Article:    Zen rhythm

Interesting conversation this morning after training. I was talking to Steve Payne about how the classical beautiful techniques that we love to see whether it’s Karate or Silat or Wing Chun is much like classical music. It’s the foundation of great technique. Many of the best MMA fighters have a background in this type of training. It’s tight and clean and how you want it to be. The other end is the improvisory end where everything is in flow. This is the jazz end of the spectrum. It’s looks less tight, less pretty though when things do come off, they come of in incredible ways.

Our aim in 4D is to train like the classical with an emphasis on technique but always then to improvise around this in a jazz way and find things in flow. That’s why we’ve developed lots of combat games and scoring games so you don’t only know how to do something in a way that’s pleasing both to look at and to practice but most importantly  you know how to use it, and where to find it in the flow. You’ve got real evidence of your skill against opposition. Combatively, learning to improvise is most important. Many classical musicians though superb musicians can’t improvise as that’s not what they practice however many jazz musicians are capable players in the classical idiom though often not to the same level as those who only do that. In music both approaches are great and have their strengths.  However in combat you need to be able to improvise. As they say in the U.S. ‘ Shit’s happening ‘  you have to know how to deal with it.

The way to get to that skill level where you please both parts of your being is getting your repetitions in. Doing the same stuff over and over again. However, if you just train techniques against a compliant opponent then you’re not really learning it. it’s great fun but you won’t have it when or if you need it.  It’s like looking for your sheet music in a fight, it doesn’t work. You need both approaches. A good start point is to have rigorous training partners who wont let you do weak or ineffective techniques and who will counter you if you do. They can then at the next level counter what you do. This can be prescribed beforehand but it gets you thinking deeper. The history of classical music is replete with examples of stern masters who throw things at the student or strike them with any object to hand. You’re training partner doesn’t have to go that far, but it helps if they keep you honest.

First; the gold standard. Know firstly how to do it so there is no counter or that if you are countering then there is no re-counter. This is the gold standard.  I remember doing a competition against Tadayuki Maeda who was all Japan champion in my Karate days. I could definitely have countered his front kicks, if I saw them. I rarely did. That’s why in 4D now we go on and on about non telegraphic delivery. We don’t talk about it as a concept. We train it and make you achieve certain stats. That way you know you know it. This is the place to start.

Secondly, focus is important in training. Think of it like doing a zen garden. You’’re always trying to do it right. You never achieve it but the act of focus on the small things plays huge dividends. Boris Becker the tennis champion and coach said the other day – this point wasn’t won on the day on centre court but two months ago when you were doing your 500th repetition as good as the first one. I know that attitude sounds a bit mental but the secret is to find the joy in getting it right. All the time. Like the zen garden this is unachievable but it’s fun trying. Wonder oh wonder when you train this way you just get better. Find the joy in this don’t see it as a pedantic anal retentive zealot doing a joyless task. Have fun. You’re body learns better when it’s joyful. The interesting thing about training with this mindset is that learning one thing you sort of learn everything. Now you’re aware, feeling every slight change of balance or finding where the leverage point is and getting it every time. The carry over to other areas is huge. You can often tell great musicians by how they play the simplest of things, even scales. There’s music in every note. You just have to find it.

As we roll out our Tri-brand online training with Defence Lab  and Ghost Elusive Combat later this year we were saying; what music are we?  We all agreed that  Andy Norman’s DNA system and defence lab is definitely Rock. Phil Norman’s Ghost approach is maybe House flavoured whilst 4D has got more of a Jazz approach. Rock came from Blues as did Jazz and all the modern music idioms borrow heavily from these roots. Similarly in the tri-brand we are all rooted in JKD and Kali. If you know those arts well you can see the references easily. We’re just fulfilling what we were tasked to do. Seeking our own path.

In the early days of training with Dan Inosanto I often had a sense of frustration because he never set me a path to follow. I was deluged with knowledge but didn’t have the master plan I had pieces of knowledge here and some there but they didn’t always fit. At first, to my ignorant eyes it seemed aimless and unplanned. Later I realised I was being given a task. This was the quest he set me on. Like all great teachers he did’n’t tell me that, rather he let me think it was all my own doing.  To find my way and to fill in the blanks with my own truths.

As a result of this approach I was constantly questioning everything. This was great for my development. What questions to ask? Why what when and how are a good start then add who and where. This is the path to discovery. As a result I just added stuff I’d found to the incredible stuff I was learning and added it to my previous pre JKD / KALI experience.

Simultaneously he introduced me personally to many of the greats in Kali and Eskrima and other arts or gave them my number so they could spread their art through me and the group we had in the UK . In this way I met my great friend Mike Inay. I was invited to the Philippines where I trained with the greats. Sparred with them got beaten by them but most important felt their rhythm. Saw how they played the game. Just like Jazz and other great music they all had their sound.  What’s yours?

The secret is to find the secret in one thing and then apply it to everything. The second skill is to then hide the skill so it looks like you were just lucky. Ask questions, have fun and stay gently focused whilst listening closely and you’ll get to some place special. Your place.

Finally to quote Kipling:

I keep six honest serving men (they taught me all I knew)

There names are What, and Why, and When

and How and Where and Who.

Apply that to everything you do and you’ll be a winner.