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  • D. Branchaud

Practice Is A Process

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

A lot of people who have never done any martial arts training aren’t really sure how it works. For instance, I was once asked “Can you show me what to do if a guy breaks into my living room and attacks me like I saw on the news?” My immediate thoughts were “What does your living room look like? Where are the exits? Are you seated? What is the bad guy doing? Does he have a weapon? What is the weapon? Is he alone? Are you alone?” You get the idea. There is no simple 'thing' to show someone. Any self-defense situation has so many potential variables that each situation is unique and requires a unique response.

Our training is not about learning specific techniques, though it may seem that way at first. It is actually a process for developing abilities that are adaptable to a wide range of conditions. It is about developing awareness, efficient body mechanics, fluidity, tactical knowledge and the strategic knowledge that may provide one with the ability to improvise and make informed decisions that are appropriate to the situation. It isn’t simply about physical skill.

People often don't grasp this because they haven't encountered this type of training. Most schools don’t have this because it isn’t part of sport martial arts. In sports, things are straightforward…you know who your opponent is, you both know the rules, now go to it. The referee will tell you when to begin and when to stop so you don’t have to decide whether you should fight or run. You won’t have to decide if you should use something as a weapon or shield. Or what you are legally justified to do. Or when you should stop. Or which bad guy you need to deal with first (since there is only one). Or what to do after the violence has ended. The list goes on.

Calligraphy form Okinawa
Practice Your Art, Don't Study it.

Our method is about helping you develop skills for a multitude of situations, not for rule-based one against one competition. Your participation in the activities and exercises in class is where you grow.

Show up consistently. You will assimilate many of these skills through tacit learning and you can’t do that without being at the Dojo. Participate wholeheartedly and come prepared. Be humble. Address your shortcomings.

Train slowly, at first. Certainly you need to be able to do things with speed, but not until you can do them right.

Train daily. You don’t have to spend hours everyday but just as you brush your teeth and take a shower daily you need to practice to make your skills second nature. Most importantly…don’t make excuses for yourself. They can be habit forming and there is an endless supply.

Learn how to do the movements. Move slowly and pay attention to the details. If you can’t do something correctly while moving slowly you certainly can’t do it correctly at a faster pace. I am intentionally being redundant.

Learn to move correctly without thinking about how you are moving. This must be so practiced that it becomes natural. In a self-defense situation your attention needs to be directed at the world around you, not focused inward on your own movement. Your movement need to be correct without taking any of your attention away from your surroundings.

Sometimes when I point out a fault in a person’s technique the person will reply with 'I didn’t realize I was doing that,’ 'no one ever told me,’ or, ‘I’ll work on that’. While this may be a normal beginners way of reacting, the urge to defend oneself in this way must be abandoned. You need to know that you are making mistakes. You need to notice it and correct it. And this is not simply to correct your weaknesses. The work that you do on yourself will help you become proficient at recognizing weaknesses and strengths in others, specifically, your attackers.

Think. As a group we were often scolded by Odo Sensei (my karate teacher) with the word THINK! It is relatively easy to train your body to move fast and efficiently. But you also have to make your thinking fast and efficient. A huge part of self-defense involves perceiving the situation quickly without waiting to gather all the information you would like. You, then, must quickly decide what to do.

Training is a process. It is not a bunch of techniques to be learned but a way of thinking and moving that needs to be embodied. Enjoy the process, show up, work smart, work hard and have fun!

If you do the work, the process will work.

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