Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
I'm often amazed, and perhaps somewhat intimidated, every time I mention that I study Martial Arts, people immediately jump to the conclusion that I'm a fighter. Over the years Iíve gotten use to comments like "Watch out, she'll kick your butt." or "So can you show me what to do if someone attacked you."
In fact, these days I often find humor in those statements and come up with my own, non-confrontational ways to respond.
The truth is, training in Martial Arts doesn't make you a fighter. Not by itself and right away. Those stories of people going off to train in Martial Arts and then coming back to beat up the bully are mostly exaggerated. True, there are situations where perhaps this did happen and there people who are that gifted they are natural fighters. There are always exceptions.
But for the majority of us, simply getting on the floor to train isn't enough to immediately translate what you learn into combat. There are many factors why. I like to generally sum it up in a trifecta, not so different from how many people train.
Fighting actually takes a lot of conditioning. Most untrained fighters end up defeating themselves because they expend far too much energy and result in less than effective moves. Just imagine the combatant flailing around their arms or charging head long into their opponent. While they may get lucky in hitting their target and causing some real damage, majority of their energy is spent hitting air.
One requires a good level of conditioning in order to sustain their energy over a fight. Even a simply two-minute round will exhaust most people not trained to handle that length of time fighting. Most people who step into their first sparring match in class often find that what seemed like a short amount of time feels like an eternity when youíre actually in the battle. Most fighters supplement their training in this area with cardio work to build their endurance.
Finally, learning techniques is one thing but in order to effectively use them in a combat situation, they have to become so ingrained with your natural movements that thought is not required to initiate the move. This only comes with practice, practice, practice until the body remembers the moves on its own. As my teacher says, "Do something a 1,000 times before you even begin to count how many times youíve done a movement."
Combat is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Stepping into any fight raises ones adrenaline and anxiety. No matter how much training you receive, your body will always react with the increase of adrenaline and blood pressure. What a successful fighter must learn to do is control and focus that energy. If left unfocused, the body will literally wear itself out, thus back to the concept of defeating yourself.
In addition, natural instincts kick in, things like focusing on a narrow target (tunnel vision). The emphasis of the mind changes from the frontal lobes to the rear, survival lobes. Without training specifically to fight, there isn't time for the mind to absorb all that is happening and process what is the next logical motion.
Simply stepping on the Martial Arts mat even hundreds of times doesn't train you for handling this.
Even if the mind and the body have been conditioned to handle a fight, the spirit truly determines how well either of the other two react. If the very first time you get hit, you feel defeat or fear, your ability to react will be completely altered.
In addition, there are many Martial Arts, such as myself, who do not have the spirit of fighting simply for the sake of fighting. Truth be told, I will find other ways out of a situation long before I raise my hand to defend myself. There is nothing shameful or wrong about this, it simply is the individualís spirit.
So, if you're training in Martial Arts and frustrated with your success in sparring or in the ring, it may be more than just your style which is impacting that. You may need to consider what else it is youíre missing in your body, mind, or spirit.
And if youíre not someone that trains in Martial Arts, please be considerate and realize that not everyone that trains in Martial Arts trains with the inten