The “Art” in Martial Arts


In any athletic endeavor, there is a progression of understanding  as to how to perform.  In our martial arts school, my instructor taught that you started by learning;

  1.  the form of the technique (or movement)
  2. the function of the technique (or movement)
  3. the effectiveness of the technique (or movement)
  4. the art of the technique (or movement)

I believe that this applies to all athletic endeavors, from yoga to football.  The progression of form to function to effectiveness seems self-explanatory.  We must work to make our movements more efficient, more effective, with less thought, whether its blocking an incoming attack, or returning a tennis serve.  Where then, does the “art” phase come in?  We all have seen the “art” in watching games or performances in which athletes went “beyond” themselves.  But what did they actually do?

I tell my students that hopefully, if I train them properly, someday they should be able to walk in to another martial arts school and perform their techniques the way that school performs them.  Why?  Because I did not teach them techniques; I taught them how to move.  Thus, if I taught them how to move properly, they should be able to instantly adapt to the new movement they are seeing.

The art of the technique, then, is the ability to perfectly move in any given encounter.  This is not easy.  It requires precision, timing, and an understanding of oneself, and the environment that one is placed in.  But when you see the perfect tackle at the goal-line, the perfect lay-up in basketball, the perfect serve in tennis, it is because the athlete has moved beyond technique, and has entered into the essence of movement.

Look for the “art” in your chosen field.  Practice until you can move exactly the way you want.  Remember, it may take years of practice until you move with this kind of precision.  Work on your techniques, but ultimately, find the essence of the movement.

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