Monday, September 20, 2010

Going from good to great in martial arts

Funny thing... In most martial arts teaching systems that I've seen, they've developed a pretty good system for getting students from day#1 to decent proficiency - say about 3rd black belt level. These systems have been pretty well optimized - there is not too much skill difference between most 3rd degree black belts in Shotokan and Isshinryu and Taekwando - or between 3rd dans in Tomiki aikido, Hombu aikido, and Yoshinkan aikido.
But nobody seems to have a good, systematic way of getting folks from pretty-good level (about 3rd dan) to masterfully amazing skill (8th dan or so).  There is a lot of plasticity in practitioners at this level.  I bet if you did a study of amazingly skilled players - the highest ranked folks in a given style, you'd get a lot of variability in their answers as to how they got from good to great.
See, there is no master's training program because you have to figure out your own path from good to great. There is no way for someone else to tell someone who is approaching mastery the right path to take because it is wholly subjective and personal.  While it is useful to study other masters (living and dead), it doesn't do too much good to try to emulate them because you can't become them any more than you can become a tree frog. You have to be true to yourself and develop your own art that you are the ultimate master of.

[photo courtesy of David Jubert]
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