In the realm of martial arts, where grace and power intertwine in mesmerizing displays of skill, there exists an irreplaceable truth often overlooked – the profound significance of mastering the basics.
Amidst the intricate maneuvers and self-defense tactics we are used to seeing, it’s easy to lose sight of the cornerstone that underpins true martial prowess. These elemental principles are not just the starting point; they are the continuous thread woven through every stage of a martial artist’s evolution.
In this article, we embark on an exploration of the quintessential – the foundational concepts that demand attention, practice, and perpetual refinement. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or a newcomer taking your first steps onto the training mat, this expedition promises revelations that will reshape your perception of martial arts.
We want to unveil the hidden wisdom concealed within each stance, the subtle power of balance and control in kicks, the profound impact of meticulously honed strikes, the nuances of precision in blocking, and the unyielding mental resilience that separates the exceptional from the ordinary.
The basics are far more than “basic”. Let’s talk about them.
But First, A Short Story…
I have always been inexplicably enthralled with martial arts.
As a woman who was an only child brought up in a household absent of any athletic activity, it was a shock to the family. While I never engaged in any martial arts as a child, I was always interested as a teenager in KungFu movies and TV and became strangely obsessed with the video game Mortal Kombat. I’ll admit: my dream was to grow up and become Kitana with her steel blade fans.
Fast forward about a decade to when my daughter was 5 years old and wanted to join a sport. We had several options at the time, but of course I pushed her towards martial arts. While I was excited about the possibility of her living out my own dreams, I also knew that the additional lessons that are inherent with martial arts would be beneficial (respect, discipline, confidence, etc.) What I didn’t know was how much it was going to change her life.
After attending for several years and finally leaving as an Assistant Instructor, the lessons she learned over time were invaluable. However, I didn’t realize how much different the Achieve curriculum was designed in comparison to other schools.
As her friends came and went over the years, I witnessed them going to several different other martial arts schools in the Las Vegas Valley. It seemed strange to me to watch them go so quickly from white to black belt without much training while my daughter seemed to spend so much more time on hers.
As a parent, you want to see your child succeed so of course, you question these things.
At the time, I thought there might have been several different things going on, but I was frustrated to see her friends moving on so quickly. Only later did I realize what was really happening.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee
The foundation of martial arts lies within a proficiency of the basics. So, what are the basics?
The basics of martial arts are the building blocks of skill development. Think of it like a puzzle – these basics, or puzzle pieces, fit together to create martial arts skills. These skills, when put together, can create techniques that when utilized properly, are full self-defense maneuvers.
Of course, if your skills are lacking because you have not perfected your basics, then techniques will fall apart when stress is applied.
This is where many martial arts schools are getting it wrong, and where I found the difference between what my daughter was learning at Achieve and what her friends were learning at other schools.
While her friends were performing techniques, they were not learning the intricacies of those techniques: because the foundations (basics) were absent, the proficiency was absent, meaning the students lacked precision, effectiveness, coordination, and control.
Most martial arts schools teach their students to simply regurgitate techniques FIRST before insisting upon a comprehension of the basic building blocks (stances, blocks, kicks, strikes, and movements). Students can copy their instructors’ movements all day long, but if they don’t fully comprehend WHY or HOW, the technique and the movements within are ineffective and can even potentially be dangerous.
Achieve Martial Arts utilizes an innovative Modern Kempo Pyramid that begins with an emphasis on the basics, designed by its Headmaster Joshua George that brings traditional martial arts instruction back. What my daughter’s counterparts were learning seemed upside down.
This pyramid demonstrates that Achieve believes in stressing the importance of creative drills to hone the basics which are the foundation of everything they do. They have striking, kicking, blocking, and movement drills at every competency level from white to advanced black belt. Regardless of rank, this is something that each student practices regularly.
Due to their dedicated emphasis on the basics, they hold the conviction that their students are better equipped in the realm of martial arts compared to their counterparts. They exhibit greater flexibility in adapting to dynamic settings, execute techniques with heightened precision, and serve as a superior embodiment of excellence.
Check out their Coordinative Fitness Pyramid for yourself, and see what it consists of:
While my daughter may have spent more time practicing her basics before class even as she progressed through her belts, it meant that her advanced ranks meant more – her forms were polished, her movements were precise, and it showed in her tournament results. She outperformed her friends who “outranked” her at the other schools and could hold her own in a combat situation, if necessary. What her friends knew was just fluff in comparison.
While the allure of complex techniques and advanced strategies may be captivating, it’s the roots of basics – the blocks, kicks, strikes, stances, and movements – that keep us grounded and resilient in the face of challenges. It’s important to understand this and remain patient in training. Don’t try to jump ahead into something you don’t understand and aren’t fully ready to learn.
As you ascend through the ranks of martial arts, remember that progress doesn’t necessitate abandoning the basics. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Like an artist who continually hones their sketching skills to master the finest details, a martial artist must consistently practice the core techniques to refine their execution. The seamless flow of these elements becomes second nature, enabling you to navigate the intricacies of combat with finesse and intuition.
In the journey to martial arts excellence, the basics serve as more than steppingstones – they’re your guide. With time, they become a mirror reflecting your growth, your dedication, and your unyielding commitment to the craft.
So, whether you’re a white belt with big dreams or a black belt whose journey has just begun, embrace the beauty of simplicity and allow the blocks, kicks, strikes, stances, and movements to be your best friends. Train them, refine them, and let them sculpt you into the martial artist you aspire to be.