By Iain Abernethy
In his book ‘Wado-Ryu’ karate, Hironori Otsuka tells us
that there are three kinds of strength – Physical Strength, Technical
Strength and Mental Strength – and if any of those is deficient,
it will be “the downfall of the individual”. It’s a
common misconception throughout the martial arts that ‘technique’ is
the key; if we have good technique then we will be effective in combat.
The fact is that technique is no more or less important than physical
fitness or mental conditioning. Many martial artists dislike this idea
as it infers that those with poor technique can defeat those with good
technique (if they lack the required mental and physical condition).
A laborer on a building site (physically conditioned) who regularly gets
involved in bar fights (mentally used to combat) could easily defeat
the martial artist who concentrates on technique to the exclusion of
the other forms of strength.
If we are to be able to effectively defend ourselves then we need to
ensure that our training also develops physical condition and mental
strength in addition to technique. The key is to ensure that our training
is intense enough to encourage growth in all three areas e.g., we drill
our techniques with intensity and to the point of exhaustion (stimulates
physical strength) and no matter how much we want to quit or ease off,
we then drill them some more (stimulates mental strength).
We need at least two sessions per week that take us to our very limits.
The key is not duration but intensity. We can train for hours and never
break sweat or we can work flat out for around two minutes and be close
to throwing up. Real fights are extremely intense and, if our training
is to be valid, we also need to train in an intense way. This intensity
in training has many benefits besides increased combative effectiveness.
To make progress physically, we need to attempt activities that are
currently outside our capabilities. To get stronger, we attempt to lift
more weight than we can currently lift. To increase our aerobic and anaerobic
capacities, we try to do more than we can currently do in a given time.
Through attempting to accomplish that which currently lies beyond our
reach, our bodies will adapt, our physical fitness will be advanced and
the initial task becomes easier to accomplish. Our minds work in a similar
way. If we wish to strengthen ourselves mentally, we also have to attempt
tasks that are currently beyond us. This not only applies to our training
but to our lives in general. Through our training, we get accustomed
to reaching beyond ourselves. We are therefore more likely to reach beyond
ourselves in all areas of our lives.
We should be prepared to take on difficult tasks in order to develop
ourselves and the quality of our lives. The task needs to be difficult
if it is going to develop our capabilities. If the weightlifter does
not put enough weight on the bar, he isn’t struggling and hence
he’s not getting any stronger. Likewise, if our lives are “plain
sailing” we are not developing ourselves. If things are too easy,
our abilities are not developed and hence our potential for progress
becomes limited. We won’t experience any “discomfort” so
long as we remain exactly where we are; but in my opinion that’s
no way to live. We should push our boundaries and not remain tethered
to our “fur-lined rut”. We should actively court discomfort
and the growth that results from that discomfort.
It is through attempting difficult tasks that we develop the ability
to accomplish them. The key thing is to ensure that we are consistently
trying to “lift that weight”. Regardless of what that “weight” may
be – better health, more money, more rewarding jobs and relationships,
etc. – the only way we’ll get it is through attempting to
get it. It may be very uncomfortable at first; however, it is that very
discomfort that will develop our abilities and ensure that we eventually
succeed. For example, a new job certainly won’t be as easy as the
old familiar job, but any difficulty experienced will strengthen and
develop our capabilities. As our talents grow, there will come a point
where the new job will become “easy” and hence we will have
the ability to reach yet further.
To achieve great things we need great abilities, and the only way to
develop great abilities is through great struggle. Once we understand
that “resistance” is a vital part of the process, we actually
start to desire that resistance and the associated struggle.
Our training gets us used to reaching beyond ourselves and helps us
to understand the process of resistance and advancement. Our intense
combat training (Jutsu) should lead to us applying the lessons learned
in our daily lives (Do). We train in a way that takes us beyond our current
limits, so that we can expand those limits. In life, we should also constantly
reach beyond our current limits so we can develop our capabilities and
lead the lives we want to lead. In training and in life we need to seek
out discomfort, strive to develop ourselves and ensure that we are constantly
About The Author:
Iain Abernethy has been involved in the martial arts since
childhood. He is a senior instructor with the British Karate-Do Chojinkai
and an instructor with the British Combat Association. Iain regularly
writes for the UK’s leading martial arts magazines and he is a
member of the "Combat Hall of Fame". See: http://iainabernethy.com/