Monday, February 23, 2009

Efficiency in Combat

While sitting in a movie theater watching "Taken" over the weekend, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the high-action sequences and "ultra-cool" martial arts moves that Liam Neeson used on his opponents. Realizing that Hollywood choreographs many of the fight sequences in movies, I was able to brush Neeson's "very particular set of skills" aside and realize that in all reality, it's just Hollywood magic.

The more I thought about it, however, the more I began to realize that all Liam Neeson's character really amounted to was a man who was highly skilled in martial arts, with some additional weapons training. What Neeson's character had mastered over the "several years" he'd gathered these skills, was how to become an efficient and immensely focused martial artist.

In Tang Soo Do, the discipline that I have studied for 15 years, we have a Korean phrase called Il kok pil sal," which, simply put, means "one technique to finish." Part of the reason why I think many people quit martial arts after earning their black belt is because they feel like there is nothing left to do; that their goal has been accomplished. In Tang Soo Do, this thought process could not be further from the truth. "Cho Dan," which is the term used in Tang Soo Do for "Black Belt," literally translated means "new beginning." This new beginning, in my opinion, means that you are shifting your focus from learning, to perfecting, just as Neeson had "perfected" his skills over his career.

So how does one accomplish becoming a more efficient and, consequently, more effective, martial artist? I think it simply starts with an improved work ethic. Martial arts is one discipline where, in some dojos and training facilities, you are never an expert. In my opinion, start by perfecting the small stuff first. Your stances, your basics, your blocks, and your attacks. This can be done in regular class, the hard part comes when you translate the words "I will perfect my technique," into actions performed in the training facility.

I'd like to clarify that I don't believe perfection is ever attainable. At the end of the day, I think that every martial artist's goal is to get to the point where "il kok pil sal," is a truism. The point where if you execute your technique with focus, precision, and strength, the fight will end the instant your attack, or in some cases, your defense, lands on your opponent.

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