My Sensei has often told me that it takes 30 years of training before you actually begin learning your Martial Art. This 30 years is comprised of 10 years each of learning to relax, learning to adjust and learning to move naturally.
Below is my interpretation of what my Sensei, Sensei Cieplik, has shared with me and is subject to change as I learn more about this over the coming years:
During the first decade, we must learn to relax. Instead of punching and kicking with tense neck muscles and teeth gritted, we need to learn how to strike or block with loose muscles. Tightening at the last moment, at the moment of impact is the key to speed, power and good technique. An overactive mind and tight body is not something that will give you the results you are after.
For example, if you drove through heavy traffic for 45 minutes, after a full day of work, chances are you are going to be stressed by the time you get to class. This stress or tension will transfer to our techniques if we do not learn how to relax. We need to be relaxed at all times so that our techniques can flow and happen without hesitation.
The second decade is spent making the techniques adjust to our bodies. If we have some sort of physical issue, such as damaged joints or muscle imbalances, we may not be able to perform certain techniques in our Martial Art.
For example, if your hip joints do not allow you to side thrust kick above belt level, you can develop an extremely effective side thrust kick to knee level, shin level or whatever your body will allow. Just because you cannot break ribs with a side thrust kick, you may have the ability to disable your attacker with a low kick or if kicks are not possible, you can develop your punches or strikes to accomplish the same result.
Just because we cannot perform movements that we see in videos, books or at tournaments, it does not mean that our Karate is not as effective. It is our ability to adjust the techniques to our limitations that make our Karate effective.
During the last decade, we must learn to move naturally. Doing the technique with no mind and having the movements become automatic, much like walking, is what we want to strive toward. Being able to relax and easily move within our bodies limits will ultimately allow us to move naturally.
This is not to say that you cannot be good Karate or good at other Martial Arts before 30 years of training but putting in the time to master these three concepts will certainly bring you from good to great.
Please leave a comment or your opinion. I would like to hear it.
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I agree completely, particularly with the “Adjust” portion of this post. I studied Kendo for several years back in the ’90s, and I remember a fellow student who had no left arm. Instead, he had a prosthetic that would allow some rudimentary gripping ability, but no fine motor control. Nevertheless, he was easily one of the best students in the class. It took him a little while to learn to perform the techniques with the physical limitations that he faced, but he refused to let those limitations define his martial arts…or himself. It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve last seen this particular student, but he is still an inspiration to me today.
That is an awesome story. It doesn’t matter if someone has a back injury, shoulder injury or almost any type of injury, they can still do Martial Arts if they want to. I have seen many students quit over the years because of injury but if they only believed that they could work around their problems, they could still do it.
Thanks for sharing that story with me, I plan on using it when others want to quit because they feel they cannot do something because of a physical limitation.
Yes, by all means, please feel free to share that story!