More about the training of martial arts

All martial arts are abstract from the real thing. There is no perfect imitation of what is chaos – a violent encounter. At best we try to imitate, to take aspects of the whole and train these.

Many martial arts take a single aspect of the whole and specialize in that. Brazilian jujitsu is reknowned for its ground grappling expertise. Judo, sambo, wrestling, shuai jiao for their skill in standing grappling and throwing. Boxing for its fists. Baguazhang is an attempt to take a look at the whole and what binds the pieces together. At its essence, it provides not only technique and methods of building skill, but an overarching paradigm with which to understand the chaos.

Like I say often in class, there are many aspects wherein Baguazhang tries to take the big look at things, and train not just a part, but the whole. Not just ABC or XYZ, but A through Z. You can see this in the forms wherein the body and mind are taken through a full range of motion and led to open the joints, the tendons, to make strong the bones and muscles, and to make clear, focussed and fully aware the mind/intent.

To train the whole still requires one to take it in pieces. Baguazhang will take different aspects of the whole pie and train them separately as well as together. Furthermore, this is often done to balance the training as well. Sometimes we will train in one direction, only to switch gears at some point and train in the other. There are times when we train for speed, others for power. There are times to train for light, others for heavy. Etc.

Again, these are all things that we hear in class everyday. Is it understood intuitively? Do you emphasize it in your training?

More later.

About george

George Wood is the head instructor of Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts, based in Northern Virginia. He teaches the martial arts of Baguazhang and Xingyiquan.
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4 Responses to More about the training of martial arts

  1. jleeger says:

    This is a great post, George. I agree with you 100%, and I feel like this is where the issue of motivation comes in. The one thing that ultimately decides whether someone will continue to practice or not is their level of motivation.

    How do you affect that? Not you specifically, but, what are your thoughts on that?

  2. george says:

    Motivation is something that I’m increasingly pessimistic about (and I didn’t mean that in an ironic sense). I can only speak for me and my experiences here, but, here’s some points I’ve noticed in my studies of martial arts:

    1 – Even a motivated, dedicated person will have different levels of motivation over his lifetime. I can cite myself in this category. With kids, wife, stress, money problems, injuries… all sorts of things conspire together to stand in the way of a good training schedule. I can’t practice as much now as I would like to or did when I was younger. I go through cycles where I train more and when I train less.

    2 – I’m not even sure you can “teach” or “inspire” motivation. I’ve seen hundreds of people that would talk the talk, but never got around to walking the walk. And walking the walk long term is what is needed in gongfu – skill acquired through hard work over time. As much as I’ve personally tried to push and lead people to try more and to drive themselves harder, it doesn’t seem to do much. I think I can set an example, I think I can occasionally get like minded people, but I’m just increasingly pessimistic about creating a motivated individual from one who is not.

    3 – And honestly, our culture is progressively not promoting self-motivation. Many believe its preferable to go to a group aerobics, yoga or crossfit type class than it is to learn the lessons of forging oneself, the lessons of dedication and self-discovery one can obtain are left by the wayside though, in that case. Being led by the collar is not the same as boldly going forward under one’s own power. But then again, gaining spiritual, meaningful internal insight is not something that society is promoting or putting value on these days.

    4 – I personally predominantly teach adults, not young kids in a wrestling program, or zit-faced teenagers at army boot camp. I can’t really force them to do anything. I remember trying to get my students to work towards certain goals over a 3 month period. Although they were all self-dictated goals, they had 3 months, they were concrete and obtainable… only one person out of about half a dozen got anywhere close to completing their goals. Disappointing, but instructive to me as well about the level of people’s motivation. Heck, I can’t even make people come to class on a consistent, regular basis and that is something that I think should be the bare minimum necessary.

    5 – My innate nature is to just tell people to suck it up and get to it. When I was a kid if you had to do your chores, you had to. It wouldn’t matter to my Grandpa if I didn’t feel like chopping wood today, either I did it or I didn’t do anything else until I did. Whining is generally the name of the game these days. Whether it’s “I was tired,” to “I had something else to do,” to “I hurt my little thumb and can’t practice,” to the slightly more honest “I just didn’t feel like it” – It’s apparently easier to whine about it than to dig in and do it.

    6 – Another cultural reason, many people, in an effort to preserve their own sense of responsibility and prevent damage to their ego, would always prefer to place the blame and responsibility on someone else, rather than themselves. You hurt yourself, you sue someone else. You didn’t learn that in school, you blame the teacher and the school. You’re fat, you blame society and “the man.” It’s always easier for people to feel good about themselves by shifting all this onto something or someone else.

    There’s probably a lot more to this. I’ve got to get back to the kids now though.

  3. george says:

    Dang… that turned out pretty long.

    I think I’m just going to move it to a new topic about motivation.

  4. Nick says:

    That was some great observation on motivation. I’ve notice the same thing about not always being able to practice as much as you want to. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been over here in Argentina. Things just seem to happen like bronchitis or trauma to a tendon or whatever. Seems like every time I try to put my nose to the grind stone and train hard on a daily basis something prevents me from doing it.

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