I have always been fascinated by the videos in which a martial arts master, despite being old, ‘manages’ a much younger and more performing student.
This aspect is interesting because it is easily applicable in so many aspects of daily life and in particular for those who work in areas with a high level of stress, required performance and fast adaptation to the context.
It is normally thought that the experience of the master and his technical preparation function as a weapon against the young but inexperienced student.
This is partly so, but only partly.
The issue is more articulated.
Indeed, it would be a bit like saying that a car is better in a rally race because it goes faster. Certainly this is an important element, but there are many others to take into account:
the structure of the car, the grip of the wheels, the skill of the driver and co-driver right down to the team behind it all.
Back to us, then.
What then are the differences that make the difference?
What allows the master to excel over the younger student?
In my opinion there are 3 differences that stand out:
1) to think agile
2) to downshift
3) to dictate the pace
What do I mean by agile thinking?
I mean at the same time the ability to reduce problems to essential terms and to think in patterns and modules, lightening the load of information.
I simplify with an example.
While the student thinks of a billion techniques he could apply, the teacher quickly examines posture, weight loading and limb alignment to understand what to expect and what the vulnerable points are.
If the student thinks of a specific technique for each situation, the master calls up a module that in that area already works not only for the action at hand, but also for its possible developments.
Why knowing how to downshift makes a huge difference.
We live in times where going fast is the standard, not the exception.
Yet, although it is a skill that is important to develop, on its own it can even be counterproductive.
Downshifting means slowing down or maintaining a buffer space before taking action.
Speed and power are nothing without control.
Shifting gears also means knowing when it is sufficient to keep the engine running at idle. Sometimes, particularly when you want to save resources, it is essential to know how to control an opponent by waiting for the right moment to make your move.
Here, too, an example can help.
A classic one is that of the master tying up the strongest and fastest pupil in situations favorable to him in order to tire him out. Once the young student is exhausted, the master gets into the game.
Downshifting, more banally, is also about the way of the master train himself.
The student thinks in terms of quantity, the master in terms of quality.
1,000 repetitions done without understanding what is being done, are not worth 10 done with awareness.
Dictate the pace, dictate the fight
An accurate choice of timing is capable of displacing the best defense and setting up undisturbed attacks.
Rhythm, when internal, is about the ability to operate a sequence of coordinated, non-overlapping thoughts; when external, in relation to the opponent, it forces him to chase and takes away his initiative.
The master does not chase the faster pace of the student. That is why he does not tire.
Rather, he dictates it. He makes himself chase, anticipates, offers bait and is, for this reason, always several moves ahead.
These aspects are what, in my opinion, make the difference.
They are the same ones I find in my students who work in high performance contexts. (Managers, entrepreneurs, innovators) even though they are often not aware of it.
Often my work, as a personal trainer, is more a matter of making them discover the relationships that exist between the martial art and a functional mental attitude to achieve results while enjoying the process, rather than enhancing skills they already possess.
In fact, to be honest, the martial art often has the benefit of bringing these three differentiating qualities into balance. Trivial, but challenging to achieve.
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