Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
One of the key skills to develop as a Martial Artist is the ability to observe. Observation is more than just seeing something. As stated by Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, many people see the world around them but very few actually observe it.
Observation involves picking up on the smaller details. These smaller details form the foundation of deeper understanding and thus the ability like Sherlock Holmes to uncover secrets that may otherwise seem hidden.
In Martial Arts, taking a moment to observe the everyday builds a stronger artist. By deconstructing the simplest activities done each day, one can gain a better understanding of self and how the body moves. Part of Martial Arts training should include learning how to observe and develop awareness through observation.
For instance, take the simple act of sweeping the floor with a broom. Notice how you hold the grip. Are the thumbs on top or under? What happens when you reverse your hands? What happens when you twist your hands 180-degrees? How does it feel?
Now actually sweep with the broom. What sort of stroke does your arm take? What muscles do you engage to make the motion? What happens if you move the grip further down the shaft of the broom? What happens if you lower your stance while you sweep? Where are your feet? Is one foot forward or back? Is the foot turned in any way? What part of the foot do you feel the pressure on? What differences do you see if your strokes are longer or shorter?
Observe how you end the stroke. What position is your wrist at the end of your stroke? What is your weight distribution through the motion? How does the motion at the end of the stroke affect the resulting pile of dirt you’ve swept? How do you reset yourself for the next sweep?
As you can see (or rather observe as we’re trying to do in this lesson), there are numerous questions you could ask yourself as you go through even such a simple task of sweeping. And once you’re done studying yourself, you can reapply all the same questions in observing and understanding others.
Doing this at first may seem cumbersome, but with practice one can do this level of observation quickly and almost without thinking. When applied to Martial Arts, it can help your both quickly assess your opponent and evaluate where your own weaknesses might lie.