Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
When learning and practicing Martial Arts, it’s not uncommon to train to a “beat”. That beat could come in a variety of means; a count, a drum, a command.
At first, this type of training would seem counterproductive to the nature of Martial Arts. When in combat, one does not fight to a beat. Motion occurs continuously and your opponent doesn’t move to a beat or rhythm. The very essence of combat tries to be unpredictable, to catch your opponent off guard – hard to do if the movements are choreographed.
Many new students find the repetition of training to a “beat” cumbersome and boring. They often fail to see the point behind repeating the same movement over and over again. They want action, they want to get on the floor and execute the motion, put their energy into the battle, not structure.
However, it is essential to becoming a great Martial Artist, one must do the laborious repetitions and practice. When you’re practicing in this structured format, you’re teaching your body how to move without thinking. Paraphrasing from my teacher: “repeat something a thousand times and then start to actually count how many times you perform.” The idea behind the saying is the first few times you do a technique (be a thousand or less or more), you’re still teaching your body and learning how to move to actually execute the motion. You’re thinking about how to perform. Do I put my foot down now or later? Is the kick too high? Is the foot or hand in the right position?.. Only once you have reached a stated where the movement becomes second nature to you can you really say you’ve learned how to execute the technique and can count it as truly doing it.
Training this way also disciplines the Martial Artist, learning how to control the energy in your body and focus it into short bursts when called upon. Repetition builds endurance, something all combatants need. For if you can’t last the length of the fight, you’ve already defeated yourself.
There are some dangers to watch out for that does affect Martial Arts in a combat sense. While some Martial Arts has been compared to dance, the true nature of combat is not choreographed. There is no beat to battle other than that which is created by the opponents – and even then it’s not something consistent. It’s important to be cautious that you don’t the same “beat” mentality into battle.
For instance, if you’re executing a technique that you’ve learning using two beat – a combination kick/punch routine – it is important at some point you learn to execute that technique to one beat. Otherwise, you will be “pausing” during battle and miss your opportunity to strike. So it is not uncommon that as one advances in the technique, the number of beats to moves decreases. One beat may represent two or three movements.
The essence is still the same, practicing to a “beat”, whatever that beat may look like, will improve one as a Martial Artist.