Ever notice how sometimes a good instructor can say something just in passing that has a profound effect on your training for the rest of your life? I recently had one of those experiences.
A couple weeks ago, I attended the annual Kyusho Jitsu Kenkyukai Gathering where martial artists from all over the U.S. come to train with Grandmaster Instructor, Chris Thomas.
Over the weekend, I’d learned enough things to keep me posting for the rest of the year. (There’s plenty more coming, so stay tuned.) Right now though, I’d like to focus on something that Thomas said while introducing another Master Instructor, Dustin Seal.
You should know that Dustin Seal is an incredible martial artist, who has devoted his life to the study and practice of the combat arts. He’s served as a Marine in the U.S. Armed Forces, worked casino security, and now works as a Sheriff’s Deputy in a very dangerous area. As a martial artist, he walks the talk.
During the introduction, Thomas explained that everyone who trains, falls somewhere on a spectrum. On one hand, you’ve got Fighters, people who actually live for combat. They like contact, hit hard, and aren’t shy about engaging an opponent.
On the other end of the spectrum are those we can call Martial Artists. These are people who love the ‘sweet science’ of the arts. They enjoy understanding the body mechanics, the physics, and principles of good martial arts.
In our organization, we also spend a great deal of time studying pressure point theory; learning about the points, meridians, and cycles of energy within the human body. Those that Thomas would classify as Martial Artists are also the type that really get into the in-depth study of these kinds of concepts.
Now, most people tend toward one end of the spectrum or the other. They like sparring, target drills, and full contact competition or they work toward perfecting their form, understanding anatomy, building a good self defense strategy, and even meditation. Both tendencies have their advantages and neither is wrong, they just represent the different paths that most of us take toward learning and understanding our art.
During the introduction, however, Thomas mentioned that occasionally you come across someone who is able to balance the raw spirit, experiences, and physical engagement of the fighter with the expertise, knowledge, and quiet confidence of a martial artist. We call these people Warriors.
Thomas then brought up Dustin Seal, placed his hand on his shoulder, and praised him as being a Warrior, someone who puts the theory of martial arts into practice, both in the dojo and in the world.
Dusty has studied his art and knows how to use body mechanics, pressure points, and fight principles to gain advantage and survive on the street. It’s his job and he does it everyday.
But, Thomas’s words got me thinking about my own training. The truth is, I’ve always been more of a Fighter (or a Brawler – See below). In school, I got quite a few detentions/suspensions for fighting. Later, I found full contact kickboxing which helped me work out my aggressions in a more positive manner.
Even my job in a Juvenile Detention Center (where I try to help young men who’ve made many of the same mistakes that I made) surrounds me with a certain amount of violence almost everyday.
Now that I’m getting older, I no longer compete in combat sports, but I still love to spar or put on some gear for bogu training. The fact is, I love to bang.
Unfortunately for me, Master Instructor Thomas is a stickler for precise movement and clean tactics. That means whenever I try to force or muscle my techniques, he’s quickly there to show me how much more effective the movement is when you move properly. (This always means some sort of intense pain as I’m shown the error of my ways.)
Thomas refuses to let his students disregard the more technical elements of training. Body mechanics, fight strategy, and especially pressure points allow us to remain effective even as we get older.
The end goal, for myself or anyone else, is to become a Warrior. To embrace the physical and emotional aspects of our art while also gaining insight and knowledge into the methods that will make us more efficient and effective. It’s not enough to sit on one side of the spectrum or the other; we need to stay balanced and strong to find the Warrior inside us all.
PERSONAL NOTE: I should mention that I disagree with Master Thomas’s terminology regarding the tendencies at either end of the spectrum. Thinking about it; I would rename ‘Fighters’ as ‘Brawlers’ and rename what he referred to as ‘Martial Artists’ as ‘Technicians.’
To me, the word ‘Fighter’ still implies a strong understanding of fight methodology and strategy, while a ‘Brawler’ is just someone who likes to bang.
Likewise, I feel that ‘Martial Artists’ are people who ideally possess the physical skill, intellectual capability, and emotional commitment needed to survive a fight both in the ring and on the street. A ‘Tactician’ on the other hand, is someone who only considers strategy and principles but shuns an actual fight.
Remember, my terms, ‘Brawler’ and ‘Tactician’ are only meant to more accurately describe the far extremes of people who train at either end of the spectrum.
-Most of us fall somewhere in the middle with our own training and hopefully we will grow into the middle ground of a Warrior as we progress.