When thinking about intensity of training, it occurred to me lately that we don’t always train at the level we think we are. Sure, we’ve all been told time and time again that intensity trumps technique — it’s the more vicious dog in the fight that wins (even if it’s a little dog); that the enraged football player will thump the calm martial artist standing Zen-like before them; that cops would sooner face off with a black belt who’s posing in a crane stance in front of him, ready to defend, than an angry, deranged, and drugged out lunatic who’s screaming and flying towards him like a nuclear powered chainsaw — like those lightning-fast zombies from that movie 28 Weeks Later…
As students we so often fall into an exhausted “good enough” frame of mind. I sometimes glance sideways during drills to guage how intense our class is. Some are brutally intense, almost psychotic. Others are going through the motions. Many are in between these two ends of the spectrum. Many start at the intense end and as they get progressively more tired and fatigued slide towards the other end. In fact, I bet that to some extent we all do that.
It might not be entirely fair to pick on the practitioners in this video — and, in fact, I’m not — but it does showcase my point. Below you can see how a class can fall into a paint-by-numbers routine and just flow through the motions, many eliminating any trace of intensity or real “fight for your life!!” gusto. We are often told that every defense and attack in class should be all out, no holds barred intensity. Where is that?
Don’t get me wrong. I always strive to keep things positive on this blog and avoid negativity. Let’s be clear: I am not picking on anyone, any school, or any class here. I agree with what you are probably thinking now which is that they are likely learning the technique for the very first time and are getting comfortable with it before going full-bore. You can hear the instructor shouting out things that suggest that this is a fairly new technique for these students. It’s possible, maybe likely, that they amped it up after that video was shot and were models of fast efficiency. I’m sure many if not most people in this video are very skilled and can really deliver a real hard ass whoopin’. So let’s not pick on who’s in the video so much as get the general scene that you’re seeing in it. It looks familiar, right? This could be any one of our classes on some nights. What you see here is something that I bet we all do from time to time, especially near the end of our classes when we are drenched in sweat and exhausted. I am guilty of it as much (or more) than some and have been very aware of this phenomenon so that I can try to avoid falling into it.
By way of contrast, and to maybe put this into perspective, check out the intensity on display in the following video (on mute if possible).
Holy crap. Do you see the difference? Still controlled training with what I think is it the right amount of intensity. But quite a startling difference in approach. Go back now if you’ve got a minute and watch the preceding video.
Lastly, there’s another enemy of our training that lurks in every defense we perform. Have you ever tailed off your combatives near the end — like how songs used to fade out at the end in the 70’s? You deliver the technique, whatever it happens to be, and as you wrap it up with combatives (monkey bar, knees, elbows, punches, whatever) you tail off instead of realistically disengaging and moving away — even running briefly away from the simulated scuffle? I see this all the time and am guilty of it more than I care to admit!
So what’s it all mean? What I am committing to from here on out is the following:
- I’m going to develop a laser-sharp focus on intensity and developing an awareness of when I am falling out of it.
- I’m going to look in the wall mirror. If I don’t see a psycho fighting back there then I’m not doing it right.
- I will follow through much more on my techniques until the end and not sacrifice my intensity due to exhaustion.
- I’ll forget that there are more repetitions following the one I’m engaged in and execute every defense on its own, in the moment.
- I will emulate those psychos in class who throw themselves into a defense like their lives depend on it… Like those last two guys shown in the video.
Who’s with me?