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  • Writer's picturerejking

Mindful Martial Arts Training

When you first start training in the martial arts you are taught basic movements and techniques. An instructor or senior student will, most likely, demonstrate the movement and you are expected to copy them to the best of your ability. You will also probably be given verbal instructions on how to execute the movement. You will then be required to practice the movement over and over again so that it becomes “natural” or subconscious. We are often told that “practice makes perfect”. Sorry, but that’s incorrect. Perfect practice makes perfect, if there is such a thing at all!

If you are doing a movement incorrectly and perform many repetitions you will,

in fact, be reinforcing incorrect technique.

Yes, you have to start somewhere to learn the basic movement including co-ordination of limbs, timing and just the pattern of the movements. The problem, I believe, is that many people never progress beyond this method of being reliant on someone else to guide them in their learning. Now don’t misunderstand me, I’ve been training for well over fifty years and I still learn things from my instructor, my peers and quite often my students. These days I even pick up things from Instagram & Facebook!

These are, however, mostly concepts or just different techniques or variations. What makes any new information or lessons already learnt useful is two things. Firstly, analysing the movement/technique, whatever and considering the principles that underpin all of it and secondly, what I refer to as “mindful training” when I am actually performing the movement/technique.

So, what do I mean by mindful martial arts training? For me it is trying to become more aware of all aspects of my body when I’m doing the movement either as a solo exercise or with my training partner.

Feeling the timing and co-ordination of my footwork with my body movement, particularly my hips and core. Considering the relaxation of my body to allow for smooth, unrestricted movement and then the instantaneous tightening of muscles involved in delivering a strike and then immediately relaxing again.

Paying attention to the kinetic chain of movement and power to deliver maximum energy into the strike, throw or whatever. Part of this is what I refer to as the point of impact and emphasising that point where I want to deliver the energy. It is one thing to punch, strike, kick and quite another to imagine and feel the point at which I contact the desired target. These concepts apply to all aspects of martial arts, including Kobudo and grappling, be it stand up or ground fighting.

It also applies to feeling what your opponent is doing, especially when you’re in contact with them through grappling of some description. Feeling the ebb and flow of their energy or where their intent is going and then flowing with it or redirecting it.

Another important aspect is understanding what, for me, is a key component of KU and that is Hanshi McCarthy’s PDR theory/principle. Knowing that when I do certain things to my opponent it will cause them to respond in a specific manner which, to a degree, dictates what I can do next and therefore how my body should be moving to achieve maximum effect depending on the desired outcome.

If you can achieve this awareness or mindfulness, you then become, in my opinion, your own best teacher. It will allow you to enhance your execution of your techniques, allow you to anticipate your opponents’ movements better and, if you are shown new techniques or concepts, it will allow you to incorporate them into your skill set faster and to a higher level of proficiency.

Demonstration of technique watched intently by other practitioners during training.

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