Perfection of Technique

by Jack Mann

I've witnessed instructors correcting students on minor details a multitude of times. Many times the student becomes agitated. Most beginning student don't understand why such perfection is necessary. They don't plan on being a full time professional martial artist. Their simply looking for some self protection skills. After all, the guys on big time wrestling don't worry about perfect stance or hand placement. Practitioners from the various martial arts constantly strive for perfection of technique, but few of them know why. Often times we're told, as martial students by higher ranking students, that we have to be the best combat warrior on the globe in order to survive in the streets. Is this an admirable goal? Certainly, but is it realistic? More than likely, no.

Mother Nature plays a big part in who is the best in any field of endeavor. In the world of combat reality, this statement is especially true. Chuck Norris didn't get to be an international martial star on good looks alone. Chuck Norris went to the top of his competitive field with hard training and genetics. Arnold Schwartzenegger is one of world's most gifted in the realm of bodybuilding. He obtained his multiple titles with hard work and genetics. The Shaq became an incredible basketball icon through hard work and without a doubt genetics.

In comparing these three athletic superstars, is it likely that Arnold will ever be the top competitive full contact karate fighter? Probably not. Will Chuck Norris ever slam dunk the b-ball the best in the world? Not likely. And will Shaq ever claim the coveted award of Mr. Olympia? Nope.

I have trained in the combative arts my entire life. And after all of those years of training, if I happen to run into Royce Gracie (jiu-jitsu great) in a sour mood, I can pretty much bet I'm in for a bad day. The fact of the matter is not everyone has the ability to be the best in the martial arts world. However, what we all have the ability to do is improve.

When teachers push their students to be perfect with their technique, there is a definite reason. I believe more students should be made aware of that reason. If a student understands why they are being told to perform a certain task, usually that student will put more heart into the matter at hand.

Being a police officer, I have had the opportunity to watch and participate in a large number of street confrontations. Not one of those confrontations were the pretty picture that I had become accustom to seeing in the dojo. Those confrontations were usually very sloppy affairs. I'm talking about well trained, professional law enforcement officers. I'm not talking about a Barney Fife or a Roscoe P. Coletrain. I'm talking about men and women that I've see training their hearts out on a regular basis. These officers work to perfection in their daily training. However, when their training hits the cold wall of reality, things fall apart. The issue at this point is just how far things fall apart.

Experts that study human performance tell us that under stress subjects will lose a great deal of their abilities. If you were 100% at the beginning of the fight (well feed, well rested, comfortable environment, well lit area, flat smooth surface, perfect weather conditions, etc.), the stress of the confrontation may take you down as much as 50% (possibly more). Now, a more realistic view of the situation might be; you didn't get all the sleep you needed last night because the neighbor's cat was on a rampage, you had to cut your lunch break short because of a traffic jam, you are in an unfamiliar area of town trying do a good deed for that same neighbor with the cat, it's evening with the sun light directly in your eyes (you can barely make out the roadway markings), and the rain is coming down lightly (which brings the oil to the surface of the roadway). While stopped in traffic, some two bit low life surprises you and tries to carjack your vehicle. Given each of these detractors, where is your performance level now, maybe 25%?

The point being, the chance of someone attacking you only when everything is going perfect is pretty slim. We are most likely not going to be on the top of our game when attack by surprise, but if our level of performance is higher to start with, we stand a better chance of coming out with a lesser amount of damage (no one wins a fight on the street). When Dr. Hatsumi (Soke of Bujinkan Ninjutsu) is at 50% of his game, he is still far and above my 100% level. Are you getting the point now. We probably won't fight perfectly on the street, but if you are continually raising the mark for your own performance and trying to reach perfection in the dojo you stand a little better chance on the street. Do yourself a favor, strive for perfection.


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