By Shawn Gough
There are average martial artists and then there are great martial artists. Do you know the essential ingredients that separate them? The ingredients that could transform the way you train?
The (Often Overlooked) Formula
A famous saying is, “practice makes perfect”. Although this sounds good in theory — it is not entirely accurate. Perfect practice makes perfect, and perfect practice with intensity makes perfection a reflex. Anyone can learn patterns and drills, and anyone can practice those drills in the safety of their home or studio. Only a person who internalizes those movements is likely to use them when faced with a dangerous situation.
How can you internalize what you’re learning, faster? What can you do to produce immediate change? Here is a simple formula that may help you:
Focus + Attitude = Intensity
Sounds simple enough, but what does it really mean? In the following paragraphs I will break down each portion of this equation and share with you some of my experiences that may help shed some light.
Ingredient #1: Focus
One of the definitions contained in Webster’s dictionary defines focus as, “central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity.” Another is, “to concentrate”.
To illustrate the importance of focus, I’ll share a recent experience. My wife broke her eyeglasses recently. She is not completely blind, however, she does need them to function at maximum efficiency. That night she related the challenges she faced throughout the day. She said, “Since my eyes couldn’t focus in on anything, I had a hard time concentrating on the job I was trying to get done. My mind kept wandering and I didn’t want to strain myself because I was starting to get a headache”. This literal inability to focus took away from her overall performance. She was unable to concentrate or maintain her attention on the task at hand.
We can experience the same situation when training. If we allow outside factors, such as our jobs, personal issues, even concerns about our families, to weigh on our minds we bring ourselves out of focus. We are, in essence, working with broken glasses.
When we are even slightly out of focus mentally it becomes more difficult to learn or remember movements and patterns. It becomes almost impossible to internalize the movements and motions needed to become proficient. On the other hand, think of a time when you were completely focused on what you were doing.
Your senses become acute and you see a detailed and vivid picture. It becomes easier to retain information and stay engaged in whatever you are doing. This is the state we want to find ourselves in when training at the studio or at home.
Ingredient #2: Attitude
The second piece of the equation is attitude and can be interpreted multiple ways.
In my definition, attitude is a state of mind, something that can be perceived by others through actions, statements or physical observation. When someone says, “That guy has a cocky attitude”, what do they usually mean? Something in his physical disposition or manor has portrayed that characteristic. Maybe he holds his head up high, his chest puffed out and swaggers as he walks. Maybe he wasn’t responding to someone’s questions because he believed it was beneath him, or maybe he just wouldn’t stop talking about how much better he is then everyone else.
We have probably all, at some point, experienced a negative attitude within ourselves. Think about the way you felt. How could those around you tell that you were in a negative mood? Sarcastic statements, slumped shoulders, wrinkled forehead these are just a few possible identifiers surrounding negativity.
So you may be asking, how does this relate to my training? When training we want to have a positive upbeat attitude, a confidence that promotes strength and ability that is reflected in our physical disposition.
Some attributes associated with this attitude might be an erect posture, alertness or awareness of the environment, positive statements or even smiling. When in this state of mind, we are open to new ideas, concepts and are more willing to learn. It is easier to feel involved and recall information beneficial to our training. It can also residually improve your environmental awareness. This attitude coupled with focus brings us to the last portion of the equation.
End Result: Intensity
Intensity is defined as, “great energy, strength, concentration, vehemence, etc., as of activity, thought or feeling…a high degree of emotional excitement; depth of feeling” (Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1996 p.991). Complete focus on the task at hand and a positive hard-core attitude bring me to this heightened degree of emotional excitement.
It is difficult to picture myself being able to achieve intensity if I am unable to focus or concentrate.
It is just as unlikely that I will be intense if I am in a bad mood or feeling unmotivated. When I think of intensity I hear the deep rumble in my chest, the look of concentration on my face, and the “I dare you to try and touch me” attitude. This is the state of mind that allows me to maximize my energy and internalize the things I am working on. This internalization helps train my mind and body to react on reflex. That reflex may make the difference between life and death on the street. I know that seems dramatic, but I promise that it won’t seem that way when your walking to your car through the dark ally late at night.
Intensity is the key to good workouts and internalization that will lead to a more proficient Martial Artist.
Are You Using It?
Focus + Attitude = Intensity. This formula can be applied to any aspect of life. If utilized properly it allows for the maximization of energy, resources, and ability. If your focus on a task is lacking, it will impact the overall equation. The same is true of attitude.
Now, this equation isn’t the answer to all life’s problems, or the only three things needed to be a great martial artist. What I can promise is that by applying this simple formula, you will experience more beneficial training sessions, and begin to turn those drills and exercises into a reflective response.