Today, I attended a Kali Workshop I hosted at my gym, Action Fitness. Kali is a Filipino martial art known for its quick hand work with bare hands, sticks, knives etc. and popularized by Matt Damon in the “Bourne” series of movies.
I had spent the majority of the week at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in New Mexico, assisting our Chief Instructor Pavel Tsatsouline in teaching kettlebells to PT instructors, air marshalls, border patrol folks, SEALs and more. Needless to say, I was a bit “brain fried” at the end of the week, including during the workshop today.
The lesson: it is amazing how one’s skills improve from teaching others. When you see your own mistakes, you become better not only at troubleshooting them, but also spotting them quickly. Additionally, the adage of “only perfect practice makes perfect”, a favorite of Pavel’s, rang even more true.
How this links to today’s martial art workshop lies in repetition, or rote if you prefer. In any combat sport, the intend is to maim your opponent (forget spiritual enlightenment for a second and get real). Movements have to be precise, or the consequences are immediate and rather unpleasant. (By the way, I don’t intend to brag and apologize if it happens to come across as such, but I have been practicing martial arts for well over 20 years). You have to practice every move thousands of times before it becomes part of you. Today, as I did a few months ago at another extended weekend Kali workshop, I went into some sort of daze-meets-trance, kind of sleepy to be quite honest (not for lack of stimulation, au contraire, but out of mental exhaustion). I was countering, deflecting, blocking, redirecting, striking, triangulating like a machine, with surgical precision. My automated moves were flowing, with the only awareness being the safety of my opponent/practice partner.
My excessive prose has a purpose: to illustrate that when you train with weights, be it your body, dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells, you also are fighting. Fighting the load. Fighting your craving for sweets. Fighting the excess deposits of fat on your trouble areas. Fighting aging, arthritis or whatever life threw at you. Your muscles are torn and are rebuilding themselves in that fight. If at any point your form goes out, you’ve created an injury that may take hours, days, weeks or years to appear. You don’t get the “instant gratification” of a punch to the chin, a kick to the gut or a dull-but-still-hard practice knife to the ribs. It takes years to master martial arts, but only an instant to get injured.
Martial arts are all about practice. So should your workouts be.
I am far from being a master, but I have been practicing the moves over and over so I can trust my body to respond, almost subconsciously, as it did today. The same should go with everyone’s practice of any physical activity. Tiger Woods still takes lessons and still practices his golf swing. I myself just improved my own kettlebell swing thanks to a few intensive days with highly qualified instructors. But I still have to be focused and I practice my swings, I don’t just swing the kettlebell.
I also saw that in an 80’s TV show called “Stingray”, where the hero was memorizing stuff by going into a “sleepy trance” so it becomes subconsciously imprinted!