I find these days that far too many people treat martial arts like a comfort-driven, athletic hobby. Now I know the stereotypical hyberbole I’ll get for this: “different people practice for different reasons” (true), “some train just as a social activity” (also true), “some just want to stay in shape” (true again) and “many just want the traditional aspect, to learn about a culture” (true, true, true). However, this being said, I find so many want the comforts of home. Not to challenge themselves. Not to have to face themselves in the mirror and deal with their demons-not an easy task, to be sure. To not get tweaks, bruises, pulls, strains. To have a nice big beautiful dojo covered in expensive mats and the latest technology.
Now maybe I’m just jealous (I’m not but I digress) but I have a very old-school bothoan (club in Tagalog)-basic, hard floors, thin mats, paint cracking, no A/C with none of the comforts of your living room. My training tools are basic yet difficult, explosive and creative as I use what I have and what’s at my disposal. Combat (and, therefore, combat training) is not a comfort zone. It’s gritty, dirty, grimy, ugly and chaotic. I choose to train this way and have my students train this way. Hot, uncomfortable, unpredictable, grueling and sometimes downright intimidating. Safe? Yes, no question. I don’t want my tribe to go out on the street (where they really need these skills) injured or decimated due to the training. But I do want them to be hardened…battle-hardened, prepared mentally-physically-spiritually-emotionally-psychologically-on all levels for the realities of the worst-case scenario of what they may encounter from the modern criminal. I can assure you the modern criminal is not in an air-conditioned lodge with top-of-the-line mats, $2000 equipment and a hot shiny floor, getting ready to attack you. And, if it’s good enough in the old-school Filipino way of training, it’s good enough for us now. It’s an experience.
My top students have told me they never know what they’re going to get when they walk in the door. Which is how it should be. No preparation given, no alerts sent out, no time for emotional psyche-up. And when they complete the task, they’re euphoric, because they’ve overcome an obstacle thoroughly by using their adaptive, think-outside-the-box, honest-to-goodness gut instinct survival skills. Real pragmatic functional skill is built. At times through discomfort, anxiety and stress. Like a river over time wearing away rocks, their skills become ingrained, instinctive, natural, explosive and without thought. It’s a teaching methodology I realize not all are proponents of but inevitably the proof is in the pudding. What you put in, you get out. No forms, no pre-arranged sequences, no static response to static attacks. A problem-solving approach. Ironically (or perhaps not) the training is much like the bothoan. It’s there to serve a very specific purpose. Chosen for this very reason.
In conclusion, I guess my point is that for all the fancy equipment, state-of-the-art training tools, expensive new gym, top-of-the-line weights and machines-at the end of the day it’s the training methodology (concept-based) that makes the difference, not all the rest. Many will agree but few will practice what they preach.
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