On an email list I’m on, we were discussing the long term changes and evolutions you go through in the body mechanics you learn. A lot of ideas went forward and backwards and here’s something I ended up writing.
I think he’s right. My teacher once said we’re all just doing a Western interpretation of how you should train Chinese arts. When he lived in Hong Kong, he’d spend all his time with his teacher. Train for hours on end, go into the hills with him and train there, talk history, techniques and strategy, etc. If you have such a training regimen and can keep it up your entire life, it’s a far cry from us, Western schmucks, who can only manage a few hours a day at best. So I don’t think it’s realistic to want to move like the Chinese teachers who’ve been training 4, 5, 6h a day for decades on end. You gotta pay your dues first.
I sincerely believe this is true. You can’t take shortcuts if you want to be as good as some of the most impressive martial artists out there. For the most of us, that’s just not in the cards: we have to work, have families and friends, etc. Being a full time martial artist is not really a common career here in the West.
Somebody else replied that you should apply your martial arts training in every day life, seek out every opportunity to practice: As you reach for a glass of water, work on your structure, your breathing, etc. I understand the concept well enough and to a large degree do this myself. But I feel there is a lot of misunderstanding about the very idea of applying martial arts in daily life. Here’s what I replied:
This is one of the things I only agree with up to a certain point. I believe this type of training has a lot of value. Hell, I flipped the light switch on and off with my feet for a long time when I was younger, much to the annoyance of my family. But it sure did benefit my kicking techniques.
However, I think there’s a limit to how far you can take this before it becomes a waste of time. Time better spent training the style you’re learning. E.G.: If I spend fifteen minutes getting every movement right as I walk to the kitchen and drink a glass of water, I won’t get nothing done. Which means everything takes more time, which means I won’t have time to train.
In contrast, if you spend an extra fifteen minutes training your art, do it right and have a good teacher (and some more qualifiers), after a while you won’t be able to pick up that glass of water in the wrong way.
I’m simplifying, I know, but only to make a point: MA systems didn’t come into existence to find a more efficient way to do every day things like pick up a glass and drink water from it. I know this is the theory that is gaining ground the last few years but I don’t buy it. I firmly believe MAs have fighting/combat as the main goal and focus.
There is obviously overlap into daily/other activities but then again, these can be arts in and of themselves, not necessarily compatible ones: I have nothing of respect for somebody who masters origami or ikebana. But I really doubt they use the exact same body mechanics as a karate sensei. Mental focus, sure. But the overlap is perhaps not as big as some might think.
Obviously, you are free to disagree with me but instead of getting better at picking up glasses, I’d rather go to my garage or to class and train a bit more. I think it’s more productive.