can look at a punch. While a punch is recognizable, no matter what style someone practices, every style punches a bit differently. We can recognize it because a punch is pretty much always going to consist of the extension of an arm in order to strike a target with a closed fist. There are many ways to generate power, form a fist or move the arm, and there are many targets you could potentially strike, but it is still a punch. Even complex techniques, like compound joint locks, can be broken down in this manner to find the essence of what makes the technique work.

Sometimes, a concept is more of a psychological thing than a physical one. Just like physical concepts, these are key factors in making techniques work, and they can be a little more complex. They include things like aggression signals, flinch responses and active resistance. These things are not techniques, of course, but if your attacker shows signs of certain types of aggression, or flinches or resists in certain ways during an altercation, it will have a major impact on the techniques that you can use. Rather than having specific techniques for every possible factor, you can simply modify your techniques based on the concepts that make them work, by understanding the psychological concepts that are in play.

It will always be easier for a student to learn a technique, but it is important for instructors to point out that the techniques we teach work because of the physiology of the human body and physics, which can be applied in a myriad of ways. Without that additional understanding, they are simply memorizing movements, and not learning how to move for themselves. Early on, in the Shu (copy) phase of Shu-Ha-Ri (a developmental process), this is perfectly fine, because it gives the student something to work with. Over time, though, they should be able to use the concepts they have learned to modify techniques when necessary, as part of the Ha (adapt) phase. In the Ri (rranscend) phase, they should be freely applying techniques that they haven't necessarily learned before, but are based on concepts that they have previously learned. This is, of course, a very granular application of the Shu-Ha-Ri concept, but it is a fairly clear example.

In order for us to evolve as martial artists, we must understand more than just how to perform a technique: We must understand how it works, at a fundamental level.
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Patrick
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission, Noah. Interesting thoughts.

Patrick
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bushido_man96
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article, Noah. Understanding concepts really reveals the techniques, I think. Thanks for sharing this.
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sensei8
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic article, Noah!! To me, both the concept and the technique have to be given their rightful time and respect from the practitioner. Is one greater than the other? No, that wouldn't be fair to either. For example, what came first, and which is more important, the chicken or the egg; can't have one without the other.

Concepts are that idea! Techniques are that idea coming alive! Can't have the day without the night...can't have the Yin without the Yang!!



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bushido_man96
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well put, Bob. One could say that techniques are the delivery system for concepts.
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sensei8
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But of course: The technique is the delivery system of the concept; I wholeheartedly concur. The painting isn't a painting until someone says that it is, and in that, the concept isn't a concept until someone demonstrates that concept.



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