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Fighting skill and doubts, many dobuts

I have recently joined a Martial Arts class whose main focus is fighting. I have heard the hanshi state "we will learn how to fight but we must not hurt one another". In a tournament there is a different story than what he expects. I came from a different school where we did not focus so much on fighting, so my skills are very poor. I have been trying to sharpen my fighting skill but keep finding myself acquiring more bodily injuries than knowledge or skill. Standing as high kyu ranking belt I feel the obligation to tough it out, but how do I achieve the standing I must accomplish.

I have noticed I do not apply all the blocks I know, and my hanshi states I must learn to execute more than one attack. For example, I will punch and pull back, or sidekick and pull back. I am doing something wrong, because I know have a cracked cartilage in my dominant hand and hematomas on the side of my neck and floaters in my field of vision from a punch in the right eye. Is there something I can buy and read, or with time and patience will I master my fighting skills. I am embarrassed to go to work, because I do not want people to think my husband beats on me. Yet, I want to continue with my new hanshi and make him and myself proud of our accomplishments. Do I need to "tough it out"? - Gigi

You do not need to walk the path of "toughing it out". More bruises and serious injuries may be the consequence. Training to acquire and improve jiyu-kumite (free-sparring) skill should be progressive, step by step, and free of anything but the occasional accidental injuries.

Technically you have to go back to basics and reinforce them until you really gain confidence with their execution. Practice three steps (sambon) and one step (ippon) kumite (prearranged sparring) to tune up your continuity of techniques, as well a better management of distance (maai) and timing.

Train specific sequences that suit your personal skill level, and not your belt degree, with partners that want to co-operate with your progress in a healthy manner, with control (physically and mentally), quality and accuracy. Exercise clear communication of intention and purpose with your sparring partner. He/she should understand your experience and concerns, if not, do not expose yourself to injuries.

Your teacher should allow you to wear appropriate sparring equipment (pads, helmet, etc.) even when you turn into a fabulous martial artist. If your discipline trains and promotes non-contact, then that is what your classes and teacher should emphasize. Practice good and strong defenses, agility and mobility in your footwork. Add a good routine of flexibility and relaxation. Daily mental focus, deep breathing training and meditation will improve your spirit and clear your mind of doubts and uncertainties.

You and your teacher should be proud of your health and well being, and not your increasing endurance for pain and bruises. After all, the martial arts should help you to prevent injuries and not to acquire them. Have a good conversation with your teacher about it, and with sincere respect ask him/her to contribute with your development as a martial artist without any concerns for grades or seniority in the class.

Please, read and study our books The Secret Art of Health & Fitness and Martial Arts - Mind & Body. You may order them in your local bookstore or online. They will provide you with a greater understanding and needed elements to progress as a martial artist in a healthy fashion.




Anger and training

I have been wanting to learn martial arts since I was very little but my mom says it brings out anger but I say it gives you respect one another. Kindra - USA

Martial Arts training will provide you with numerous benefits as long as you have the chance to learn from a capable and well qualified teacher. Indeed as you have pointed out, respect for one another as well as self-respect are one of the many results of a diligent study and practice.

It may be that your mother has observed some martial arts from a distance or is confusing some self-defense training with true martial art. (There are some practices of women's self defense that advocate using anger as a weapon and encouraging its presence in response to an attack. While this has some short term practicalities in a short course, it is not the goal of longer term practice of martial art where anger is recognized as a negative energy-draining emotion.)

The recognition of positive changes experienced throughout the training provides a real sense of confidence which happens when we open our minds and hearts to different possibilities and paths for solving problems or achieving specific goals. The skills that we consequently develop also provide valuable tools that can be applied outside the martial arts environment. A clear head to analyze conflicts, the determination to stand up for what is right, and the positive rejection of abusive situations or behaviors, often are confused with aggressive approaches when the observer can't contemplate that such postures are by-products of an inner harmony and recognition of ones self and persona.

Fortunately the experience of teaching and learning martial arts produces considerable reduction of such feeling, as well as a decrease of anxiety and increase of self-esteem, inside and outside the training sessions. There is tremendous enjoyment and good feeling among practitioners of true martial art. Having said that, one thing is for sure, those who are shy, naive or submissive personalities will turn their "inner notch" up to increase their intensity to achieve a better balance in their life. In some cases that needed attitude may also be interpreted as an "angry" attitude by third parties who are observing what appears to be fighting going on.

