Stress and Realism in the martial arts:
I was an avid motorcyclist back in the 70s and 80s. I had a Czechoslovakian race bike (CZ 500) that I raced through the Plymouth reservations three to four times a week with my good friend Dick Bettencourt, who owned the local Honda/Suzuki dealership in West Bridgewater, Ma.
Susan will remember the many days I would come home after a five-hour romp in the woods taking off my leathers, and displaying a body filled with bruises caused by the many falls resulting from the learning process of progressing from a bicycle to 250cc Honda street cycle to a high powered racing motorcycle.
I persevered, and eventually became adept enough to actually enter some amateur motocross races and further progressing to agree on participating in a month-long advanced motorcycle trek. Beginning in the black mountains of California and progressing to Mexico, where five of us retraced the Baja 500 motorcycle race, an experience I’ll never forget.
The point of my story, is to relate the original stress and tension of simply getting on a high-powered motorcycle and experiencing the thrill of speeding through a narrow wooded trail, inches from protruding branches tree stumps and over gaping gullies and down steep ravines and through water and mud valleys, attempting to keep up with the breakneck speed of the experienced riders.
Fast forward a month, countless bruises and aches and pains accompanying the training, and suddenly all of what appeared originally to be unattainable, suddenly became commonplace and as uneventful as driving a car.
Fast forward 30 years-and not having sat on a motorcycle all that time, and suddenly finding yourself on the seat of a simple 250 CC motor scooter and once again discovering both the thrill and stress of performing a new and different experience. Deciding to go on a 10 mile jaunt, I discovered at the end of the 10 miles, that every muscle in my body was sore. In spite of the fact that I did not encounter anything dangerous or out of the ordinary, my body exerted enough tension so as to drain all energy from my body.
My feeling is, that anyone studying the martial arts, will benefit tremendously, from the internalizing and reinforcement of fighting techniques that come from the repetitive performance of Kata, drills, Bunkai and free fighting. However, I equate this type of familiarization with fighting as more of a dry run than being ready to actually engage in a real life fight with inexperienced and tried/true streetfighter. It is important, that all martial art instructors realize the limitations and expectations resulting from their training. Having an arsenal of tools and the training to use those tools in the confines and safety of the dojo, is not the same as being surprised and overrun by one or more highly experienced (to the actual feeling of being hit, bloodied, incapacitated-on both sides of the giving/taking spectrum.) street Thugs who regularly engage in this type of fighting.