Monday, September 8, 2014
Martial Arts: Does it Really Work?
But let's back up and define our terms. What is the real question? Does the question "Does it really work?" translate into "Could I really beat someone up?", or is the question, "Could I defend myself?", or how about "Does it really solve discipline problems, improve grades, concentration, and health?"
Yes, and it's a suitable floor wax.
Seriously, the martial arts do work. You have to remember that the basic premise behind all of the arts is methodical repetition of physical movement, often in response to aggressive stimuli. While steeped in antiquity, Asian cultures, and even a little mysticism, the martial arts are just like anything else that requires years of practice.
Do you play a musical instrument? I marvel when watching a pianist translate the little black dots on the sheets and stanzas into physical finger positions, gliding effortlessly across the keyboard. How, I wonder, can the mind operate so flawlessly? Does the musician have to consciously translate every note into a letter, correspond it to a location on the keyboard, move his hand, and send a signal to press his finger?
Or, has the musician trained his mind so that it operates in complete synergy and synchronization with the music and his hand - literally becoming one with the music - recognizing patterns, implementing sequences, and operating with a union of mind and body. In short, the musician has not merely learned to speed up the process of translating written music into finger positions - her mind literally operates at a different level; the mind and body act as one.
Here is a video clip of a trained musician "site reading" a piece of Rag Time for the first time. It is not possible for him to be actively translating what he reads into arm, hand, and finger control.
Well - if you recognize the ability of a musician to train her mind and body to operate in total harmony (no pun intended), then you can understand how it is that martial arts work. It takes time, but the martial artist mind and body act as one, and it is not possible for an untrained attacker, however natural his skills may be, to perform at the level of one who is trained.
As for discipline, attention, and concentration, I will offer this; come to any test. Come to a test and watch the children waiting for their turn. White belts (or any age), will figit, look around, loose attention, and when asked to test will forget, make mistakes, and exhibit a lack of confidence. Watch children testing for red belt and you see something very different. First, it takes about two years to reach this stage, secondly - and this is very important - it doesn't matter what age the red belt testers are; their behavior is very different.
Red belt students sit patiently, legs folded beneath them, they are polite and respectful to their fellow students and instructors, they perform with measurably more confidence and self esteem.
Age doesn't matter - this is key to understanding the proof point. A ten year old white belt will figit, a ten year old red belt will sit still. The white belt will become easily distracted, answer with a "yep", 'k, or "a huh." A red belt of the same age will sit quietly, focus (attend well), and answer automatically with "yes sir."
Does this happen over night, does it happen all at once, or just by showing up to the training hall one a week - of course not. This holds true for learning anything. But... it.... does.... happen! If you attend classes regularly, follow instructions, work hard, and don't quit - it is a slam dunk guarantee - martial arts training does work.