You seem to have a clear sense of what the martial arts have to offer, and certainly your healthy study and practice will bring the best out in you. It will be important to find the right teacher and non-competitive environment. But remember, no matter what martial art you choose, please breathe, relax and smile. Your Mom will certainly appreciate that.





Happy or not

Does having happy train of thought provide more "power" or Ki than if you had an angry train of thought or and intention to really hurt someone? Sam - USA

Your question about having a happy train of thought (and its relation with more "power" or Ki, instead of an angry thought and/or intention to really hurt someone) is one of the key elements in martial arts study and evolution.
... We are what we think and we experience what we feel. When a happy and positive attitude is applied, many studies revealed a notable improvement of the body physiology, mentally we are able to approach situations and circumstances with a much clear resolution, and the inner sense of well-being will provide a palpable sensation of harmony that is contagious with others. Certainly you will enjoy your training more.

This is not to be confused with the energy afforded by the intention to survive or persevere that sometimes is called upon in emergencies which may include an attack on the person. Some styles of self defense training encourage the "victim" to corral their anger and use it against their attacker. We prefer to redirect the anger of the attacker against their attack, and preserve the sense of power and identity in a positive way that is truly personal defense. Anger, while appearing to be a powerful emotion in the moment, almost always drains your energy and cannot be sustained without damaging your own physiology and psyche.

Our motto in Gorindo, is "breathe, relax and smile." Perhaps a simple formula but a well geared attitude to improve inner power or Ki, and its expressions of joy, camaraderie, rightness and cooperation to help others. A constructive intention will create a positive echo that will feedback to your Ki, and angry attitude although may do the job will also drain your Ki and reduce its capacity. Think about it.




Mind or body preparation

I have been practicing the art of tenshi goju kai for about 10 years. I am planning to test for my black belt in December. Do you think I should train more in the mental or physical aspect of my style to prepare myself? Bobby - USA

This is not a question of either/or. Seek to unite the mental and the physical by working on the spiritual. Your training by now should have brought you to a state of technical preparation. What will ensure your "Success" in the grading is if you are prepared to fully accept that you do not yet know everything. You will be faced with many areas where improvement is needed and in fact one of the purposes of the Black Belt testing is to push you to a point where you will want to give up. How you react to these types of challenges is the true test here. Remember that traditionally the Shodan level is just a beginning again on a path of much learning and self awareness. You must be prepared to lay down pride and arrogance or it will become an impossible burden when you train wearing the Black Belt.

Try doing some reading and meditation about the steps you are about to take. Becoming a Black Belt is a great responsibility not a reward for your hard work.

You may find our book "Martial Arts Mind & Body" helpful. Also try some traditional texts of the founder of Goju and the first generation of students. Ask your teacher for recommendations.




Relaxation, focus and more

I am interested in learning a martial art with the objectives of improving relaxation and focus through meditation plus improving subtlety and strength. I already run and mountain bike regularly. How do I choose which martial art is most suitable, or for these objectives will any suffice?
Richard - UK

You should find the pursuit of your objectives through Martial Art quite fulfilling. Be aware however that there are many styles, schools and approaches that are loosely grouped under the Martial Art banner. Much will depend on the individual teacher and the learning philosophy they follow. Take the time to acquaint yourself with what is available in your community. Visit some schools and ask some good questions. Avoid those situations that are dominantly sport or combat oriented. The school need not be rigidly traditional if they are prepared to embrace the "Do" (or Tao) aspect of the path to learning. Martial Art is the original Mind & Body exercise system with an integration of the mental physical and spiritual. Many different schools can offer this training although on the surface their techniques may vary. Also we recommend you our books "The Secret Art of Health & Fitness" - Weatherhill Inc., New York / Tokyo, and "Martial Arts Mind & Body" - Human Kinetics, Champaign - Illinois. You may want to buy them online or order them from your local bookstore. Through them we provide a more expanded educational material that indeed will help you in your choice of your Martial Art Program.




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