Without Writing

The art of writing without writing… about fighting.

Learned, but not taught

The difficulty of teaching ANY movement cannot be overstated.

I have discussed in a previous article how easy it is for those of us who are familiar with the motion of two bodies- one applying a throw and one attempting to resist the throw- to tell when a move will work on a technical level (a wrestling throw, for instance) and when it will not work on a technical level (e.g: an Aikido “throw”).

This kind of physical intellect, an awareness of how the human body really works in combat, cannot be taught. It must be developed by each fighter himself/herself, through many hours of actual practice.

Equally however, it could be said that many moves themselves, such as throws, cannot be “taught” in any normal sense of the word. This is because one cannot “show” a person what to do to their body internally when throwing another person, either when demonstrating a throw on a third party, or on the student themselves. The directions of muscular forces and core muscle engagement are simply not visible and are only vaguely physically tangible to an outside observer or training partner.

We can take this further, by saying that one cannot “teach” another person how to punch. A successful punch (or any strike, in fact) is a complex motion, supported by constantly changing, ultra-fine adjustments of body structure, application of body weight, stability of stance-in-motion and- of course- emotional content.

The single best way of teaching someone to punch I have ever found is to hold a pad in front of a student (or place them in front of a punchbag) and tell them to hit it as hard as they can, as many times as they can.By the time the person succeeds in striking the pad or bag with force, they will have self-taught the following attributes:

– distancing,
– hand and arm position,
– body movement
– mental focus / controlled aggression

And all the so-called “teacher” will have had to do is to occasionally goad the student with such complex instructions as “harder!” or “faster!”, or if he or she wanted to get really technical, with “step into it!”.

Once the student has a basic feel for applying force through the medium of a punch, then you can address topics that can actually be taught, namely things like how to disguise the punch, what broad strategies to use to employ the punch and what other moves have been chained together with the punch by other martial artists in the past to form a combination…

In other words, all the more cerebral topics can be discussed verbally and understood on an intellectual basis. But the physical tool itself? It can only be tweaked, and only when the student has already developed it by himself or herself.

Many instructors who waste not only their own time but the time of their students in pointless repetition of unapplied and impractical motions would do well to remember this.

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