Last week, I attempted to describe one of my favorite lower body warm-up exercises. Online and offline feedback since then indicate that my description wasn’t as clear as I intended.
The particular choreography of this kicking exercise isn’t so important. I recommended it for its general characteristics. To explore those qualities, let’s contrast the exercise with a more common kicking drill:
You will fight like you train, as the saying goes, and there is some truth in it. If you have never tried to apply your martial art against a fully resisting opponent, it is unlikely to work as well as you would hope. Therefore, a practical martial arts curriculum should include a variety of common attacks, drilled with realistic speed and power.
A reasonable conclusion, isn’t it? But a surprisingly popular school of thought goes much further, contending that:
You should always train as if fighting, as this is the only way to improve your fighting ability.
This is nonsense, and every martial artist should understand why.
Perhaps there are two ways to approach martial arts training, after all.
I am not talking about soft and hard, or fast and slow, or offense and defense. Nor am I referring to external and internal martial arts—whatever you take those terms to mean.
The first method requires a partner. Together you drill common attack scenarios, one by one, until you’ve perfected a set of automatic, thoughtless and effective responses.
Mastery is efficiency. A master of their art simultaneously exerts less effort, and achieves greater results than others. Wouldn’t it would be wonderful if attaining mastery was as easy as defining it?
It is that easy, and that difficult.
Su Dongpo occupied a government post on the northern shore of the Yangtze River. Across the river at Jinshan Temple lived the Chan master Foyin.
One day, Su Dongpo, feeling proud of his accomplishments in meditative practice, wrote a poem and dispatched it to Foyin for approval:
I bow my head to the heaven within heaven
Whose light illuminates the universe
The eight winds cannot move me
Sitting still upon the golden purple lotus
When Foyin received the poem, he read it, wrote a single word in reply, and sent it back.
The low kick is the most dangerous attack in unarmed martial arts. A single well-placed kick to the knee or ankle can render the opponent unable to stand, and consequently unable to escape or defend against further attacks.
Low kicks are so effective that even seasoned martial artists have difficulty defending against them. Faced with such a challenge, some simply choose to ignore the threat, and concentrate on more glamorous hand techniques instead.
Denial is usually not an effective method of self-defense. However, Wing Chun teaches us how to use denial to our advantage, and thereby protect ourselves. According to Wing Chun principles, we should deny an attacker the position, the balance and the time to succeed with a low kicking attack.
Excerpt from Yoga, Ahimsa and Terror by David Frawley:
The Bhagavad-Gita, which teaches about the spiritual aspect of yoga in great detail, was taught on the battlefield, during a civil war. While some will say that this outer battlefield is a metaphor for an inner struggle, which is true, that an outer battle was involved is clear from many historical records from ancient India. Krishna, the great yoga teacher, encouraged his disciple Arjuna, who was a great warrior, to fight, though Arjuna was reluctant and wanted to follow a way of non-violence instead. Why did Krishna encourage Arjuna to fight?
Ji Shengzi was training a fighting cock for King Xuan of Zhou.
After ten days of training passed, King Xuan asked, “Is the cock ready for a fight?” Ji Shengzi said, “Not yet. He is still haughty and conceited.”
Another ten days went by. King Xuan asked again, and Ji said “Not yet. He is still glaring and domineering.”
After another ten days went by, King Xuan asked once more. Ji Shengzi replied, “He is about ready for the fight. When other cocks crow, he is not affected. He looks like a cock made of wood. Other cocks dare not challenge him, they will simply run away.”
From the Taoist classic book Zhuangzi.
The classification of Chinese martial arts into two families—internal and external—is generally accepted without question. Despite its popularity, the precise definition and significance of these families is not universally agreed upon.
What is the origin of the internal/external categorization? And what should it mean to you as a martial artist?