You Are What You Learn

You Are What You Learn

By: Dale Norfolk Kickboxing , elementalkickboxing, Martial Arts , sparring, kickboxingleeds

You Are What You Learn

“As the water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it, so a wise man adapts himself to circumstances.” (Confucius 1- Chinese philosopher, poet and politician (551-479BCE))

Yes, you know when you are getting into deep water, pardon the pun, when you are quoting from Confucius. But as with a lot of eastern philosophers (2), the important thing for us is to understand or draw our own meaning from these words. We think, we learn, we train, we succeed, we fail, we adapt.

It is one of the great traits but also a double-edged sword (3) with the human race. We learn what works best, we stop fighting wars with arrows and use bullets, we get better results. The face of the action has entirely changes forever, it has evolved, it has adapted.

This is a journey we are all on as martial artists too, we get better, we get worse, we are constantly learning. But not only in our physical pursuits but in our brain function. What clever little monkeys we are.

Being someone who watches others and has been there longer than I care to remember, I see people learn, grow and adapt all the time. Our club is a microcosm (4) where adaptation is our game.

Let me explain.

Within training we are taught a number of things, we train our bodies, we stretch our limbs to make them better at doing the job they are to do. We are taught techniques and ways of defending. However, this wide scale is only the tip, it is within the individual then to cobble these threads together into what is their own style. It still has roots in kickboxing (5) and DNA (6) laced in with karate (7), but the individual changes it. This is tied to a number of factors, mental and physical. Therefore possibly karate has so many different family styles that evolve over time.

So, as we adapt, we also gain more experience, we get used to conflict situations. We adapt our style as we get older, we realise what works and what doesn’t. We work toward that stage, which we will hopefully all reach. The stage where adrenaline is fully controlled, where our fear is no longer our master. within the fighter during a sparring match or a fight, there in we can respond with a level head and see our opportunities. We realise anger and revenge are not part of the equation and the heavy adrenaline dump ruins our fine motor skills and clouds our minds.

Likewise, when we spar at the club, we adapt to who we are fighting, we take account of the person in front of us who is looking to learn and adapt like we are. We want to get the better of our opponent, but we don’t want to break them into bits, we don’t really want blood, but this can happen. We learn to temper our power and our spirit to be used in the right environment like the ring (where things can get a little more….spicy) or to be used productively at tournaments and to defend ourselves should the need arise. And in this adapting, we learn how to receive blows and the best way to reverse or defend, how we plant our feet, how we hold our guard.

For me, as some of you will know, I always try not to use the most power, I adapt to how I am being hit. I find it crucial as someone who can be terrifying, to get people to relax. To understand what they are doing and what I am doing. That is not to say I am not always looking for opportunities, how this would end if it wasn’t sparring, and this is where feedback comes in with your partner.

This is something I would like people to think about, just twenty second when you are changing partners. Learn to give your partner feedback, as they should you. This is useful in your own adaptation. The reason for this is as you progress, teaching and feedback becomes a massive part of what you do. You train, you learn to instruct what people may not be getting or even just as an act of encouragement.

A lot of people try to change what they are and try to idolise another person, well let me be honest with you, you cannot be that person, you are you and that is the best you can be in most respects. Be careful of talking yourself down, which I hear all the time and I am guilty of on occasion. The best person you can compete with is yourself, because that is all there is at the end of the day. So, you need to think on is my front kick (8) better than two months ago, is it effective, is it correct form. Because techniques are adaptable, to everyone, you just need to find yours.

I hope this short article has made you think about the way you change, and others change around you. I hope that this informs your training and maybe even the way you approach things in your own way. Because life is always richer for the experience, it is fuller for the things we do and the risks we take, we are shaped by good and bad choices, and they make us adapt to the way we approach things in the future.