Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Focus in the martial Arts

Everyone agrees that "Focus" is very important in martial Arts training. But what is "Focus"? Most source say something like "You must learn to focus all your attention on your opponent to the exclusion of all distractions" This makes a lot of sense in a sporting ring, where you face a single opponent, one on one, in a controlled environment. But I do not think is is good advice in a more "real world" situation, where the environment is anything but controlled and while many of the "distractions" can be safely ignored, others cannot. You should not allow the dog barking, the child running around, or the flash from the camera to distract you, but the man with the pipe in his hand approaching from your left flack should not be ignored. All the incoming sensory information must be processed so the decision can be made as to what to can be safely disregarded and what needs immediate attention.

Aikido rondori practice is good for this. I remember a class once where the instructor occasionally told one of the observers to join the rondori already in progress, This was a real challenge, I thought I was dealing with four attackers and suddenly without warning a fifth attacker came out of nowhere. If I had been less focused on the attackers I knew about I might not have been taken by surprise by the changed situation.

I regularly practice "push hands". I believe it to be a very effective, safe, form of simulated combat training. The group I practice with is very informal and low key. We generally keep up a constant light banter for the entire practice session. I'm sure a "serious martial artist" would be appalled that we are making wise cracks when we should be focused on our practice, but I disagree. I consider the wise cracking to be part of my training. If the banter distracts me from the practice, my partner/opponent will push me, giving me feed back. My goal is to be able to maintain good root, structure, awareness, flow, etc. while at the same time keeping up the banter. This trains me to deal with distractions without being distracted by them.

Just as in meditation you do not block all thoughts from the mind, but rather let them flow without allowing yourself to be distracted by them, I am training not to block all "distractions" from my mind during practice, but to process them with out being distracted by them.

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