Joined: 21 Oct 2009
Styles: Shuri-te Karate, Wing Chun
|Posted: Tue Apr 02, 2013 9:00 am Post subject: Martial Arts is Half Physical, But 90% Mental
|Yogi Berra once made the statement, "Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical."
At this point, you may be wondering what a quote about baseball has to do with martial arts, particularly one with such obviously poor math.
However, poor math aside, the observation that Yogi Berra was trying to point out is valid and one in which the word baseball could easily be substituted with many other of life's pursuits, and in the case of this article, martial arts.
So, we could rewrite the statement as "Martial arts is 90% mental, the other half is physical," and by doing so we can start to apply this statement to our martial arts training. Learning this concept and applying it to our training is a lifelong pursuit, but one which is necessary to move from being an average martial artist to a good martial artist.
In reality, it's fairly easy to learn the mechanical movements of any particular style of martial arts. Through instruction and repetition, nearly anybody can learn most any individual technique or set of techniques and with enough practice, they can refine them and make them look powerful and technically correct. However, learning the physical components of your chosen martial arts style is only half the process. The other half is mental. These two halves, when added together, make one a far greater martial artist, and hence the reason we can say martial arts is 90% mental.
The mental side of martial arts can cover a very broad set of meanings, but for the purposes of this article, we will focus on three particular areas: Awareness of your environment, understanding and analyzing the applications of a technique, and understanding and analyzing body mechanics.
Awareness of Your Environment
One's awareness of their surroundings is something we often talk about in martial arts, particularly when discussing self-defense, and is also one in which we can all too easily find ourselves being lax in. By being aware of what's going on around oneself, oftentimes dangerous situations can easily be avoided altogether. Many of the dangerous situations people find themselves in could have been completely avoided by just being aware of suspicious activity and leaving the area, by a more carefully worded response when bumping into a stranger, etc. If circumstances still bring us into a situation in which we need to call upon our self-defense skills, it remains important that we are aware of potential exits, objects lying around that could either be used by us in our favor or that could be used against us.
While it's not necessary to always be at high alert, we should always be paying attention to events surrounding us and be able and prepared to adjust our actions accordingly. Being at a state of readiness when you set foot out of your home is beneficial to both avoiding situations altogether, and could give us an extra edge should we still find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to defend ourselves or someone we care about.
Understanding and Analyzing the Applications of a Technique
Being able to understand and analyze the applications of a technique are the next step. All too often, when performing kata, we get caught up in just running through the motions. When learning the kata to prepare for a test, we focus heavily on perfecting the moves themselves, which falls under the physical half of the equation. However, kata should be serving a purpose in helping the martial artist learn to apply their knowledge. It's only through studying and really analyzing the kata that we begin to truly see the lessons we can learn from it, and this can be a lifetime of study in which we are always learning new applications.
However, it doesn't just end with learning to apply kata, but to all aspects of our style. To use a simple example, we don't just want to know the motions of how to throw a hook punch, but also when it's the appropriate time to throw a hook punch, this requires not just learning the mechanical motions of throwing the punch, but an understanding of the best places to target that punch on the opponent, the appropriate distance you should be at to throw the hook punch, and so on. This takes us from just knowing the "hows" of throwing a hook punch to knowing the "whens" and "whys" of throwing the hook punch. This can then be carried out through all of the techniques at our disposal. By moving beyond just the physical aspects of the technique and learning its application, we can move beyond the basics and start applying the most appropriate techniques to the situation at hand.
Understanding and Analyzing Body Mechanics
A study of body mechanics is the last topic of discussion. This takes the study of the mechanics of our techniques to the next level. It is about becoming intimately familiar with the reasoning behind how and why our bodies move and respond as they do. By becoming familiar with how our bodies work, we open up an entirely new level of understanding to our techniques.
Through this we are taking a look at the particular motions in any given technique, breaking them down and fully understanding exactly why we perform them the way we do. It's through an understanding of body mechanics that we can begin to build a chain of techniques together. If we have an understanding of how our bodies move, and how techniques flow from one to the next, we can more easily move from one technique to the next without much thought. By understanding why our bodies respond the way they respond, we can apply locks, such as an armbar with greater effect, and by understanding how to take advantage of leverage, we can much more easily throw our opponents to the ground.
There could be much more said on each of these areas, but ultimately it comes down to using your head and being a smart martial artist, no matter your chosen style. Remember these three things: Pay attention to what's going on around you, understand the "whys" and "whens" of a technique, and lastly, understand what makes a technique work and why the body responds the way it does. Doing so will help you take your study of the martial arts to the next level.
It's said that martial arts is a lifelong study, and that's very much the truth. Though the physical side can be learned with a little time and practice, we can spend our entire lives learning how to apply that knowledge both to become better practitioners of our art, as well as learning how to apply the principals found in of our art to our daily lives.