As a martial artist, it is my belief that everything must be tested under intelligent pressure.
Every stance, every technique, and every tactic should be heavily and effectively tested in order to perfect our mastery of it.
However, this does not mean to go all out every opportunity we have.
The keyword is not heavily; it is effectively.
Effectively does not mean speed + power.
On the contrary, there will be times where we will deliberately need to be softer and slower to master the finer points of what we are practicing.
You should be worried if your instructor tells you to go hard and strong all the time.
When learning a new technique, always make sure that:
- We first understand its fundamentals.
- Break it down to its simplest form and movement.
- Move at your slowest speed possible.
- Only speed up to the extent that you know what you are doing.
- Test it under alive situations.
It is always ideal to have an experienced partner or coach to have you test your techniques under alive and realistic conditions.
Here are the three degrees that he or she should provide you with:
At the early stages of learning a new move, your partner or coach should be a human dummy for you. He should allow you to practice your moves entirely to your needs. He should feed you the relevant moves and attacks with the main priority that you properly acquire the technique. Reverse the roles at the end of each segment for mutual progress.
This is the most important phase of acquiring a technique, yet most people struggle here. Too many people are unwilling to cooperate, to feed selflessly, to learn how to coach effectively. If you observe how boxing and fencing coaches feed their students, you will see that they design everything for their students to practice and progress effectively.
This cannot be achieved if both you and your partner cannot understand how to be fully compliant when feeding each other at the early stage. It will only escalate to ambiguous sparring, which benefits nobody when we are talking about learning something new.
After we have properly acquired a stance, movement, technique or tactic, it is time to study its variations.
Not just the variations of the expression on its own, but in relation to another human being who will respond to what you are doing.
Here, the purpose is to master those variations and most importantly, study the interaction.
Once again, this cannot be achieved if the training parties are too eager to “start fighting” and deviate from the path of effectively assisting each other.
Adrenaline, inexperience and an overt eagerness to spar can often result in the breaking down of this stage.
This is a crucial stage — it determines how much of deliberate practice and mileage we put into understanding the infinite variations of our craft.
It is also during this phase that our training partners/coaches begin to progressively and creatively increase the difficulty levels of resistance and non-compliance.
After we acquire the techniques, how much we improve from there on depends on this phase.
At the end of the spectrum we have Non-compliance.
Only when we are familiar with the variations of our expression can we finally progress to full-contact sparring.
Without sparring or pressure-testing from our coaches it is not possible to “graduate” from that expression and have it ready for the real world.
If your school inhibits sparring you should try to find out the reasons for it.
Non-compliant training does not mean reckless violence.
There are several variations of non-compliant pressure testing that I will address in detail in future articles.
The key takeaway from this short article:
Everything must be tested under intelligent pressure.
Not randomly, not carelessly, not irresponsibly, but progressively through effective and well-thought means.
How else are we going to get onto the other side of the bridge?