Martial Arts Training For Mind And Body

Martial arts training is tough, possibly the hardest of all physical activities. The unique type of training and discipline of the fighting arts takes you on a journey (the way) to develop an inner strength as well as your fighting skills.

It requires many years of diligent training and a commitment beyond most other sports.

On the occasions you delivered the perfect strike; blocked without the need to think or performed a near perfect kata (form), did it feel difficult? Or did you get the sense it happened by itself?

If you have experience this sensation you were in The Zone . The Zone is a place where athletes describe this sort of experience. Studies suggest it's a state of ‘effortless merging of action and awareness’. Years of martial arts training can bring you to this state - but only the right type of training with the right attitude and mindful approach.

Can You Train To Get
Into The Zone?

I believe you can if you learn to focus and prevent unnecessary effort that prevents you from entering this altered state. So what stops you getting there? Factors such as stress or attempts to try harder can interfere. Often our efforts to perform result in unnecessary muscular responses that will interfere with your learnt reflexes such as you strikes and blocks.

"Effort within the mind further limits the mind, because effort implies struggle towards a goal and when you have a goal, a purpose, an end in view, you have placed a limit on the mind." Bruce Lee

It is my belief that our natural state is to be in The Zone. Diligent martial arts training arts can help you to experience this shift of consciousness. The Zone is an altered state where things can happen with little or no perceived effort. In these moments our response appears to precede conscious thought and is executed near to perfection; right timing, right effort and entirely appropriate to the situation.

When your martial arts training
all comes together

I am sure we have all experienced moments like this. For example, in one competition I scored ippon with a jodan mawashi geri to the side of my opponents exposed face. Afterwards my opponent congratulated me on my technique commenting he didn't see it coming, to which I could honestly reply, "Neither did I".

I was only aware of the execution of the technique once my leg has started its recoil. Where had it come from? At some level my senses had registered the target, selected the most appropriate technique, fired it off, made the lightest of contact and started the recovery of balance before I had become aware of it! This was probably my 'finest hour'. But how can we be capable of such remarkable feats one moment and be totally incompetent the next - I lost the next round and was appallingly slow.

The patterns (techniques) from your martial arts training are at a subconscious level and can be called upon with incredible speed and effectiveness before you may become aware you have acted. However, I believe this can only happen if we are in a balanced state.

Poise is a state of totally appropriate activity, both at a muscular and 'mental' level. When we are in this state there is 'optimum integration of the postural reflexes, consciousness and appropriate use of learnt patterns'. That is, we can get out of the way and let the processes just happen.

Nerves, tension and stress will interfere with this process if we allow ourselves to react negatively to these situations such as stiffening the neck, an action that will impede the balance reflexes. Likewise, over-confidence has a similar affect of preventing the unity of self and action as, in my view, it will reduce our level of alertness and state of readiness. The ego really should be left at the door of the dojo!

Train To Get Into The Zone

So perhaps to heighten our chances of getting into The Zone we need to focus on 'being in the moment'. Only by being consciously aware of the moment or 'the here and now' can we ensure inappropriate muscular activity is not present in our actions. This takes time and involves going back to some very basic movements (pre-martial art techniques) such as everyday simple activities and zazen to experience a stillness and awareness that will help in more demanding activities.

Martial arts training provides us with the perfect way to focus on the present. Use your sessions well and your mind and body will develop together.

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snatch & the grey man