The Concentration of a Martial Arts Warrior

A Key Decision Point on the Road to Mastery

What’s the difference between an amateur and a professional?  A dabbler and an artist?

How do we know when we’ve made that shift in skillset and state of mind and are ready to progress to the next level in our craft?

At times, it’s not always clear…

Now, when we reach the higher levels of achievement (and after hours of diligent practice) the signs are easier to read.  We start winning in our chosen fields.  We feel present in the moment, and the pieces seem to be coming together as intended.

It may even become common to receive accolades and praise associated with our performance.

But what about when we have a good, solid grasp of the fundamentals yet we’re still skirting the periphery of basic achievement.  We may feel frustrated, disorganized or like something is standing in our way.

It’s at that point when we might be holding ourselves back.  It could be time to make a key decision.

The decision to trust ourselves.

Let’s look to the martial arts to examine this in greater detail.

In studying the martial arts for the first time it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  Stances, blocks, punches and kicks are key building blocks, and they take a lot of practice.

Once the fundamentals are mastered, the next crucial step is to assemble them into a graceful and powerful whole.  Sparring sessions in the dojo are a common way to assess the karateka’s efficacy here.

Back when I’d train regularly, I’d often spar with a senior student in the dojo.  He had been studying for many years prior, and was really good.

At the time I’d been practicing the basics a lot, and thought I was pretty good myself.

Even with this solid grasp of the fundamentals, however, I’d often forget them in those moments of competition.  In fact, my reaction time was so slow it felt like I was moving through water.

Why was the problem here?

Just the other day, I was thinking about something my old sensei used to say.  He’d often mention how karate is 90% mental, and 10% physical.

After mulling this over, I had an “aha” moment as I realized my problem years ago was a misdirected focus.

Too much thought was being given to the building blocks of karate, and not enough to how they all fit together.  In other words, I should have trusted myself more when it came to the fundamentals.  That would have freed my mind to focus more on the big picture.

When learning a new skill, whether karate or something else, we all know how important it is to concentrate on the basics.

However, once a certain level of skill is achieved with those fundamentals it may be time to change that focus.

It’s a matter of viewing the entire process from a higher level perspective.  You assume a certain level of proficiency.  At that point, it becomes more fun – you begin to develop creativity, flexibility, and grace.

Within this expression of confidence and faith in our abilities, the artist starts to emerge.

It’s important to be aware of this key decision point on the path to mastery.

When is the right time to make this decision?  Only you can answer that question.

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