Sunday, August 18, 2013

Work with what you have

"Why?  My fat friend asks me why?  He sits there on his world-class ass and has the nerve to ask me why?  Yeste.  Come to me sometime with a challenge.  Once, just once, ride up and say 'Domingo, I need a sword for an eighty-year old man to fight a duel,' and I would embrace you and cry 'Yes!'  Because to make a sword for an eighty-year old man to survive a duel, that would be something.  Because the sword would have to be strong enough to win, yet light enough not to tire his weary arm.  I would have to use my all to perhaps find an unknown metal, strong but very light, or devise a different formula for a known one, mix some bronze with some iron and some air in a way ignored for a thousand years.  I would kiss your smelly feet for an opportunity like that, fat Yeste."
-The Princess Bride

Are you fit enough to learn martial arts?  I've talked to many people who have an interest, but something is holding them back.  They're concerned that they're too out of shape, or not flexible enough, or have an old injury that prevents them from moving the way they think they should be able to.  Maybe they think they're too old.  Maybe they think that they'll be able to start in a few months, when they've solved their problems and everything has magically come together.  In my experience, that day almost never comes around.

Sometimes, a new student will come into our school who has everything going for them.  This person will be strong, limber, and have a good visual, audio and kinesthetic memory.  It's fun to teach these people.  But it's the former group that really gets me engaged, not the latter.

Because the martial arts are not about mastering the platonic ideal of the perfect technique.  They're about learning to use what you have, in the best way that you possibly can.  Maybe a knee injury prevents you from kicking well with one leg.  Great, lets spend our time focusing on your other leg.  (Bill Wallace did fairly well with this strategy).  Or maybe you're too short to effectively kick your longer-limbed opponents.  Let's focus on bridging the gap and fighting in close where your opponent can't kick at all.  Or you have a shoulder injury that prevents your arm from having a full range of motion.  OK, lets not try to force your arm past that limit and risk exacerbating your injury.  Instead, lets see what you can do with that arm inside your comfortable range of motion.

We have a lot of different techniques at our school, and while we want everybody to learn all of them, we are mindful that not every one will work well for every student.  We ask students to learn each technique well enough to demonstrate it (and eventually teach it), but then to figure out which of those techniques really work for them, and focus on maximizing their effectiveness with those techniques.

Not everybody has it in them to be a championship MMA fighter.  You need a unique combination of physique, talent and drive to achieve that goal.  But anybody can learn to maximize their own resources and talents, both on and off the mat.  In my mind, that's what the martial arts are really all about.

(Btw - you can stop wracking your brains now.  You're not recognizing the quote above because its from the book, not the movie.)

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