During this past week in several of our classes we worked on “doing” one of our exercises known as a “Set.” While working with the participants it became apparent that they were so focused on the individual aspects of the set or what we will call the “Attention” state that they weren’t really performing the set correctly. Let’s just say they didn’t have the feel of the set. They weren’t really flowing through the set correctly, which is really the intent of the set.
While trying to free the students from their frustration of balancing the accuracy of their motions with moving smoothly and swiftly through the set, we compared it the aspect to running. Obviously, for most of us we aren’t concerned with the details of our running while we are running, especially if running down the volcano from the molten lava.
Even a champion runner who is in tune with the details of his/her skills, concerns more on the intent of the race than the minor details of his/her stride. Those things will be monitored, analyzed, corrected during training periods. During the actual race, the athlete needs to trust their bodies to respond to the training and free their mind from the details. (See article: Devil in the Details)
Without a doubt while preparing it is important that one focus or what we call the “Attention” phase of the exercise. However, with that said another import part of preparing/training is to fully express the exercise or what we call the “Intention” phase.
When preparing for a competition it is easy to understand that you would work on your skills for a part of your development. You would work on your skills, slow down your sparring so you could see where the skills would be applied and then let go and really “fight” so you could prepare for the “attitude” of competition. In self-defense you would do pretty much the same thing- learn the defensive moves, work them slowly with a partner and then eventually challenge yourself to have the partner attack you with full intent so you could fully understand applying the defensive move.
Unfortunately, with exercises such as “Forms” and “Sets” students spend so much time on the intricacies they lose sight of the intent. While training the definition of “doing” the form is walking through the specific moves. This is true; however the problem is it really is only half of the exercise. The other half is to feel the intent of the exercise.
One could liken it to running the “American Ninja” obstacles. Each obstacle requires a specific skill set and would hamper or allow for a certain level of speed, strength, agility, etc. As one would train, they would focus on these aspects. However, at the time of the event there still remains a primary goal; complete the entire course faster than anyone else. Without a doubt the concern for speed jeopardizes one’s ability to truly focus on each obstacle’s details.
Obviously mistakes are important aspects in these races as well as in self-defense. Depending on the severity it could end the race for you or result in other tragic consequences. The better one is prepared, the more one establishes a “margin for error” and mitigates the consequences for mistakes. Yet, when there are obstacles and/or forces that can’t be overcome “losing” has to be an accepted outcome. That is part of the “Human” aspect, we are competitive by nature and we seek out these opportunities to challenge our skills and abilities. When we lose, we often times are not defeated. Instead we become more determined to step up and prepare for the next challenge.
A balance has to be developed. Obviously as one becomes more and more skilled and confident with their “attention” phase of training they can “let go” and allow themselves to embrace the “intention” phase of the activity.
It’s not easy! That’s what makes Martial Arts training special- we work to develop the awareness of the need for both “Attention” and “Intention” training and then the balancing the two for a fully developed Martial Artist.
It was pretty cool to watch many of the participants “let go” and allow themselves to flow through the Set regardless of flaws and/or mistakes and to focus on the intent of the set. Not everyone could do it but that’s okay it is part of the growing and improving process. Allowing yourself- to believe in yourself can sometimes be a leap of faith that we are not ready to embrace.