MINDSET




The martial arts instructor must have the appearance of a never ending supply of energy and expertise.  All movements should be performed as if they require very little effort to execute.  This radiates as reinforcement to the students initiative and drive to try harder than they might otherwise.  If a movement appears easy, the student will generally expect it to be so and will not have a negative attitude about performing it.  One advantage that the master instructor has, is that he is able to perform most movements in a very relaxed mode and they are therefore easier to do, with very little dissipation of energy.  The junior student on the other hand has not yet developed this relaxation ability, which causes their movement to require more exertion and use of oxygen.  If 30 movements are performed by the instructor, the 30th one must not appear to require any more effort than the first.  This is a mental "game" with oneself to develop the ability to do this.  No matter what mental technique that you utilize in the beginning, it still comes down to relaxation.  You must focus on whatever makes it easier to perform.  As the experience level of the instructor increases, they will be operating almost entirely out of the void and will not be concentrating on any one thing at all.  In the beginning, I try and teach my students to focus on anything but the task at hand when performing any repetitious exercise.  I have found that when a movement is considered to be a strength or endurance exercise, the students perceive it to be hard to do.  If their perception is changed to consider it to be similar to a normal movement that they do every day, their repetitions increase considerably.  This is the condition known as "changing the mindset".

The same problem occurs with "breaking".  The more effort  that the junior belts put into the mechanics of breaking a board, the harder it is and the more pain is felt in the hand.  Once they change their mind set, speed increases with a result of less effort and the board breaks with hardly any feeling in the hand at all.  Once this mental block is removed, they are on their way to becoming much better martial artists.  Their self-confidence soars.

Another point that we make about relaxation increasing speed, is the fact that if the arm is tensed prior to performing a breaking movement, it must be relaxed before it can move.  Also if there is tension in the movement, it will be slow.  In other words, a tensed muscle is a dead or slow muscle, whereas a relaxed muscle is a live or fast muscle.  Tension should on occur from the point of impact and through the target depth, with relaxation occurring again.  This will eventually happen so automatically and without conscious thought, that it won't even be noticed as a physical change, either to the practitioner or an observer.  There are other ways to accomplish this mind set change, but whatever is used is unimportant as long as the end result is accomplished and the martial artist develops his speed of execution with little effort.  A target or impact point must appear as only paper thin, with no resistance expected.  Expectation of resistance tells the practitioner that exertion or pain is going to be required to move it.  This negative mind set has got to be changed and eventually removed or eliminated.  Once this mind set is changed, the practitioner is then able to perform feats that they only had in their "dreams".

The technique of teaching a movement "by the numbers" causes a problem with speed and smoothness of execution.  If you utilize this technique of instruction, do not utilize it any longer than it takes to demonstrate the complete technique, from beginning to end and all students understand the end result.  From this point forward, the technique becomes as one step (execution to completion).  The body will remain relaxed and fluid with no time for tenseness to be expected or felt.  The students should learn not to focus on the secondary steps in between, but only on the desired end result.  The block, parry, shift, fade etc. should occur in the void and use no conscious thought.  Any conscious thought slows movement and jumbles execution.  The mind is as a muscle. If it is in one thought, it is not able to comprehend another at the same time.  Conscious thought is an extreme detriment to the martial artist.  Performance must occur from the void or time is lost and the desired result may never have occurred.

Any time tenseness is felt, the student must in the beginning, consciously relax the shoulders and start again.  They may have to do this before every movement for awhile but with dedication and constant training, this tenseness will start to become a rare event, with little conscious correction needed.

As a final note on the above  my father years ago, stated that "can't" never did anything.  Almost every dojo, dojang, kodokan or whatever has the "Don"t use four letter words" poster and this has to be strictly enforced.  Can't is negative reinforcement that has to be removed from conscious conversation and thought.

Moving on to another dimension of the mindset, is when we reference to Musashi's strategy's of "The commander and his troops" and "To become the enemy".  These are two elements of his "Fire" or perception element.  Utilization of these two examples require changing of the mindset to a very positive attitude.  As he states, you must think as your enemy and become in complete control, with no doubt about your winning.  There is nothing about them that you are not aware of or not able to control.  They are totally at your mercy.  You have no reason to "back up" or become apprehensive.

Going down this same road, there is the aspect of the martial arts that an individual being initially introduced, would possibly dream about, but would never truly believe of it's outcome or it's mental result.  I'm sure that it could not come out of all martial arts, because of the different training methods, but for the strong, true to life mental disciplines developed from the few that do, it is a worthwhile plus.  Not because of the misunderstood "forward attitude", but because of the peace of mind and lack of normal fear that once was a part of everyday life.  It allows you to function in the day to day tensions that seem to become more common as our history moves on.  In my case it came about because of the "normal" contact in my training of the early period and of the psychological result.  It changed some of my personal street scenarios, from a "freezing up", wimpy "backdown", into a nonphysical survival.   The unsure, "what do I do now" attitude only causes more problems at the time and in the future to come.  Not only with these individuals, but with others, as they learn that you are an easy "mark". 

You know, after all the contact and all the injuries that are incurred in a true system that develops a different psychological attitude, it becomes totally worth the journey.  When an individual on the street approaches you and states that they are going to do this or that, you just positively instruct them to "either get with it or quit wasting your time".  You just, in a now normal fashion, automatically switch into Musashi's strategy of Existing/Non-existing and turn the "tide" of the situation, not in a physical way, but mentally and win the confrontation without a blow (in most cases).  This generally works because the normal everyday "big mouth" really doesn't expect a reverse confrontation or they wouldn't have gotten involved.  They do not desire to enter into something that they are not in total control of.

The idea of somebody telling you that they are going to do this or that to you, that has already happened, time after time, or enough to know that you can and have survived that same action, makes it a "so-what" incident.  Besides that, you are now trained well enough that most contact of any kind probably won't, either be made at all, or to a very insignificant degree.  The systems that develop this mental state, actually cause the following reverse action that I state in the very beginning of our instructor training manual, "Aibudo-Do Kyohan".  That is:  "In the martial arts, you learn how and become capable of seriously injuring almost everyone that you come across, but develop the self-control not to".  In other words, you train many hours over many years in a very physical way and then learn how not to be physical at all.  I don't believe that this is the expected result of martial arts training in a beginners mind.  Another personal note on this is a psychological statement that I put on the training board from time to time, that states:  "The more physical that you become, the less physical you have to be".  Just think about it!

After serving a tour of duty in the Army and the years of "duty" in the martial arts, I become rather disturbed every time that our government starts talking about cutting back on defense.  I don't know what their rationalization is, but the true facts are as I wrote in a letter once.  The statement that I made was:

"When it comes to the possibility of a conflict, they who appear to be the largest threat or to have the strongest defense, control the strategy of the attitude towards an offensive action against that defense"!