Nowadays, everyone seems to want a practice. But the fact that martial arts practice has a path all its own may result in some disappointment to those seeking a casual gym-style experience. Such deep practice can render unexpected results. The art establishes a special relation to the body, leading to some confused feelings. I thought that it might be a benefit for students to recognize some signposts on the journey. Phases like those below do not follow a given sequence but, with the proper amount of practice, they will come.
2. Bruce Lee Resurrected
More permanent progress will occur when you just wake up one morning and discover that, overnight, you have become 300% better than when you turned in. Was it a magical night? Did you drink ancient Shaolin herbal formulas? Martial progress is rarely a straight march. Skills develop at inexplicable moments. Do not to worry about keeping up to the new standard.
3. Skills Don’t Always Help
Martial skills are many and deep. For some students, though, the so called “search for excellence” can actually hamper training. Upon reaching a certain skill level they may stop training. Then some of the lower ranked students cruise right past them. This is a common stumbling block.
4. The Shock of the Subtle
You may assume that martial arts is mostly physical. Then one day you realize that some movements are rich with personal and even—one might say— spiritual overtones. Some movements not only have an unexplained number of variations, but contain principles and general observations that actually indicate ways of maneuvering through life. This aspect of training takes time and only a percentage of students reach it, but it is there for eveyone.
5. The Range of Practice
Martial arts is a full-service activity. You want artistry of a high level? Try forms practice where ancient, traditional and beautiful movements are combined. You want a calming relaxation benefit? Try stance and breath training which shares many attributes with meditation. You just want health benefits? Select from a huge number of different methods. You want competition and the thrill of combat? Attend any of the dozens of local tournaments held throughout the seasons. This is not just a demographic break down; so many people will do this, so many will like that. It also holds true for each and every individual. Anyone who stays in the arts for a good period of time will avail herself of its diverse aspects.
6. Increased Proprioception
Proprioception is the brain’s ability to know where the limbs are located and how much force is best for a task. People with low proprioception have a hard time positioning their bodies. They order their right leg to kick and their left hands moves. Numerous studies and experiential feedback indicates that modern life is dulling the average person’s proprioception. Another way to look at it is physical dyslexia. Watch out for sliding glass doors!
7. The Unexpected New You
Martial training does not necessarily produce a slimmer, jucier version of you, the same as the present one only, well, better. Instead, this discipline carves entirely new neurological pathways daily. These movements reach us from a tradition thousands of years old, and can seem downright alien. Therefore the New You may be something different. Like so many things in life, mathematics, music, dance, love; martial arts can bring us to feelings and experiences we could not create doing normal training.