Our philosophy does not ask the practitioner of martial arts to put their faith in techniques or concepts. This is tough to grasp at first, because most people choose a style or school because they wanted to learn techniques they identified with. Wrestlers love to grapple, boxers love to trade punches.
Make a shift in your thinking away from the validity or relative strength (or weakness) of your punches, the kicks in your school, your takedowns, submissions, or weapons training. Most martial artists will debate these for hours. So what should I shift towards?
Got long arms so you want to stand and box w everyone? Love your top game? Think your stick and knife skills are good? What if none of that mattered as much as your attributes?
What are your attributes?
Speed, strength, hand-eye coordination, line familiarization, sensitivity (not emotional), conditioning, and reaction time are a few of them.
What if the outcome of the assault would be decided by your attributes, not by whatever techniques you learned?
Your fighting attributes will determine how well you do in a fight partially because you will have little or no control over what happens. The fight will occur wherever it wants to, there could be multiple opponents, you may be sick or hurt, in a dark place. You get the idea: fights are chaos.
How do you prepare for all the possibilities of violent encounters? You prepare your attributes! Not sure what will be more important, punches or kicks, grappling or your secret ninja death kick? Anyone who tells you exactly where and how the fight will happen is guessing, pure and simple. But we do know some things for certain: you’re going to need to be physically and emotionally strong, to have enough cardiovascular conditioning and mental toughness to get through the stress of violence, and the adrenaline dump you will experience.
So this is why we train attributes first, techniques are like options to go to when needed.
Paul Vunak explains it better then I can in this clip.
Imagine two different people, training in two separate schools at the same time. One is training in the most modern and efficient techniques of boxing and kickboxing, trapping and learning very well all about the “what” of martial arts.
The other is training in traditional karate throwing what we might consider slow, inefficient punches from the hip using a wide, low stance that might be considered unusable in any real world situation. But he (or she) is throwing those punches hard. They have intent and emotional content behind them, as many traditional styles emphasize (sometimes we see this in the great yells used by karate stylists to focus their energy).
Now imagine each of these unfortunate martial artists getting hit in the face with a sucker punch. One knuckle goes right into the eye and the fight begins with them blinking, turtled up, hurt, and confused.
With the experience of training very hard, and throwing their punches with force, the karetaka returns fire and scores, following it up with a series of reverse punches drilled into muscle memory with hard training. The student of boxing and kickboxing simply turns his back to protect himself from the intensity and natural fear of more pain and is on the receiving end of a beat-down.
How did this happen? The concepts person should do better, her technique is much more efficient and easy to apply. The karate stylist spent time with his “spirit” focused only on what he was doing at that exact moment, so the experience of being hurt, scared and on shaky ground was overcome by his experience of being completely focused on the task at hand while training the punches that, even though less efficient, saved his butt.
The point? Technique is useless if you cannot apply it! If you spend hours a day getting your kicks to that “lethal” level, then get bum rushed and slammed on your head they won’t do much for you. I have seen great technicians get head-butted in the face accidentally and lose their composure, unable to secure that great arm-bar they catch everyone with in the gym. You have to spend as much of your time and attention on how you train as what you train.
While training your punches on the focus mitts you should call to mind the memory of the last violent or fearful encounter you had – let it drive your session and remind you what your purpose and goals can be as you train. Yes, training should be fun, it is also for self-perfection as much as it is for self-protection. But training your body while your mind wanders too much will have consequences for your readiness… it is called martial arts for a reason.