Martial arts training as a kid has its advantages. You learn self discipline, respect, focus, and perseverance at an early age. You tend to treat others as you would like to be treated because, as you learn the art with your peers, you become more accepting of individual abilities, strengths, and weakness as you learn together. Many people I know in education trained in some form of martial arts when they were young, and they say it influences their teaching in a positive way. Speaking from experience, the patience you learn from martial arts training is of definite benefit to teachers as well.
There are some drawbacks to training young, however. I began to look up to the older students on my first day when a gokyu at my dojo helped me to tie my belt. As I got older and more skilled, I began to admire the adult students that sometimes taught our classes. When I eventually started training with them, I envied their adult strength. They seemingly beat me because they were stronger, so I worked to acquire more and more strength. You may take a moment to admire my portrait above.
Now, as an adult, I sometimes wish I spent more time on technique. I know several of the posts on this blog have been related to conditioning. I enjoy working out, and would like to continue to improve my body. It is important to incorporate fitness in our training.
But I’ve come to learn that when someone says you’re strong, it is the ultimate back-handed complement in martial arts. This critique in disguise has fallen on my deaf ears more than once. Helio Gracie once said something like: “Strength inhibits technique.” When someone says you’re strong, it usually means you’ve abandoned technique in favor of power or aggression. This can be a problem. After all, our physical abilities decline as we age, and what if you are injured our outmatched in a real fight? You need to rely on technique rather than strength.
When my sensei and training partners mention I’m exhibiting strength, I now know that means I need to go back to the drawing board.