Have you ever been to a restaurant where you wait for ages for your food to be served? I have. As a matter of fact, during my stay here in Dabki, Poland, I always had my biggest meal of the day in the same place. It’s a small fish-bar (restaurant would be too much, really) a couple of minutes from my hotel. Although prices are really high for polish standards, there’s always lots of customers patiently waiting for their fish. I guess none of them regrets the time he spant waiting. I certainly never did. Servings are huge here, the fish is freshly caught from the baltic sea just hours before it is served. The carrots and cabbage that’s served alongside the fish is just about awesome.
As I’ve already pointed out, it sometimes takes the staff here a really long time to prepare and serve the food. We’ve once waited for a full hour until we finally got to eat.
Now you might ask in what meaning this might have for the martial arts practicioner. None, really. Then again, it may be the answer to many struggles in the Dojo and in life. While the fish is expensive and it takes quite a while for it to be served, the reward is well worth it. Rushing, pushing and fretting won’t speed the process up in any way and will ultimately just spoil the whole thing.
It’s really the same thing with the martial arts. No matter which martial arts style you practice, it’ll take a lot of just that – practice. Obviously, all people are not equal. Some will learn faster, some will require a longer time. There are those that are just naturally fast, strong and flexible while others just aren’t. That doesn’t mean a thing in the long term, though. The martial arts aren’t just about physical prowess. For me, the essential pillars of any martial art are
- physical development. Shaolin Kung Fu started as a system of „functional gymnastics“ to reestablish an acceptable fitness minimum amongst fat, unfit monks. The potential helth benefits of the martial arts are huge. Hence, it’s careless not to devote some of that training time to physical fitness. Without going into detail, a martial artists will – depending on their chosen style – benefit in one or more of the following areas.
- Pain tolerance
- combat abilities. After all, the martial arts are about combat. Not teaching real-world skills turns a martial arts class to an aerobics class in no time. That’s a no-brainer. Still, combat abilities aren’t limited to technique. In a nutshell, here’s what contributes to a well-rounded fighter’s overall skill
- technique. This is another obvious one. I’ve come to view technique training as a means of teaching proper biomechanics. Most strikes, kick, throws, takedowns, sweeps and even joint locks are a display of high-level applied motor skill. With applied I mean that the visual, vestibular and proprioceptive sensory system all play a part in adapting a drilled movement patttern (i.e. a particular technique) to the situation. Hence, technique is not set in stone but rather an application of sound biomechanics to solve a movement task that’s determined by the situation. Ok, now that might sound over-scientific, but I do believe it makes sense once you take some time to think about it.
- timing. This is crucial. The best technique – I’m using the term liberately here – won’t do you no good if it’s performed too early or too late.
- distance control. This closely relates to timing really. Then again, it’s alos about getting your opponent where you want him. For a grappler, this might be the floor, for a kickboxer it’s probably the ropes. Therefore, distance control is not only reactive (choose the right technique for the current distance) but also pro-active (set up the right distance for your techniques).
- force control. Dealing with force is huge. Going into detail here is beyond the scope of this post – after all, I’m still on vacation and want to enjoy my day -, but this is a central theme in just about every martial art. Everyone interprets and does it differently, but in the end, it all boils down to the same basics.
- mental fitness. This one’s even bigger than the previous, so I won’t offer a complete list but instead just list some of the mental traits that are developed through the martial arts.
- clearness of mind
- inner peace
- satisfaction. Another thing that can’t be under-estimated. If you’re not satisfied by what you’re doing, you probably better be changing it really quick. Life’s short, you know…
Now the above list is by no means complete, I could probably think of another three of four important points right now, but that’s not necessary to get to the point. The point is, some (if not all) of the above stated qualities, attributes and skills will be improved by your martial arts practice. Any improvement places you in a better place than you were in before you started taking classes. Measuring your personal progress against someone else’s probably ain’t a good idea. The martial arts offer you a unique, personal way to become a better person. Chances are, you’re even training something that ends on „Do“, which basically just means „Way“. It’s your way, always remember that. Just because someone else seems to be taking a shortcut (there really are none, in the long term) or appears faster than you, doesn’t make your personal journey any less meaningful, really.
Whenevery ou get frustrated because something isn’t working out the way you imagined it would, don’t fret about it. Instead, think about all the seemingly „little“ thing that have improved since you first set foot into your Dojo or gym. I dare bet those sum up to quite a lot. It’s those improvements that make your journey worthwhile. The rewards that can be reaped from practicing a martial arts are potentially huge. Chances are you already experienced some. On the other hand, the potential for frustration is equally big – here, too, you’ve probably already had your share. It’s important not to spoil everything you’ve achieved by allowing negative thoughts and frustration to become rampant.
Don’t rush, don’t push, don’t try to force anything. You can’t, anyway. Not in the long term. Said fish bar had a signboard attached to a pillar at the counter.