Martial Arts Progression: Technical Skills vs. Proper Conduct
By: Jefferson P. Webb
Here is the scenario. You see a fellow martial artist within your school displaying what appears, and may very well be a natural skill and ability to quickly pick up on and employ the style that they are being taught. They do very well on the drills/katas. Perhaps this person managed to reach his or her third belt rank (or third chevron in the New Ulster Fighting System) and has started competing. This
person seems ready to take their next test, but the instructor does not appear to be giving the time of day for it. It may cause you to ask the question, “Why are they not getting to test as of yet?” For sure if you have thought about it, the person not being allowed to test has surely asked themselves the question, “Why can’t I test yet?”
There could be any number of reasons why the instructor is holding off on testing
the student. The first thing that a student must do is a self-evaluation to determine whether or not there is something that he or she is missing. More than likely the student will always look at the actual drills/katas or technique and style that they are using in attempting to determine why they have not been allowed to test. While
this is a legitimate area in which one should conduct a self-evaluation, there are several other areas that are very basic in which the student may have some deficits that could cause them to slow or even halt in progression through the ranks of his or her art of choice. One thing to also consider is that most often than not,
the instructor will call to your attention the areas of your techniques and execution of the various moves that you need to improve on. So, what could be the issue if not techniques and execution on moves? Here are some things to consider and give some thought towards in answering this question.
No matter where you are training or in what martial art style you are practicing, there are some very basic things that always play a factor in your progression and your relationship with your peers and your instructor. Here are some factors that your instructor/s are also looking for in the dedicated member/student:
A couple of these factors are courtesy and respect. How is the student in his mannerisms and attitude towards the instructor? When the student arrives, how long does he take before greeting fellow members? Does he greet them at all? How long does it take the student to address and greet the instructor? Does
he do it at all or does the instructor have to finally initiate interaction through greeting the student first? As a student subordinate to the instructor, you should always be looking to greet your instructor at the first possible opportunity. That said, do not ignore other fellow members to get passed them to the instructor, but address the instructor as soon as possible, especially if you are the first one to arrive for training. Common sense should prevail here. Simply observe a basic level of courtesy and respect. You will make a good impression.
Another factor is attitude. What is your attitude as pertains to your training and in your relationship with your peers? Is the member in question, good though he or she may be, big-headed about his abilities or is he humble, realizing there is always more to learn, and that all ability comes from God and not through their own doing? There is always someone better, or that can “one-up” you on any given day. This is true for all of us, Grand Master or otherwise. There may be a person that you can defeat time and again in freestyle fighting who, much to your amazement can defeat the person that defeats you time and again in freestyle competition. This is the way of things often. We must keep a humble attitude and a genuinely good attitude when engaging in our training and with our fellow martial artists. Getting upset and perhaps throwing a sword to the ground in frustration or cursing is not the way. This person will level off at a given rank and the instructor will more than likely leave them in whatever rank they hold until they “come around” and begin to conduct themselves properly or until they leave if not first discharged as a form of disciplinary action.
What about the person who is dedicated to their training, keeps a great attitude
about what they are doing, and while they may not be the strongest or the most talented martial artist, they practice hard and display a genuinely high level of enthusiasm and dedication to what they are doing? Perhaps this person will be defeated every single time they confront the “big-headed” member who has natural ability in freestyle practicing. Who should be considered above the other for
testing or meritorious promotion to the next rank? I think the answer is clear in this case. The dedicated member with the great attitude and desire to work hard to get it right. While the “big-headed” member stymies in progression, eventually the
student with humility and a great attitude will surpass the other in rank, maturity, and wisdom. Perhaps even in martial ability in the physical sense.
Another matter of importance is the condition of the appearance of the student when arriving at training sessions. Is the student wearing a designated uniform? Is the uniform clean or is it dirty and perhaps very wrinkly? Does the member display the correct rank on his or her uniform? What about the student’s gear and equipment? If using a weapon in their art, is it well maintained as instructed? Did the student bring with him all of the gear he knows he should have for the type and level of practice they are engaging in? Is the member on time or is he/she continuously late for practice. If so, is there a reason expressed to the instructor that is legitimate, perhaps a scheduling issue, emergency, or something else. A scheduling issue is almost always an understandable matter in this age of busy people with jobs, educations, families and so on. All of these things are factors that an instructor considers and looks for in his students when evaluating who is ready to test and progress to the next rank in their organization. ALWAYS be sure to be in a well maintained uniform when attending training. ALWAYS be sure to have all of the gear that you need to engage in your level of training. And when in an art that is weapons based, ALWAYS be sure to have your weapons maintained properly. This is for your own safety and for the safety of others, but too it shows a level of dedication and caring for the art that you are training in. If your appearance and the appearance of your gear and equipment looks as if you do not care, then your instructor, while he or she almost surely does care about you, may take the outward approach to you that they do not care for any further advancement for you. In almost all martial arts schools if you do not wear your uniform as it should be worn at practice and/ or you do not bring your gear, you do not get to practice. You must watch the others.
Some very basic things to consider whether you are studying the New Ulster Fighting System, or whether you are in another martial arts school of an Asian art, Central American Art, African art, Native American art, and so on are as follows:Be courteous and respectful. Be humble and keep a great attitude. Keep a good
appearance in uniform. Take good care of your gear and equipment. Be on time, and
if you cannot, contact your instructor as soon as possible.
All of these things show a level of dedication that the instructor is looking for no matter where you are practicing martial arts. Do these things, and even if you have a harder time than others with the techniques and execution of the moves of the art, you will still go a long way. It may take a little longer than others, or it may take you less time than the student gifted in the technical execution, but for whom is not so gifted in the areas of character. Keep these basic fundamentals in mind, and you will do very well. Furthermore, these positive attributes will help you in everyday life in your relations with other people.