Thursday, October 8, 2015

Martial Arts is for "Unnatural" Athletes

    Michael Jordon was not a "natural" basketball player.  It is well known that he got cut from his high school team1.  In fact, I'd venture to say there are no natural athletes in the world.  Going out on a limb, I'm say that all the things we think of as athletic abilities are only learned skills.  Speed, strength, and endurance are learned skills.  Learned from an early age, and encouraged by activities, but learned.  Sure, there are minute inherited differences that allow for those skills to shine better, or physical size enables ease of playing some sports, like basketball.  But think of it this way.  What if instead of weight classes in combat sports, what if we had height classes in basketball.  Then you could have shorter people, who might have just as much skill getting more high level coaching and learning to use their skills better, instead of focusing on anyone who's over 6'5".  What does this have to do with martial arts?  Well let me explain.

    I was always fairly athletic in high school.  I was on both the football and the track team.  However, because of my short stature, I didn't really fit in well with either sport.  On the football team, I was fast, but not fast enough for wide receiver or running back.  I was strong, but my size prevented my from playing on the line (until they saw me play in a game).  In track I had good endurance, but not enough to win at the long distance events.  I could do the long jump and high jump, but not enough to win at any meets.  Overall I was a good athlete, but not good enough at any one thing to specialize in it.
    Once high school ended, and I went to college, I started doing martial arts.  This is where my lack of specialization shined.  Martial arts seems to be made for the non-specialist.  The arts require coordination, strength, endurance, and a general kinesthetic sense.  All of which I learned playing sports.  I did end up playing left guard for my high school team, and because of my height, I had to learn (in hind sight, I know this is what I was doing) to use my center and control their center line.  I got quite good at it.  I learned a skill that would instantly come in handy once I started my martial arts. 

  I write all of this not to brag about myself, but to use myself as example.  I had no real success in high school sports, but the physical skills I learned there helped me later on in my martial arts.  I want to encourage anyone who is worried about the physical skill set required for martial arts.  Martial arts does not require specialization in a physical ability or skill set, instead the best martial artists should have a generalist approach to abilities.  They should have strength, skill, kinesthetic senses, endurance, flexibility, and coordination.  Even more importantly, they should have all in balance, with no one aspect in excess.  So all the people that we call "natural" athletes are usually those who have one skill or one physical ability which exceeds the others.  Martial arts is designed for those who don't have those excesses, the unnatural athlete.  Sure we all have our strengths and weaknesses.  For example, I am really low level in flexibility, but martial arts gives everyone an opportunity to practice these skills and places emphasis on all the learned physical skills.  That's what makes martial arts so special, and why so many of us unnatural athletes have found our place in the arts.

1. He tried out for his high school's varsity team as sophomore and despite being 5'11" the coach deemed him too short to play.

1 comment: