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Tenets of Training
Eight Directions Martial Arts
Dec 8th, 2008viewed 2343 times

Tenets of Training

  • Knowledge
  • Effort
  • Discipline
  • Perseverance
  • Skill

Skill, like quality, can be difficult to define, but most people intuitively recognize skill when they see it. In the words of Barbara Knapp: “A skill is the learned ability to bring about pre-determined results with maximum certainty; often with the minimum outlay of time or energy or both.” For a martial artist, that “pre-determined result” is a successful defense and counter-attack against an aggressive adversary. In performing this task, the martial artist often displays timing, agility, quickness and focused power. Aside from the violence involved, a demonstration of martial skill can be both elegant and graceful.

How does one develop such skill? The steps are outlined in our tenets of training.

Knowledge. This is the foundation of all learning. In martial arts, knowledge can be fundamental, as in learning how to perform individual techniques such as blocks, kicks and punches. Or, it can be complex, as in learning how to apply techniques in dynamic situations. Knowledge may apply purely to the realm of physical movement, but it may extend into the realm of mental skill, such as the ability to read an opponent or the development of tactics and strategy.

The teacher may offer knowledge to the student, but it is up to the student to transform that knowledge into usable skill.

Effort. Every student will realize early on that there is a profound difference between knowing a technique and being able to perform it well. Physical adaptations are necessary for the beginner to be able to perform even minimally effective techniques. These adaptations include muscular strength, flexibility, endurance and coordination. All such adaptations are achieved through repetitive practice and attention to detail. Such practice requires effort.

Discipline. Development of skill isn’t easy-and it isn’t always fun. Sometimes it is necessary to make yourself practice on required movements. Everyone tends to enjoy some aspects of training more than others. For example, some people hate forms but enjoy sparring. To fully develop your skill, however, you should give your best effort to all aspects of training, even those you don’t especially like, in order to derive the benefits such training offers. That requires a strong measure of self-discipline.

Perseverance. Knowledge is useless without the effort to learn, but even such effort yields limited results unless you maintain your effort over time. It may be tempting to skip practice when you’re tired or not in the mood, but if you truly seek excellence, you will practice even when you don’t feel like it. Even when progress is slow, even when you feel discouraged, you keep trying. That is perseverance. You must persevere in order to reach your fullest potential.

Skill. This is the ultimate outcome of serious training, the goal to which you aspire. Remember the definition: “…the learned ability to bring about pre-determined results with maximum certainty; often with the minimum outlay of time or energy or both.”

For a clearer understanding, let’s examine some finer points.

Motor skills. These are physical skills that may be divided into two categories:

  • Simple motor skills
  • Complex motor skills

Simple motor skills are basic body movements that are common to many sports and everyday activities-such as walking, running, jumping or throwing. In martial arts, many reflexive movements are simple motor skills that can be employed effectively in self-defense.

Complex motor skills are intricate or sequential movements that require a superior control of many different body parts. Advanced martial art skills require complex movements that must be continually refined and polished.

Mental skills. Martial arts require a great deal of mental activity. As previously noted, the development of tactics and strategy and the ability to read an opponent are mental skills. On a more fundamental level, however, the martial artist who strives for excellence must analyze his own performance and correct his errors. This demands much mental effort.

Closed skills/open skills. These might also be referred to as “mastery of self” and “mastery of others.” Generally, the former must be achieved before the latter.

Closed skills are those not affected by external factors, such as the unpredictable movements of a live opponent. Basic techniques, forms and one-step sparring are examples. Solo practice exercises, such as basics and forms, allow the martial artist to develop complex skills without the added pressure of responding to an attack. In one-steps, the opponent’s movements are predetermined, which allows the development of timing and focus.

Open skills contain an element of unpredictability, which can affect a martial artist’s effectiveness. A bigger, stronger, faster, or even more skillful opponent can present a seemingly insurmountable challenge, but a skillful martial artist seeks, nonetheless, to determine his adversary’s weaknesses and exploit them.

Master Mike Jones
Chief Instructor
School of Eight Directions
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