Tuesday, 4 December 2007

On hitting and being hit

I’m sporting a lump over my left eye today – the result of an accidental elbow blow at training last night. Sadly it tends to be things like that get people talking to me about martial arts. I guess it’s inevitable because it gives some physical evidence that they can relate to, and to the average person martial arts begins and ends with hitting and getting hit.

‘But I thought you were supposed to be good – haven’t you’ve been doing it for years?’

Ignoring the fact that doing it for years and being ‘good’ are not synonymous at all – ‘good’ does not mean that we develop an invisible force field that repels all incoming elbows and fists. One of the first thing beginners are told when they first come into the school is that they will get hit, and if they train a lot they will get hit often. If they are not prepared for that, and a lot of people aren’t, then they’d be better to look at some other martial art.

Getting hit (or hitting) should never be gratuitous though.

In fact the most common scenario when I do get hit gratuitously is by less experienced people who fire crazy shots, often reckless of their own safety and the counter that will inevitably follow. Skilled practitioners will let you know that they are ‘there’ with a controlled light touch, even at high speed and intensity. And they won’t launch kamikaze attacks that they know will result in a counter.

But accidents will occur – either physically, like last night because our sweaty arms skidded off each other and into my face. Or mentally – one guy makes an unexpected mistake leaving an opening and the other guy’s hands are on auto-pilot after years of training and fire a shot.

And in the circumstances when it makes heavy contact and someone gets hurt, there will be some mutual frustration. From the first guy that he fucked up and left an opening and from the second guy, if he is cool and genuine, that he didn’t anticipate the mistake and ‘point it out’ with better control.

In a good school that kind of scenario will be happening at some point in every session.
My teacher covers this very situation in a lot more depth in an article here:

Having said all this, I still have to contend with people looking at the lump over my eye and saying ‘wow that training of yours must be the real deal’…

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