We have all seen the movies and the videos of high flying, acrobatic athletes performing martial maneuvers that defy physics. Although extremely entertaining, most of us know that astounding leaps and earth shattering kicks don’t really happen in the real world. Likewise, extended weapon exchanges that go parry for parry and lay waste to the surrounding set usually are more fantasy than fact. In reality, exchanges with weapons are fast, direct and simple. Defenses against such attacks must be the same.
There is usually at least one moment in training every student when I say something to the effect of “this is not the movies, stop making sunshine movements”. I have had students who never really got over this need to perform as if they were acting out one of their favorite scenes from The Seven Samurai or Enter the Dragon. Stanislavski once said and I often quote “love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art”. Many students fail to remove their own ego from their training and so their movements are always somewhat grand and overly dramatic; fulfilling their fantasy of “Martial Arts” rather than learning to defend themselves. Likewise, their emotions are usually fired up inappropriately as if they have to be in a state of emotional turmoil to perform the techniques properly. While this plays in the movies quite well, at home, it’s a different story. I often tell my students “no one really cares how you feel about it, they care what you do”. When an attack happens in reality, the student will most likely be surprised and if he lets his emotions run away, he may find himself in jail. Controlling your emotions will be essential to survival so why not train that way? A great teacher will help his students learn objectivity, clarity of thought and emotional control. Now, I have seen the opposite where so-called masters of their art are trying so hard to be laid back and emotionless that they are nearly unconscious and look like catatonic wet noodles loping about the floor; their technique weak, slow and passive. With their faces drooping and their eyelids nearly closed, they look more like one of the seven dwarves than a serious combat instructor.
Understanding the appropriate flow of emotional and physical energy through your body and mind is the long term goal of your training. True Masters never seem to work that hard but there is no mistake that they are fully engaged. Even in his advanced years, Uncle Leo was always “locked in” when he trained his students; his back leg extended, his stance solid, his attention alert and focused. But, he was also relaxed and his movements laconic. Everything must be in balance. You can be neither overly excited nor relaxed. Grand Master Giron used to say to me “Don’t work so hard, you have a lot of people to fight today”. Conservation of energy, both emotional and physical, is extremely important. Understanding when and where to apply force can not only make you faster and more powerful, but it can save you from emotional trauma as well. Learn to be light hearted in your training. It is serious enough business you are learning without adding unnecessary drama that satisfies your fantasy. Learn this and your movements will become refined, your technique more effective, your timing even faster and your training more serious and fun at the same time; all things in moderation and balance.