Recently I was speaking with a friend who had the opportunity to travel to China for a world martial arts competition.
He was very happy to recount his experience abroad. One such encounter was a tale of having met a very impressive and colourful individual. This individual was a member of an elite force within the Chinese military who has impressive techniques and knowledge.
He told me how this individual was able to take any of the forms that was demonstrated to him and interpret a collection of very functional and impressive applications. He presented throws, take downs, joint locks all of which seemed to be very impressive.
My friend seemed very puzzled that this knowledge was not known to him, even though it all came from within the forms he studied and thought he understood.
He was clearly expressing the “I want to be like that” syndrome.
This syndrome is quite common within the martial arts. We encounter it most often whenever we meet someone who has transcended into their own interpretation of the martial art they are studying.
This transcendence occurs due to the nature of what martial arts are intended to be in the first place.
Martial arts were never meant to be copied! They are simply methods to help students find an develop their own style or expression. The style being developed is entirely based on the individual’s life experience, abilities and natural attributes.
These factors will strongly influence the interpretation. It is a very individual thing! No two interpretations will be exactly alike, just like no two individuals are exactly alike.
That is exactly why there are so many styles out there today. Because that is exactly what martial arts are supposed to be doing, they are supposed to be developing the individual’s personal expression of the art.
However, the syndrome of “I want to be like that”, can be very detrimental to that development. The example that we are so impressed with, is perhaps someone else’s personal interpretation and trying to be something you are not is a direct path to failure.
But fear not! There is a process at play. A simple formula to follow.
And it works like this!
- First you must copy.
Take the instruction being provided and copy it. This is the way to identify the underlying concepts and principles.
- Break from the example.
Once the concepts and principles have been identified, break from the example and apply them to other related applications.
Transcend the identified concepts and principles into applications of your own unique interpretation.
This approach can be very intensive and demanding as well as time consuming. It may require lots of discipline, determination and perseverance. But it is in my opinion, the only way to achieve your own true potential.