Friday, July 3, 2015

Mastery = Making the Basics Second Nature

I ascended the mist-shrouded mountain, the home of the Master of All Combat Arts, Ancient and Modern. As I toiled higher, I knew the question I must ask him: What must I do to achieve mastery in the art of self defense?

I knew I would find him robed in the traditional, ancient garb of his people, but I heard him before I saw him. His voice carried on the cool, mountain air as he intoned a song his folk have sung for many generations.

      The man is blest that hath not lent
         to wicked men his ear,
      Nor led his life as sinners do,
         nor sat in scorner's chair.
      But in the law of God the Lord
         doth set his whole delight,
      And in the same doth exercise
         himself both day and night.

I espied him, sitting on the flat top of a boulder, wrapped in his Scottish great kilt. I did not want to interrupt his devotions, so I waited at a respectful distance until he finished singing Psalm 1.

"Ye have absented yourself from my abode for quite a while, lad." The twinkle in his eyes belied the reproachful tone of his words. "What brings ye here this morning?"

"Well, sir, I've been involved in martial activities for some time, now, and I'm wondering how much more I have to learn become a real master."

"'How much more,' ye say?" He raised a thick, dark eyebrow that demanded clarification.

"Umm, yes. I want to know how many more techniques . . . er, skills I need to learn so as to have mastered an art."

"Hit me."


"I said, 'Hit me.'"

I knew better than to argue, so I snapped a palm heel strike to his chin. SLAP! His palm intercepted mine. He said, "Verrry good, Clodhopper! It would take a wee lass weeks of practice to hit that well."

Did I ever tell you how good he is at sarcasm?

He went on. "Almost every art introduces the most important skills very early in training. As the student learns more techniques, he must also keep practicing the basics. Learning all those techniques does not make him a master; mastery of the basics does."

"So, I need to master the palm heel strike."

"Train yerself to deliver it not only standing, but sitting and lying in bed. Train yerself to strike out the open window of your car -- both driver's and passenger's sides. Train to strike around obstacles and any other way you can imagine. Train by yerself, train wi' a partner, but train until you master that one skill."

"Okay, I'll practice that one skill."

"Not by itself, Clodhopper. Also practice one kick and one joint lock the same way -- from every position and every angle. After you master those three skills, add three more until you master them."

Then, he led me to his rocking chair and had me practice delivering palm heels with power from that unstable base. Finally, the time had come for me to descend the mountain, and I had plenty to think about on the way down.

I still had the principle of mastering the basics on my mind when I ran across this quote from Ken Hackathorn on FaceBook:

One of the most interesting things that I continue of learn as I study real world shootings is the fact that the degree of difficulty is not particularly high. Most shootings / shootouts require pretty straight forward skills. Running, jumping, rolling and other antics that are popular in the movies rarely come into play for real. Most of the time, it's just a simple matter of alignment and trigger press.

Steve C. had posted it on his timeline. I guess it goes to show that the basics matter most in just about everything.

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