After my first post on martial arts in every day life, I received a fair bit of comments. Dennis, a tai chi brother of mine, left me a lot of ideas to think about and here’s my reply:
“Would the most impressive martial artists out there and/or full time marital artists turn their martial arts “training” on and off depending on whether they were suited up at in the gym: maybe not. Would some aspects, awareness for example, be “on” at almost all times? Maybe. If it’s body mechanics we’re talking about would they really bend, lift, move differently because they were not “in training”. That might depend on how you think about it (I’ll get to that in a minute).”
The aspects you mention would certainly be on most of the time, regardless of where that martial artist would be. At least, that would be the goal. If not, what’s the point in training?
As for the body mechanics, there certainly is a lot of overlap between training and daily life. However, when was the last time you did anything resembling our version of “snake creep down” in your every day life? :-) I’m exaggerating but my point is that the overlap is not 100%.
“Maybe the point where you would disagree depends on some assumptions that are at least relative: first who says you have to “seek out” the opportunity to practice – again with regard to body mechanics, doesn’t training become unconscious and automatic in terms of how you move transfer force, use leverage, etc.? “
It sure does. A personal example: I use “seven stars” footwork all the time in daily life. It’s almost second nature now. But you’ll almost never catch me using it *exactly* like we practice it in class. I’d look like a fool, zig-zagging all over the place like that. :-)
Some parts indeed become automatic but (for me at least) they are never as good as when I’m actually training. But I think that’s only to be expected.
“You argument against the time efficiency pre-supposes that it’s faster for example to turn on/off the light with a hand: maybe. Maybe it wouldn’t matter much. My point above is that walking to the kitchen to drink a glass of water wouldn’t necessarily involve additional time. (And I thought that I was only one turning light switches on/off with my feet:-)”
It wouldn’t necessarily take up more time but in all probability, it will:
- If I do it practicing my tai chi, I have to move slowly. So, it takes more time.
- If I want to practice other arts, I’ll probably go faster. But unless I get it right the first time, I’ll start over until I do whatever I’m practicing correctly. Personally, I’m rarely, if ever, happy with my first attempt. So once again, I lose time.
“It’s subjective (maybe fanciful:-), I know, and based as much my own imagination as anything else, but – at least in the case of Tai Chi – it could be that as an integrative art (martial as well as therapeutic and philosophical) it was a matter of typical Asian elegance and efficiency that the hardness of Kung Fu could be blended with the softness of Taoist Yin-Yang theory and the practice of the two offering the therapeutic benefits of Chi Gung at the very same time. It could be a myth that the martial arts of old had nothing but free time to train; most perhaps also had families to tent to, “jobs” and other demands – horses to tend, wood to chop, water to carry. If they be warriors of some sort, wouldn’t it be handy to have a type of training that served the dual purposes of rehabilitation (I am assuming there were lots of injuries here in there in that line of work) as well as martial abilities. If they be priests, wouldn’t it be handy to have a type of meditative, contemplative, healing practice that also happened to offer transferable self-defense skills. Would it be any different for the regular Joe who had to chop wood and carry water or at least work in the field or the woods for sustinence?”
I think the martial side came first and the things you mention are derivatives, fortunate byproducts. As in:
- Train hard regularly and you get in shape to defend yourself.
- Because you get in shape, you are more healthy and have less injuries.
- If you do have injuries, you quickly notice that adapted training often improves your condition. And the therapeutic aspect is born… :-)
- Because you train hard (and beat a few guys in a couple fights), you become more confident and at peace.
- If you have to go into combat, the PTSD and other psychological damage can drive you towards religion or meditative practices. And yet another aspect is added to the art…
I know I’m oversimplifying but only do so to make my point. It’s probably not as black and white as I make it out to be. And we’ll also never know as nobody today was there when tai chi was “created”. So all we can do is post our theories.
That said, I’m a firm believer in Bob Orlando’s cycle of fighting techniques => fighting system=>martial art=>martial sport and then the cycle starts over. So that probably colors my opinion on this subject a bit. :-)
“It also seems to me that the accomplished Tai Chi guys of old would have been aware that the hard style training systems too often tend to create the opposite of what they intend: rather than fit warriors they often produce injured victims.”
The longer I train, the less I see the border line between hard and soft styles. So I don’t really know if this statement is valid or not. I don’t think it is but I could be wrong.
“And lastly, then or now, what’s the most likely need for the average guy doing the work on a day to day, minute by minute basis? To be able to relax, be present and adapt, or to be able to deliver the decisive blow? It’s possible that martial arts training is as much about dealing with the forces encountered in daily life as it is dealing with a jab-cross-hook combination (or in the case of our current fascination with grappling, a favorite take-down move). Thanks for the topic, great thought generator!”
I agree with you on what the average guy needs. But I don’t think tai chi would be his first choice for that. It’s way too demanding for that. There are so many other ways to achieve relaxation or presence of mind, all of them more accessible than tai chi.
My overall view is this:
There is obviously overlap between martial arts training and daily life and that’s good. But I don’t think it’s black and white. Trying to apply your martial arts skills to everything you do in daily life in the hope of getting better at the arts doesn’t make sense to me. It violates the specificity principle, which I firmly believe in. You get better at martial arts by training martial arts, not by swimming or cycling. And certainly not by picking up a glass of water in the kitchen.
Does that mean you shouldn’t try to pick up that glass in conformity to what you learn in your art? Not at all. It means that you shouldn’t spend 15 minutes on it. Because if you have 15 minutes to spare, drinking the glass takes 1 minute, leaving you with 14 minutes to actually train martial arts. Which one do you think is more effective?