Saturday, June 21, 2008

Advanced Techniques

Advanced techniques are the basics mastered. (From Bruce K. Siddle's Sharpening the Warrior's Edge)

I read that quote yesterday, and it reminded me of something my Shito Ryu karate instructor once said (referring to a shelf of martial arts books in the dojo's waiting room): "Everyone reaches for the books on advanced techniques, but they leave the introductory books alone."

In the warrior arts, as in baseball, basketball or football, it's proficiency in the basics that count when you're in the clinch. There are a lot of people who want to jump to the advanced material, because they are looking for a silver bullet -- that magic move that will make them into master warriors. But in reality, the only silver bullet is practice.

I once read a jujitsu master's answer to a questioner who wanted to know if he could advance in his art even though he moved away from his instructor after advancing only a couple of belt ranks. The master answered that in any system the most important techniques are taught earliest. So, the major difference between a yellow belt and a black belt boils down to hundreds of hours of practice and thousands of repetitions.

During that time, he learns to feel the most efficient and the most effective ways to perform the basics. They also become almost automatic; they become second nature.

If you are following my suggestions for training in Christian Martialism (see "Christian Martialism on a Budget") either solo or with a partner, I hope you heeded my advice to first practice your techniques in slow motion. The reason is so that you learn the mechanics of a technique correctly. It's much easier for you or your partner to detect bad form when you are moving very slowly.

Slow practice imprints your neural pathways with the same form that you will later use when moving at lightning speed. But at first you must make it slow to make sure it's right. As your practice continues, the neural paths become stronger. But you're not ready for fast moves yet.

As your practice strengthens certain axon/dendrite patterns, you will notice that performing the movement requires less conscious supervision with respect to how you hold your arms or legs, the path that they travel, etc. The technique seems to flow, and your execution acquires a smooth quality. Now you are ready to increase your speed.

Don't try for blurring speed all at once, though. When you first notice how smooth and effortless your technique has become, you'll be tempted to pour on the speed. Okay, go a head and try a few reps, but then go back to your slo-mo speed and gradually increase the pace. Otherwise, jumping to warp speed may result in allowing sloppiness to creep in.

You can use this learning method in both empty hand and weapons practice. If you follow this model, your movements will be clean, crisp . . . and faster than a speeding bullet. And others will think that you have access to some secret, advanced techniques, when all you've done is master the basics.

Bookmark and Share


dlr said...

"slow is smooth, smooth is fast" or something like that...

Gravelbelly said...

I wish I'd come up with that phrasing, just so I could hear the Master Warrior tell me, "Well put, Clodhopper."

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Another great post. Where do you come up with this stuff?

Oh, and by the way, what is the Clodhopper? :-?


Gravelbelly said...

When you have to explain jokes, they usually cease to be funny, but here goes . . .

Clodhopper" refers to a peasant or rustic type who followed a plow and hopped over the clods of dirt the plow turned over. It was used to refer to a rustic type, usually clumsy and/or untutored in the social graces.

Back in the 1970's there was a TV show called Kung Fu starring David Carradine as Chinese martial artist Kwai Chang Kane who roamed the old West looking for his brother. If it sounds weird, it, was but the whole decade was weird, so the Kung Fu show didn't stand out.

Anyway there were flashbacks to the main character's youth in China where he learned his Kung Fu from a wise old Buddhist monk who called Kane "Grasshopper" as a sign of affection.

"Clodhopper" is my imaginary Scottish Master Warrior's name for me. It's a sort of tongue-in-cheek allusion to that old TV show, because my relation to my teacher is parallel that of Kane to his. The Master Warrior calls me Clodhopper to remind me of my inherent clumsiness.