We have all seen lines of martial artists repeating a specific punch or kick over and over as they attempt to engrain the technique. This is perhaps the most common sight in the martial arts and, although it has heavily fallen out of favour in some circles, repetition does still have its place in the early stages of learning. But behind the repetitions, the techniques, even the free form sparring or competitions there is a layer of ability that is rarely consciously trained. An ability that usually spontaneously grows out of long term training and is generally the preserve of a select few. This is the layer of the ‘Quality’ or ’Attribute’.
The combative exchange is predicated on a number key attributes that we see regardless of style or tradition, Attributes like Stability, Agility, or Adaptability. The Martial Artist must skilfully manipulate their own body, but also interact with another body that can move in a similarly skilful way. The exchange is the interplay of force, time, space and perception and all of these need to be understood intrinsically. However, when we continue to strip back the layers, ultimately there is nothing outside of our own movement and perception that can affect the outcome of an encounter. As the great Swordsman Miyamoto Musashi said :
Everything is within. Seek nothing outside of yourself.
These 2 pieces form the entirety of Martial Exchange; the ability to move in an appropriate way is needed to perform the given actions, and the way in which we perceive external factors allows us to motivate those movements and make them appropriate.
From these 2 grand concepts spring other smaller concepts that allow us to break things down into components that can be trained. When we talk about our own movement, we are talking about our power, our stability, our agility, our complexity and our freedom. When we are talking about our perception we are looking into how we perceive the time frame of an encounter, our adaptability, our acuity to dangers, our ability to perceive the movements of others and the forces acting upon us. Looking at this list, I wonder if you can think of a single martial art that does not require these attributes in its practitioners?
Most arts will handle the process of creating these qualities over many, many years and they will emerge from a dedicated and long term commitment to the system or tradition. This is, of course, the draw for many practitioners who greatly value the length of time and dedication needed to a single tradition or method. But it is possible for us to work towards creating them directly with conscious and deliberate training.
The current prevalence of ‘Movement Training’ in the MMA world has brought the importance of supplementary, seemingly unrelated, training into sharp focus but it is far from a modern idea. The great fighters of the recent past like Rickson Gracie. or further Kyuzo Mifune, knew that supplementary movement or solo training was beneficial to them. The reality is that no matter how familiar with the ‘chaos’ of a fight you are, if you can’t move in accordance with the requirements of the fight, you are already on the back foot, and if you cannot accurately perceive the situations, again you will be at a disadvantage.
But in MartialBody we aim to take this idea further and develop something even more fundamental than the physical articulations of our body. We aim to develop a ‘Quality’ to our actions. This seems like a difficult and somewhat ethereal notion, but trained ‘qualities’ are something we can feel whenever we interact with a highly skilled martial artist.
The nuance of movement within the style specific boundary is, of course, relevant, but behind this is a Quality that the experts movements exhibit, the attributes they possess regardless of the motions they make. Approaching training with the goal of obtaining these Qualities or as we call them, Attributes will provide the bedrock for all of the more technical or tactical methods that remain style specific. For instance in my article on the 'HeavyBody' the training to become heavy is not style specific, but it can be applied to almost every martial movement. If you are heavy you can defend throws more easily, you can throw more powerful blows, many benefits stem from that single attribute.
This is the layer that MartialBody training aims to address directly. It is not the layer of technique, not the layer of combative exchange, not even the layer of movement, but the layer of attribute and quality that lies at the heart of them all. In upcoming articles we will explore these attributes or qualities individually and in detail.
Click here to view my article on the skill of being heavy. Articles coming soon on : -
The Quality of Stability, The Skill of Speed and Agility, The Power of Connection, Why Movement Complexity Matters, Creating Adaptability.