“I hope that martial artists are more interested in the root of martial arts and not the different decorative branches, flowers, or leaves. It is futile to argue as to which leaf, which design of branches, or which attractive flower you like; When you understand the root, you understand all it’s blossoming.”
Choosing A Martial Path
“Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
I’m often asked – “What’s the best martial art to train?”.
The simple answer is that you have to evaluate your own physical and emotional assets and the types of physical confrontation or danger which you’re most likely to find yourself in.
I highly recommend not building your skills around any type of dogmatic core.
It’s ok to train in specific styles in order to extract what’s most useful from within the style, but you shouldn’t be constrained by styles themselves.
What often separates true martial masters from the martial “laity” is an ability and a willingness to be different and unique, according to their own anatomy, temperament and the needs of the situation at hand.
It’s generally accepted that when learning any new skill, we go through a developmental process of:
- Unconscious incompetence
- Conscious incompetence
- Conscious competence
- Unconscious competence
At the first stage of unconscious incompetence you’re ignorant about what you don’t yet know.
At conscious incompetence you begin realizing just how little you know and where the holes in your knowledge or skills are.
By the time you hit conscious competence, you’re already pretty skilled, but it requires constant thought and mental vigilance in order to execute upon your skill.
Finally, with enough training and practice you reach the level of unconscious competence – where you move to the highest leverage point and peak performance in every situation “on auto-pilot”.
Earth. Water. Fire. Air.
“One must transcend techniques so that the art becomes an artless art, growing out of the unconscious.”
In order to avoid getting locked into dogmatic technique or theory, The Way Of The Warrior is to focus on:
- Warrior Strength
- Warrior Speed
- Warrior Skills
The Way Of The Warrior is focused upon life, but you should always keep in mind that people die just as often and just as easily by violence now as they did at any time in the past.
Let that sink in deeply…
Keep in mind that defeat in real combat leads to death, and you’ll not only train more effectively but you’ll live more fully, as well.
When developing your warrior skills, rather than blindly and dogmatically following any system, you need to focus on:
- Training for muscular strength
- Conditioning your aerobic capacity
- Developing flexibility
- Mastering the core competencies of fighting in each range
After you become proficient in the basic range of skills (wrestling, parrying, striking, evasion – Also following our Four Elements model) you need to focus on your cardio conditioning.
In any situation where you’re more or less equally matched in terms of size and skill, victory always goes to the person who doesn’t gas out first.
As your training in each of the Four Elements of fighting plateaus, always return to intense periods of endurance conditioning and you’ll eventually break through those plateaus.
“Most beginning athletes are unwilling to drive themselves hard enough. They should punish themselves and then rest adequately – only to increase the output of effort after the rest. Long hours of work made up of many short, high-speed efforts interspersed with periods of milder activity seem to be the best endurance training procedure.”
Habitualize Daily Training
“It is no easy thing for a principle to become a man’s own unless each day he maintains it and works it out in his life.”
Focus On Simplicity In Training
You want to avoid over-training and focusing on an excess of technique, which leads to cognitive overload.
The truth is that we have a limited amount of both short and long term memory. It’s been said that the average person’s short-term memory can only hold on to seven chunks of information – and much, much less when you’re under adrenal stress from feeling threatened.
Until you get to a very high level of meditative development, your limbic system will always respond in certain ways to external threats.
Because you can only rely on a small amount of information or technique in a real crisis situation, you should focus 80% of your training efforts on the 20% of simple, core techniques that actually win fights and which can be programmed into permanent muscle memory the most easily.
There are generally only 4 types of punches: uppercuts, crosses, jabs and hooks. Again, following our four elements model.
There’s only 1 really effective way to block or parry, and that’s from the outside.
There are maybe 3 or 4 types of leg strikes that the average person can execute in normal clothing under duress.
Rather than focusing on an overwhelming amount of technique, focus on habitualized, daily training of simple movements, physical conditioning, realistic training, and emotional control.
Train For Conflict
You want to train in a way that’s as realistic as possible, in order to further develop a warrior’s spirit.
When facing an opponent, you need to be able to handle them with composure.
If the opponent is greedy, you should be able to bait him with small benefits or feinted openings.
Learn how to recognize chaotic, undisciplined states and induce them in opponents. When your opponents mind is in chaos – attack him.
When facing a stronger opponent, try to reduce their strength or wear them down systematically.
Developing these kinds of abilities which can be executed at the level of unconscious competence requires sparring, and it requires as realistic of an environment and situation as possible.
One caveat on sparring though – if you’re practicing striking or joint manipulation – you need to be training with someone who knows what they’re doing.
If you’ve ever run into a warrior faker – you’ve heard the ultimate faker’s warning: “I try to avoid fighting because my skills are so deadly and I’m afraid I might lose control and kill or maim someone…”
The truth is that any person who has a truly high level of martial skill can control someone who doesn’t like a rag doll.
Find a good teacher with good senior students who are focused and emotionally balanced to spar with, and to the extent that you’re able, reduce the risk of serious injury – especially head trauma.
I would also highly recommend studying anatomy, but the reasons why that would be useful seem so self-evident that I won’t talk about it at any length here.
Train In Strategy
“I studied morning and evening searching for the principle, and came to realize The Way Of Strategy when I was fifty. Since then I have lived without following any particular Way. Thus it is with the virtue of strategy that I practice many arts and abilities – all things with no teacher.”
Strategy in general is both a simple and deep topic, and if you are interested in learning strategy at the Master level, you should study The Way Of Strategy where I teach it at length, and if you would like a PhD. level understanding I highly recommend picking up my multimedia training program – The Lost Arts Of War.
Planning your actions and reactions for confrontational or martial situations you could face can me a daunting thing.
Strategic planning is much easier if you break it down into it’s core constituent elements (which also follows our Four Elements model – strange, that…).
The most basic model of strategy is:
- Identify your strategic objectives
- Collect intelligence
- Plan for the environment
- Program for engagement
“Single-mindedness is all powerful”
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Once you’ve mastered strategic thinking, and are able to think strategically under duress and adrenal strain, you want to focus all of your efforts on your strategic objectives and the leverage points or tactics to achieve those strategic objectives.
Read Your Opponent
“See first with your mind, then with your eyes, and finally with your body.”
– Yagyu Munenori
“The maintenance of proper fighting distance has a decisive effect on the outcome of the fight – acquire the habit!”
– Bruce Le
Use Rhythm And Timing
“There is timing in everything… You in in battles with the timing in the Void, born of the timing of cunning by knowing the enemies timing and thus using a timing which the enemy does not expect.”
– Miyamoto Musashi
Avoid, Evade And Intercept
“If the opponent is ready to challenge – When equally matched we can do battle. When fewer in number be ready to evade them. When unequal to the match be ready to avoid them.”
– Sun Tzu
Knowing When To Stop Fighting
“Those who know the Way must first take into account the failure of not knowing where to stop. They reject the idea that aggressive action will necessarily have success. If you seek battle at the drop of the hat, your opponent will then be still, calculating. If you go ahead your opponent has secured victory.
Therefore The Art Of Warfare dictates that if you follow enemies in pursuit, attacking them on sight and their leaders do not seem willing to put up a fight, you are losing to their strategy.”
– Wei Liao Zi